Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tool Denial and Discoveries

While I've been sewing on and off for years (mostly just hemming and very basic items), I've only been sewing seriously for less than a year. And as a graduate student who has had to jury-rig many pieces of equipment while doing remote field work, I'm used to making do with what I have.

I have a ruler and a mechanical tape measurer, I don't need one of those flexible measuring tapes. Why get one of those fancy plastic poking things for corners when I have mechanical pencils and chopsticks around? A pen and highlighter works just as well as chalk for marking up fabric. I have pins from the Dollar Store, what's the point (HA HA!) in getting new ones? My $20 Walmart special sewing machine that fits in my purse works perfectly fine, thank you very much.

This is Herbert, by the way, my very first sewing machine. He's a trooper, let me tell you. A portable, adorable little straight stitcher, on which I sewed my first (and possibly last) quilt on last fall. It's difficult to tell in the picture, but it's about 3.5'x3.5'.

Well, I'm slowly learning that some of these tools are awfully handy. Maggie is a lovely old Kenmore and a joy to sew with. A flexible tape is much easier than a honking big mechanical one, and chalk is actually so much easier than a pen.

Yesterday, I picked up a couple more tools that have made me pretty starry-eyed. I've had this set of dress-maker pins for ages, but they're really hard to see on the floor when I spill them (which is often). But I found these pretty glass head pins for a couple bucks, and they're so much more fun to use and they're SHARP!

Maybe it's finally time to sew myself a pin cushion for all my pretty pins. The plastic pin box isn't going to cut it for these lovelies!

I also picked up a 'heart' chalk marker, which has a little wheel at the bottom that dispenses chalk in a fine straight line. I'm not sure how useful this is yet, but I'm sure I'll love it when I use it.

But the bestest, most wonderful tool I've found to date is this little hem gauge. I've scoffed it for ages, thinking that my ruler works just fine, thanks. WELL, was I wrong! This thing is a gem, a delightful little helper disguised as a cheap flimsy strange ruler. I used it this afternoon to help press up the seam allowance for a hem, and I nearly cried it was that simple!

Of course, this now makes me fear for my pocket book and small sewing space, thinking of all the other sewing tools and equipment I've been doing without. This is how you can wind up with an entire room stuffed full of sewing stuff, I'll bet. In fact, now I think I know how my Dad wound up with a garage full of a different sort of tools!

Have you ever discovered a piece of equipment or tool that you swore you didn't need, only to discover how wonderful it is and how wrong you were after you finally use it? Is there still something that you refuse to get because you're doing quite fine without it thank you, but secretly want to try out?


  1. Big yes to your last question - although it's cross-stitch related, not sewing. I stitched for years without a lap stand (holding my hoop in one hand and the needle in the other). Decent ones are expensive. Prior to starting a large project I decided to bit the bullet and get myself one. It was so totally worth it! My stitching speed almost doubled because I could stitch two-handed, and my arm no longer ached from holding the hoop. I use it for everything but the tiniest projects.

    As for sewing - most of the little sewing thingys are so cheap at Fabric Land that I had myself outfitted before I knew it. Totally know what you mean about the seam gauge - had bought myself one not really knowing what it was, but I remembered my mother and grandmother both had them. Such a useful gadget.

    Couldn't live without my big green cutting mat and rotary cutter - but my aunt outfitted me with those the minute she heard I had picked up sewing. Apparently she considers them so essential she wouldn't let me sew without them.

    So far I've refused to cave and get a serger - but deep down I would love one.

  2. Hah! A serger is my secret wish too, but I'M JUST FINE WITHOUT IT! Plus they're too expensive, not something I can afford on a student budget. PLUS where the heck would I put it?! I'm only going to look into one when I've got a dedicated sewing space that's not also my living room and kitchen. ;)

  3. My seam gauge. I have about 4, and just ordered another 5. I can't do without, it's without a doubt my favourite gadget.
    I'm giggling at yours being melted :-p

  4. I'll be honest, I pulled the image off of the internet. I'd left my camera in my office, and text only posts are boring! Herbert and my scrabble quilt are my only photos. :)

    I may have to get a couple extra seam gauges, just in case! I already want to get more glass-head pins, and maybe those long ones with the flat flower heads. Such a nice change from plain ol' dressmaker pins!

  5. Hee! I'm still mostly in stuff-denial mode (although I've always had a tape-measure and hem-gauge, and the other day I broke down and made a tailor's ham)

    Just found your blog and really like it :)---the petal skirt is adorable!

  6. Thanks Tanitisis! Heh, I've been thinking getting a tailors ham lately too, and when I saw what my local fabric store is trying to sell them for, I figured I'd just make one myself! I usually just roll up a small pillow and pin a dish towel over it. :D

  7. yay another grad student/scientist!! i understand completely about rigging together equipment to get the job done and how that translates to avoiding buying "extra" tools if you don't have to!

    oh and i LOVE the advice about dumping projects that just drag you down when you look at them...i currently have a 1/2 finished dress that's about to go that route!


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