I have been sewing for a few years now and during that time, I have discovered a lot of tools that make my work easier and that now I couldn’t imagine living without. Here are my ten favorite tools in no particular order:
1. Wonder Clips
When sewing, I always manage to sting my fingers with pins, ALWAYS. I hate that. So when I discovered these tiny plastic clips from Clover I was extremely happy. They hold many layers of fabric securely without damaging them (you know that if you use the wrong pin, they’ll leave nasty little holes in the fabric that may never go away). I like to use them especially, when sewing round patterns, like fabric baskets or bucket backs. If you love sewing fleece blankets, the larger ones hold even more layers of fabric with ease.
Wonder Clips not only come in two sizes, large and small, but are also available in many, many colors for your enjoyment.
2. Seam ripper
Let’s face it, when you sew a lot, your machine might throw a tantrum and mess up the stitches now and then, or maybe you used a wrong stitch or put together the wrong pieces. Don’t worry, it happens. Just keep calm and grab your trusty seam ripper. Fabric is expensive, time is irreplaceable and should not be wasted repeating a project from the beginning, unless, of course, you love doing that.
Nothing makes the task of ripping out bad stitching easier than a seam ripper. They come in many sizes in blades and handles, and some, like Clover’s, have an ergonomic handle. Make sure you have a few nearby because they don’t last forever and have a tendency to get lost too.
Don’t fear the ripper, he’s your best friend!
3. Iron Finger
Made of iron and wrapped in silicone, the Iron Finger is a sturdy tube that let’s you press seams open without the need of a tailor’s ham. It also let’s you hold fabric with its spatula shaped end without burning your fingers. It is a bit limited for curved seams, so if you press curved seams often you should get a tailor’s ham instead.
4. Measuring Gauge
This weird-looking tool features 14 different measurements on each side. Don’t know if the hem of your skirt is consistent all over? Just grab the gauge and hold the desired measurement on top of it. This works great for any kind of project, and you can even use with your sewing machine to make sure your fabric is positioned at the required width.
Even though I mostly work with the metric system, this little tools has helped me a lot since most of the patterns I use are written in inches. Don’t let the strange shape scare you, once you get the hang of it you’ll use the measuring gauge every time.
5. Rotary cutter
You don’t know how much I suffered cutting satin fabric with my scissors. It would look weird after I removed the pins and pattern and no matter how careful I was, it would shift around all the time. That’s the nature of satin, it moves… a lot!
I have found that using a rotary blade makes cutting difficult fabrics easier, not just for straight shapes. Depending on the size of the blade you can cut perfect curves, even without the help of a French curve. Rotary cutters are very sharp, always make sure that the safety is on when you’re not using it because the resulting cuts are not pretty and could send you to the ER. Another recommendation is to use a self-healing cutting mat. Blades are not cheap, but if you take care of them well, they will last many months and keep all your other surfaces safe.
6. Needle threader
If your sewing machine doesn’t have a needle threader, you know how difficult it is to thread with your bare fingers or a tweezer. This little tool does all the work in just a few seconds. Just pull the thread through the white end, perpendicular to the blue triangles, slide it over the needle from top to bottom and push it lightly through the eye of the needle. Voilá! Your needle will be threaded magically without the need of a magnifying glass.
The threader also doubles as a needle holder for your sewing machine. Sometimes, needles can land between the feed dogs and, trust me, you don’t want your fingers stuck in there. Whenever you need to change the needle, slide the blue end over the needle and remove the needle as usual.
7. Point turner
Although most of the time I prefer using a chop stick to turn finished corners, this point turner helps me get crisper edges on my finished fabric when I use the sides. Use the sharp edge carefully or you’ll risk poking a hole in your fabric. The space at the right end of the point turner is great for leverage for your presser foot. While sewing over thick seams, the needle has a tendency to get stuck. If you slide the space underneath the presser foot it will help needle and fabric slide through without much fuss. I will show you how simple this is in a future post.
8. Buttonhole Chisel
Before I purchased a chisel, I used to open buttonholes with a seam ripper. The results weren’t often very clean, depending on the fabric, or I would rip through the edges of the buttonhole, ruining my work. Using a chisel helps make a precise, clean cut. A little tip for a better finish is to use a bit of fray check along the buttonhole, let dry for a few hours and then cut open.
Buttonhole chisels come in various sizes, and are also very sharp. I recommend using a cutting mat to avoid damaging the blade or any other surface.
9. Thermal thimbles
If you sew, you spend almost the same time ironing fabric and seams (if you don’t, you really should!). Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid getting your fingers burned with the iron or the steam when opening tricky seams.
Even though I have the Iron Finger, sometimes I need to use my fingers very close to the iron. The thermal thimbles protect you from heat and steam without damaging your skin.
10. Precision Stiletto
Because I spend most of my time sewing smaller things with 1/4″ seam allowance, I have a bit of trouble keeping seams in their place when they get under the presser foot. I use the pointy end of the stiletto to hold down the edges so they get in straight under the needle. It also helps holding down the fabric while you sew, without having to keep your fingers close to the needle. The grey end is made of silicone and is much smaller than the one on the Iron Finger. You can use it with your iron to hold fabric while pressing.
Now that you know about my essential sewing tools, how about sharing yours in the comments.