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August 14, 2014

how-to // sewing tools

So you're learning how to sew. You've got your fabric, your sewing machine is finally threaded properly, & you're ready to crank out your first project. Before you start, you need to know that sewing is so much more than a needle & thread. Sure, the act of sewing is at the core of this activity, but there are tools you'll want to use to take your sewing from amateur to professional. I'm going to share with you some of the tools in my sewing arsenal that allow me to sew proficiently & with ease. 


This is your jumping off point. I would highly recommend that when you begin learning how to sew, you put your sewing machine to the side until you have mastered sewing by hand. Even when you advance to using your machine, you will still need to fall back on this skill (i.e. sewing buttons, finishing pillows, etc.). 

Thread comes in different strengths & weights. Heavy-duty thread should be used for projects that will get a lot of wear (re-seaming your denim jeans, for example). Cotton thread is strong & durable, but is also easier to rip out if you make a mistake. Polyester thread is the strongest, but will sometimes damage a project in the long run.

Needles also comes in different shapes & sizes. Embroidery needles are larger & thicker. They often have a dull point, & as such are better for needlepoint projects. Shorter, thinner needles are better for buttons. Needles for your machine also come an array of options & are numbered by strength. Smaller numbered needles, like an #8, are for delicate fabrics, while a #18 needle should be used with denim.

You may think you need to purchase expensive dressmaker scissors to get the best results, but I'm going to share a secret with you. If you want a smooth cut every time, buy a pair of designated fabric scissors. I have been using the same pair of scissors to cut fabric for going on a decade now, & they still cut like a dream. There's nothing special about these scissors except that they have never touched anything other than fabric, especially not paper. Cutting paper is the fastest way to dull your scissors. Invest in a second pair of scissors just for fabric to bump up your sewer's game. 

Confession: I don't use this tool as much as I should. I am a professional "guesstimator." After starting this blog & realizing I needed to measure so I could share with you all the actual measurements I use, I saw a change in my projects. They were neater. The ends of fabric actually met in the correct place. I wasn't wasting as much fabric as before. Learn from my mistakes & use your measuring tape. 

It's important that you utilize measuring tape as opposed to a tape measure or a ruler. These other tools can come in handy in a pinch, but measuring tape more accurately measures surfaces which are covered in fabric (i.e. the roundness of your waist or a fluffy pillow). 

Here's another tool that I could use more of. Pins are like a set of extra arms. Okay, like twenty extra arms. You can't hold all of the corners of your project together at the same time. Plus, as you're sewing, the dogs on your machine will pull your fabric pieces into all kinds of different directions. Use your pins. They are your friends. 

Pins are also useful as markers. If there is an area of your project that you need to remember (i.e. a dart seam on a shirt), mark it with a pin. Pins work well with your sewing machine, as you can sew over your pins as you go, & remove them when you finish your seam. 

For the safety of your sewing projects, invest in a seam ripper. We all make mistakes, & sometimes we need to remove a misplaced seam. You will save yourself time & frustration by using a seam ripper. Scissors will do the job, but there is always the possibility of accidentally snipping your fabric if you go this route. 

Last but certainly not least comes the iron. This is a tool that will greatly increase the precision of your sewing work. When a pattern asks you to iron your seams, don't ignore this step. Ironing allows for fabric to be sewn at its true, flattest state, ensuring proper seam placement.

If you do not have room to set up an ironing board near your sewing machine, a folded towel on the ground or on a table can take its place. 
Hope these tips have helped. Are there any other tools that you cannot go without when working on a sewing project? 


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