When I started sewing I didn’t know much about the world of sewing supplies or my project goals. I asked for the usual suspects – scissors, seam ripper, measuring tape, chalk pencils, and pins. Now that I am more advanced, I am looking for tools and notions that make my work faster and more efficient. Here are some of the coolest sewing tools I’ve encountered, as well as a few standard favorites.
Chaco Liners & Refills
The Chaco Liners are an alternative to the triangular tailor’s chalk, you can make fine chalk lines without getting fabric chalk on your hands. The powder chalk is refillable and comes in multiple colors. It rolls on easy, especially along the edge of a ruler, and brushes off when you are done. It might replace your fabric pencil for linear markings, but not for marks that need to stay in place for a while.
Here is a video of the the Chaco Pen, which works the same but has a different refill cartridge than the chaco liner I’ve linked to here.
Seam Allowance Marker
Add a consistent seam allowance quickly to your drafted or traced pattern with this adjustable double tracing wheel. Like the single tracing wheels we use to mark dart lines and such, the two wheels have prongs, which either indent pattern paper or can be paired with carbon paper to mark on fabric.
Trace one wheel on the pattern lines, and second wheel marks your desired seam allowance – from 10mm to 30 mm (3/8 in to 1 1/16 in). For $8-$10 this is a great convenience if you do a lot of pattern drafting and tracing.
While we are on the topic of pattern tracing and drafting, medical tissue paper (you know that stuff they cover the exam tables with) is a well-priced option for pattern making. Choose the 21-inch wide rolls, and try to find packs. This pack of 12 can be split between a couple different people, making each roll $2.50. I’ve had 4 rolls since 2011.
Art & Drafting Rulers
While we are on the topic of non-sewing specific tools, take a trip to your local art supply store and pick up some clear drafting rulers. They are usually at least half the price of sewing-rulers and there is always an option with metric measurements (pictured ruler is $5). In the United States all the sewing rulers I find are only available in inches. I use Italian and Japanese pattern drafting instructions, so I need rulers in metric.
An L-Square ruler will help you make right angles for drafting patterns. I also use it to make sure I am lining my pattern pieces correctly along the fabric grain.
I also own one long and hefty metal ruler (with inches & metric). I could not find a link for the one I own, but these are close. The ruler’s weight holds pattern paper down and I can get a 30-inch straight line drawn without having to move and reposition my ruler. I bought a 30-inch long ruler to fit in my storage cubes, but I wish I had a 36-inch ruler instead for quick yardage measurements.
You will probably still want to pick up sewing-specific rulers like a hip curve or quilting block rulers, but for simple straight lines and measurements, go to the art store.
Scissors big and small
My favorite fabric scissors are Gingher and my preferred small scissor for detail work and thread cutting is a Fiskars micro-tip. Fiskars’s product design has changed a bit over the years, and this is the closest to what I own. I have had mine for 10-15 years and I’ve never needed to sharpen them. The Gingher Scissors are a well-known brand in the sewing community. I probably need to oil or sharpen my set of shears soon. I’ve had them for 5 years and they still cut all fabric very cleanly…but the screw is starting to squeak a bit. They are expensive, and I was given mine as a Christmas gift, but I can’t imagine sewing without them. My other sewing scissors haven’t held up as well.
Dritz Seam Gauge
I’ve never used this tool, but it seems (ha, seams!) like it would be useful for quick checks of seam allowances as one is sewing. I already own the sliding ruler/seam gauge, but I can see an argument for a tool that already has all your commonly used measurements pre-set.
Craft tools really have fun with their names sometimes. 🙂 This heat resistant measuring tool lets you fold and iron fabric while it is still in place. I don’t see this being very useful for curved hems that cross the bias, but maybe I’m wrong.
I wish I had known about these Wonder Clips (or thought of using something other than pins) when I was working on the many layers of Leliana’s coat of armor. I am looking forward to giving these a try on future projects.
Magnetic Pin “Cushion”
I resisted buying one of these for the longest time and I am not sure why. It allows quick access to and deposit of pins and the magnet is a great way to find dropped pins in the carpet. Brooke of Custom Style recommends the Grabbit Magnetic Pincushion for it’s stronger magnet. (While you’re at it, check our her list of favorite sewing notions and tools!)
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So what are your favorite sewing tools? What are you asking for this year?