Sewing tools that may change your life

Sewing tools that may change your life

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I wanted to share with you all things that I use when ever I sew, things that have made my life easier, influenced and or inspired me, things that have solved problems and simply made me smile.
My mission and my passion: Have you ever found a pattern that you like, then discover you need a zip, thread, interfacing and or a trimming and had to buy from 3 different places, then wait ages for the postman to deliver? Well I want to create an online shop, a shop similar to a recipe book for sewing. All the ingredients you need for each make, all in one place, help to make your sewing projects easier and more efficient. Everything I hope to stock, I have tested and use in my own sewing room every day. This is my latest project, so watch this space.
Function and aesthetics
I like things to function well and be aesthetics pleasing, is it possible to have both? This is not always possible, sometimes aesthetics wins and sometimes function?
I have worked in the fashion industry and in schools; learning and teaching everything textiles and fashion along the way. When buying products I have had lots of different specifications in mind, specs that have a different order of preference, in education it always needed to be best priced, in industry function came first, then comfort of use, aesthetics rarely got a look in. I had a pair of scissors made to fit my hand once and even a table made to my height for a sample cutting job.
I like nautical, colourful tools, as well as tools that make my life easier. As a teenager we didn’t have a washing machine, so my brother and I used to take it in turns to carry our washing to the local launderette every week. My mother was made redundant and the first thing she bought was a washing machine, this was a life changer. Don’t worry she got another job straight away. My first dishwasher purchase, my first car, all life changers. Most of the things on my list below are my sewing life changers.
Here are my top 20 sewing life changers #sewmucheasier with…..
  1. Wristband pincushion: I taught product design in secondary schools, I have the mindset that a successful product solves a problem. I collect pin cushions and my number 1 cushion is my wrist one, the main reason being that I always know where it is when I’m sewing. Previously I would always be looking, reaching and or frustrated with having to get some pins whilst in the middle of sewing. Now it’s the first thing I put on when about to sew. It’s not aesthetically pleasing, but definitely solves my problem.
  2. Measuring tape on a lanyard. This carries the same reason as above. This is the second thing I reach for when starting to sew. It’s really good when I am teaching too. When you are at your machine and need to check the size and or length of something, it’s there.
  3. Pearl end pins: pins come in all different shapes and sizes. Cost and size matter. Your better off spending more on pins and looking after them as a result. When I worked in schools we used to buy in bulk, large boxes of pins, half of which were nails. By Christmas they were all lost, mostly dropped on the floor and swept up by the cleaners. The second reason for my choice is, I want to hear a pin drop! One summer I was barefoot and stood on a pin, initially unknown to me it broke deep in my ankle, after a couple of days the pain was awful, so I had to go to A&E. They couldn’t get it by local anesthetic, so I had to go back for a general. I ended up on crutches with stitches in my foot. So pearly pins I hear when they drop and I can also see them easily. This is important as I have a small boy running around the house. It is also important that they are long and sharp.
  4. Brother sewing machine. I trained in industry for 6 years before teaching and all businesses at the time used brother industrial machines. Brother industrial machines need to be strong as they are used for mass production. Domestic machines don’t get used as much, so are lighter plastic models. Machine choice is always linked to your own personal history. If your mother had an old singer, that’s the one you would be recommended and trust. If you are buying a new machine, make sure it has a top loading bobbin, I spent years teaching with front loading ones and the this was so difficult to teach how to load. The top loading ones are so much easier
  5. Brother over-locker: this is a luxury to many home sewers and lots of people are scared of them. They are very difficult to re-thread and they cut fabric at the same time as stitch. I trained in bridal so have less experience of over-locker. I would like to go on a course as my tension never looks great. I need to master that. I have recently been reading and improving my understanding of them. I do love it though, the seam finish is so quick and easy, providing the thread doesn’t break.
  6. Cutting mat: I teach lots of workshops, so I have to cut lots of materials, it’s also a must have if you pattern cut. The measurements are on the mat and you can easily match up the lines. It’s better for small jobs like cutting patchwork squares, although I do have a large a1 mat. Traditionally they seem to only come in green, so when I saw a pink one I just had to have it.
  7. Rotary cutter: this took me a while to get used to, I’m showing my age with this tool, as when I first starting working it didn’t even exist. One of my first fashion jobs was as a sample cutter. I’ll fitted scissors caused bunions on my thumb when I first started. I was cutting out for 9 hours a day, so scissors today come naturally to me. Rotary cutters are very good for cutting jersey and especially good for cutting small things like patchwork squares.
  8. Small and large fabric scissors. I have several pairs of scissors, as I mentioned above it’s important to get the correct size to match the size of your hand. Your 4 fingers should sit comfortably and not be squashed in. I have a small pair of scissors next to my machine for snipping loose threads and a large pair for cutting out. When teaching GCSE Textiles technology the students would loose a mark if they left a lose thread, so I am now very OCD about cutting off my thread end after every seam sewn. I have a scissor sharpener, this is also essential.
  9. Storage: You may be asking why have I included storage, well this is so important, if you like to be organised. I teach textiles and sewing workshops, so I have a lot to store and never enough space. I find storing in separate clear boxes best, especially with fabrics. I like to see my materials, otherwise you forget about it. If the box is clear you can see at a glance and sometimes be inspired to make something you hadn’t initially planned to. It’s a bit like filing, we all have our own systems that work for us. Fabrics: I store colours, patterns and different types separately. I have a storage box for everything, my local bric-a-brac shop says hello to me as I walk past as a result.
  10. Guterman threads: no other thread will do. The cheaper threads can be fluffy and clog up a needle. It’s worth spending a little bit extra.
  11. Loop Turner: I don’t use this everyday, but still couldn’t be without one. Previously a safety-pin was the only alternative and not easy to do. This tool is quick and easy to use once you have mastered hooking the hook to the fabric that is. It does helps if someone demonstrates how and I make it part of my couture workshop, when I teach at the knitting and stitching show. We make our own button loops and button loop grid.
  12. Sleeve ironing board: This is an ironing board for pressing sleeves. This makes ironing sleeves and trouser legs so much easier and you don’t press something you shouldn’t. I would advise getting one that is strong and doesn’t fall down easily.
  13. Concealed zipper foot: most machines come with a zipper foot, not a concealed foot. These allow your needle to go very close to the zip teeth, making the zip literally invisible
  14. Pattern weights: I have a lovely set of donut pattern weights by OhSewQuaint, my son mistook them for real donuts and asked me recently if he could have one. Traditionally they used to be boring iron rectangles with a handle attached. They are good if you don’t want to put pins in a fabric. I altered a pattern recently and the paper was curling all over the place, my weights helped me sort that out.
  15. Instagram twitter and Facebook groups are great forums/communities to share your makes and ask any questions you have about sewing. My favourite is Instagram, I’m a visual learner and love seeing a makers visual diary. I enjoy using all social media platforms on a daily basis. Facebook has some great groups too, I have recently created my own, where you can share and or ask questions about something you are making and or share a simple trick that can make some elses life easier.
  16. Dot and cross pattern paper: I always have a role in the house, it’s really good for altering patterns and or making your own. The dot and cross helps you mark straight lines.
  17. Paper patterns My favourite paper pattern brands are: Sew over It, Sew me something, Simple sewing patterns and the papercut pattern company. All have simple contemporary designs and the instructions are clear and easier than old school patterns to follow.
  18. Pattern & print: I have always been a huge fan of pattern and printed fabrics, Liberty and Orla Kieley being my 2 addictions. I am also drawn to a leopard print.
  19. Fabric types: I started out working with silk fabrics, my college degree collection was all made from silk chiffon. If you can drive in London you can drive anywhere.Same applies to fabric, if you can work with silk, everything that comes after will seem easy in comparison. Medium weight woven fabrics do not stretch, so easier to manage, so if you are a beginner maybe stitch to cottons, this will help you gain confidence.
  20. Books: I have always been a collector of; cooking, art, design, textiles, fashion and sewing books. The books I have found so inspiring at the moment are; Pattern by Orla Kiely, Stretch by Tilly and the buttons, The bag bible by Lisa Lam and Complete dressmaker by Jules Fallon, oh and have to mention Mark Plan Teach by my husband Ross McGill. 🙂
  21. Bias binding maker: I planned to stop at 20, but just remembered the bias binding tool. This helps you make your own bias binding, you can do this by hand and or buy bias binding, but this tool makes it quicker and cheaper to make your own.

If you have a tool that you couldn’t live without, please share this with me here, Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #sewmucheasier

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