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The Well Stocked Sewing Box

All craftspeople have tools, and well stocked sewing boxes. That includes quilters and those who love the needle arts.

Over the years, I have amassed an impressive collection of tools. Some are gadgets and rarely see the light of day. Others are essential.

Here is my essentials list:

Great thread and needles are essential. These thimbles are both comfortable to wear and quite colorful too.

Great thread. It just so happens that my wonderful vintage sewing machine will only work with Gutermann thread. You may scoff at this, but it is true. I pay a hefty price if I don’t pay attention to the fuel I put into the machine. She likes to ball up any other thread, knot it horribly and throw it back in my face. I kid you not.

Needles – sewing machine and hand sewing. Needles are the cheapest element in our tool box, yet we often hold onto them like they were delivered by chariot from an ancient temple in Greece. Old needles create headaches. They are made of metal. Metal gets tired. Sewing machine needles develop nips and burrs that catch on the bobbin thread. This means skipped stitches, broken threads – more mayhem than necessary. The guideline is to change a needle after 10 hours of sewing. Who counts the hours? I change them after each major project. They aren’t expensive. At most retailers, you’ll find a free, handy needle guide (usually on a peg beside the needle display). Pick one up. Post it in your sewing space, or keep it in your sewing accessory box. I have a supply of patchwork needles for almost all my sewing. They’re sturdy, sharp and don’t leave a whopping great hole in the cotton fabric I use most of the time. For bag construction or repairing jeans, I use jeans needles.

Hand needles are more tricky. It’s really true that you have to find a needle to fit your purpose. As in most things, you get what you pay for. Invest in the best quality you can afford because polished and sharp needles will make handwork more fun and satisfying.

For the most part, I use number 10 quilting in-betweeners (and a needle threader). These are tiny needles, but I do a lot of detail work, and having a short needle helps me get into the seam to hide the stitches. Traditionally, these are the needles that created about 1.5 million stitches to the inch as seen in beautiful hand quilting.

I also use embroidery needles, which have a wide eye to allow multiple strands of embroidery thread to pass through. These aren’t great for hand sewing a button though, the eye is too wide and thread will slip out.

Thimbles. I once detested sewing with a thimble. It was just too awkward. But, now there are colourful silicone thimbles. They are comfortable to wear, don’t slip around, and needles won’t go through them. They come in multiple sizes and colours. I like green ones that fit the middle finger of my stitching hand. …It’s just how I roll.

A plethora of pins of all sizes and kinds — but none of these pins will lose their heads when the heat is on.

Pins. All of my pins have either glass or heat-resistant heads. I have melted enough pins under an iron. I use quilting length pins for any project that calls for quilt batting because they don’t get lost in the layers of batting and fabric. And yes, I sew over them on the machine. My repair person knows about this and is supportive.

Seam rippers and fixers — into every sewing life, some mistakes must fall.

Seam rippers and fixers. Revisionist sewing happens to each of us. I have a collection of seam rippers, including ones that are just for dolls and the small seams of stuffed toys. They come in all shapes and sizes. They even have seam rippers that clean up the little bits of errant thread so it looks as though you never attached the right side to the wrong side.

Rotary cutters and rulers. The best tools ever invented! I have a few. I have acquired a TrueCut recently. I am liking it best. (Sorry other rotary cutters in my tool box…) TheTrueCut runs on a rail on its own ruler! This means there is no chance the cutter will go off course into the land of cutting errors, or worse, slice your hand. Rotary cutters produce a clean straight line which is essential in not only quilting, but also bag making and other creative sewing projects.

Marking pens. Debate rages about marking pens used on fabric. Some textile artists never use them. Others swear by markers that are water soluble, and some like disappearing markers, like the Trace ‘n Mark Air Erasable. Then there’s the marker that disappears when the fabric is ironed. Some quilters have complained that the marks come back when the fabric gets cold. I have not seen this. It was very cold last winter. Nothing I marked, and then ironed away, returned.

A really great steam iron. An iron is a crafting tool. I have a Rowenta with hundreds of steam vents. This will help in getting fabric as flat and smooth as possible before you cut into it, and produce flat straight seams as you construct your project. Invest in the best iron you can. Features like auto off and steam on demand are must haves. Vertical press is nice to have!

Try to keep the awesome iron a secret though, along with your ability to use one. People might think you will iron a shirt. Go ahead and iron a shirt, if you are making one. If you are not, don’t fall down that rabbit hole. It keeps you from the sewing space.

Tomorrow, come on back. We are going to begin putting all these tools to work to make the sunglasses case.

Nancy Devine is a self-confessed craft-crazed blogger. She is a regular contributor to A Needle Pulling Thread Magazine, one of the administrators for The Craft Café, a Facebook page devoted to the international sharing of the creative life, and a curator of an impressive collection of fabrics, notions and seam rippers. In her spare time, she wrangles dust bunnies and writes a blog called Nancy Dee Needleworks. Understandably, her house is a mess.

2 Comments

  1. great round up post Nancy! I’m with you on most things. Frixxon pens are the best thing ever – I do a lot of hand embroidery and found the fading ones just disappeared too quickly. I’m not inclined to put my embroidery in the freezer either so I don’t worry about them coming back.

    I attended a dressmaking class where the tutor showed us how a pin is round so a sewing machine needle will just slip down past it – she advocated sewing over pins. The only reason I don’t is that I’m rubbish at pinning and tend to pin creases into things!

    I’d love to use a thimble, I bought a couple of silicone ones, but my fingers don’t want to. I put it on my middle finger and find I’m using my index finger. I put it on my index finger and start using my ring finger. It’s like a finger with a thimble on it is paralysed and can’t be used!

    • Nancy Devine

      Thank you, Wendy!
      I am really glad you’ve found us, and I hope we can be of help to you in all your creative journeys. Keep trying out different thimbles. They really help prevent injury and sore fingers. Glad to hear you love Frixion pens as much as I do.
      Cheers!

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