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Conversational Threads

Most Useful Tools?

Laurel_Tuohy | Posted in Talk With Us on

Hi Gatherings Members,
We asked in our recent eNewsletter, “Rotary cutter? Tape Measure? Please tell us what is, hands-down, the handiest tool you have in your sewing area?”
Tell us about your can’t-sew-without-it tool here…


  1. rodezzy | | #1

    For quilt making its a rotary cutter and rotary cutting mat.

    For fashion sewing, its my seam ripper!

    1. mimsy | | #100

      Same here.  My most used, most useful tool is my seam ripper.  As ye sew, so shall ye rip - as the old joke goes.

    2. sewslow67 | | #101

      Hey Rodezzy!  How was your trip?  I don't recall seeing anything about it, and how much (as we all know already) everyone loved your quilt?  What are you working on now?  "Inquiring minds want to know".  ;-)

  2. sewsassy | | #2

    My 10" dressmaker sheers I bought in NYC. Heavy, yet very managable, cuts as well as any of my rotary cutters.

    My second tool is my Ott Light for when I sew late into the night. Can't sew without it.

  3. sewfar | | #3

    My 6 inch ruler with the slider and my Clover seam ripper with the fat rounded end. I only used the tiny ones like the one that came with my old Elna Super for the past 30 years but I am so glad I changed over. I bought a spare of both so I don't panic when I can't remember where I abandoned them. One of the joys of my later years is sewing anywhere and everywhere as the mood strikes me. When my husband seems aggravated with my seemingly constant searching for my little tools I tell him they are not lost just TDY. (military for temporary tour of duty.)

    1. jjgg | | #23

      I find it interesting that sew many people have mentioned seam rippers as useful tools. I hate seam rippers - it's not that I don't have to rip, it's just that I've ruined more things by ripping the fabric with those little gadgets.I use a straight edge (single edge?) razor blade for seam ripping. I have NEVER had an accident when ripping a seam with one of them. I've never cut too far through a button hole when using a razor blade. I've never cut myself with one. Perhaps I am just more careful because of the 'danger' involved, but it works for me

      1. katina | | #24

        That's interesting. Is it simply a blade, or is it in scalpel form? I think I'd do better if I had the handle - more control.

        Thanks for this good idea.


        1. jjgg | | #25

          just a plain single edge razor. I buy them in a box of 100 at the hardware store - they dull quickly. With a handle I think it would put you too far away from the control of it.

          1. katina | | #26

            Thanks very much. I'll have to see what I can find - I'm anxious to try these.


      2. rekha | | #27

        I use it too, but initially I bought it for my watercolour painting work. I find the handle a bit obstructive.

        For Katina: the small black knob locks the blade in place. the bigger black end on the right stores the new blades ( the whole thing comes with 5 blades and then you can look for more)



        View Image


        1. katina | | #29

          Must confess, I've never seen one like this before - thanks very much for the info. I'll have to try and find one. The handle might in fact be ideal for me as it looks like I'd hae more control. I appreciate your taking the trouble to write.



          1. rekha | | #30

            I love gadgets because you could think of using them for purposes than they were originally meant. Here's the search I did when I was looking for this blade


            Happy wading the search engine

          2. katina | | #31

            Thanks much!

        2. sewelegant | | #43

          Have you one of these?  It can be found in the Clotilde catalog and is called The Third Hand (I think they used to be called sewing birds).  I have had one for years and I found it a necesity for when I wanted to use a razor blade to cut stitches.  I keep it attached to my sewing table near the machine and use it whenever I need a helping hand to hold something taut for me.

          View Image

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #45

            So that is what that looks like. I have heard the beading people talk about them, but didn't know what it was!  It is supposed to be an indispensible tool to beaders.  Now I can see why!

          2. rekha | | #46

            I see a clamp on the table edge and a string coming out of there. I can't figure out the rest to determine its method of action

            I used to use what is called a third hand for electronics work but wouldn't likely use it for sewing

            View Image

            Edited 6/10/2008 3:07 pm ET by rekha

          3. sewelegant | | #50

            Now that's a tool!  The picture I sent from Clotilde's catalog is similar with only one clamp.  The way I would use it to cut the stitching with a razor blade was to hold one side of the seam with the clamp so I could grasp the other side and pull it taut so the stitching would be more visible and I wouldn't cut the fabric.  I haven't done this in a long time because I no longer have such tight stitching.  When I would turn on my Bernina sewing machine the automatic function would set the stitching at just above 2 for length.  Not being used to the metric thinking I just figured that was norm.  Someone mentioned that you should not leave it at the factory setting as it was too tight so move it up to about a 3.  Ever since then I have changed the length setting each time I turn the machine on and I am much happier with the results.  I do think the stitch is not as balanced though and that is why I can "rip" so much easier.  I probably should mention this to my Bernina dealer, but I have never taken my machine in for a checkup.  It works just fine and I do not take my computer in for a checkup so did not think it would be necessary.  Besides, I get in that store and it's like a toy shop to a kid.

          4. rekha | | #52

            It's nice to know that others have had the same experience, but I'm not telling which bit of your message applies

          5. jjgg | | #62

            I hope this photo shows how I hold the fabric when using a razor blade, my husband took the photo, - not great with the camera :)

          6. sewfar | | #64

            Thanks for the picture. As they say it is worth a thousand words, especially to me. That is not how I envisioned it at all. Leave it to me to reinvent the wheel and poorly at that!

          7. Digi | | #67

            It looks like you could use a "Third Hand".  It is one of the most wonderful and useful tools I have and I just love it.  Here is a link that shows a photo of it and how it works.  Perhaps this will be helpful. 


            Happy sewing!

          8. kathlann | | #68

            Wow! So simple yet so effective. Must have one.

          9. mede8 | | #70

            Thanks!  I guess if I didn't have to rip so often (I'm either a klutz or too much of a perfectionist - friends differ on this opinion ...LOL), I wouldn't need one.  But I do love this tool and, you are right; it's really inexpensive ...and love the fact that it is now on sale.  Perhaps it would make a nice Christmas gift for our sewing friends, huh?

            Have a great day.  I'm spending mine in my sewing room.  ;-)  Hope you are too!

          10. sewelegant | | #69

            Good picture!  That is how I would hold my seam and blade too, but then I would attach my little "third hand clamp on a string" (so it is able to work where I am) on the edge of the fabric on the top right in your picture.  I can then keep the area steady so the stitches pop up easily to be "ripped" out and I do not have to readjust my holding of the garment continually.

          11. jjgg | | #71

            When I do need a "third hand" I catch the fabric in the needle of my machine and put the presser foot down. The clamp does look nice. I' might get one.But, I spent most of my day packing my sewing room. 12 boxes of just sewing books!! I think I've packed 6 boxes of fabric, and, there is still all my quilting fabrics to pack. all my notions, and I haven't got a clue how to pack my threads.Then, in 3 weeks from now I will be unpacking it all again! Only I will have a fabulous big new sewing room, in a much nicer part of the country.

          12. Gloriasews | | #73

            I know what you're going through - I did the same in April.  Actually, you have a couple more boxes of books than I have.  I still have to unpack mine.  As for the sewing threads, of which I have many, I was in the same quandary as you.  I finally just put them in a little box, as I could not find a box large enough in which I could  place my thread racks (they were an inch larger than any box I could find, so I just taped the racks together & took them in the car.  Now, I'll just have to dump all the threads on my bed, sort them by colour, & place them on the racks (not a job I'm looking forward to).  Good luck with your move.  After all of this chaos, we'll eventually be able to get back to sewing.  (The unpacking takes longer than the packing).


          13. SewFit | | #74

            About your threads.....I have one rack which I used for most used colors....All my others I have in zip lock bags sorted by color range (reds, browns, greens, etc.) These I have stored in one drawer of my wall unit.  I have zippers sorted in zip lock bags by color as well.  I buy the zip lock bags at the "dollar store"  and so it makes it affordable to have plenty on hand.  Anyway, you may want to take time to sort and bag by color and toss them in one big box for the move.

          14. jjgg | | #75

            Gloria, & SewFit,
            Thanks for the suggestions, I hope I can find a box that will fit my thread racks, I have about 5 of them - embroidery thread on one or two, sewing thread on one, specialty on another etc. My zippers, elastics, bindings etc were all in a jumble in one drawer so I just put it all in that good old zip lock bag - aren't they great!My sewing room is about the only room NOT ready to move into. It needs a paint job and then the new floor installed - laminate wood look. What joy not to have pins stuck in carpet. Just a quick swipe with a broom or dust mop! I think I did mention somewhere before, I have the lights up - 3 banks of 4 florescent day light bulbs! Yipee , really good lighting. and, the light switch will turn off my iron when I walk out of the door!

            Edited 6/19/2008 10:33 pm ET by jjgg

          15. SewFit | | #76

            Your room sounds wonderful!!! Happy sewing!!!!

          16. Ceeayche | | #77

            When I moved I used those vacuum space bags-- they were great for compressing the fabric stash, making it suddenly reasonable to take all the scraps>  I put like colors together and unpacking was a breeze.   The ones that were folded neatly before I moved didn't even have many added wrinkles.  These same "space" bags were great for gathering all the "like" notions (like all the zippers in one bag, all the seam binding, hem tape, etc. in another). 

            I put my thread racks in large rectangular boxes designed for framed art work.  Nestled in the same boxes were fabric on rolls, yard sticks, my rotary mats.  Odd pieces of fleece were perfect for keeping everything from moving around (greener alternative to paper or popcorn).

            Congratulations on your new sewing room! It will truly be the gift that keeps on giving.

          17. Gloriasews | | #83

            You are SO lucky to be able to install proper lighting in your sewing space.  I am just now setting up my sewing space in my bedroom & yes, the ceiling light behind me is totally inadequate, but I do have an adjustable light that I can attach to my sewing cabinet - and it has a 33w fluorescent bulb, which helps, but is not as bright as I'd hoped it would be (it is supposed to be a daylight bulb similar to the Ott light).  I will put in stronger bulbs in the ceiling light, too.  I'm in a rental apartment, so installing ceiling lights is not an option.  Now - to get my thread racks in order & hung. . .   That was a good idea from another poster about getting large picture boxes for the thread racks - I hadn't thought of that when I moved.  As I said, I finally had to take them in the car.  The largest box I had for moving held my cutting mats, rulers, adjustable light, other large things, but, unfortunately, it was just 1" too small for my thread racks.   Good luck with your sewing room - it will be beautiful.


          18. humorous | | #89

            If you don't mind looking stupid (my daughter rolls her eyes) Home Depot sells a head lamp with LED lights.  It focuses the light onto your project.  I came to this when dealing with cataracts.

          19. Gloriasews | | #94

            Thanks for the suggestion!  I, too, have cataracts, so I must try this.  My son has one of those headlamps (which I used one night when the power went off & we were playing Scrabble - it gave much better light than the 7 candles we also had going), but I never thought of using it for sewing.  I'll try it (& no, I don't mind looking stupid - in the right circumstances, of course :)


          20. Sancin | | #95

            Re needle drivers - I also discovered them when nursing but did not work where they were used. I thought they were expensive in sewing and quilting shops so was very glad to find one (and other medical tools) at Princess Auto. I paid $1.25 for my needle driver (which has cross hatched surface on the surface and prevents small things like needles and thread from slipping off.) I also found at Princess Auto an extendable magnet wand (used to pick screws out of engines and pins out of small space. And a long wand the end of which opens to become a 4 hand 'pincher) when a button pressed - much like a basketing device for those of you who are nurses.
            I also have a head lamp which I use for many things sewing or around the house - like replacing light bulbs!Edited 7/5/2008 7:44 pm ET by Sancin

            Edited 7/5/2008 7:47 pm ET by Sancin

          21. sewslow67 | | #96

            What on earth is a "needle driver"?  I've never heard of such a thing and find even the term fascinating.  Would it be possible for you to post a link for all of us to see ...or am I the only one in the dark?  Thanks!

          22. Sancin | | #97

            See message 93 of this discussion for picture

          23. sewslow67 | | #98

            Thanks; I knew what a "needle holder" was ...but the term, "needle driver" is what threw me.  I hadn't heard that one before, i.e. "driver" preceding "needle".

          24. Gloriasews | | #102

            Great ideas - thanks!  I'll just have to find my Princess Auto store (or put these things on my Christmas wish list, as sons love to shop there :) - thanks again.


          25. gmcsewer | | #91

            I suppose you have moved by now but just a suggestion to others. For those of you who are moving your sewing room,  UPS or other packing and shipping companies can make a box to your specifications if they don't have one. 

            Edited 7/3/2008 10:30 pm ET by gmcsewer

          26. jjgg | | #92

            Thanks, thats nice to know about UPS, I still have 4 days to "M" day! (can you tell I'm counting???) I've decided to put my thread racks in a wardrobe box, pad it with a bunch of clothes and they should be OK. My machines are going with me in a small trailer, the dog and cat will go with me (in the car) along with all photos, important papers and my mothers paintings!Then comes the unpacking! yuk, I think thats harder then the packing.I do have another tool in my sewing room that I forgot to mention. I am a nurse practitioner, and when suturing patients I use a "needle holder" (needle puller) It's like a hemostat clamp only the edges are smooth, not serrated. I use this to pull threads out when ripping, or when removing basting threads. It grips the thread better than anything else. Esp. when you have just a tiny 1/4 inch of thread sticking out and you can't get it with your fingers. I used to bring home disposable ones from the ER if I didn't use them, but as disposable items go, the quality just is not there, so I found one on line at a surgical supply place to buy, and wow is it great! it's a "MAYO HEGAR NEEDLE HOLDER" it may take a little getting used to how to clamp it,or rather un-clamp it, but it's the best thing since apple pie to me.http://www.wigginsinc.com/Needle%20Holders,%20Needles%20&%20Suture%20Clips.htm

          27. sewelegant | | #93

            Yes, I have to agree, my needleholder is one of my most used tools.  I got mine a few years ago from the Clotilde catalog, but did not see it just now when I looked.  Another favorite is the huge "Peon" clamp that looks like a large hemostat.  That I found in a quilt catalog being advertised as a good stuffing tool for toys.  Then, for small spaces I have my mosquito clamp!  It came from a stamp store.  An "alligator clamp" comes in handy when I have to reach into a small space my fingers do not reach... this was really appreciated when we had a new computer that needed attention and the voice on the phone told us to turn it over, take off the back and reach in (?) and change the position of a part!!!  Thanks to my alligator clamp we were able to accomplish this.  I have not found much use for it in my sewing though.

            As a young R.N. one of my first positions was in the operating room and it was there, I suppose, I could see so many options for the tools.  One of the things I learned was how to thread a needle with gloves on.  I apply it to my sewing... hold the needle in your left hand and hold the thread close to the end with your thumb and index finger (just like we all do) but since your fingers are so close to the eye of the needle and the thread you just poke the thread through and grasp it with the same thumb and finger and pull it through.  So much more efficient than switching hands as all of you who do this have found.

          28. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #54

            Boy would I love to have one of those for my beadwork! And to hold down the little things that move around my table, such as shoulder straps and ribbon bits that have been precut, that the cat steals.

          29. rekha | | #59

            They are quite cheap you know, £3-4 ($6-8). Just google the key words little helping hand electronics

          30. gmcsewer | | #90

            The sewing bird interests me.  I think it would relieve the paiin in my left hand from holding things taut while ripping.  I guess I do a lot of it.  I will look for one.

      3. sewfar | | #32

        Can you tell me how you use the single edge blade for seam ripping ? I have never tried it and can not readily visualize how to hold the fabric I insert my seam ripper between the two layers of fabric and use the little ball to keep the fabric separated as it zips along and cuts the threads but I would like to try your technique. Like teaching an old dog new tricks...ha

        1. jjgg | | #36

          I just hold the fabric - pulling apart the seam to expose the threads and just barely touch the razor blade to the thread and it pops. depending on what type of seam I am ripping, I may have to start it with my scissor - I pick out one or two threads till I can pull it apart to expose the stitching.I use it to cut button holes - I place the fabric on a wood block and use the corner edge of the razor to cut through to the wood.You will find a single edge razor used in most alteration shops, costume shops etc.I hope this helps, sometimes it has to be a 'visual' to explain things.

          1. damascusannie | | #37

            My favorite gadgets are all quilting related: 1) My Clover iron--the best for prepping applique motifs with...2) Mylar template material--heat-proof templates that I use for making applique templates3) Bias binding tools--little gizmos that come in many sizes for making bias binding, again for applique.4) My free-motion foot--for quilting, freehand embroidery, etc. The other day I used it to blanket stitch around some motifs for an applique project. I didn't realize how much applique I've been using recently!

          2. sewfar | | #47

            Thank you. Your description was great. It is pretty much how I thought it would be done and with the amount of ripping out that I do I am sure I will be trying it soon.

  4. sewchris703 | | #4

    What I can't do without:  my Gingher scissors (8" bent shears (2) and 4" embroidery), 6" sewing gauge (I have 3), thimble (3), serger tweezers (3).  I need/want to buy another pair of the embroidery scissors so I don't have to transfer them back and forth.  I take one pair of 8" shears, one of the sewing gauges, one thimble, and one of the tweezers to work with me in my traveling sewing kit.  One of everything stays home in my sewing room.  The 3rd set is at work for in case I forget my sewing kit at home.


  5. HollandtownGirl | | #5

    One of the best things I have in my sewing room is an oldfashioned iron that your great-great grandmother may have used.  The iron is one piece, metal, very small and non-electrical.  I actually have 4. I use them as weights.  I bought them in antique stores.  It actually does away with using very many pins.  The handle allows you to just quickly grab it and then place it exactly where it is needed.  Deborah

    1. sharonski | | #12

      I love this idea..........antiques (including me) are so personal and if you don't mind, I think I will pick me up a couple of those antique irons to use as weights too,  What a clever girl you are...

      Edited 6/7/2008 7:30 am ET by sharonski

  6. User avater
    maer | | #6

    My most useful tool is the mat on my cutting table. It's a great complement to my rotary cutters and miscellaneous rulers - I can cut stuff out quickly. The square grid helps me to keep fabric straight. And when not sewing, the flat surface seems to clutter itself. Here's a picture of my mat in use: http://www.andsewitis.net/images/processb.jpg

    1. User avater
      ghis | | #99

      Wow! what a nice sewing room you have!If its ok with you I`d love to see it,it could inspire me for my own witch is a disaster.

  7. Tatsy | | #7

    I love wooden kebab sticks for managing gathers close to the presser foot so my fingers don't come anywhere near the needle.

  8. lasassone | | #8

    Hands down the most useful thing in my studio is my Olfa 60mm ergomatic (?) cutter that automatically opens and always is closed when I lay it down. I have osteo arthritis and this cutter has changed my life! It was killing my hands to have to slide  the cover onto the blade in my old one. I've lots of cutting tools here, but it's the only one now that I use!

  9. rufflees | | #9

    My most useful tool?, is knowing there are infinate possabilities and materials to choose from, endless exhisting tools to do endless things with and endless resources, imanigation and creativity to make the tools I need. Each tool is its best and my most useful for the task it always dutifly performs along with all the endlessly imaginative tool ideas created by all my fellow fiber fanatics all over this planet full of incrediable people!

    All my tools are my favorite and most useful!

    Lee Tackett

    Edited 6/6/2008 9:44 pm ET by rufflees

  10. platexas | | #10

    Seam Guage.

  11. ElsieEli | | #11

    Handiest Tool in my Sewing Room is the jillions of Crystal Light cans I have saved and retooled for sewing room use. I have. maybe, a hundred cans cleaned out after use, (the little plastic tubs hold the powder and the cylindrical holders are clean already, not even a label to scrape off as the paper label peels off in a piece!)
    Sideways, held together with tape, they hold knitting needles, ribbons, bobbins of thread and spools of specialty yarn. I have another bank of them upright, holding beads, bells, special elastic, and each can is labeled. Then, there is a long string of them holding the things I want to wrap around their smooth surfaced outsides, like shiny ribbon, unbound elastic, sequins on a string, and feathers on a boa. These small items are almost impossible to keep corralled and the Crystal Light 'Cans' do the job nicely. Before I tried using these white cans, I had everything everywhere, and that made it hard to work. Now, everything is labeled and put in its place. And the Crystal Light was good, too!

    1. Vick | | #35

      What a Useful Idea! Thanks Elsie:)

      Here is another freebe I'll share with you and all as a Thank you,

      Most florist throw away the nets that hold each floral bloom to Florist they are trash. To us they are the nets that go around spools of thread, nearly every spool of thread fits perfectly since they are strechy.

      Another one is the plastic thingie that nose sprays have attached so the nose spray doesn't spray accidently. The are the perfect attacment for bobbins. With the clip from the nose spray, your bobbins are safe and will not unroll.

  12. kathlann | | #13

    Hi All

    I'm new to this site. Without a doubt my handiest tool has to be my ripper. I have several of them at various stations around my workroom. I do quite a lot of alterations so it's use there is obvious, but I find it invaluable as a feeder of fabric under the presser foot and for turning points like collars etc

  13. katina | | #14

    Magnetic pin holders. I have them at machine, at cutting table, at ironing board. They're also great for sweeping the area to pick up dropped pins.


    1. rekha | | #16

      In this thread your magnetic pin holder is a marvellous idea. Where did you get it from?

      With osteoarthritis the handy, indispensable tools are

      rotary cutter (60 and 45mm)

      optivisor for threading needles

      thread nipper (looks like a mini scissors)


      stiff fitch brush for removing lint

      1. katina | | #17

        I bought mine several years ago at Hancock Fabrics. This is it:


        I really can't do without them!





        1. rekha | | #18

          Thanks Katina. I have steel-tipped pins. Would it be easy to pick these out of the pin holder?

          1. katina | | #20

            Do you mean that these would adhere so tightly that you couldn't remove them? I can't say for sure, but I wouldn't think so.


      2. User avater
        artfulenterprises | | #60

        While my OptiVisor is looking pretty ratty after about 30 yrs of solid use, there is a new gadget in town for threading needles!Have you seen this? This little miracle is a Clover Desk Needle Threader which you can find at http://www.clotilde.com/list.html?criteria=needle+threader&x=11&y=17Worth every red cent!

        1. rekha | | #61

          Pity it has limited use. Example, how would use that on the sewing machine or overlocker?

          1. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #63

            Well, you can't use it at all for those applications although I have a built-in needle threader on my Pfaff (#1 reason to purchase!...that and the walking foot) and a similar tool for my Elna serger. But this little desk threader is the bomb for handwork. While it does have it's limits, it will thread almost any needle in a flash. No muss, no fuss. The only needles I've had a problem with are the tiniest of little quilting needles (which I rarely use) and super large-eyed needles for other specialty uses...but with those, heck maybe you don't need a threader anyway!

        2. SewFit | | #66

          I have to go with my top 4 and two of them aren't "sewing" tools...

          1. My magnetic pin holder!!!

          2.  fiskars spring action shears

          3.  Canned air (to blow the lint out of my serger)

          4. My "reading" glasses ....I keep a couple of inexpensive pairs near my machines.  My regular prescription eyeglasses don't work for the close stuff. 

    2. needles74 | | #56

      Be careful using them around computerized machines.  They often don't like each other like water and electricity.

      1. katina | | #57

        Thanks! A great reminder.


  14. Elaray | | #15

    I don't know if this counts as a tool, but I love my edge-stitch foot. In addition to edge-stitching, I use it for stitching in the ditch. I also love my soapstone pencil. The marks are reliably removable.

  15. Ralphetta | | #19

    Aside from the basics, like sissors, ripper, etc., my very favorite gadget is a little metal measuring gauge by Dritz. I think they're less than $2. It's a compact object that reminds me of those karate throwing stars. It has little projections for each measurement so I can slide it around a curved edge to apply trim, etc. I find it far easier to manipulate for routine small jobs than a ruler. I love that thing.

  16. sewandquilt | | #21

    Next to my Clover seam ripper, my next favorite tools is the Dritz EZY Hem Guide. It's really just a thin piece of metal with lines marked for pressing up hems. I find that it makes preparation for hemming a snap, really facilitates even casings for elastic, and also is amazing for curtains, drapes, etc

  17. sewwen | | #22

    My most useful and treasured sewing tool would have to be the measuring guage with the handy slide that 'remembers' the measurement and I don't have to keep mentally checking on the tapemeasure. 

    My most useful pressing tool would have to be my June Tailors tailors board.  I will never understand why you can't get her fabulous pressing tools anymore (such as the tailors ham and holder, or tailors board)!


    1. lself | | #84

      I've heard that a football tee is perfect for holding a tailor's ham, but I haven't tried it yet.

  18. sewelegant | | #28

    I looked at my sewing machine to see just what I keep handiest and it has to be my Clover, white handled awl.  I keep it in an old box I was going to toss that came with a Cross pen in it (nestled in a v shaped groove so it wouldn't roll) and now it holds my awl right by my machine.  (It used to roll off and stab me!) That awl is more handy than the  purple thang for me because I can poke it into the fabric behind the machine foot and pull the material through if it is giving me some angst.  I have used it to pull out the corners of turned items, albeit very carefully because it can pull out more than I want to.  It's very thin tip is excellent for guiding the fabric into the foot exactly where I want it to be, especially for gathers like in a sleeve.  Maybe I like it so much because I have arthritis in my fingers and a lot less dexterity than desirable and the handle is ample enough to hold easily.  This tool is probably the only one I use in every project.

    I second the motion though for the seam gauge.  It is never where it should be and even buying several hasn't solved that problem so I must use it continuously.  I also love it for my crafting so that is why it goes missing a lot.

  19. midnitesewer | | #33

    I love gadgets and struggle not to  buy ones I know that I won't use much. They are hard to resist. My grandfather and my dad were both carpenters and taught me to love tools. They taught me to care for my tools so that they would last, to always put my tools back where they belong, and to measure at least twice before cutting accurately. Needless to say, I get into trouble when I don't follow those rules. Incidently, both of them sewed. Dad taught me to hand sew.

    My favorite tool is my needle threader. I use it for threading hand and machine needles. My second favorite tool is my old style Black and Decker Classic iron. It's all metal and pretty heavy.

  20. Vick | | #34

    I have a few favorites I can't be with out. I have Osteoarthritis and all that goes along with it.

    So, my most useful tools are those that make sewing less of a challenge for me because they work well for me.  First would be my Martell rotary cutter. Hands down no question! I'm also left handed and Martell makes their cutter in a left or a right model, The handle shape is like a letter "L" so one side is the blade and all that holds it. The other part of the "L" is the handle you hold.  Its very egromatic because rather than bearing down holding with fingers and hand, which is difficult The Martell allows you to grasp the handle  when your cutting with less pressure on your hand. Your cutting with your arm which is much stronger and less stressful. and there isn't any stress involved since it has the handle

    Then, number 2 would be my sewing room. It holds my large sewing cabinet with storage for 3 machines and a pull-out table. Plus a cutting table made by my DH with 6 drawers on two sides,

    For sewing on the go I have the traveling Janome sewing machine, Its very lightweight and I appreciate its portability very much. At home I can't live without the Janome 1001. I like it so much nothing else on the market would make me trade...yet.

    Having a specialized sewing "briefcase" with lots of specialized Velcro tape and pockets for all sorts of items is very helpful if you go to a class or a weekend get-a way. Mine is like a laptop tote in looks. The long strap stays on my shoulder very well.

    Many years ago while on a vacation trip I found a serious, hadworking, adorable quilt shop Which had every tool and fabric ever made. I bought (amoung loads of fabric) A tiny item that works so simply. Its a rolling flat circle like a coin. Slightly larger than a dime.  and made of brass metal with the weight of a nickle. It has a hole into which you place a pencil or marker. Then you always are marking a perfect 1/4 inch line. Since you let the pencil roll around where you want a 1/4 line.

    Someone should start making these perfect little 1/4 inch markers again:)

    I also have to add the internet. with out it we would not be the united group sewers are today.


  21. jillg | | #38

    My favourite tool in the sewing room is a piece of cardboard that used to be be back of a notebook (and is ruled). I have drawn thick lines across at various depths and when I am heming curtains -or anything else, only have to run it along my fabric and put pins in to make the hem ready for folding. I did update by using template plastic, but missed my old friend and went back to it.

  22. Ckbklady | | #39

    My can't-live-without item is a scalpel! Back in 1998, while my plastic surgeon was prepping me for surgery for a minor skin cancer, I warned him that he'd better sew me up nicely, because I'm a sewer and know a good seam! He laughed and said, "Heck, if you sew, you might like some of my scalpels for ripping seams, especially serger seams." I looked up at him, boggled, and he laughed again and shrugged and said, "Yeah, my Mom sews. She swears by my scalpels." And so do I. He gave me a box of "Hook 15"s, which are a curved & very sharp blade with a longish handle and he instructed me to glue popsicle sticks to either side of the handle to improve the grip. Yes, it's weird, but I would never now sew without them.

    :) Mary

    (a healthy, happy sewer near Seattle)

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #40

      I have a set of Dentist's tools/picks in my sewing box that come in handy for many things. From gently picking out threads that the seam ripper is too chunky for, to re-aligning threads that have pulled in a fabric. Even the mirror helps see into my surger for cleaning. They also work great for cleaning up paint and glue from embellishments. Got them at Princess Auto. Got a magnetic bowl for my pins there too.

      1. Ckbklady | | #41

        I had to chuckle - dental tools at Princess Auto? Cool! :)

        There is a high-end woodworking catalog in Canada from Lee Valley Tools that often lists dental-type tools. They're fantastic, aren't they? They're so precise.

        :) Mary, grinning

        1. jjgg | | #42

          I got a set of dental picks at an electronics / computer store.

        2. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #44

          I'm lucky to be able to shop there.  It's a 45 minute drive from where I live.  I can browse the catalogue, then go in and pick up my order.  The watchmaker storage is priceless for storing bead findings, hook and eyes, and other tiny sewing accessories that get lost in bigger drawers.

        3. Gloriasews | | #48

          I get a lot of stuff from Lee Valley Tools, too - great gadgets they have!  I haven't seen the dental-type tools, yet, but the other poster said Princess Auto, so I'll try there.


          1. jjgg | | #49

            the other 2 'gadgets' that I absolutely can't live without;4 inch 'embroidery' scissors for trimming edges etc while sewing. It sits right at my sewing machine all the time. I have 3 pr of scissors like this so one is at every location.When quilting - kwik klip for closing safety pins

      2. Sancin | | #78

        I LOVE Princess Auto - so many things not necessarily for autos. I also bought a dental set there and use in sewing. One thing I bought many people comment on when in my house. I am short and thus have short arms. I have a recliner that I have to pull a lever to raise and lower. Last year I broke some ribs and had to sleep in the recliner. I could not reach the lever without pressure on my ribs. I purchased a auto 'thing' from Princess Auto that I can hook over my lever and both pull and push. I put a piece of foam moleskin on the lever to keep the 'thing' from slipping on or off the chair lever. I think the 'thing' has something to do with removing valves! I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I could finally use my chair without hurting myself.

        1. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #79

          For our Friends who aren't CDN,  Princess Auto is a Auto parts/industrial and farm tool supply/Safety Supply store.  AKA Guy's Heaven.  It is a tool store plus.  The best part is the clearance/overstock area, where you never know what you will find.  I bought a pair of fiskar scissors sharpeners for $1.  All sorts of parts containers and small tools perfect for the sewing room.   Cathy

          1. jjgg | | #80

            >>>Princess Auto is a Auto parts/industrial and farm tool supply/Safety Supply store. AKA Guy's Heaven. <<<I've bought several things for my sewing rooms at Lowes (major hardware store). My seam gauge is much more accurate than what you get at swing stores, My razor blades, I have a 1/2 round wood 'dowel?' that is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter I use it as a seam pressing block then I don't' want the iron touching the rest of the fabric. I made a dress of silver liquid lame, the iron would just slightly mar the fabric, but I HAD to press the seams open, a pressing cloth didn't help, so this way all the iron touched was the seam line. I use the flat side of the stick when I cut open button holes (again with my single edge razor blade)

          2. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #81

            I spend a lot of time running in and out of parts stores, hardware stores, plumbing stores etc, as the "Go Fer" on the farm.  I love these places!  I seldom come out without something for myself.  Sono tubes are great storage for fabric on rolls.  I was watching them cut some nice hardwood for a customer at the Home Hardware and they let me have a small piece or two for hammering on and setting grommets and stuff like that.  A magnetic pin tray was actually a parts tray that only cost $3, has a better magnet and doesn't send the pins flying when I knock it over.  As much as I love a good sewing store, the accessories are often poorer quality or more expensive than what I can buy in a parts place.   I don't mind spending more on something that will last.  I hate cheap plastic, when I know that good metal is out there.   Cathy

            Edited 6/20/2008 10:01 am ET by ThreadKoe

          3. sewelegant | | #82

            Thank you for that info on the half dowel.  I have thought, while ironing difficult pieces, that something like that is just what I need, but not being much of a shopper thought I would have to have a round one cut in half and didn't pursue it.  Off to the hardware store for me!  It seems to me that people who love to sew are also very inventive people.

    2. Vick | | #85

      My Brother in law is a Microbiologist. He gave me a set of fine tools he uses for microscopic work. The points on some of them are so thin you just about need a microscope to see the end. Some are so sharp you can stab yourself accidently and may not bleed. Isn't it wonderful to have some of these tools from outside sewing which are so very handy?  Of corse, sissors from a microbioligist are totaly unique. They are long with very small "heads" made to trim incect parts. they trim embroidery better than anything.

      1. Ckbklady | | #86

        You had me at "microscopic"! :) I want some too! I'm gonna Google "microbiologist supply" (tee hee) and see if I can't find them. I especially want the "bug scissors"!

        Thanks so much for giving me another possibility!

        :) Mary

  23. needles74 | | #51

    My Fasturn kit!! I purchased it when they first hit the market and although the box is a little worn and some of the wires are a little crooked, I don't know what I'd do without it when I need to turn a tube of some sort. It has a number of different sizes of tubes and although I don't use it every day, when I need it, it is indespensible.

    Of course, my seam ripper is a must and every sewer can't do without scissors but those are mainstays and the Fasturn is unique and useful.

    1. rekha | | #53

      Whatever do you need Fasturn for in sewing???

      Unless of course, you routinely use paints

      1. needles74 | | #55

        Have you ever had to make spaghetti straps?  Have you ever tried to turn them?  If so, you know (or will find out), how difficult it can be.  It has nothing to do with painting.  It's simply a tool to use when making a tube that puts the wrond side inside as you turn it. Of course, you can do it with a pin or a pin and a string.  But this little tool makes its so much easier.  I hope this clarifies the issue for you.



        1. rekha | | #58

          That sounds interesting. Say that again - how do you work the 'tube'/piping?

          Actually the way I do it is the elegant way Schaeffer's book writes: sew perpendicular to the length of the tube a strong string or the cords used for make frogs.

          Sew the string along the length of the tube using a zipper foot. When done pull the string and then cut it off at the starting end

          Edited 6/11/2008 3:20 pm ET by rekha

          1. needles74 | | #65

            I'm not quite visualizing your way, but I'm sure it's simple for you.  The Fasturn system is a set of five tubes (metal) of different sizes, each about 12 inches long.  There are three thin wires of different lengths with a little curly-que at one end and a plastic handle at the other.  You cut strips the width and length you desire (they can be longer than 12 inches), sew them along the long edge(using a reasonable seam width).  Then you insert the tube, and then the wire, hooking the fabric at the top and then just pull it through. 

            It's quite versatile, you can fill while your'e turning, make belts, stuff small projects, etc.  I love it, but I'm sure it's because I'm familiar with it and have been using it for so long.

            I didn't intend to write a tome and please excuse the spelling, that's not my long suit.

  24. manhattan | | #72

    small sliding ruler gage is my favorite tool

  25. User avater
    Sue_Bleiweiss | | #87

    I cannot function in the studio without my rotary cutter.


    1. sewelegant | | #105

      I couldn't resist going to your web site and was not disappointed!  You have a wonderful talent and I especially like your garden notebook (or journal).

      I have a good friend who has left me in the dust with her artistic talent.  Her passion is mixed media and she has come up with such creative objects.  She enters her work in art shows around the area and is so tickled when someone buys a piece.  I love visiting her home because it is so full of uniqueness and I'll bet yours is too.

      1. sueb | | #106

        Thanks so much sewelegent!

  26. bbrunet | | #88

    By far my finger pin cushion is it. Second only to my dress maker scissors.

  27. Cherlyn | | #103

    I have several gadgets that I just love and own more than one of the same tool so that when I'm in different rooms, I can take a set with me but still leave a set next to my machine.  My ironing board is located across the house in the laundry room.  So, it made since to purchase two small sewing guages, two pin cushions with pins, and two pairs of shears.  Lighting is probably the best tool when it comes to my sewing area since I don't see as well as I did when I first learned to sew at the age of 12. 

  28. DONNAKAYE | | #104

    Four items I can't live without: wrist pin cushion, clippers, trimmers, and roll-up ruler.  I almost always have the clippers in my hand, even when sewing.  I tie them on with a ribbon around my neck.

  29. Qeteshu | | #107

    The one thing I can't imagine being without is my seam gauge (you know, the little 6" ruler with the plastic slide to help you measure hems and seams as you press/pin them?) My home economics teacher in high school, who taught me to sew, was a big fan of this tool and it rubbed off on me. I don't know how I would hem anything without it. And that goes whether I'm making a garment, something for the home, or a wall hanging.

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