I could spend hours walking through a sewing supply store. Isles upon isles of tools, supplies, buttons, do-dads, gadgets, this and that… So much stuff that only a warehouses could hold the amount of things that have been invented to help seamstresses make and create.
When I lived in Singapore the employees at Spotlight got very used to seeing me in the isles staring at the same things I was staring at just days before. Most of that time was spent wondering if seam rippers should really cost $9.00 or if a meter of interfacing in other parts of the world cost $23.00 like it did on the shelf I looked over. Singapore’s mind blowing prices kept any habitual spending I hoped and dreamed for in check.
It’s not hard to walk into a large store like Joanns and Spotlight and feel this extreme NEED for everything stacked on the shelves. I’ve made many purchase blunders over the years, but I always come full circle back to just a few of the same simple tools that take care of every sewing task I've assigned myself.
I’ve become very satisfied with my small collection of gadgets which have gotten me this far in my sewing career and I’m ready to show them off.
For years I worked with a lovely affordable sewing machine, which in an effort to not offend, I won’t mention the brand or model. It gave me such a creative outlet for everything I could dream up. But, it had a few funny tendencies which I was unaware of and that made me feel like an incompetent seamstress.
My stitch line always pulled in a northwest direction which made sewing straight somewhat impossible, but of course I had always assumed it was me. My bobbin constantly tangled and the stitches were never uniform. Even with my best intentions and when I was more careful and patient than ever, nothing ever came out with the quality I felt like I had deserved.
It wasn’t until my husband surprised me a few birthdays ago with a Singer One Plus Sewing Machine that I realized how “off” my last sewing machine had been. I’m sure you can imagine how great I felt after I was able to make clothes better than I had ever done before. As I retired my old basic sewing machine I whispered in it's imaginary sewing machine ear "It's not me, it's you."
To say all sewing machines are created equal would be a major injustice. If you are finding that you’re sewing machine is “off” or if you’re not getting what you feel like you’ve put in, I recommend stepping on a few different pedals and test driving other makes, models, brands, and price points.
SERGER / OVERLOCKER
Ever look at one of your store bought shirts and wondered what kind of machine neatened and joined those edges?
Yeah….it wasn’t an overlocker with four threads, but I don't even want to mention the price points of the good quality five thread machines.
When you want the quality and the same look of your store bought shirts but don't want to invest in a five thread machine you will need to straight stitch with a sewing machine and then neaten your edges with something similar to my overlocker.
I’ve been working with a 1034 Brother Serger for almost 8 years, and although I would like an upgrade considering how much time I spend working between two machines, I'm so used to it at this point that I don't feel the necessity. Chances are you probably have this exact machine too. This machine neatens edges like a champ! It’s a great introductory machine with a great price!
Every machine has its own tendencies so once you work with it and you’ve come to a good understanding of how it runs you might start to notice its little quirks. Mine for instance runs a fantastic stitch at tensions 3, 4, 5, & 4.
One thing is for certain with any overlocker and that is that you will never - EVER - understand how the heck it weaves, loops, or fastens itself to that edge, so don’t waste your time spinning the hand wheel trying to see the workings in slow motion. The only explanation that makes any sense of this is that it’s MAGIC!
When I was very young and making my first quilt my grandmother entrusted me with her fabric scissors. Being that I was maybe 8 years old, of course I decided to cut some paper pattern squares with these awesomely sharp scissors.
My grandma cried.
Maybe I have a heart of ice, or maybe I’ve just got not one, but two pairs of Mundial Dressmaking Shears, but I probably wouldn't cry if my shears met paper. Bought new, these cost less than a professional scissor sharpening. I’ve had them for three years, and they are still as sharp as razor blades. And a side note; I hate chasing one pair of scissors around so one is parked at the sewing machine and one at the ironing board at all times.
And can we just take a sentence to acknowledge how gorgeous they are! Sigh…I love shiney things!
Pinking shears were very important to me before I started working with an overlocker, but I still use them once in a while to clip the seam allowances of curves, like that of a collar, and to the bulk of seam allowances in coats.
Mundial also carries these little scissors that look like a stork. They are incredibly useful and remind me of my childhood when I used to rummage through my moms sewing supplies. She had a pair and I always wanted one for myself.
Do I even need words for this next one? Seam ripper…..I need it and use it every single time I sew. (unfortunately)
I’ve gone through several and ultimately know at this point that I will never use another brand. I love the long handle and the natural look of the Clover Seam Ripper.
How many pin holders have you tried and surrendered to the back of your sewing supply closet? I've got a pile of pin cushions and magnets, all buried in my pile of forgotten tools.
The only holding device that has allowed me to grab and throw my pins in the quickest manner possible has been an old Altoids tin. I’m constantly looking for ways to be faster and more efficient and this thing has not only given me both abilities, but at one point in my life it also gave me good breath.
Lets talk BOBBINS
The bane of all our realities….bobbins. I’ve tried controlling these little beasts with so many creative and somewhat ridiculous devices that are now piled in the back of some dark corner in my basement along with my pin cushions and pin magnets that I could open my own store!
The answer all along has been Bobbins Buddies. I wish I had invented these. If I had I think I could die knowing I had done a fantastic job of making the world a better place. Can I get an Amen!
I have so many pressor feet that sometimes I have to dig into my sewing books to remember what they all do. Truth is, in the last three years I’ve only really used the same four.
The standard foot, zipper foot, button hole foot, and button foot.… Amazing how much you can do with just a few bits.
Thank goodness for Dritz Fusing Tape. It's part of the reason why I have been able to get away with using only four different pressing feet.
When I work with knits, or very light weight fabrics which can be slippery and I have a difficult time joining pattern pieces, I sandwich a slender line of fusing tape along the raw edges of two pieces. I press them together before I head to the sewing machine to permanently join the pieces. When I neaten the seam allowances the fusing tape simply gets cut away.
If you're a woman and/or you have an overlocker, I bet you've got many, many tweezers!
Fabric marking pens and/or chalk are also a must. But recently I worked with a dark flannel which morphed into a pair of pants, which you will all get to see very soon I hope. The pant pattern has darts and other important markings which need to be transferred to the fabric. Apparently, fabric markers don't work on flannel very well so I worked with a bright colored thread to create hand stitched dot and dart markings. If you've got leftover thread on one of your spools but cringe at throwing it out, you can always save it for pattern markings!
My Dritz Seam Roll is -A W E S O M E-. I get a lot of use out of it when I work with sleeves, pants legs, and darts. Pressing correctly is a HUGE part of getting great results in garment making and I must say, a seam roll or a sewing ham is kind of a must in my world.
Are you making clothes? I hope you've got a plastic measuring tape, or two, or seven like I have. I grew up in the US and always worked with imperial measuring tapes. After living overseas and working with the metric system I've really come to love and appreciate all thing in centimeters. Working with centimeters can allow you to get really precise measurements, so measuring tapes in both measuring systems really help!
I also love and use my Dritz Sewing Gauge religiously! It's perfect for measuring hems and making sure you get the right amount of fold evenly across a distance.
Think back to when you first started sewing. I'm sure you might have felt somewhat intimidated by all you thought you needed to be crafty. I was.
Sewing isn't easy, so when you see a tool that promises you that you'll be able to do something that seems practically impossible, like make bias tape, no doubt you'll pay whatever they ask! I've done it, and now I've got my bias tape maker tools, among other things collecting dust.
With that said, trying new tools was imperative to finding what techniques worked best for me.
Turns out, it wasn't that complicated after all.