08 Nov Useful tools for sewing
How many tools have you been collecting in your sewing arsenal so far? Do you have everything you need to get started sewing? We’ve been talking about sewing materials for a while now and we almost covered anything you might need for sewing and patternmaking.
Today’s post is going to be the last one of this series and will focus on some little tools you might comfortably live without ’till… you try them. They’re not essential but they come in handy in some cases, so think about it!
First tool we are going to talk about are pattern weights. If you read my other post about cutting tools and you decided to opt for rotary cutters to cut your fabric, then some pattern weights will come in handy. You may still want to pin the pattern pieces down in some cases, but for most of the times you can just use pattern weights for holding it in place while cutting. While it’s true that any weight (included food tins) will do the job, I personally find heavy flat objects to be the best solution. You want something with enough weight to hold the pattern down firmly but also flat enough for you to be free to move around with your rotary cutter. What I use are these metal washers you can find in any hardware store or here. These are available in different sizes (mine are 6 cm in diameter) and work perfectly! You can also customise them in many different ways (e.g. using coloured fabric scraps, or painting them with nail polish) and stack a few of them for more weight.
Another useful tool is the tailor’s awl. That’s a hole punch used both in patternmaking and when transfering pattern markings onto fabric. This little tool is used to mark things such as a dart apex (you punch about 1 cm away from the apex, this will help you find the end of your dart while sewing, without using any other mark) or the endpoints of some gathering. You just punch through the hole on both your pattern piece and all your fabric layers and this will mark the point on most wovens (and some knits). Don’t worry about the tailor’s awl ruining your fabric: it just pulls the fabric yarns aside.
Next tools is the bias tape maker. With this tool you will be able to make DIY bias tape out of any fabric you want! You simply have to cut stripes of your favourite fabric of the specified width (instructions are usually included with the tool) and then slowly pull the fabric from one side to the other side of the tool while pressing it. Et voilà: here’s your custom bias tape! I have the 3/4″ and the 1″ ones.
Another tool which you may find useful is the point turner. They sell both plastic and wooden ones (as the one you see in the picture below) and you use them to turn corners as explained in this post on Colette’s blog.
In the picture below you can also see (on the right) a metal tool similar to a big needle called bodkin. This tool can be used to pull an elastic or a ribbon through a casing. You may also use a safety pin for that, but the bodkin is slightly better as it’s thinner and can easily go through casings of any size. There are bodkins of different type but the working principle is the same. To find out how to use them watch this video.
If you ever sewn anything you know this little tool for sure: it’s the seam ripper. I’m not sure whether I actually love or hate this tool, as using it means something went wrong. On the other hand, ripping your seams without it is going to be much more painful!
It is usually included with many sewing machines as it is used to cut buttonholes open, but I have to say that for buttonholes I definitely prefer the more specific buttonhole cutter. The one I have is from Clover and it’s really great. Before to know the existence of this magic tool, I used to cut my buttonholes with the seam ripper, using a pin to avoid ripping through the corners. Results were often messy and there was still the risk of making mistakes. The buttonhole cutter works as a sharp knife: you push it down through the buttonhole and it makes a nice and clean cut. They come in different sizes but I suggest you pick the one with the size of your smallest buttonhole and then you can move it along bigger buttonholes to cut them open: this way you won’t need many of them.
Last but not least: fabric-covered buttons. I love these little guys: you can make any button you like! You find both metal and plastic one as the ones you see in the picture below and they are available in all standard sizes. I’ve tried both and I find the metal ones by Dritz to be the best. In general, the way a fabric-covered button works is you have two pieces: the button shell that you cover with fabric and the back shank. There’s usually a circle template inside the box you have to use to cut your fabric. Plastic ones require you to gather the edges of the circle to wrap it around the button shell. Then you attach the back shank to the shell pushing it down using a spool. The metal ones by Dritz come with a kit. In this case, it’s much easier to make the button and the result is much more precise. There’s no need for gathering the circle, you just center the fabric in the transparent plastic mould, then you push the button shell down and tuck the fabric inside it. Finally, you snap the shank down into place using the pusher, i.e. the coloured plastic cap (the blue one you see in the picture). For visual instructions, check out this tutorial by Dritz. You can buy the kit just once and then keep buying the buttons only to save some money, you can browse your size options here. Ready? Go have fun with your fabric-covered buttons!
Well, this series on sewing materials has finally come to an end. Not only we covered most of the tools you might need to start your projects but also… buttons! ;) Now I’m very curious to read your comments! Did you like this post and the other posts of this series? Did you find them useful? What is your favourite sewing tool you would never live without? (my answer is… all of them! scchhhh…). Post your comments below!
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