Sunday, January 12, 2014

6 Unusual Must-Have Sewing Room Tools

Sure, we all have the needles, thread, and scissors in our sewing boxes. But when I was recently organizing mine, I realized that it contained a few unconventional tools that greatly aided my sewing! These six items were either free or inexpensive.

1. Clear Protractor or Small Clear Ruler
I received this clear protractor from my Geometry teacher in high school. At the end of the semester, I tossed it in a box and it sat forgotten until I got into sewing. I realized that the clear ruler edge of the protractor was perfect for drawing or marking seam allowances. It was more compact than my foot-long clear ruler, and is small enough to fit into my sewing box.

2. Protective Glasses
I've read several horror stories on the internet about sewing machine needles breaking and flying into a sewist's cheek, forehead, or (eeep!) eyes! I normally go at a reasonable pace when sewing, but sometimes I'm working under a tight time crunch and I floor the pedal. Initially, I was wearing sunglasses when I sewed like a madwoman, but then my dad brought me these protective glasses from his job. Now I wear them all the time, sewing quickly or normally, just in case the needle hits a pin and something goes bad!

3. Drafting Compass
I picked this up in a drawing class in high school (I think?). I've used it a lot to draw out circular templates, instead of using something more fixed like a coffee tin or teacup. This was particularly useful when drafting the "sun" shape for the Tangled Sun Banner I made for a friend. 

4. Hem Guide
The Scientific Seamstress created these free hem folding templates and they are brilliant! Since I didn't have printer ink when I was hemming the 1870s bustle I'm working on, I copied the technique on a piece of cardstock marked with a thick1/2" line. An easy and quick perfect hem! There are templates for straight, concave, and convex hems.

via Scientific Seamstress
5. Large Magnet
I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I've tipped over my box of pins or dropped a needle onto the floor. I sew in my basement, which has dark green carpet, making it almost impossible to find a pin or needle if I've dropped one. Now I keep my William Paterson magnet in my sewing box--it's flat and wide, and if I skim it over the carpet, it picks up all the shiny sharp things!

6. Paint Brush
I made 40 eyelets on my Bronzino Gown, and the process was greatly helped by this technique from The Story of a Seamstress. After using an awl to make a small hole, she used a paintbrush to stretch out the hole. The paintbrush's graduated handle is perfect for opening up an eyelet hole, and the smooth handle slid through the fabric of my dress easily! Make sure that the paintbrush you're using is clean.

Are there any unusual tools you keep in your sewing box?


  1. Wow! Handy things to have in a sewing box - I'm going to have to print a Hem Guide or two now (and find a magnet because I always seem to overturn my tin of pins)! Thanks for sharing!
    Anneliese :)
    P.S. The only unusual tools in my sewing box might be the mini clipboard & writing utensils (never know when an idea will hit) and an entire bag of hair ties and bobby pins

    1. I also keep a mini notebook and pencil with my tools, in case I need to jot down measurements, sketch an idea, or write a notions shopping list.

  2. The hem guide is awesome.

    For making eyelets, I've used my mandrel after the awl -- it serves much the same function as the paintbrush you use, but is metal with a wooden handle. (The joys of being an oboist -- weird tools.)

    I use a shot glass for pins while I'm working, as it makes the pins stand up and be easy to grab.

    And while making bias tape for my most recent project, I used an old sheet for the tape, and a large crack between the boards of my floor as a straight edge which helped me cut straight. :-D Every time I measure and draw out bias tape, it's screwed up all over the place. But freehand cutting based on this straight edge? Nearly perfect.

    1. My carpeting has some sort of large pattern in burgundy dots. If I vacuum the carpet, and then lay my fabric down to be cut, I can align my fabric by the dots!

  3. Some good tips! I like the magnet idea!