I was recently talking about reaching “Peak Sewing Supplies” on Instagram. Over the years I’ve slowly accumulated a pretty well rounded selection of tools and supplies, but after I pull the trigger on an industrial snap and rivet setter this fall, I feel pretty confident that this little studio has just about everything you’d need to make just about anything.
Sewing can be an expensive hobby. Sure, you can start cheap with a secondhand machine and a basket full of basic supplies, but as you start getting obsessed (it happens, don’t fight it), having just the right tool to do the job feels as critical as finding the right school for your kid (you can probably tell I am childless since I am comparing quality scissors with your offspring’s education but SCISSORS ARE IMPORTANT). While I could write a comprehensive list of “basics” to stock your sewing arsenal with, instead I thought I’d share my all around favourites; nothing on this list is more than $30, but most of my suggestions are a little more spendy than the cheapest “starter” version. Worth every single penny.
MY FAVOURITE SCISSORS
I’ve gone through so many pairs of scissors since I started sewing. I’ve worked my way through a few brands, trying to find the ultimate pair. While Ginghers are beautiful (especially my gold handled pair) they simply can’t compete with the smooth, Japanese perfection of Kai shears. They might not look as cute in Instagram photos but they are lightweight, sharp as hell and cut through everything from denim to silk like a whisper in the night.
A new to me cutting discovery is applique or duckbill scissors, which I use exclusively for grading seams. The curved blade keeps your seam allowances separated making it very easy to trim them down one at a time; these are one of those things I put off buying for a long time but I am kicking myself for not having a pair on hand when I was sewing a million Clare Coat samples and grading seams until my eyeballs bled.
HAND SEWING NECESSITIES
I used to loathe hand sewing. You’d be in the home stretch of whatever beautiful party dress you were making and then realize that circle skirt needs to be hemmed by hand. Cue Sad Charlie Brown music. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Armed with the right tools hand sewing is not an exercise in frustration but a peaceful, meditative activity to enjoy while binge watching Stranger Things on Netflix.
Invest in a great set of handsewing needles; I prefer Japanese ones like these ones from Tulip (they just sew so smooth!) Get a big puck of beeswax to run your threads through as well. It will last your entire lifetime and prevents your thread from snarling. Finally, a soft leather thimble like this one from Clover is much more comfortable to wear that those metal ones which get all sweaty and smell bad (er, just me?)
If you are currently using those cheap pins with the little metal points at the end I implore you to throw the evil monstrosities in the garbage and shell out a few more bucks for glass head pins. Seriously. Do it now, I’ll wait. Any brand will do, just make sure they’re glass and not plastic (which melt under the iron) and enjoy not losing your pins and hurting your fingers pushing them in. While you’re at it, invest in a magnetic pin cushion; these colourful ones from Zirkel are my favourite – so cute! It streamlines your sewing since you’re not constantly jabbing things in a pin cushion, and you can sweep it over your table and floor when you’re done to catch any strays.
I have tried absolutely every marking tool on the planet and nothing, NOTHING, beats Clover chaco liners. They leave crisp, easy to see marks which brush off easily. I use mine literally every day. Dull, messy tailors chalk can bite me.
Finally, I just discovered a great application for this little craft scalpel I’ve had forever. Instead of cutting out paper patterns, I just lay the sheet flat on my cutting mats and run the scalpel around my size. Sooooo much faster than cutting patterns out with paper scissors!
I know I’ve sung the glories of both of these tools before but seriously. The. Best. If you’ve made a few shirts and are anything like me you a) completely ignore suggested button placement and b) hate measuring button locations evenly. This expandable gauge takes all the work out of that equation. You just pull it apart your preferred amount and boom, even spacing (it’s also super handy for marking pleats, fyi). Also of crucial importance is a buttonhole cutter. So much faster and safer than using a seam ripper to open up buttonholes – never accidentally fray your buttonhole again!
SKETCH IT OUT
I don’t know what I would do without my Fashionary. I am a terrible drawrer but I love sketching out ideas. I like doing big brain dumps of pattern ideas and variations in these sketchbooks – I even have travel size ones I always carry in my purse in case I get inspired on the street. One of my favourite things to do with mine is to participate along with Project Runway challenges. I sketch quick ideas of what I would do if Tim only gave me 15 minutes to sketch. As for drawing tools, Pilot Frixion pens are the absolute jam. Its a smooth gel pen that is completely erasable; no more wimping around with pencils, worried about making a mistake AND they do double duty as a marking tool on fabric since they completely disappear under the iron!
What is the sewing tool you can’t live without?