My Favorite Sewing Tools and Supplies
I may have a pretty sizeable fabric stash, but when it comes to sewing notions, I’m a definite minimalist. Instead of cluttering up my sewing space with the latest and greatest, I stick to a basic collection of tools and supplies that save me time and solve specific problems.
Here are the sewing tools and accessories that I’ve come to rely on.
Spending thousands on a fancy computerized sewing machine just seems silly to me. So, I sew on a Singer Heavy Duty. This workhorse of a machine is dirt cheap and incredibly easy to use. I have the 4452 model, which comes with a bunch of extra feet, including the one-step button hole foot, which works amazingly well. This sewing machine used to sell for under $200, before everyone took up mask-making, but it’s still a bargain at its current price.
I recently added an extension table to my sewing machine, and it’s been such a game changer. It works perfectly to support large or heavy projects, while I’m sewing. The legs fold flat for easy storage, but I use mine so much, I just keep it on my machine. This is something I wish I had bought sooner.
I’ve tried a lot of rotary cutters over the years, and the Olfa 45mm Deluxe Handle Rotary Cover is my hands-down favorite. It fits my hand perfectly, cuts precisely and opens and closes with ease. Invest in a good rotary cutter, like this one. Then, save money by buying no-name replacement blades.
Discovering that you can buy pinking blades for a rotary cutter was a total game-changer for me. It’s so much faster and easier than using a pair of pinking shears. If I have something straight that needs to be pinked, this is pretty much the only way I go.
For years, I used vintage pinking shears to do all of my pinking. And if you’ve ever done it that way, you know just how hard that is on your hands. My husband finally convinced me to buy a pair of Fiskars Easy Action Pinking Shears, and I couldn’t believe the difference. They’re spring-loaded, so there’s absolutely no hand strain.
I bought this O’lifa ruler at an estate sale, and now I don’t know what I did without it. It has a lip edge that allows it to hold onto the edge of your cutting mat, so you get perfectly straight lines when you run your rotary cutter alongside it.
Buying quilting squares one at a time adds up. Save money by buying a value pack. I have the Omnigrid 12-1/2-Inch Square Value Pack, which includes 4.5″, 6.5″, 9.5″ and 12.5″ squares. They’re incredibly accurate, and have an extra half-inch built in for seam allowances. While these are traditionally used to square up finished quilt blocks, I use them as templates for some of the hand-sewn products that I make.
We do a lot of cutting at our house, so I rarely pass up a cutting mat, when I come across one at a thrift store or yard sale. But a 30″ x 36″ self-healing cutting mat is my hands-down favorite. You can fit two of them side-by-side on a folding table, when you have something really big to cut.
Seam ripping is never fun, but the right tool can keep it from being absolute torture. I finally upgraded to a Clover Ergonomic Seam Ripper, and I wish I had done it sooner. It’s bigger than a lot of seam rippers, so it’s easier to grip, and won’t make your hand cramp, if you have a bunch of seam ripping to do.
I also recently added an Ultima Surgical Seam Ripper to my arsenal of sewing tools. It has a razor-sharp blade that’s capable of cutting through multiple stitches at once, and it doesn’t tug on the seam, like a regular seam ripper, so you’re less likely to damage the fabric. But you do have to work with a steady hand. The sharp blade will cut through fabric, just as easily as it’ll cut through thread.
Air-soluble markers (also referred to as air-erasable markers) are one of the tools that I use to mark cut lines and seams on fabric. I like them because the marks go away on their own, after a certain period of time. Other marking tools have to be removed by washing or ironing, and that’s way too fussy for me. While I’m all about saving money, I stick to name brands, like Clover or Dritz, for this particular item. I’ve just read too many horror stories about the cheaper brands permanently marking fabric to risk it. Clover makes a fine, extra fine and thick air-erasable marker. The fine marker has a built-in eraser on the end, if you need to remove the marks before they vanish on their own.
Air-soluble markers cost more than I’d like them to, so I only use them when they’re absolutely necessary. The rest of the time, I use a hera marker to mark my seams. Rather than marking your fabric with ink, it just leaves a crease mark for you to follow. It works surprisingly well. I have both the Clover Hera Marker and the Clover Hera Marker Slim. The slim one is nice because it doubles as a point turner.
I bought a container of sewing clips, so I could make reusable sandwich bags, without leaving pin holes in the laminated cotton, and I quickly fell in love with them. Now, I find myself reaching for them more than my sewing pins. They’re easy to attach and remove, and they don’t bunch up the fabric, the way pins sometimes do. To save money, I skipped the name-brand version, and ordered a set of 100 from Yalis. They’ve proven to be quite durable. Since I’ve had them, I’ve only broken one.
A set of sewing pins with glass heads is a must-have. It allows you to iron projects, without having to worry that the pin head might melt and ruin your fabric. Just be sure to pick a color that stands out as different from your plastic head sewing pins, so you don’t mix them up. These marbled glass head pins from Clover are a good option.
I know those tomato pin cushions are supposed to sharpen your pins, but it’s hard to beat the convenience of a magnetic pin cushion. I keep one next to my sewing machines, and I plan to add a second one to my cutting table.
Inserting elastic, or a drawstring, with a safety pin works, but it’s incredibly tedious – especially if you have a bunch to do. I finally bought a bodkin, and it’s made a world of difference. After considering all the options, I chose the Clover Flex ‘n Glide Bodkin Set. It comes with two super-flexible bodkins. They’re skinny enough to fit in 1/2-inch channels, so they work great for my needs.
With some of the things that I sew, it’s really important for me to keep my polyester thread separated from my cotton thread. That’s easy when you’re dealing with labeled spools, not so easy when you’re dealing with a bunch of loose bobbins. To address the issue, I bought a package of Bobbin Buddies. They’re essentially plastic pins that you can use to secure a bobbin to its matching spool. They work with all the different size spools that I have except for my big 1200-yard spools of Coats & Clark Machine Quilt Cotton.
This Dritz measuring gauge is a handy way to check your seam allowances, when you’re sewing. It stays next to my sewing machines at all times.
My husband bought this 48-inch straight edge ruler for some guy purpose, but I quickly took possession of it. It has a nice heavy weight to it, and at 4-feet-long, it makes cutting fabric from bolts a breeze. He got it at Home Depot for under $10, so it was a steal, too.