Tuesday, 15 May 2012

New weapons of mass production!

Well, not mass production... slowly slowly, catch a monkey

Sometimes, when you look at the front pages of sewing books, there is pages upon pages of tools of the trade that you feel obliged to purchase at some point, regardless of if you fully know what they do or not. Living in Ireland, getting tools required is sometimes impossible without spending loads of cash. I have bought a few new bits and bobs lately and saved a few bob too by hunting down the bargains. I thought that I would share with you (especially if you are new to sewing, like me) and not sure what to buy and what you can live without....

French Curves

My first sewing book... I opened it at the obligatory 'Tools' section and thought "That one, I can skip"... Here I am, a year later and it's my top favourite tool! It's just so handy for:

  • Marking your stitching lines on garments which have seam allowances included. It was a pivotal piece of kit with my recent job of the Colette "Crepe" as I could work with the curved lines by marking the 5/8" seam-line and then making the stitch line run perfectly in-line with the outline of the cut fabric.
  • Pattern adaptations. I have been changing and muslin crazy with my 'Bombshell Dress' lately and these have been great to help me make changes without relying on just my eye and a pencil. You can find the perfect curve on the many facets of the French curve and use it to make the changes required. 
Paid: €4 (+€2 P&P eBay)... was €26 for a French Curve in my local haberdashery shop.

Pinking Shears

I love these! The finish exudes handmade but also professional. I have done a lot of pinking with cotton and it is just what the doctor ordered as it doesn't warrant the 'zigzag' stitch that uses a huge amount of thread and renders the cottons of late nicely 'fray-free'

I made contact with the seller of these and they are from France and have been loved and used well... having found more of an interest in knitting and crochet of late, the seller parted ways with her French-find and are now being loved by me!

Paid: €3 (+€2 P&P eBay).... Again, €32 for a pair in my local habdab shop, grrrr

Tracing Wheel and Carbon Paper

Darts, easy! This is a top way of marking grain-lines, darts and even pattern pieces within seconds. I just pop mine onto the wrong side of the fabric and go for it. Prym is my carbon paper of choice, it comes in one white sheet and one yellow sheet. For perfection, a red or blue sheet would be amazing... but I haven't run into too much of a problem with just the yellow and white. The size is also fantastically big... 82 x 57 cm (or 32 x 22.5")

Paid: €3.50 for the carbon paper (+€2 P&P) and 89c (+ €1 P&P)... eBay!  

Rotary Cutter and Self-Healing Mat

Shears are great, there are just some fabrics that you can't use a rotary cutter... but for the fabrics that you can... this is a fast and clean way to cut fabric I find. For large pattern pieces (like the Colette- Clovers) you can have the pieces cut out in 5 Min's and no shear marks. I love!

Paid: €13 (+€3 P&P)  for the cutter and €8 for the mat from a local art supply shop (A2 size, I'd LOVE an A1 or BIGGER) 

Hem Gauge and Chalk Pencil

I love my little sewing gauge! I found without it, I was struggling to find a true 5/8" and probably was a bit 'off' before I bought this beauty. I just mark every few centimetres at the 5/8" mark and then either draw a line with my quilting ruler or if its a curved line... get out my french curve, simples! Chalk pencils are great too, can be sharpened for a really crisp and fine line for great accuracy.

Paid: €1 for the Hen Gauge and 50c for the chalk pencil

To conclude....

  • eBay is a wonderful source of products, especially in Ireland!
  • I am obviously changing my view on dressmaking, more focus on the detail and fit rather than just getting another project 'done' (I have been sooo guilty of that prior!!)
  • SHOP AROUND... spend less where you can, buy more fabric

Hope this helps someone, somewhere... Be assured, more purchases are inevitable!!




  1. Great post. I also LOVE my French curve and pinking shears. I don't actually have all these fandangled gadgets you've discussed here...I might have to look into them. I'm also at that same point of wanting to use tools like this to be really precise with what I'm making instead of being all hey look at this warped thing I made in under and hour! Ta da.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I hear ya sewing sister! Its a gradual change from quantity to quality, isn't it?! I just love a gadget!! You can get all the fandangled gadgets here for cheap , too! I am a bragain hunter... I don't do spending money where I don't need to!!


  2. Sewing gadgets rule don't they? right now I am angling for a bigger cutting mat. mine is the same size as yours i think. Can't wait for pay day.

    1. Hey, I am researching into a lino product with self healing properties... how ace would that be?! I'll keep you posted, but that would be ace wouldn't it?! I could cover my WHOLE table!! Woop!


  3. It really does make a difference having the tools right! This is what I'm hoping to have available in the cafe. Lots of handy bits that people can use whilst they bargain hunt for their own!!

    1. Sounds like a masterplan to me! Invite me!!!


  4. Gadgets are the best. I have a couple of the little hem gauges, but I recently acquired one of these:


    If you ever see one of these cheap grab it, I love this, it works way better for me than the other ones, I think it is because the measurement wraps around the corner. Having the right tools makes everything so much easier.

  5. Great roundup of tools! I need to get me a hem gauge and chalk pencil.

  6. Hi! Just found your blog, very cute. :) I admit I was one of those "I must buy all the tools to be a better sewer!". However, after a few years of heavy sewing under my belt, I've been able to find my few favorites that work for my style of sewing. I try to mark the fabric as little as possible ( I cut niches in the seam allowance and pin mark a lot) I love transfer paper for darts and such like you said. If you get a chance to try a magnetic seam guide, they are cheap, and I love mine to death. Just set it at 5/8" on your machine and stitch away, knowing you are where you need to be without marking up the fabric too much.

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