Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sewing Tips: Sewing Gadgets I Would Die Without

If you've been to Joann's lately you know it is National Sewing Month. I don't know what you do to 'celebrate' National Sewing Month, but I thought a post answering common questions and my favorite gadgets would be appropriate.

I get questions from people who want to start sewing. 'Yay!' Is my first response. Of course I love sewing and think that until the last few years it was becoming a dying art. So not only do I find it fun and enjoyable, but a very practical skill. Then they ask, "What do I need to start?"

So let's start at the very beginning a very good place to start. When you sew you begin with the sewing machine.


One of my favorite sewing gadgets, of course, is my sewing machine. My mom and sister own a Viking and Bernina. (Sigh...one day!) I own a basic Singer Touch and Sew 7462. I got it for a great deal and it had all the functions I was looking for. My advice to anyone looking for their first machine is to find something you are comfortable with. Go to the store and test drive some. Ask questions and make your choice. Once you get your machine, READ THE ENTIRE MANUAL that goes with it. Many of the problems that people have with their machines can be solved by reading the manual. If you are getting a hand-me-down and don't have a manual go to the manufactuer's site. Many times you can download a PDF of the manual for free.


Sewing Feet. Sewing machines usually come with three to four basic feet. You can buy all sorts of feet that can do different things. My favorite foot is the 1/4" 'quilting' foot. It is not exclusively for quilting, but 1/4" is the standard seam allowance for quilting so hence the name. Basically one side of the foot is 1/4" so you just line the foot or gauge up with the raw edges of your fabric...and what do you get?! The perfect 1/4" seam allowance. It is a must if you do any amount of quilting.

A great place to get feet for a STEAL is sewingmachinesplus.com. (On average I save $20.00 - $30.00 a foot if I buy it through them. They also have great deals on machines.) You can find what particular feet work with your machine by checking out your manfactuer's site.


Sewing Machine Needles. You maybe thinking...ah the needle...thrilling! But truly. If you have a junky needle, your stitching will look junky. If your machine is skipping stitches or you can't remember the last time you changed the needle; change your needle. The general rule is to change your needle after each project. Now some of my projects are kinda quick. So for me it is once a big project or after I make a few tote bags.

Now you don't have to buy expensive needles to get a good project. I buy what my manufacturer recommends. I can find mine at Walmart for under $2.00. Another tidbit of info is that different kind of needles do exist. Did you know that? The two I commonly use are size 80/11 and 90/14. 80/11 is for light weight fabrics, like the broadcloth that you use to line a bag. 90/14 is for medium weight fabrics, like linen and cotton.


Cutting Tools. Good cutting tools are a must. If you watch sales or use coupons at Joann's or Micheal's you can get your cutting tools for a decent price. However, cutting tools are something that you may have to spend some money on. But trust me they will be worth EVERY penny. I think I bought most these items with a coupon or on sale, except for my rulers. ( I bought my rulers at a quilting store.) I would recommend getting a cutting mat, rotary cutter, one long clear ruler, and good fabric scissors first. The rest you can fill in as you are able.

The cutting tools I have in my stash:
  • Gingher Dressmaking Shears - Buy them, love them, never let them touch paper. Ever. Ever. Ever. (With that being said, I also keep a pair of 'paper' scissors in my sewing basket so I am never tempted.) I've had mine for close to 10 years and will be sharpening them for the first time next week. They last FOREVER.
  • Creative Grids 24" x 6.5" Clear Ruler - This is their best selling size. I use this size far more than my 8.5" square. I would DIE without this ruler. Truly. I love this brand because they have clear grippies on the back that prevent slippage. And whoever said, "You only need it if you quilt." was wrong. A straight cut of fabric is worth a million bucks when you sew. ( I cringe at fabric stores when they cut fabric so APPARENTLY crooked.)
  • Dritz 45mm Pressure Sensitive Rotary Cutter - I love this rotary cutter. I like it because you can lock it, so it is safer with kids around. Also, the blade only comes down when you apply pressure to use it for cutting. However, I DESPISE Dritz blades. They are horrible in my opinion. I use Olfa blades...they are the best and they fit this brand of cutter. (As long as you get the right size blade, for example 45mm for a 45mm cutter, they will fit.) To me they are worth the extra expense. I buy the 5-pack when they are 50% off. They come out to be less than $3.00 a blade...not too shabby.
  • Friskars Pinking Shears - Again a tool I would DIE without. I almost bought the Gingher brand, but these are MUCH easier to open and close.
  • Westcott Titanium Trimmers - I love these. This is what I use to cut out my small applique pieces. They are also great to have right next to your machine to clip threads.

#5 Joann Coupons

I have only mentioned this a few times. If you do any amount of sewing...sign up for their mailing/email list. If you use to get their mailers and are wondering why they have stopped this is why. The mailer coupons have a bar code that they scan with your info on them. If your mailer coupons are not scanned they assume you do not use them so they stop sending you a mailer. I get both the mailer and the email. You can sign up for both here...they send you a 40% off coupon right off the bat. This week is Coupon Commotion and the entire store is basically on sale. Seriously. Almost all the fabric is at least 30% off.

Also. You can use Micheal's coupons at Joann's. However, you cannot use a Micheal's coupon ON FABRIC at Joann's. This is because Micheal's does not sell fabric. Makes sense. I also saw a sign recently at Micheal's that they accept competitor's coupons...so I am guessing you can use Joann's at Micheal's.

Tomorrow I will be back with a couple of tips and common questions I get asked.

Happy Sewing Month!


  1. Thanks for all of your tips. I am just beginning so these tips are great.

  2. Oh, the scoldings we used to get for stealing Mom's Ginghers. Good times, good times.

  3. can you please explain to my husband and children that my "special" scissors aren't supposed to be used on paper, to open a cheese stick, or to trim doll hair? thanks:)

  4. Kristen, your comment totally made me laugh. I was trained from a young age never ever to use mom's special scissors on anything but paper.

    Sorry that your husband and kids don't understand. Hide them and leave them out the cruddy scissors to use. :)


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