I have been sewing since I was very small. My mother had me work on simple projects sitting next to her while she was sewing. I did learn early on that it is important to take your time, sew carefully and neatly. And if a seam doesn’t come out just right, it is worth your time and effort to tear it out and do it over.
I was in a sewing class at Custom Home Furnishing Academy a couple of summers ago. It was fun to learn how to make window treatments I had not tried yet and learn better ways to make the treatments I was familiar with. As a group of ladies that had a lot of sewing experience but different experience, we found ourselves sharing little tricks and shortcuts to make our work simpler and more efficient.
One such tip was how to use a seam ripper. For many years I have stuck the sharp end of the tool under each stich and cut that stitch. Some times I could rip out a seam a little easier by cutting every 4th or 5th stitch. It still took along time to rip out a whole seam. Our instructor asked – what is the red tip for on a seam ripper? She showed us how to flip over the tool, run the red tip just under the stitches and rip down a whole seam in one fell swoop. The covered tip keeps the ripper from tearing or cutting your fabric, it slides neatly under the stitches cutting them easily as you push the tool down the seam.
Now I don’t have to worry about basting a seam, ripping it out and restitching. If there is a seam put in the wrong place it is quick and easy to fix. Sometimes it is the simplest thing that can make your sewing experience easier and more fun.
Don’t be afraid to try a new project or new tool. Do you have a favorite tip or trick? I would love to hear from you.
When starting any new project you need a handful of tools. Here are a few basics that every good sewing basket should have. Pins – buy good ones and not small pins. I like pins with a glass head and that are 1 7/8″ long. This is because most of my sewing is with decorator fabric and I need large sturdy pins. But I have also found that larger pins are less fussy to deal with, don’t bend too easily and the glass heads don’t melt when you iron over them. A magnetic pin bowl saves spilling pins on the floor and makes for quick clean up when the pins are scattered all over your table. The pretty blue magnetic pin cushion sells for $9-15.00 at the local fabric store. The metal pin bowl has a stronger magnet, works just as well and I spent about $3.00 at Harbor Freight Tools. Scissors – a good pair of sharp scissors to cut fabric and fabric only is a must. I like the Fiskars scissors with the spring. It is a personal preference. Some people invest in large sharp scissors that can be sharpened on a regular basis and last for generations. I have yet to invest in a pair. I like the lighter weight scissors and replace them when they get too banged up to be useful.
A second small pair of scissors is very helpful. They are best for cutting threads at your machine and hand sewing.
Needles- you will need good hand sewing needles. To start out, buy a package with different sizes, try them out find a size you are comfortable with using. You will also need a variety of sewing machine needles. Your fabric and needles should match for each project. More on that later.
Seam ripper – you will have to take out stitches. I have told students that just like writing is rewriting, sewing can mean ripping it out and resewing.
Tape Measure – you actually need several kinds of measuring tools. I use a tape measure like to one in the picture to measure people or for quick reference. I have several wide plastic rulers in different sizes to use with my cutting mat, but they also get used to check that things are square and measure hems. I have a simple 6″ metal ruler, a seam gauge and for draperies 25 ft tape measure.
Tailor’s chalk – I started using Tailor’s chalk in marking fabric for draperies, but I found it is also handy in making small marks on fabric for skirts and dresses. It is an easy way to mark pleats, darts, dots that need to match up or a new longer hemline. There are other handy marking pens available too. Again, try several and use your favorite. This list could go on a long time, but I will end with investing in a good iron. I like an iron that shuts off automatically, one that gets good and hot and creates a lot of steam. I don’t like it when they spit, leak or drip rusty water on my fabric. This Rowenta works well for now.So gather up some basic tools and put them in a drawer or basket near your sewing machine. It is easier to sit down to sew when your tools are handy. Save up those fabric store coupons to shop for the pieces you are missing. Have fun.