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Articles:  Notions Articles:  Thread Articles:  Sewing Tools
Tips To Save You Time
The right tool for the right job
Having the right tools and equipment to complete a job makes work more efficient and enjoyable. If you save time, that means you are saving money. Always have your equipment serviced regularly, and keep your work area clean. It is easy to get busy and forget to clean up, but once you are disorganized, it is easy to lose control of your workspace.

Have a backup machine ready to go
It is a good idea to own more than one sewing machine. It is wise to buy a back up for those times when your main sewing machine may need service. It can be very stressful when you are up against a deadline and your only machine is in the shop, or if you are in the middle of a project and it goes haywire for whatever reason.

Sewing machine maintenance
Make sure you maintain your machine and keep it clean. Never blow out thread fuzz; it only packs it up in the machine tighter. Buy a small coarse bristle brush to sweep out the areas where fuzz collects. Also, buy good quality lightweight machine oil and use it sparingly. Ask your sewing machine dealer or repair technician to show you the proper way to oil and maintain your machine.

Use a good chair to save your back
Buy a metal-framed adjustable drafting chair with a well-padded seat and back. The chair should adjust up and down to accommodate varying table heights you may have in your work area. It is important to buy a good quality chair, as you will be spending many hours sitting on it. Note the sturdy metal footrest ring. In addition, a good anti-static floor mat is a good investment if you have carpet around your work area.

Wooden dowels
Use wooden dowels (sometimes found in bags of fiberfill or at art supply stores) for squaring out edges and pushing out seams. Make sure if you use one that the edge is not too sharp, as you could tear your fabrics while using it. A letter opener or artist's "bone" will work just as well.

Spool jigs
This is a great tool to convert high capacity serger thread spools to fit any sewing machine. It can be purchased through Homesew (see links section for information).
 
Organizers
Plastic organizers are great for storing small notions and beads, and will keep everything neat and separated. Buy a wooden thread tree to keep your thread spools organized and ready when you need them. A bobbin organizer will keep full bobbins from being messy.

Ironing board
The ironing board pictured is a hinged style, and can be attached to a wall or door to store it out of the way. Keep your iron clean, and check its surface every time you need to use it. There is nothing like ironing a fabric that is not color set � it can leave a thin layer of dye on the iron face and will ruin a finer fabric during the next use. Other pressing equipment might include a spray bottle (for controlled steaming), tailor's pressing ham, and a sleeve or cuff pressing board.

Clean your workspace
You will sew more productively when things are organized and clean. stay on top of it! Clean up your sewing area before starting a new project. Vacuum and wipe off work surfaces to pick up lint, thread clippings and fibers from the last project.

Magnets are handy but...
You can keep a magnet around your workspace to pick up pins that fall. There is controversy over whether magnets placed near computerized machines can cause problems. It appears that some computerized machines are affected and others are not. Before you use magnetic seam guides, magnetic pin cushions, or other magnetic accessories near your machine, check with your dealer or sewing machine manufacturer.
 
Keep a sharp seam ripper handy
A good seam ripper has a sharp smooth point and a razor sharp cutting edge in the curve. Seam rippers with flat handles are less likely to roll onto the floor and save you from needless frustration. Replace your seam ripper when it gets dull.

Always press your seams as you go
When sewing, never sew over an unpressed seam. Always press the seams as you go. This will make sewing easier and will improve the quality and hang of your finished garment.

Ironing vs. Pressing
Ironing is done by using a back and forth motion. Pressing is done by using an up and down motion. Ironing can stretch the fabric out of shape and cause wrinkling and puckering on finished garments. Always press.

Storing Patterns
Patterns can be stored in a filing cabinet, zip-top bags, or boxes. Cardboard file boxes work great for patterns. If your pattern collection is large, sort the patterns by style (dresses, separates, children, etc.) or by size. Be sure to clearly label the outside of the boxes.

Clear Boxes
Clear stackable boxes are great for storing sewing supplies. Clear shoe boxes are great for notions. Larger boxes are great for projects; keeping fabric, pattern, and notions stored together. Covered boxes are great because you can stack them up to save space and they keep the dust out.

Replace machine and hand sewing needles
Hand sewing needles need to be sharp for sewing ease and smooth hand stitching. Not only are dull needles difficult to work with, they cause thread to fray and material to snag. Check hand sewing needles for burrs and replace them often.
 
Seam imprints
To avoid seam imprints on the right side of the fabric, place a strip of brown paper bag between the seam allowance and the garment before pressing.

Cutting table
The ideal height for your cutting table will depend on your height. The height is generally between 34 and 40 inches high. It is better for your back if you can work without bending over. If your table is not high enough, consider putting it up on blocks.

Yardstick
It is important to have a yardstick or longer ruler. This measuring tool is necessary for longer measuring tasks, such as measuring from the floor to the hemline and extending a grain line.  Attach one to your cutting table to help measure fabric lengths.

Sew before you buy a machine
Take fabric samples with you to use when trying out machines. Dealers will usually demonstrate using fabrics that are easy to handle, giving the best results. In addition to watching a demonstration, you should test sew using the types of fabrics and techniques that you plan to use.

Scissors
Scissors need to be accessible, but in a safe place. A purchased scissor block (similar to a kitchen knife block) from a sewing specialty store works well. Other storage solutions are drawer or hanging on a hook. Mark your scissors "for fabric only".

Beginners
Buy an inexpensive basic machine or a used machine to start out with. After you have gained some experience, you will know what features are important to you and will be able to make better choices when investing in a more expensive machine. You can often trade-in your old machine or keep it for a back-up when the other is being serviced.

Tape measures
It is important to have an accurate tape measure. Tape measures stretch out of shape and become distorted with wear. Lay your tape measure on a ruler to check for accuracy. Replace it as needed. Avoid rolling up your tape measure, this will stretch and twist it out of shape.

Measure Twice, Cut Once...
Enough said?

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