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In a few instances, I have pictures of items I do NOT recommend, so that you can see them. Please take note of the one(s) I DO suggest you buy.
Places to purchase most or all of the items are:
Fabric Corner, Mass Ave and Mill St, Arlington
Joann Fabrics and Crafts, Burlington, Saugus, Natick, etc.
Atlanta Thread & Supply has most items and they are very well priced. They are located in Georgia and the Ground Shipping is quite fast.
Fabric Place, Woburn & Framingham, MA have most items.
Clotilde, catalog and online catalog of sewing supplies and other great stuff.
I have been sewing for over 35 years. I have tried most sewing tools available. My goal is to steer you to the best brands and styles, to save you from buying notions which are not worth using. I do not receive any recompense for my suggested list. Most of the items are inexpensive. The highest priced one is a good pair of dressmaking shears. Don’t skimp on those, they are worth every penny. They are the “good” scissors your mother wouldn’t let you use.
Portable Sewing Machine w/ pedal and power cord
Sewing Machine Manual Please bring this, it can help answer questions.
Bobbins to fit your machine. These are not the same size for all machines and may vary in the same brand of machine. If you are not sure what you need, check with a sewing machine dealer or the website for your model of sewing machine.
The Universal works on both knits and wovens. Other brands will specify Sharp or Ballpoint needles. You need a Sharp needle for woven fabric and a Ballpoint for knits. What I like about Schmetz is that they are tempered. Just like tempered glass, when they meet a certain resistance, they break rather than damaging your sewing machine. They are very well made all around. The only caveat is that because they break,
I like to suggest that you wear either safety glasses or regular glasses, when you sew, to protect the possibility of a piece of a sewing machine needle getting in your eye when one breaks. Not to scare you! Just good to be prepared. I have simple safety glasses available. Kids think it’s cool to wear them but, many Teens do not like them. One solution: you can buy some fake glasses with clear lenses and cool frames at places like “Claire’s.” Also, for those of you with more mature eyes, if you forget your magnifying glasses, I do have some in strengths ranging from -1.00 to -2.50.
3 in One oil, or some other oil meant for sewing machines. I like the Dritz zoom spout oiler. It has an extending tube which can snake into tight spaces inside a sewing machine. It can be used around the house, on hinges, creaking knees, squeaky wheels…..
Iron and Ironing board or pad. It comes down to this, if you do not like to iron, take your clothes to the cleaners, wear them wrinkled, or only wear wrinkle-free clothing. But, if you want the best results when you sew, you must find a friendly space in your heart for ironing. Irons are in most households and are absolutely essential to sewing well. You will not need an iron or an ironing board for class as I have several. A good quality iron makes a huge difference in the quality of your results. I recommend Rowenta brand irons. For a good one, you will need to spend over $50. Bed & Bath, JoAnn’s and other stores carry them. Do not buy the cheapest one. You get what you pay for. You can get a good deal at www.smallappliance.com. Sometimes, I find a refurbished Rowenta iron at Home Goods or TJ Maxx. Black and Decker makes a decent iron which I found recommended on Pattern Review. It is the Digital Advantage iron. I bought one at Bed & Bath, by using the 20% off coupon I got in the mail, the price came down to $40. They carry Rowenta’s, too.
It can be a formal Sewing Basket or a Decorative tin or Plastic lidded container. Something that will hold all your small sewing tools and notions. A small tool or tackle box works really well. Home Depot and Lowes have some plastic ones for $5. Pearl Arts & Crafts at Central Square, Cambridge, has a very nice craft box you may want to check out. They are located in Central Square. Playtime, just down the street from my shop, has some ArtBin boxes that work well. Recently, one of my students found a good one at A.C. Moore arts and crafts store.
Pencil, pen and notebook (8 1/2 x 11 inches)
8 inch Dressmaking Shears, Bent Handle, Brands: Gingher Dressmaking Shears (Chrome, not the plastic with the metal blade insets, they are not strong enough to cut through thicker fabric) Marks Mundial Cushion Soft Lightweight Shears. For Kids, I find that the 7 inch chrome dressmaking shear by Gingher works well for them. It is lighter and easier for them to maneuver.
Thread Clippers This tool is small and works by squeezing the sides to cut. This makes it very easy to pick up and use. You don’t risk cutting the fabric as easily as with the large shears mentioned above. My favorite clipper is made by Clover. You can buy them at Clotilde for $12.50. (Or, I usually buy another brand of clippers at a discount rate, so you can buy one from me for $3)
Paper cutting scissors, inexpensive scissors from an office supply store. You will use these to keep from dulling your “good” scissors by cutting paper or tape, etc.
Handsewing Needles, I prefer John James English Needles. They are easily available at quilting shops and Fabric Place. (The package is white paper and has Black and Yellow stripes.) There are many types of hand sewing needles. The best all-around needle is called a “Sharp.” But, you may find it handy to buy a variety pack that includes needles for darning, quilting, tapestry, embroidery, etc. You can buy a variety pack of 50 needles for as little as $3 from Clotilde Sewing Notions (they are also available at the Quilter’s Way in West Concord.)
Thimble, a very personal choice. There are many types on the market. Buy one after you have a chance to try a few. I prefer a leather thimble called a Nimble Thimble. It fits comfortably over the tip of your middle finger (not your index or ring finger) and has a space at the tip for your fingernail to stick out. I take an XL in glove size but find that the Medium thimble fits the best. I know that Fabric Corner in Arlington and Fabric Place in Woburn & Framingham carry these. Most likely, area quilt shops will, too.
Pins, I prefer the long (1 3/8″), white glass-headed variety (you can also get them in red, white or multi-colored). They are sharp, easy to use and the iron does not melt the pin head. Usually, you want to buy slender pins referred to as “silk” pins because they will penetrate most types of fabrics easily. You can purchase IBC glass-headed pins from Clotilde. Also, available at most fabric stores. If you buy a “Grabbit,” mentioned below, it usually comes with a set of pins. But, they are of a much inferior quality to the glass-headed.
Pin Cushion, Box or Magnetic Pin Pad, I prefer the magnetic pad, then the box and lastly the fabric pin cushion. For fast pin access, the fabric cushion is impossible to use because you have to pull the pins out and stick them back in, one at a time. A small box makes the pins easy to pick up and drop back in, but if it gets tipped onto the floor, there is a lot of wasted time picking up pins. (And you can buy a telescoping magnetic wand to help you pick them up when they spill on the floor.) If you would like to use a box, I find that the best one has a rounded vs. flat bottom inside. The Tomato is the one familiar to most of us. The Chinese doll one is so cute. I use mine to hold needles. Etsy has some fabulous ones made by various craft artists. From fabric to felt, they are worth looking at.
The best magnetic pin cushion is the “Grabbit.” Any other brand just does not hold the pins very well. It does come with it’s own set of pins, but they are not very good. So, do buy the glass head pins I mentioned above. Brass or stainless steel pins will not work with it. But, the pins I recommend, do work with the “Grabbit.” It comes in a variety of lovely colors.
Telescoping Magnetic wand. Cost is $5 from HomeSew, the hardware store or an auto supply store. This is the size of a pen when collapsed. It even has a clasp at one end that can hook over the edge of a pocket or notebook. It is chrome colored and round and as thin as a pen. It has a very powerful silver-colored magnet at one end. It is approx. 2 ft long when extended. It works well to pick up dropped pins. I swish it around the floor to pick up pins I may not be able to see, especially before vacuuming. The magnet is strong enough that it can pick up a ring of keys from behind the sofa, or wherever you may have dropped them. I have seen this kind of wand at the hardware store. Do not mistake this for a plastic magnetic wand that is sold in fabric stores, which is not what I am suggesting you buy.
Sewing Gauge, this is a 6″ ruler with a blue or red plastic slider in the middle that can slide up and down most of the length of the ruler. They only cost about $1.50 and can be found at any fabric store. One of the most essential sewing tools and one of the cheapest. Do not buy the blue plastic one with a piece of chalk on the end. I tried to find a picture of one to show you. I couldn’t find one, but they must be available for purchase somewhere because I have had students bring them in.
Seam Ripper, they are inexpensive and are available in 3″ or 6″ lengths. Get what feels most comfortable in your hand (the 3″ length becomes 6″ long when you put the cap on the end.) You will need this tool and it is less than $2. If you don’t mind spending $5, Clover makes a really nice seam ripper that is strong, fine and sharp. Do not purchase the two-tone pink seam ripper from JoAnn’s. They are very dull.
Chacoliner, this is a marking tool that comes in 4 different colors and can be refilled. It works very smoothly. There is a little wheel at the tip that distributes a fine line of chalk across your fabric, which is easy to remove by brushing it off. I suggest purchasing the white color and then others if you end up liking it. Do not buy the one (not pictured here) by Fons & Porter, it does not roll at all well.
6 ft retractable tape measure, an optional but very handy item that only costs about $3. Not to be confused with a metal tape measure from the hardware store. The one that I am referring to is a flexible, coated fabric, tape measure. The casing is usually plastic. If you purchase one, I recommend the Hoescht brand. If you plan to make clothing, you do need to have one of these.
Before coming to the first session, go through all your sewing items and mark them with your initials or name. This includes your sewing machine, cords, pedal, etc. You’d be surprised how easy it is to mix yours up with someone elses’. And if you leave it here, it will help me know whose it is.