My Favorite Sewing Tools

Did you know September is National Sewing Month?  Apparently it was declared in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan “In recognition of the importance of home sewing to our nation.”  At about that point in my life I was taking home economics in middle school, a member of a sewing 4-H club, and participating in the county fair.  I was in a fashion show wearing a dress I made and I actually received a blue ribbon for clothing construction.  I was invited to send it to the state fair, but the date I needed to be there landed on the first day of school.  Bummer.

County Fair Dress - Crafty Staci

In honor of this month celebrating all things sewing, The Sewing Loft has launched a series on bloggers’ favorite sewing tools.  Sew Mama Sew also has a group of links to various bloggers’ posts on the things they can’t live without. 

I’ve written about the things that get used the most in my sewing room before.  I wasn’t surprised to look back and realize none of it had really changed.  In case you missed it, here’s the oldies and a few new goodies.

I couldn’t function without my Fiskars clippers, so much so that I own two pair and I’m considering a third.  My son bought the first pair for me for Christmas one year, and has never stopped being proud of the fact that I love them so much.

Fiskars clippers - Crafty Staci

If you don’t have a good pair of shears, they’re worth the investment.  My Ginghers are 23 years old and still work like new as long as they’re sharpened regularly.  I’ve had cheaper scissors, but trust me, it isn’t worth the grief.

Gingher shears - Crafty Staci

It’s not so much a tool, but I’ve become a thread snob.  I was using one brand and it seemed like my machine was jamming and the thread was breaking often.  I actually thought it was my machine, but I switched to Gutterman thread and the problem cleared right up.  It’s the only brand I’ve bought since.

Gutermann Thread - Crafty Staci

Speaking of sewing machines, I’ve told you about my Pfaff before.  It’s a workhorse and hasn’t let me down in the nearly 20 years I’ve owned it.  I recently had the opportunity to buy an even older Pfaff from a family friend, and I jumped at the chance.  In fact, this machine was manufactured at the same time I was walking down that county fair runway, but it’s in excellent condition.  I bought it as a back up, but since the busy season is starting for my Etsy shop, I have it set up right next to the original.  One machine has black thread in it, the other white so I can bounce back and forth without rethreading.  Yep, I’m my own assembly line.

Sewing Machines - Crafty Staci

One of the most surprising of my favorites came from the office supply store.  I have a bag of small binder clips that I use daily.  Sometimes it’s actually for paper, but they’re also great for holding together pieces that are difficult to pin in a sewing project.

Binder clips - Crafty Staci

A classic for me, and the tool I probably use more than almost anything else, is my Pointy Stick.  I bought a 1/4” dowel, cut it to about 15 inches, then sharpened the end to a dull point in a pencil sharpener.  I’ve only broken one and it’s cheap to replace.  I use it for everything, from turning sewn items down to pushing stuff off high shelves so I don’t have to drag out the step stool. 

Pointy Stick - Crafty Staci

There are plenty of other tools I can’t live without, but those are the big ones.  What tool would you take with you to a deserted island?

Buying Your First Sewing Machine

I’m going to give you a quick little window into the crazy that is my life right now.  My husband is the lieutenant at a police department a couple of towns over from where we live.  They were fortunate enough to have their residents vote to approve a bond for a new building a couple of years ago.  After all the planning and building, it’s mostly finished.  We just had a big community open house and a police family barbecue last weekend, which I’ve been on the committee to plan all summer.  It was a whirlwind and lots of work, but they have such a great group of people who deserved something better than the old converted bank building that was falling down around them.

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In addition to that, my daughter’s birthday is Wednesday, then we move her to college on Sunday.  When that’s finished, we start getting ready to ship my husband off to Quantico, Virginia two weeks later, where he’ll be attending a special training program at the F.B.I. until Christmas.  Did I mention customers have begun their holiday shopping in my Etsy store?  Told you…crazy.

I tell you all this because I hope it will help you understand why, rather than writing an article of my own on how to choose a sewing machine, I’m going to direct you to some people who’ve already done it.

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It’s been MANY years since I was shopping for a new sewing machine.  My first machine was a garage sale find whose brand I’ve blocked from my memory.  That thing gave me nightmares.  It was beyond lazy, didn’t want to do anything and ate thread like it was spaghetti.  My second was my current Pffaf Tipmatic 6152 that’s been with me 10 or 15 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

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That’s not to say you shouldn’t shop garage sales for a machine.  There are plenty of workhorses out there that still work great.  My advice is, do your homework before you make a purchase, whether it’s new or used.  And congratulations on bringing a fun new toy into your life.  I’m just trying to squeeze in a little quality time with the one I have!

Sewing Machine Light

If you’ve spent any time at a sewing machine, especially in the evening, you know how important good lighting is.  If you’re over about 35, you might see it as even more crucial.  I’m not picking on you – it’s a scientific fact that our eyes need more light to be able to see as we get older.  Personally, I think the grey hair is enough, but whatever. This is my faithful sewing buddy.  She’s over 10 years old and has never once had to visit the shop.  My only complaint is the lack of good light.  I tried putting a flexible desk lamp behind, pointed toward the sewing area, but it only helped a little and got in my way.  I also looked at sewing machine add-on lights online, but they are very expensive.  I finally explained the problem to Mr. Fix-It-Or-Die-Trying, otherwise known as my husband.

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He came back from Home Depot with a couple of stick-on tap lights.  I chose the brighter of the two, with the other one going into the dorm box for the inside of our daughter’s armoire.  I didn’t get the brand or model number before he put it in place, but there are many options out there.  Just make sure you’re happy with the brightness and ease of turning it off and on.

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We played around with a couple of mounting options.  We tried putting it at the top shining down, but the light came down far right of the needle and created a glare.  There’s a little issue with having it on the right because I block it with my hand sometimes and I’ve accidentally turned if off by bumping a button a couple of times.  Overall, though, it’s far better than before.

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This is what I was dealing with when I would try to sew before.

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And this is my new, improved lighting.  The picture doesn’t do justice to the difference it makes.

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This light only cost about $7.  It’s LED, so doesn’t get hot while I’m using it.  It sticks on and is removable, so no damage to my machine and it can be replaced if necessary.  Not a bad solution to my lighting issue.  Now to figure out what we’re going to do about… *ahem*…magnification.

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Friday Favorites–Pincushions

I’ve worked on a couple of projects this week that required a LOT of pins, something I generally try to avoid.  I have one sad and one semi-sad pincushion I alternate between and I’m in the process of coming up with a replacement, which leads me to today’s Friday Favorites.  There are way too many cute pincushions out there.

It must be because I live in a forest, but you can make anything look like a tree stump and I’m hooked.  Patchwork Posse shows how to make this Rolled Wool Pin Cushion version.

This Teacup Pincushion from The Spotted Fox on Punk Projects would be a great idea to file away for the kids to make for a Mother’s Day gift.  Super easy.

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It’s a Porcupine Pin Cushion.  Seriously, he just makes me smile.  Thanks to Prudent Baby for sharing him.

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There are lots of these Pincushion Thread Catchers floating around, but I really like the fabric Merriment Designs used on this one. 

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I think all the pincushion rings and bracelets out there are cute, but I’m afraid I’d stab myself.  I might have to make an exception for this Pincushion Watch from LucyKate Crafts.

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Or I could just avoid the stabbing all together with this Magnetic Wrist Pincushion from DiyStyle.

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I intentionally avoided all of the cupcake pincushions out there, simply because it’s impossible to choose just one.  I went for full-on cake instead.  The DIY Dish shows how to make these Double Layer Cake Pincushions in their video.

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Some things, like puppies and babies, just make you say “Aww!”  I’m going to add these Mushroom Pincushions from Fantastic Toys to that list.

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I’m not sure I could actually poke pins into this Tiny World – Foresty Pincushion from Mimi Kirchner.

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I try not to have favorites within my favorites, but today, this little guy is it.  Valentine the Voodoo Pincushion from Indie Spotting is on my gotta-have list.

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I’m sure pincushions will come up in my Friday Favorites, but we’ll put a pin in it for now. 

Friday Favorites–Sewing Tools and Tips

I usually link to other creative people and their fabulous projects for my Friday Favorites.  However, I know somebody out there got a new sewing machine or book or some other creative tool for Christmas that they’re learning how to use right now.  So I’d like to share with you some of my favorite tools and tips, and maybe you won’t have to get to them the hard way like I did.

One of my absolute favorite sewing tools was given to me for Christmas by my son, Tucker,  a few years ago.  He’s quite proud of that “absolute favorite” part.  In fact, he will come by and close them if I leave them lying around open, just for my safety.  They are Fiskars clippers and I use them daily for snipping threads, clipping seams, anywhere you can imagine a small pair of scissors would come in handy.  In fact, my husband gave me a second pair for Christmas this year. I almost cried when I took my old pair to the sewing machine shop and they wouldn’t sharpen them for me.  Luckily, my husband came to the rescue and they’re sharp all the way to the tips again.

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While we’re on the topic of scissors, invest in a good pair of shears.  They are a little spendy, but totally worth it.  I’ve had my Gingher shears for about 20 years and they’ve been sharpened a few times, dropped more than once and still work like new.  Granted, I am a little more careful with them.  I don’t anything but fabric with them and I still put the plastic sheath over the blades when I’m not using them.  Hey, for years I stored them in their original box, so I’ve made some progress.

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Another cutting tool I use often is a rotary cutter.  If you plan on making  quilts, or really anything involving a straight line, this one is essential.  You’ll also need a mat to cut on and a ruler to cut against.  They often sell them in sets.  My mat looks like it’s been through a war, but still works fine.  The pink suction cup handle on my ruler is called a Gypsy Gripper and is awesome for holding that slippery thing in place.  My husband gave me the curved ruler on the right for Christmas, so I’m anxious to see what I can do with it and still keep all my fingers.  Which brings me to an important rotary cutter safety rule:  if you aren’t cutting with it, engage whatever safety mechanism your model uses.  You DO NOT want to reach for it without looking and find out the hard way that the blade is exposed.  Trust me on this one.

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I have two sewing areas.  I share a room with our exercise equipment where I store most of my supplies and tools.  I also have a work table and ironing board in that room.  My sewing machine is outside the door in the office.  Because I am constantly going back and forth, I’ve found it easier to have duplicates of a few things so I can keep one on my work table and the other next to the sewing machine.  Even if all of your stuff is in one room, sometimes it’s easier to not have to move things around.  My twin set now consists of a seam measure, clippers, a pincushion and a seam ripper.  The pincushion would be an excellent learn-to-sew project.

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It seems like a lot of the things I make require sewing then turning right side out.  I’ve tried several tools over the years to push the seams and corners out, but my most recent, and simple, is my favorite so far.  It’s a 1/4 inch diameter wooden dowel, cut to 15 inches long and sharpened with a pencil sharpener.  The trick is to not sharpen it to a fine point, but leave it a little flat on the end.  And if I break this one, like I did my last turning tool, it’s cheap and easy to replace.

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If you use a sewing machine much at all, you probably have lots of thread.  That also means lots of bobbins.  My sewing machine has a compartment for storing them, but it was always difficult to figure out which bobbin went with which spool of thread.  Problem solved with some hair bands from the dollar store.  Slip the hair band through the center of the bobbin, so a loop sticks out each side.  Slide both loops over the spool of thread.  It not only keeps the colors together, but keeps the bobbin thread from unraveling.

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Let’s say you’ve planned a big family reunion in Spain and have decided to make everyone in your family Passport Wallets.  All in different fabrics.  Your paper pattern is going to take a beating.  All those pins poking through it and you’ll probably accidentally cut off part of it at some point.  My solution:  cut your pattern pieces out of felt.  It doesn’t tear or leave holes from the pins.  In fact, you may not even need the pins because it sticks to the fabric.  You can’t really cut it without noticing.  And it leaves you with a reusable pattern to store for next time.  As you can see, I also write on mine.  A lot.

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There’s some of my favorite tools and tips.  What are yours?