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Tools For Smarter Sewing
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The little machine that could

When I hear that a sewing machine is heav-duty at a $200 price point, I take an “I’ll believe it when I sew with it” attitude. The Brother Strong & Tough Sewing Machine ST371HD passed the test, sewing through eight layers of denim without hesitation. It also did a fine job with two layers of upholstery-weight, full-grain cowhide, producing nice-looking, even stitches. Though the machine has a rugged appearance, it weighs a reasonable 15 pounds. You use a traditional dial to select among the 37 stitch options, and turn dial selectors for stitch width/needle position and stitch length. The machine has an automatic needle threader, and the drop-in bobbin case and the bobbin-winding spool have handy thread cutters. Accessories include six presser feet: zigzag, buttonhole, nonstick, button, zipper, and adjustable blind-hem. 

I appreciate having a mechanical machine for tough jobs. I also think this model could be a good starter machine. It’s fairly priced, with print and online instructional support and easy-to-use features. You can sew with the reassurance that it won’t balk at sturdier textiles. —Sarah McFarland, editor (JoAnn.com; $199.99)

Pocket-sized expertise

It’s always great to have an expert with you while shopping. Sewing Supplies: Handy Pocket Guide is a 48-page reference to help you make intelligent selections. It explains the features and purposes of generally used notions. For example, the section on interfacing compares weights, types, and uses. The guide similarly covers topics from sewing machine feet to needles, pressing tools, thread, and beyond. Author Carla Hegeman Crim offers thoughtfully organized information with clear photographs. Slip this guide into your purse to use as a reference while you shop. (CTPub.com; $6.95)

Charming needle minders

The next time you are hand sewing, use a cute holder for your needle. Magnetic Needle Minders from Beadeux.Etsy.com are a sweet and handy solution for keeping track of needles. They’re especially helpful when stitching fabric within an embroidery hoop or frame. Each minder is attached to a magnet, and a second magnet secures it to your fabric or project. The needles are held to the front of the minder by the magnet within. Each minder is about 1 inch wide. Most minders are available in acrylic or bamboo, and the whimsical motifs vary from hedgehogs to unicorns to camper vans and science-fiction emblems. Custom orders are also accepted. (Beadeux.Etsy.com; $6.50)

Charming needle minders

 

Personalized prints

Print your artwork or favorite pictures on Printable Fabrics.com’s Threads inkjet printable fabric. The fabric comes in a variety of types, including cotton poplin, twill, lawn, silk charmeuse, chiffon, and crepe de Chine. The printable fabric is available in 8-1/2-inch by 11-inch and 13-inch by 19-inch sheets, or as yardage on rolls. You can print the fabric on a home ink-jet color printer with no additional processes, such as heat-setting. Design a fabric print or select a photo, save it to your computer, load the fabric sheet into your printer, then press the print button. After peeling the backing off, you are ready to sew with your custom-printed fabric. Be sure to check your printer’s ink specifications against the recommendations at Printable Fabrics.com; some inks are better than others for this process. This product is not affiliated with Threads magazine. (PrintableFabrics.com; $22.00 to $1,068.00)

Personalized prints

Keep your edge

It’s satisfying to cut through fabrics effortlessly with a rotary cutter but frustrating when the blade dulls. The Turn-Sharp Rotary Blade Sharpener by the Colonial Needle Company helps restore a rotary blade to razor sharpness. The ergonomic cylindrical sharpener houses a sharpening disk with a coarse side and a fine side. Sandwich the dull rotary blade between the sharpening disk and the lid with turning knob. The lid locks the blade in place against the sharpening disk. Turn the handle to sharpen the blade. Hone each side of the blade with the coarser disk, then open the sharpener, flip the sharpening disk to the finer side, and repeat the process to sharpen both sides of the blade. The unit sharpens 45-mm blades. Sharpening disks that fit 28-mm and 60-mm blades are also available. (ColonialNeedle.com; $32.35)

Keep your edge

 

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