My Fave Sewing Tools

fave-sewing-toolsSo, not a lot of sewing is happening this week, though that’s going to be changing as soon as I turn in my sketches by Saturday. In the meantime, I rounded up some of my favorite sewing tools, just because.

When I first started sewing about six years ago, I didn’t really know what supplies to gather beyond a sewing machine, iron, ironing board, pins and shears. I had fabric too, of course, but the whole world of notions was a mystery. Because I didn’t know what to get, I got everything. I saw people with measuring tapes looped around their neck so I bought one. Turns out, I never use my measuring tape. Same with the French curve, the esoteric sewing apparatuses — I don’t even know what some of them do or are called!

Over the years, I’ve developed strong preferences for my sewing tools. What you see above have been game-changers for me.

Bodkin – This is one of my absolute faves. I love this tweezer-looking tool for threading elastic into waistbands. Even with 1/8-inch elastic, the teeth at the ends grip firmly, and it’s the perfect length and width to go through narrow kids’-sized casings. Sure, you could use a safety pin, but this is a whole lot more fun to use. I do sometimes use a safety pin at the other end of the elastic so I don’t lose the elastic — hate it when that happens.

Wonder Clips – I believe these are meant for quilting but I love using them for sewing knits and especially for holding zippers in place.

Magnetic Pin holder – This is a rather new addition to my sewing toolkit and it’s changed my life. I LOVE pincushions, but I didn’t realize how much time I was spending carefully inserting the pins back into the cushion. Now I practically fling my pins in the general direction of the magnetic holder and voila, accessible and neatly contained.

Flower-Head Pins – I like the regular ones, too, but these fine pins are my go-to pins. They’re great for every type of fabric and though you do have to be a little careful because they’re delicate and could easily get bent out of shape, combined with the magnetic pin holder, they make a fierce  workhorse duo.

Washers as weights – I guess there are fancy weights for sewing? I went to the hardware store and grabbed a few of the big washers in several sizes and they’re perfect. I usually use one per corner and maybe one in the middle depending on the pattern piece and they’ve served me well. I’ve lost quite a few though (I suspect K had a hand in this), so I’ll need to replenish soon…

Seam gauge – While creating this post, I discovered this seam gauge that I now want, but so far this Dritz one has been great. I use it all the time and have two. One is by my iron at all times and the other lives near the sewing machine.

Chaco liner – I prefer the pen style, but I also like the lipstick style too. For some reason, the lipstick style seems to work better on knits for me. The click-click-click as I trace is a great rhythmic comfort, and I love how easy it is to draw straight lines with these. I’ve tried pretty much every kind of tailor’s chalk out on the market, and these are the best by far.

As you can see, I’m very partial to the Clover brand (note: I’m not at all affiliated with any of these brands). Their products are so well-made and have stood the test of time. Oh, I forgot to get a photo, but the biggest game changer of all has been the Swedish Tracing Paper. I don’t have to extoll its virtues since people have been raving about it in the sewing blogosphere forever, but it’s really made tracing all my Japanese patterns so much more pleasant. Dare I say, almost fun? The paper is sturdy, malleable, sewable, writable, everything-able! Love love love it.

So there you have it, my fave tools. What about you? What’s in your toolkit of indispensable sewing supplies?


20 thoughts on “My Fave Sewing Tools

  1. Hello Sanae!!! so long without visit you. From you post I would love to give a try to the Swedish Tracing Paper and the Chaco liner. Although here is not very easy to find the tracing paper, it seems very handy!. I think between my favorite are: Seam Ripper, rotary cutter and tracing wheel . x

    1. So great to see you here, Maria! Hope all is well!! Ah, I forgot to include my seam ripper – definitely a vital tool :-).

  2. You have some of my favorite tools up there! I just recently discoverd wonder clips, they are a bit pricey but I love them! So great for knits and piping! And my magnetic pin holder is very dear to me, I inherited it from my Tante Hanna, my grandmother´s sister who was a very accomplished seamstress (I also have her old foot pedal singer, and wish I knew how to work with it!). It is just a big u-shaped magnet but it works wonderfully. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a seam gauge here, but it is on my must-get-list. Same with the washer weights. I just use stones but I need to find something similar in a hardware store here. My absolute favorite tool is my tailor´s ham. Also VERY pricey (I only discovered Tilly and the buttons tutorial for a DIY ham after I bought mine) but soooo wonderful. It makes the best bust darts and helps me to press curved seams so much better than the flat ironing board. Plus it smells wonderfully when I use steam to iron with it. It is filled with some kind of hay and smells like summer rain :-). And I love my big fabric scissors. I use my rotary cutter a lot but I just really love the sound of those heavy scissors cutting through fabric and the way it feels. And of course there is Polly, my sewing machine. I inherited her, too, from a friend´s aunt, and she is a 30+ year old Pfaff creative, one of the first computerized models they made. I am just in love with her. Her sound, her smell, the way she transports the fabric and just feels so reassuringly sturdy and knowledgeable makes me happy whenever I sit down in front of her! Sorry for rambling, but it was fun, thinking about this! And I guess sewing for me is all about smells, sounds and the way things feel in my hands! (Don´t you just love the way double gauze smells?)

    1. Polly sounds wonderful and wow, a foot pedal singer! I’m an avid fan of my tailor’s ham too, and use it often though mine doesn’t smell lovely…I also love that sewing is such a tactile activity that full engages all senses! Thanks, Ute!

    2. Hello! Not sure of the problems you are having with the treadle machine but I used to have one many moons ago. I do remember that you need to ensure that you never allow the machine to go backwards, so you need to make sure that when you start rocking your foot on the pedal that the machine is sewing forwards. The Fly wheel needs to go in one direction ONLY but I can’t remember if it is clockwise or anti clockwise- I think it’s anti. If not, stop, and if you were pressing the pedal down, let it come up, or vice versa to make fly wheel spin in correct direction. Once machine is sewing in a forward direction, keep up the same rhythm so it doesn’t go
      go backwards. Sorry, I haven’t explained that very well- can someone else please?

  3. I think I need to get a bodkin! Every time I use a small safety pin for a narrow channel, it springs open and drama ensues. I’m also a recent chaco liner convert – I love the tiny accurate lines.

    1. My bodkin rocks! The pack comes with another bodkin that has a loop/eye/opening for the really thin elastics, but I hardly ever use that one.

  4. Tips like these are so useful -using the right supplies makes such a difference.

    Unfortunately, I had a bad experience with that same yellow Chaco liner, when I used it on a white cotton gauze fabric (probably was stupid of me to do) to mark button holes and it has refused to come off. I really favour the water-soluble blue pens like this:
    (though judging by its Amazon reviews, not everyone else does!)

    I think I will have to try the Swedish tracing paper though! I didn’t know what “tracing a pattern” meant for the longest time, and finally gave it a try last week. The Swedish paper sounds easier than the method I used (involving small coloured carbon paper, a tracing wheel, and flipchart paper – though I loved the weight of the flipchart paper for my pattern pieces.)

  5. I’ve tried the carbon paper method and it wasn’t too fun for me…so sorry to hear about the yellow chaco liner incident! For button holes, I use these clover pencils, which are also pretty high on my list of great tools:

    I’ve also used the marker, but it seemed to run out of ink really quickly for me. Then again, I may or may not have constantly forgotten to put the cap back on ;-).

    Definitely try the Swedish paper – it’s amazing stuff! Glad you found this helpful, Nicole!

  6. I MUST try that Chaco liner… not super happy with my water-dissolvable pen as if I accidentally iron over it, there is nothing that will get it out! (ask me how I know:) I’m also intrigued by those quilting clips to use for knits . . . sound much better than pinning. Actually (true confessions here), I have actually resorted to gluing my knit seams first before serging to avoid the whole pin thing! It actually works, but you better not want to pull your seam apart later:)

    1. I think you’d like the Chaco liner, Lucinda! I’ve never thought of gluing my knits – now I want to try! Do you use regular stick glue or fabric glue?

      1. I use just plain ‘ole white glue. I think Elmers would work, but I have Aleene’s Tacky glue. I just dab a small dot every couple inches to secure the seam line.

  7. I think I definitely need to get myself the magnetic pin holder, it’d my husband happy. For some reason if there’s a stray needle on the floor he’s usually the one to find it (spotting it with his eyes or stepping on it with his foot–oops!). The chaco liner is great except once in a while the wheels stops turning or the chalk stops coming out. I still use it the most of all my pens/chalk though.

    For striped knits (especially) I love Wonder Tape to match up the stripes. Takes longer but saves me from ripping out seams (and hair) over and over. I find it works well with knit hems, doesn’t leave them wavy. I’ve tried it with a zipper but I’m the worst at zippers–this helped but I still couldn’t insert the zipper perfectly. I guess I need to practice more.

    I’d love to get my hands on some Swedish tracing paper and a tailor’s ham!

    1. The magnetic pin holder is awesome! I used to have the same problem with wayward pins! You’re right about the chaco liner – I find that it’s usually when the chalk is running low when it starts to act funny.

      I need to try wonder tape on knits more! Thanks for the suggestion, Susanne!

  8. I love 1/4″ quilters iron on adhesive (steam a seam etc) for any sleeve cuffs, leg cuffs, bindings etc. it’s so much easier than pinning and since I always sew over pins it’s better for my machine!
    I’ve had bad luck with the washable texta type pen not washing out too. Much prefer the Clover retractable pencil one.
    That is a very nice bodkin you have!

    1. I have a very wide quilters iron on adhesive for knits that I tried today for the first time, and I love it (though it’s just one side, so wouldn’t work as a replacement for pins). Oooh, a retractable Clover pencil? I must investigate this!

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