September is National Sewing Month. Yippee! A whole month to celebrate my passion for sewing. If you don’t sew it’s time to learn.
In honor of National Sewing Month I’ll do a post every Wednesday on the Basics – everything from basic tools to basic skills. These basic sewing essentials lay the foundation for all our sewing projects.
To start off I’ve put together a list of essential tools for the sewist. These are the tools that I use every day.
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Cutting Tools: These come in all shapes and sizes. Some of my favorites include the rotary cutter, small embroidery scissors, fabric shears and applique scissors. What you should buy first is a good pair of fabric shears, a good pair of pinking shears, and a good pair of thread nippers. Buy the best fabric shears you can afford and take care of them. Never cut paper or anything other than fabric with them and have them sharpened every so often. Sharp tools are the key to enjoyable sewing. If you don’t serge or do any sort of overcast stitch, pinking shears will keep fabrics from unraveling. I consider these essential because they are such a quick way to finish many seams. You’ll also find them useful when you are working with fabric that unravel easily. I also always keep a pair of small thread nippers nearby when I’m sewing. I find them much easier to use when clipping threads.
Cutting Mat: This self-healing mat is an essential in my sewing room. Not only does it protect my work surface from being destroyed but when combined with my rotary cutter it’s a time saver. This and the rotary mat are probably things you can live without. If you are pinching pennies or don’t have a lot of space to work with, don’t buy this first but a self-healing cutting mat is a must if you’re using a rotary cutter.
Tools for measuring: A good tape measure for taking measurements for sizing is a must. You’ll need a soft one for getting accurate body measurements. You’ll also need a seam gauge. Turning up a hem ¾” is much easier with a seam gauge. It also doubles as a ruler when you need to measure out smaller amounts. My favorite is the Clover 5 in 1 Sliding Gauge. When you’re ready for the rotary cutter you will need a Quilter’s Ruler. A quilter’s ruler is a clear ruler used to cut strips, shapes and bias pieces. This tool (when combined with your cutting mat and rotary cutter) allows you to cut a straight line on multiple layers. It comes in multiple shapes and sizes. My favorite size is 6 X 24 inches.
Iron/Ironing Board: I consider the iron and ironing board to be one of the most important and most under-appreciated tool combos in my sewing room. They should be used for pressing wrinkles from fabric after you wash it, for pressing creases into fabric for sewing and cutting lines, for attaching fusible interfacing and appliques webbing, and for pressing seams flat. And it’s important use of all — a good, over-all pressing of the completed project for afinished, professional look.
Marking Pen/Chalk: Marking pens and chalk are perfect for drawing directly onto your fabric. Different marking tools are used for each fabric type and application. I prefer a water soluble pen but they sometimes don’t show up as well on dark colored fabric. I have both on hand just to be safe!
Pins/Pincushion/Pattern Weights: Pins are essential for keeping fabric pieces in their place. They also come in all shapes and sizes. When pins get bent, dull, or gunky with glues and resins throw them out. However, pins are not suitable for all projects. Pattern weights should be used with fabrics such as laminates, vinyl, faux leather, and knits. To make your own pattern weights see my post here. A pincushion or magnetic holder is a great way to keep pins close to you at all times. I have both. In fact I have a collection of them. You can always find one at my cutting station, one by my sewing machine, and one at on my ironing board.
Seam Ripper: This is probably the most dreaded tool in your sewing kit but the seam ripper is also of the most important ones. Not only is it handy for removing seams but they make quick work of opening up buttonholes. Unlike scissors, they’re a safe, fast way to rip out seams without the risk tearing your fabric. For insight into the love/hate relationship of a sewist and her seam ripper you can read the post here.
For more information on basic sewing tools check out these posts:
We haven’t discussed the most important tool here – the sewing machine. Check back each Wednesday in September for more Basic Sewing Essentials. Next week’s Basic Sewing Essentialstopic will be How to Buy the Right Sewing Machine.