Sewing Chatter: What’s your favorite sewing tool?

Is there a sewing notion you'd bring to a desert island?
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I definitely spend a little bit of my paycheck each month on sewing conveniences. Did I really need those adorable pattern weights, or could I have kept using cans of cat food? Sometimes it simply boosts morale to sew with a special tool, and sometimes, the notion can really make your project easier.

Katie recently shared her little collection of tracing wheels, which got us all thinking about our favorite sewing tools.

Wallis already gushed about her favorite ergonomic scissors on the blog a while back, Sarai loves her tailor’s clapper, and Haley treasures her seam ripper—you’ve all seen our new pins, right?

So what’s your favorite sewing tool? Share below so we can all fill our toolboxes!

  • Is there a notion you’ll keep at your machine’s side, at all times, until the end of days?
  • Do you have any vintage tools that have more sentimental meaning than practical use?
  • Are there any tools you’d like to learn more about?
  • Did you ever fall for a sewing tool gimmick that you regret?

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Comments 61

Jill Nicholas

I’m new to sewing and my seam ripper is definitely my best friend at the moment particularly as I’m tackling my first item of clothing at the moment. Second to that is my 1/4″ piecing foot, it’s helped me so much to learn to sew in a straight(er) line.

Kelly Rose heliotaxis.com

I splurged a while back and bought a cutting mat that covers my entire dining table. It is the BEST thing. I used to loath cutting, and now it’s a snap! It’s especially great when I want to make more than one of a garment; I can lay the fabric out in multiple layers and cut them all at once. I wish I had gotten a cutting mat and rotary cutter sooner, it has made a world of difference.

And even after 15 years of sewing, my seam ripper is still my constant companion. :)

Amanda

My favorite tool might be my Clover Chaco Pens – I use one every project. Ham, clapper, and Clover Iron Finger also get tons of use. And while I don’t use it so often, my buttonhole cutter was a great investment IMO. Recently, I installed snaps using the snap setting tool from The Snap Source. So clever. The only tool I haven’t gotten much use out of is probably my hera marking tool – maybe I just don’t know the best uses for it? And then some of the specialty feet on my machine. I get lazy and find I use my standard foot for most things even if another foot might make the job easier.

Pauline abagfulloffabrics.wordpress.com

One day I’ve lost my seam ripper and I spent a whole hour searching for it in all the appartment. I couldn’t start my sewing session without it. So.. Definitively my seam ripper! :D

Clare

Bought a walking foot for my thirty year old sewing machine this year – wonderful!

Sabrina sabrinawhartonbrown.wordpress.com

Sharp-pointed embroidery scissors (good, strong ones) that I wear round my neck. I cut threads much closer than my sewing machine will, they work as a stitch-ripper, and they’re good for buttonholes. They’re also really pretty because they’re matt silver with shiny curly accents so they look like Victorian scissors modernised :)

Nené

1) My seam ripper
2) My cutting mat
3) My rotary cutter

Deborah Morrison

I am quite attached to my pinking shears. Modern sewing techniques have replaced many of their uses, but they still hold the same fascination for me they did when I was a little girl cutting up scraps with them.

Marie

I think my favorite sewing tool is my thread nippers. Many years ago, I worked in a sewing factory for a short period, I learned to keep them at my side a use them there. Over the last 40 years they have become indispensable to me, I’ve had to replace them twice. I always buy the all metal Gingers, they last the longest. Next to the is my embroidery scissors, applique scissors and Fiskar spring loaded scissors. I guess I just like good sharp scissors. By the way, NO ONE touches my scissors!!!

Jo helloseedling.blogspot.co.uk

I have a novelty straight ruler from a sex shop that says “teach me a lesson” on one side – might raise a few eyebrows from in-laws because my sewing stuff is in the guest room, but it gives me a giggle!

Jenny Sandoval

Love it! Absolutely love it! You win the Comment of the Day!

Sandra

That is too funny!

Ana from The Lost Apron thelostapron.com

For small projects I am always reaching for my Point Turner & Seam Creaser. I use it to poke out corners or whenever I turn anything right side out. It gets the seam edges out before you press. A must have for me.

Heather

I’m 62 years old and have been sewing since I was 4 years old and I STILL keep a seam ripper right next to my trusty Bernina!! And also a sewing gauge. I have quite a few of my mother’s sewing tools and don’t use them too much, but keep them as I have such wonderful memories of her using them way back when we were small children and she sewed all our clothes. And baked all our bread! My sister has a piece of beeswax she got from our mom that was her aunts! So we are the third generation of women to use this piece of beeswax! We joke that it’s the “family beeswax”! Love this blog, BTW.

Judy Cinerari

I love the thought of your heirloom beeswax! I hope you have itemised it in your will.

Heather

I cracked up so much over your comment, Judy, thanks for making my day! Hmmmm, maybe I’ll have to talk to my sister about putting it in her will!

PsychicSewerKathleen tarotbykathleen.com

What a challenge – I love so many of my tools it’s hard to know where to start! Those hot hemmers by Clover I use all the time and the 5 in 1 seam guide – but I’ve found some really obscure things too like the Seam Allowance Guide that has magnets you can attach to your scissors while cutting to add more seam allowance. These little things are AMAZING time savers. Even if I use the tool rather sporadically I’ve always found that when I do use it I’m awfully glad I have it :)

Gwen

My favourite tools are the 1. a very large cutting matt (29″ x 29″). 2. sharp pointed embroidery scissors, 3.. wristband pinchusion and, 4. clover 5 in 1 ruler.

Ninon

I love my :
6″sewing gauge ruler
1/2 inch steam a seam double stick fusible tape and
Knit fusible tape

Karen

Stabilisers, particularly the spray ones are my go to for synthetic and stretch fabrics. Wonderful inventions. Walking foot is useful too.

Robin WIlloughby

A Scalpel. With fresh blades regularly. You must be careful!, but it’s so much faster than a seam ripper…..

Jenny Sandoval

At the moment, my fave tool is my sewing stiletto. Reason being: I have a pos Babylock Diana. I thought, “oh, neat! It’s 5 thread, has a coverlock function AND auto tension?! Well, here’s my $1100 and my Pfaff!” It literally eats up 2+ layers of knits, if those knits are more than 8oz per sq yd.
the stiletto helps me push the fabric under the needles and loopers so that they’re not skipped over. Also, it helps pull threads to the back on my Pfaff Ambition if I’ve forgotten to pull em back myself.
There’s A LOT of tools I wish I never bought: that Little Purple Thang, cheap pins, anything Fiskars, a Fiskars rotary mat that cracked in the middle, useless tools.
I have 3 vintage scissors held up in a shadow box frame. They’re all my grandma’s and greatgrandma’s. 2 are Victorian and have 4 loops for finger placement!
Although the aforementioned scissors have been pro polished and sharpened, they’re for decor only. I think the nostalgia and the genius quirks of our ancestors is beyond fascinating.

Sandra

I love the little purple thang! Helps me to ease in a shoulder seam or for precision piecing where you can’t shouldn’t put your fingers that close to the needle.

Jenny Sandoval

No, no, no! Get the Colonial Needle Sixthfinger stiletto!!! I swear, it’s waaaayyyyy better!!!!! I can push and move things under my Pfaff Ambition with the IDT on; I can push fabric under the needles/loopers on my s*!#%~! Babylock Diana, who LOVES to skip stitches; and I can position Lastin (the clear) elastic under my nonstick foot in a folded-over loop while making cloth dipes! In case you’re wondering, I fold over the tail of the elastic to tack down before going into the 3-step zigzag to apply the elastic. If there’s too many holes in Lastin, it can come apart.
The Little Purple Thang reminds me of an overpriced shishkebab skewer! I may have paid too much, and maybe I’m just butt hurt 😆. If you love it, and it works for you, then that’s awesome!

emma uptowncraftworks.com

I cannot live without my big folding cardboard cutting mat! I’ve used it for over 15 years and it is still in one piece. 2nd is my 1″ bias tape maker – I love it and make bias tape for my friends – the tool intimidates them.

Jenny Sandoval

Is it the 2″ one that makes 1″ doublefold? If not, get that puppy!!
I’ve never seen it in stores. I got mine on Amazon and I know plenty of other online shops sell it.
MUST HAVE!!

Jenny Sandoval

Definitely the best, most-used bias tape maker for me. And why not? The most common used bias tape is 1/2 double fold!

My husband is scared of it! He always calls is my “contraption” and is convinced it can take off a finger :D

Jenny Sandoval

OMG, I plumb forgot: my Dk93 pro tabletop snap press and all the dies I have for it!
My beloved husband put it on a small table, bolted it down, then used tension cords and wires to make a foot pedal. Pulling that thing down 12+ times is hard for my tiny body with no muscle mass!
I make cloth dipes and clothing for babies, as well as my own toddler. I need snaps! Why do a button and buttonhole?! Use a fashion snap!
It was pricey, but I waited for a sale, plus I used a coupon. There’s free shipping on that baby!

Melody Lema

I have a sewing tool that I could not live without, and is extremely sentimental. It is called “A Bird” or a third hand. The one I use was my great-grandmother’s. It is made of cast iron, and attaches to my sewing table. I have had to add new string for the clamp, but otherwise it is just like brand new. I use it to help me put tension on my fabric when reverse sewing. I also use it when I need an extra hand when folding fabric, or straightening my grain. When I want to see what the print looks like and to decide my plan for placing my pattern pieces. I would like to have another, so I would be able just to leave it attached to my sewing table. I would like to learn more about my machine embroidery software. And I will never buy cheap magnetic pin holders again. What a waste of money, plus when they didn’t hold the pins, it made a mess. My plan was to have my pins separated by the color of the pin holder, glass pins on one, silk pins on another, etc., But I spent hours straighting things out when the pins feel off and I had to straighten out. Thanks for reading, and thanks for everyone sharing. Oops, another, my great grandmother’s real bone marker. It is from a real cow bone, and my great grandfather made it. When I sew, I am surrounded by generations of sewists. From patterns that are almost 100 years old, to notions that are being used by 5 generations, with the 6th just now staring to sew dolly blankets (She is 4, and my great granddaughter). It would be great to have a blog on the generations of sewists in a family. But I sincerely appreciate the new sewists, because they brought new life to apparel sewing. I have learned so much from people who has only been sewing for a short time, in comparison to my 55 years. There is room for all of us

Jenny Sandoval

They sell the bird clamps, but they’re plastic junk! I’ve heard about the real ones — the metal ones my grandmother, greatgrandmother, etc used.
I’d LOVE to have one, and I’m always scouring Craigslist, estate sales, yard sales, Ebay for one. They’re definitely not easy to come by :(

Melody Lema

Look on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=A+bird+clamp&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3AA+bird+clamp . Or look for bird clamp. Mine is kind of like the replica one and the third hand one. The clamp doohickey on the third hand is a bird on mine. You squeeze the tail feathers and the beak opens to grip the fabric. But my bird is attached to the eye bolt that is attached to the u clamp that clamps on my table. My bird is attached to the eye bolt with a very strong string, or in my case, 1/2″ double bias seaming, folded in half ,sewn together to make it stronger. I said mine was made of cast iron, but my husband said it was brass, that has tarnished. I cleaned, and he was right. I have some other tools that I will write about tomorrow.

Jenny Sandoval

Ooh, thank you!!!

Your brass one probably is the original from Marshall Fields, huh?

I’ll probably buy the replica, but nothing beats the real deal! I’m so sad that my great-uncle donated all of my grandma’s sewing stuff, as it was handed down from her own grandmother. I did get her Victorian era scissors and they’re in a shadow box picture frame, hanging up in my sewing room :).

Robin

Wow, how impressive is that? Sewing in my family extends pretty much only to my sisters.

I love my magnetic pin holder, and it was pretty cheap at the time (20 years ago?), it works great, so I am sorry you have had so much trouble with yours.

Kaine Akponor bobbylees.wordpress.com

Pins, pins and more pins. I pin alot! Also my crayola washable markers

SJ Kurtz erniekdesigns.blogspot.com

I made myself a hot hemmer out of heavy sew-in interfacing (sewing the marking lines with black thread) AND I NEVER USE IT. I am an ‘eyeballer’ when it comes to turning the hem I guess. It’s a great idea though, and one you can easily make at home from scrap bits. Just don’t use ink – sew the marks. You can imagine how I learned that the hard way.

I love my seam ripper. I got one of the custom turned handle sets off of Ebay, now I buy them for friends from the same maker. The blade sets are interchangable, Penn State Industries sells replacement blades in different sizes. It makes a job that isn’t the most fun in the world an elegant task. Like writing checks with a beautiful pen.

Robin

The tool I can’t sew without is a 5.5 in metal measuring gauge made by Singer. It must qualify as a vintage tool too because I have had it for about 30 years! What makes it extra special is that it also has a collar pointer on one end, and a button spacer at the other, features I have not seen on newer gauges that come with a built in sliding marker as well. It is like the leatherman of sewing tools.

I have several sizes of bias folders (the kind that looks like a paper binding clip). I thought obtaining them would encourage me to make more of my own bias binding… they don’t. But I have used one or two a time or two.

I would like to try a clapper but have a hard time paying all that for a block of wood. Plus I am currently out of work. So maybe I can find one at a garage sale or thrift store.

Caryn

In graduate school, I used a throwaway piece of two by four from the scenery shop and wrapped it very tightly with a piece heavy duck cloth. It made a great clapper or pounder. In the costume shop, the rule was that you had to yell “pound” to alert the other seamsters before you smacked down with it.

Diana

Ooh, is that what the pointy thing on my seam gauge is for?! Thanks! I’m not sure if mine has a button spacer, but it is also fairly old. I think it’s my mom’s from college, and I love it. I don’t see many people using seam gauges with the sliders, but it’s indispensable to me!

I also love my wrist pincushion. It has a stiff plastic band that goes around your wrist, so you can take it from ironing board back to your machine and not forget it.

Beth

Empty bobbins come to mind. I am always on the hunt for one that doesn’t already have the remnants of a different thread on it. It feels downright luxurious to have several empties ready to wind.

Mrs Lois Tye

I love scissors and have many pairs. When they come on special well a new pair would be handy. Maybe Kai or those Fiskars I read about here. Even a very old pair in a second hand shop that I have yet to get sharpened. A huge pair of shears from Germany. It broke my heart when in Hang zhou in China when i couldn’t buy any. The specialize in scissors it seems. We had only carry on luggage and scissors are banned. Beautifu smooth cutting scissor. Oh yes.

Bonnie C Westrom

Thank you for putting on this forum for comments on favourite sewing tools. It has been very educational to read everyone’s comments. I’ve made a list. I guess my favourite is my embroidery scissors. I definitely would like to track down the replaceable blade ripper.

Janet

I keep an upholstery skewer in each part of my sewing area. It’s like a huge pin with a circular end, similar to skewers you can buy for roasting a chicken. It’s good for guiding fabric under the presser foot, holding fabric on my padded table, picking out stitches, and lots of other uses. I also could not do without my Klein Tools electrician’s snips. The blades are very sharp, short and sturdy, and cut right to the tip, great for snipping right up to your stitching.

Cheryl

I have a lot of store-bought sewing tools too. (And I now have a modern machine with an automatic needle threader.). But, I find it just as easy to hand thread – even with my ageing eyesight! I simply place a small square of white cardboard behind the needle. This reduces the death of field that the eyes have to focus on, and threading is cinch! Sometimes low-tech trumps!

Jan vividkitty.com

I recently bought some binding makers and they are amazing. They make such an easy job of something I’ve spent hours doing in the past. I love them. Jx

Clare

I always have snips by my sewing machine & over locker and brought another pair to leave on the sewing table.

I can’t remember the last time I used my pinking shears but they still live in th sewing tool box.

I keep adding new tools to the tool box, am loving the clover clips and the clover wheel marker.

Miranda

There are a ton of tools out there, but right now my favorite is my wrist pincushion. It’s not flashy or special, but it certainly adds convenience when I’m working on a project!

Phyllis Chambliss

Yes Miranda, that’s my favorite too.

Melody Lema

I have some antique tools that are my favorite, but as I no longer used them, I didn’t mention them first. I had written about the third hand that belongs to my great grandmother, but I have other tools of hers. My Great Grandparents were married in 1859, just before the Civil War broke out. They lived in the Boston area, and I still have the homemade card that he gave to his bride on their wedding day. He apologizes for buying her wedding gift from the Smithery ( The Silversmiths) because that meant it was like buying from a pawn shop.. He bought her an awl, a seam ripper, thread cutter, thread bobbins, a tape measure, small scissors, thread case, and small pincushion. They are all made from sterling silver, and marked with Paul Revere’s mark. The original sales receipt that we have show that this set of “fine ladies sewing accoutrements” first sold in 1802. Paul Revere died in 1818. These were brought back to the store in 1859, to trade for a rifle, and “such neccy. items needed for war”. My ancestor bought them a month later to give to his bride. The cost of these was about $7.50 the first time they sold in 1802, and $5.00 is what my Great Grandfather paid for it. My grandmother made a chatelaine to hold them all, and that was made from the satin of her wedding dress, a part of the sash that my great grandfather wore into the Civil War. Besides the receipt, which was kept in our family Bible, (which has recorded 9 generations), we have a picture of my Grandmother wearing the chatelaine with all of the tools attached, along with a pair of reading glasses. This picture is taken in 1950, and the ribbons from 3 wars have been added. All purple hearts from the Civil War, WW I, and WWII. I was given this from my grandmother a week before she passed. I had wrapped each tool and the chatelaine in acid free tissue, then vacuumed sealed them. When the PBS show, Antique Roadshow was in Sacramento, I took all of the tools, and the chatelaine, and they appraised it. From a $5.00 expense to a 6 figure value, but they told us that it most likely had more value to the American public. 6 months after the Roadshow aired, PBS History Detectives came along and asked if they could do all of the research. They promised to do professional museum cleaning and repair and to let us know all they found out. The fact that they were bought as a wedding gift, and the connections to an American Hero, the bits and pieces of fabric attached to the chatelaine that were from wedding dresses, baptismal clothes, sashes, and medal ribbons, to tell our family history is amazing. These tools, that I used until 1990, because I knew no better, connects me to all of the other women in my family in a way that is hard to describe. We have pictures of family members in clothes that was hand made. Wedding photos of wedding dresses made by loving mothers for daughters, etc. The chatelaine with the tools are now in the Smithsonian, the section on American Fiber Arts. We all have a very nice picture of it on display. I now have a purple Fritz awl, and several seam rippers. All of those items are replaced, but nothing will ever replace the awe of the connections.

Kansas Sky

Love this history. Thanks for sharing it.

Meg colettehq.com

What a great story! Thanks so much for sharing.

Mrs Lois Tye

You are so lucky to have all that history in your family and that it has been kept so lovingly overv the years. Great generosity to give it to the Smithsonian for everyone to enjoy. Well done.

Becky

Of course, it’s difficult to pick one favorite sewing tool; honestly, I probably wouldn’t bother to sew at all without some of my favorites (thread snips, seam ripper, a wonderful iron, sharp fabric shears, clear gridded rulers, French curves, etc.)!

I just made a pair of shorts (Nantuckets!) and am almost finished with a pair of pants (Mojis!). Because my behind is perhaps a little larger than patterns seem to accommodate, I make my sizing adjustments and then want a very strong, stable crotch seam. One only needs to hear a backside seam pop once before vowing to never sew standard seams again, which means I insist on flat-felled crotch seams for all future pants and shorts. So, what I’m getting at is that grading seams properly and efficiently is part of my sewing life now, and DUCKBILL SCISSORS are the best!

Amanda enrichedmacaronis.etsy.com

My most used/loved tool is probably the smaller-than-average seam ripper that came with my Husqvarna machine. It fits great in my hand and it’s easy to maneuver around and get into awkward spaces.

My most loved/sentimental tool has to be the pin-based chalk marker that came from my grandmother’s sewing tools. It’s a pin-and-backing with pieces of chalk that go around the pin in order to mark both sides of fabric at once. I used it for a while but was worried I’d run out of refills, so I keep it as a memento of the amazing technology that used to exist.

Gen instagram.com

I can’t imagine not having my ironing cover for my cutting table! I bought the table off Craigslist for $50 and the lovely seller let me have the mat for free! It spans all 72″ of the table and has excellent markings on it for length, grain lines, etc.

As I use shears to cut my fabric, I love that I can iron directly on the surface and be able to cut without distorting anything. It’s a lifesaver when matching plaids!

Hannah surfjewels.tumblr.com

I love a ring pin cushion that I made, that way it is always with me when I need a pin, I also love my seam ripper for any undoing that needs doing and things like button holes. Pinking sheers are great too, I cut out all my fabric with them.

On the subject of what I don’t need- probably my mannequin, thought it would be really useful, but it’s used more to hang a garment on than anything useful!

Melanie Morton

I’ll add to what everyone else says about great scissors and sharp seam rippers.

I use a variety of marking tools: from chalk to tracing paper to pens. Like Goldilocks, I’ve been looking for the one that’s just right.

I also love the cleverness of my Dritz Loop Turner that let’s me make tiny spaghetti straps. And sewing with elastic thread.

I’m always on the look out for good pins. I have some lovely old glass headed pins from France that are pretty and useful because they don’t melt.

Julia M. juliawithanh.com

One of my favourite sewing tools (hard to pick just one) is my bias tape maker. I love the little bugger. ;)

Sandra

My must have sewing tool is my magnifying lamp. It clamps right onto my sewing machine table. It makes removing stitches so much easier and safer. Also a neccesity for doing any hand sewing where the stitches show. It originally belonged to my husband for tying flys for fly fishing, but now it’s mine! Now if you are under 45 you won’t see the value in this tool at all!

Kelly sewingunaffiliated.com

I can’t be without my snippers and 18″ clear ruler. Those two tools are the most handy and easy to use!

Becca

I picked up a pair of pattern cutting scissors, that I love. They have teeth like very fine pinking edges so that they don’t cut to far into paper. They are perfect for tissue paper, newsprint, or other sewing room pattern papers.. They also worked great on the poster board.

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