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As my love of fabric grew into a full-blown addiction it quickly became apparent that there were some truly awesome sewing tools out there that—although not strictly ‘essential’—were a great time or sanity saver. I’m a great believer that you can always learn new tricks or buy new tools. I’m still building my sewing supply kit (it’s taking years) so I turned to some online sewing buddies for some advice. To say I was overwhelmed with great suggestions is an understatement. I actually don’t use all the tools mentioned below, but so many other sewing addicts rave about them that I really can’t ignore them.
Above: Tailor's hams always have a plaid top and plain bottom. The plaid lines are very useful when turning and pressing collars.
I lived without a tailor’s ham for so long and I really should have bought one as soon as I started dressmaking. I know it sounds silly, but I’m a little bit in love with my ham (yes, I know how odd that sounds!) Getting a beautiful curve on collar rolls and gorgeous, non-puckered dart points is SO MUCH EASIER with a tailor’s ham than a flat ironing board.
Above: Two different types of sewing gauges—both are useful.
I love my sewing gauge so much I have three of them! They are so simple to use and really help me turn up my hems evenly. A sewing gauge is so simple: I just set the little arrow to the length I need then use it to measure as I press up the hem. Nice, accurate and super easy!
Recently I bought another gauge that looks quite different to my others. It was only a few bucks and I kinda fell in love with it. It works in the same way, it’s just a different shape and sits nicely in my hand.
I have to be honest, I’ve actually never used a loop turner*, but SO MANY experienced sewers swear by them so I really can’t ignore their usefulness. Loop turners help you turn thin tubes of fabric from wrong-sides-together to right-sides-together. You know those pesky tubes you make as button loops? Well a loop turner will help you turn those suckers out with minimal fuss and no swearing, which gets a big tick in my book! You can use a chopstick, but there can be a fair bit more time, tears and tantrums involved—consider yourself warned 😉
I use a point turner* for poking out corners when I make cushion covers, and particularly in turning out collars and other sharp corners. It makes all the difference between getting a nice, crisp collar point, or a slightly more rounded, less polished finish. Be careful when you use a point turner though: go slowly and gently as you don’t want to push through your stitches. This mistake cannot be fixed, and you’ll either have to live with some not-so-neat collar points or start over. Either way, there could be tears. I don’t want that, and nor should you!
Above: Quilting rulers are great for marking straight lines on garment patterns.
I got a quilting ruler as part of a pack that included a rotary cutter and cutting mat. I covered the rotary cutter and mat in my Essential Sewing Tools post, but I didn’t cover a quilting ruler simply because I can live without it—I just choose not to! A quilting ruler is immensely useful for getting the beautiful straight lines that are essential in quilting. They are also really, REALLY useful for garment patterns where there are straight lines, which are most of them 😉 . It’s so easy for the ruler to slip when cutting though—not cool! So I always have my hand and arm straight down over the ruler. I also put some pressure on the ruler just to keep it in place. Oh, and go slowly with that rotary cutter!
Above: My adjustable tracing wheel is a very cool gadget that makes adjusting seam allowances a breeze.
Adjustable tracing wheel
I just love my adjustable tracing wheel. It's great when I need to add or adjust a seam allowance (or hem length). It's also really proven its usefulness when I'm tracing or drafting pattern pieces. So good!
Above left: Strawberry pin sharpener, Above right: Bias tape maker.
Strawberry pin sharpener
You may have seen these cute little strawberries before and wondered what they're for. You're in luck! They are filled with a gritty sand and you poke any blunt or burred pins into the strawberry a few times to sharpen the pin up. When you're sewing fine fabrics such as silk and satin you need to have sharp, smooth pins otherwise you can easily pull threads and damage your fabric, which will make you sad. With your strawberry by your side you never have to fear burred pins ever again!
Bias tape maker
These things are SO cool! They come in a few different sizes and only cost a few bucks, so you really can't go wrong! Funky polka dot bias tape definitely beats boring old polycotton pre-packaged bias tape. Do yourself a favour and get one (or more) of these beauties!
Again, this is another tool I don’t have in my kit and I’m about to rectify that right now! Wonder clips* hold thick layers, or layers that can’t (or shouldn’t) be pinned together. Others have suggested using hair clips, and I’ve used bulldog clips in the past—but not any more! Wonder clips—watch out—you will be mine!
Glue pen, basting spray or wash-away tape
In the past I’ve used basting spray that didn’t wash out, which defeated the purpose really. But after hearing others rave about glue products that wash out I’m going to re-think my stance. The trick, I think, is to do a test-run on a scrap of your project’s fabric and see if the glue does what it says it should do. Glues that wash out are useful for putting pieces together that you can’t (or don’t want to) baste together first.
Rotary blade sharpener
Every now and again I realise that I really do live under a rock. I had NO IDEA it was even possible to sharpen rotary blades once they go dull! I’m actually scratching my head about how I missed this! As I mentioned in my Essential Sewing Tools post, rotary blades must be super sharp to do their job properly. I’ve been tossing them out once they go dull and now I can extend their life by using a rotary blade sharpener*. Hooray!
So there you have it—my list of useful sewing tools that are nice to have, although not essential. As you can see, I don’t have everything on this list so I’m off to rectify that right this minute! I’m looking at you, rotary blade sharpener!
Do you have a favourite sewing tool that’s not on this list? If so, share below so we can all have a look … and maybe add to our kit …
Note: this post is part of my sewing newbie series. The series includes Preparation and Essential sewing tools. The next ones will be working with paper patterns, reference books and other resources, and a quick and simple project.