I usually link to other creative people and their fabulous projects for my Friday Favorites. However, I know somebody out there got a new sewing machine or book or some other creative tool for Christmas that they’re learning how to use right now. So I’d like to share with you some of my favorite tools and tips, and maybe you won’t have to get to them the hard way like I did.
One of my absolute favorite sewing tools was given to me for Christmas by my son, Tucker, a few years ago. He’s quite proud of that “absolute favorite” part. In fact, he will come by and close them if I leave them lying around open, just for my safety. They are Fiskars clippers and I use them daily for snipping threads, clipping seams, anywhere you can imagine a small pair of scissors would come in handy. In fact, my husband gave me a second pair for Christmas this year. I almost cried when I took my old pair to the sewing machine shop and they wouldn’t sharpen them for me. Luckily, my husband came to the rescue and they’re sharp all the way to the tips again.
While we’re on the topic of scissors, invest in a good pair of shears. They are a little spendy, but totally worth it. I’ve had my Gingher shears for about 20 years and they’ve been sharpened a few times, dropped more than once and still work like new. Granted, I am a little more careful with them. I don’t anything but fabric with them and I still put the plastic sheath over the blades when I’m not using them. Hey, for years I stored them in their original box, so I’ve made some progress.
Another cutting tool I use often is a rotary cutter. If you plan on making quilts, or really anything involving a straight line, this one is essential. You’ll also need a mat to cut on and a ruler to cut against. They often sell them in sets. My mat looks like it’s been through a war, but still works fine. The pink suction cup handle on my ruler is called a Gypsy Gripper and is awesome for holding that slippery thing in place. My husband gave me the curved ruler on the right for Christmas, so I’m anxious to see what I can do with it and still keep all my fingers. Which brings me to an important rotary cutter safety rule: if you aren’t cutting with it, engage whatever safety mechanism your model uses. You DO NOT want to reach for it without looking and find out the hard way that the blade is exposed. Trust me on this one.
I have two sewing areas. I share a room with our exercise equipment where I store most of my supplies and tools. I also have a work table and ironing board in that room. My sewing machine is outside the door in the office. Because I am constantly going back and forth, I’ve found it easier to have duplicates of a few things so I can keep one on my work table and the other next to the sewing machine. Even if all of your stuff is in one room, sometimes it’s easier to not have to move things around. My twin set now consists of a seam measure, clippers, a pincushion and a seam ripper. The pincushion would be an excellent learn-to-sew project.
It seems like a lot of the things I make require sewing then turning right side out. I’ve tried several tools over the years to push the seams and corners out, but my most recent, and simple, is my favorite so far. It’s a 1/4 inch diameter wooden dowel, cut to 15 inches long and sharpened with a pencil sharpener. The trick is to not sharpen it to a fine point, but leave it a little flat on the end. And if I break this one, like I did my last turning tool, it’s cheap and easy to replace.
If you use a sewing machine much at all, you probably have lots of thread. That also means lots of bobbins. My sewing machine has a compartment for storing them, but it was always difficult to figure out which bobbin went with which spool of thread. Problem solved with some hair bands from the dollar store. Slip the hair band through the center of the bobbin, so a loop sticks out each side. Slide both loops over the spool of thread. It not only keeps the colors together, but keeps the bobbin thread from unraveling.
Let’s say you’ve planned a big family reunion in Spain and have decided to make everyone in your family Passport Wallets. All in different fabrics. Your paper pattern is going to take a beating. All those pins poking through it and you’ll probably accidentally cut off part of it at some point. My solution: cut your pattern pieces out of felt. It doesn’t tear or leave holes from the pins. In fact, you may not even need the pins because it sticks to the fabric. You can’t really cut it without noticing. And it leaves you with a reusable pattern to store for next time. As you can see, I also write on mine. A lot.
There’s some of my favorite tools and tips. What are yours?