Favorite tools: Sewing essentials
I like gadgets :) And I’m a firm believer in the right tool for the right job. As a result I’ve tried A LOT of different things trying to make my sewing life easier or better, and I’ve found some products that I absolutely cannot live without. Consider this list a getting-started guide, or a gift guide, or a stuff-you-didn’t-know-you-needed guide, but trust that all this gear has been hard-tested and proven worthy! This is the stuff I use almost every day and always keep within arm’s reach.
First, my setup: I have two primary workspaces- my worktable (commonly referred to as just “the table”), a 3x5 foot standing-height table covered in cutting mats and with drawers and shelves and hanging hooks below it; and my sewing table, which are two tables next to each other with my sewing machine on one and my serger on the other. I keep my necessities in a jar of stuff on the table
a drawer of stuff under the table
and on top of the sewing machine
...so I am never far away from any of these favorite things.
Wonder Clips are to sewing studios what binder clips are to offices. They’re perfect for everything! I use them in place of pins on fabrics that, for whatever reason, won’t take pins well. Sometimes I use them in place of pins because I’m just feeling too lazy to pin! And they’re great for clipping notes to things, holding a stack of swatches together when you go thread and notion shopping, lightweight clamping, closing a bag of chips - really almost anything you might use pins, clamps, or tape for. They also have measurement marks on the flat side so you can use them as a tiny measuring tool! They’re brilliant! They come in three sizes- standard, mini, and jumbo. I use the jumbos very rarely and I’ve never used the minis, but I use the standard ones all the time!
Chaco liner pen
This is a chalk marking tool. The “pen” is actually a tiny wheel that delivers a fine line of chalk as you roll it. They come in a variety of colors (I have pink, white, and grey) and they are refillable. The wheel rolls easily and is very maneuverable, making it easy to draw tight curves or even large text, and the chalk brushes or washes off of most fabrics. I’ve tried so many other marking tools and these are my favorite!
I love my big dressmakers shears and my rotary cutters, but tiny scissors make life so much easier! I have kind of a ridiculous collection of tiny scissors - enough to warrant a full blog post of their own someday - but I keep my two favorite pairs in the jar, one for thread and one for fabrics. The fabric ones (Gingher 4” embroidery scissors) are perfect for small, precise cuts, like notches or inside corners; and the thread ones (Gingher 3.5” embroidery scissors) are perfect for, obviously, thread and occasional thin fabrics. I love them so much I keep a second pair of thread scissors at my sewing machine!
Pattern weights were one of those dumb items that I didn’t think I needed, but then I got them and wound up using them ALL THE TIME! As the name suggests, they’re made for holding your pattern down on top of your fabric while you’re cutting out the pieces. They’re quicker and easier and less damaging that pins. I use them for that, and also just whenever I need to keep something flat and secure. These are sold in packs of four, in several different bright colors. I think they’re filled with bbs or ball bearings or something - some little silver heavy round things. I’ve also seen handmade ones made with washers or coins or other small heavy things.
This is Scotch/3M painters masking tape. I use it for EVERYTHING! I mark lines on my fabric, lines on my machines, use them as labels, attach things to other things, remove lint, I have a strip of tape on my wall right now I used for measuring my vertical measurements, I’ve used it in place of pins or clamps or markers, I’ve written notes to myself on it, used it with the embroidery machine, used it with the 3d printer, used it in the kitchen... I could talk all day about all the ways I use blue tape. I always keep three rolls on hand- the original 1” blue tape, which gets the most use; a roll of 2” original, just in case I need to tape something larger; and a roll of Walls & Wood Floors blue tape, which is a low-tack version and best for delicate fabrics.
I have a lot of rulers. A LOT. And I use them all the time! But my favorite are these little 6.5 inchers. I keep one on my table and one on my sewing machine and use them all the time for quick short measurements. Seam allowances, pattern grading, perfect needle alignment, so many things! I actually have a third tiny ruler that lives by my embroidery machine and 3D printer! I like the 1.5” wide one best, but it is sometimes hard to see under the frosted edge. I keep the 2.5” one around because it is clear edge to edge. The wider one has a few other advantages, but if I could find a non-frosted 1.5 incher I’d probably use it exclusively.
There are times when the only solution to a problem is to poke it with a stick. That’s what this tool is for. Specifically this tool is great for when your fabric isn’t advancing under your sewing machine needle. Slide this guy under the presser foot and give the fabric a little shove and help it along! It also works as a thread puller, a point marker, a hole puncher, and a bunch of other things. I use it often enough that it has a permanent home on top of my sewing machine!
For pulling thread. I have a few pairs of traditional sewing tweezers - the skinny ones with the bent end - and those are great for getting into tight spots like serger threading, but for most applications I prefer the wide flat edge on the tweezers you use for plucking your eyebrows. Plus they come in pretty colors :)
Because nobody’s perfect. And here’s the thing I’ve learned about seam rippers: they’re disposable, so buy the cheap ones. I’ve bought lots of fancy seam rippers with pretty handles or fun colors or neat multi tools, and they’re just not worth it. They get dull or they get lost or you break them in a stressed out seam ripping rage (true story). Just buy the 50 cent ones at the cashier’s counter and save your money for Wonder Clips and blue tape.
Magnetic Pin Cushion
You need a pin cushion, it might as well be magnetic! Because tossing your pins at your pin cushion is way more fun and more efficient than poking a tomato - although poking a tomato is a better euphemism 🤣 The advantages to the magnet are obvious- it can hold other metal things, like tiny scissors, and when you drop your pins you can just wave your pin cushion across the floor and pick them back up!
And that’s about it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have plenty more sewing tools - basic-basics like scissors and pins and needles, and fancy specialized tools, and a million different rulers, but if I was going on Project Runway, or if I had to do last-minute sewing in my hotel room at a con, (one of these scenarios has actually happened. Guess which one…) these are the things I’d bring with me.
What are some of your essential tools?