Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things (or how I learned to love my notions)

I've been wanting to write this post for awhile; I always like hearing about other sewers' favorite notions and how they use them because it gives me new ideas to try. Now that I have been sewing for 9 years, I've picked out my own favorite notions that help make the creation process more enjoyable.

First up are these:
These are stone coasters with cork bottoms Anne gave me a couple of Christmases ago. They are decorated with vintage pattern illustrations, and I have found them to be excellent pattern weights due to their weight and non-slip bottoms. I don't even use them as coasters anymore!
Next up is my handy rotary cutter: The rotary cutter is no surprise; it's a staple for many sewers and quilters, but I've learned that, for me, the 45 mm is the optimum size - the 60 mm size is just too large and I can't control it as well. Also, this brand, Olfa, is my favorite - there is another brand, sold at Walmart, that just isn't as good. The reason I have included it in this list is that I am using it more and more to cut out my garments. It is excellent for those patterns that are mostly of straight lines, and it is superior for cutting out silks and drapey rayons. Using scissors on those fabrics results in more distortion. You can cut patterns, even curvy ones, much more accurately with this rotary cutter.
Here are three more; my glue stick, painter's tape, and silk pins:

The glue stick is just a regular Elmer's glue stick; I don't use fabric glues, just this glue stick I picked up at Walmart. It's my secret for glue basting zippers, or for any time I need a temporary hold.
The painters tape is extremely useful because it is a tape that lifts off easily and has no sticky residue. I use it to indicate the wrong size of fabric when cutting out (it helps to ensure I don't get two right sleeves or two left backs), and I use it to tape pattern pieces together (unlike scotch tape, you can iron it). I've used it to tape down tissue paper to my sewing table when I'm tracing patterns too.
And the silk pins: they are the only pins I use these days. When I was piecing the Double Wedding Ring Quilt, I needed very sharp pins to piece all those curved pieces. I tried new quilting pins, I tried applique pins, and then I finally bought these silk pins at my LQS. I found them to be the sharpest of all the pins and allowed me to accurately pin all those curves in the DWRQ; I just continued to use them in my garment sewing, no matter what the fabric content. Pining is just so much easier when your pins are really sharp. And these pins have no plastic parts to melt - so you can iron over them. AND these are the only kind of pins I have found you can sew over (not that I'm advocating such a thing or would ever sew over my pins -ahem). Basically, these days, my feeling is that if your pins don't draw blood when you reach for one, they aren't sharp enough.

Next up, quarter inch Steam-A-Seam and tissue paper:
I orginally started using the Steam-A-Seam to secure my seam allowances when sewing in a zipper. Now I have found all kinds of uses for it. Like ironing down a quilt label before I hand sew it to the back. Or matching plaids at a seam line. Or anytime I need to make sure my fabric does not move while I am sewing it. It's more secure than the glue stick, and has no sticky residue. The longer I have it around, the more opportunities I've found to use it.
And the tissue paper is the cheap stuff you can get at the drug store. I've found it the best for tracing patterns. I've tried Swedish tracing paper (too expensive and too hard to find), sewer paper (too hard to see), brown wrapper paper (can't see through it), but I've found that the cheap tissue paper works the best. I don't even have to buy it most of the time - I just save it from gifts and use that.
And finally, my tried and true trusty iron:
I bought it in 2003 and it is still going strong. Nothing makes your life easier than a really good iron that heats up hot, has great steam, and doesn't drip.
So those are some of my frequent tools that might not be so obvious as sewing notions. Noticeably absent are some really good scissors. I'm still buying my sissors at Walmart. If you have a favorite pair that serve you well, let me know - I'm on the hunt for an outstanding pair of scissors big enough to cut out patterns and really sharp, too!


gwensews said...

I can't remember when I've used scissors for cutting out a garment. I have several pair of Gingers, though, which are quality scissors. I do want to purchase some Kai scissors, as they are exceptional.

Edris said...

I just started using glue sticks as well. I bought a ton when they were on sale during the back to school time for my kids - so glad I did. I love to use them like you to hold things down until I stitch them down (ie patchwork jeans, my labels etc.)

Chabe said...

I have a pair of "Gingher" scissors I got at JoAnne's a few years ago. They have stayed nice and sharp, mainly because I have threatened everyone in the house with death if they use them! The secret is to use them ONLY for fabric. I keep cheap scissors around for paper, but my black scissors (I chose them on purpose so no one could claim they mistakenly used them on cardboard!) are my sewing scissors, and I love them!