I had a little 3.5" acrylic square that I received years ago from Golden Needles & Quilts. It came as a freebe when I ordered a special fabric from their on-line site. It sits on 4 tiny circles of sandpaper which really holds it steady while you are trimming the half squares to 3.5". I can't remember now, if I added the sandpaper circles or if it came with it, but either way it is a great idea. I discovered that it makes "squaring up" much easier when you have the exact size acrylic square.
The other little tool I enjoyed using today looks like a tiny windshield wiper. The "blade" is coated with a furry chenille fuzz that you can use to quickly wipe the dust and shreads of fabric off your cutting mat when you are squaring up many (76!) small blocks. It came as a "freebe" another on-line ordering site, Fabric Shack. I remember when it first came, I had no idea what it was, so it just sat around for awhile.
My other handy tool is one that I use all the time. It sits on an old end table to the left of my sewing table. It is a spinning rotary cutting 12 x 18"mat. I purchased the spinner many years ago when I was taking a "Square in a Square" class from Julie Jenkins from The Quilt House. Again, when you are trimming for paper piecing or squaring up many blocks, it makes life so easy, because everything can be safely in your reach with just a slight spin of the mat. I have a feeling that many rotary cutting accidents happen when quilters are trying to make a difficult reach.
I can remember when I was growing up, and we lived near a large farm family who had a Lazy Susan in the middle of their family table. It accomodated everyone with napkins, condiments, a container of extra spoons and forks and other things the family may need during the meal. Same idea, new context!
Another wonderful family of 12, had a "cow" in their kitchen. It was a stainless steel refrigerated milk container that supplied the family's milk for a week or more. Instead of Mom lugging in 12 gallons of milk each week, the dairy did it for her and cheaper for buying in bulk.
As quilters, we can do the same. We can pool together to purchase 100 needles from an on-line site, wait for a 50% off coupon from Joann's to purchase our rotary blades, a bolt of muslin, or 8 yards of batting for our quilts. By doing this, we can afford to donate our resourses, talents and time to making donation baby quilts, or quilts for wounded soldiers through Quilts of Valor and others.
I also believe we need to support our local quilt stores who do such an incredible job of supplying us with the latest information, quality fabrics, threads, ideas and more. Here are a few that I like to promote in the area where I live: Phat Quarters, Galena, IL; Hidden Quilts, Platteville, WI; Cotton Cabin, Quilt Shack, and Dubuque Sewing, all in Dubuque, Iowa.
There are more that we travel to for "Quilting Road Trips," but these are the ones I try to frequent 10 - 25 miles from home.
Well I might as well tell you another thing that makes my sewing life easy, and that is the ironing board that is to the right side of my sewing table. It is adjusted to be at the right height for my sewing chair. I can turn left to cut and trim, and right to press without missing a beat! (You can see the cat sleeping in her chair behind it.) It's the little organizational things that can make sewing such a pleasure.