Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Lowdown: Sewing Kit

A bad workman blames it on his tools. Although, so does a good workman.

The right tools really do make all the difference. You can be as good as you like but if you have a bad quality sewing kit the whole thing really will go wrong. I really wouldn't recommend going out and buying an all singing, all dancing '1000 piece sewing kit'.  The parts won't be very well made and you will end up having to replace the whole thing within a couple of years (if you're lucky). Instead, invest in separate pieces that suit you and you feel happy using. You will end up spending more in the long run but this kit will last you a lifetime and give you many happy memories.

1. Measuring
So there isn't really much to say here apart from you need a measuring tape. Any haberdashery or amazon will sell you one for about £2. Try and get one that measures in both centimeters and inches just because it's quite handy (body measurements for example are usually done in inches for example).

2. Marking
Tailor's chalk is the way forward here. You can also buy pens that do the same job but I find that the chalk rubs off and blends better overall. Again haberdasheries or amazon will provide. Make sure you buy a set of four colours so that you can make marks on all colours of fabric. I also really like chalk wheels but I've only ever seen them in white which makes them a bit less useful on pale fabrics.

3. Cutting
Ok, so I can go on about good fabric scissors for days. Good cutting tools will become the absolute base of your kit. It has become a firm rule in my house that if I discover anyone using my fabric shears to cut anything other than fabric and all hell will break loose. If you cut paper with fabric scissors you will blunt the blades and within a very short time they will be good for nothing. Your fabric scissors should be a lifetime investment that you learn to cherish.
Fabric shears are a very personal thing. Metal handles or plastic handles? What size? What make? What price? Mine are metal handled, 8 inch blades made by Premax and cost about £20 from amazon. What really drew me to these was that they are slightly smaller than the usual fabric shears. This means that they are a little bit lighter and makes cutting out lots of fabric in one go a bit easier. If you've never bought fabric shears before I would recommend going into your local haberdashery and having a look at some in the flesh to find out what feels right. Around £20 should get you a decent pair that will last for many years to come. Some of the best advice I was given about scissors is 'Don't get the cheapest but don't get the most expensive either'.

Next up are embroidery scissors. These are super small super sharp scissors that you can use to cut thread cleanly to make threading your needle easier. These are less important than your fabric shears but are generally very handy. About £5 will pick you up a decent pair and if you want to go super traditional why not go for some of these. Again I bought mine from amazon (what would we do without that wondrous website).

Finally are pinking shears. These are used to neaten the edge of a seam, leaving a zig-zag pattern and stopping it form fraying. Not necessarily essential to every sewer's kit but I find them very handy possibly because I'm a lazy sewer who can't be bothered to finish seams properly. Again around £20 will buy you a decent pair.

4. Fastening
So of course the key part of sewing is the fastening the pieces together bit. First, you have to consider the temporary fastening before the actual sewing. Pins are the best way to do this and any sewer will have many a pot of these! Again don't buy the cheapest ones you can find otherwise you'll get a load of unsharpened pins that damage your fabric (I've made that mistake...).

A good old fashioned needle and thread is another method here. Used for both tacking and finishing touches like hems, any sewer is going to have a stash of needles and thread. Again make sure you buy needles that are sharp so you don't damage the fabric and try to get decent thread, Gutermann thread tends to be my go to.

I think it's always a good idea to keep a few buttons and zips about the place just because they're handy for repairs as well as those spontaneous weekend projects. Nylon zips tend to be the standard although there are now a bigger range of metal ones if you want to make more of a statement with an exposed zip. Buttons of course come in all shapes sizes, colours, materials and everything else. The ones I keep in my kit tend to be slightly plainer just so they go with anything.

5. The Machine
A sewing machine is possibly one of the most important parts of your kit. John Lewis can sell you one for around £50 although I don't know if it's actually any good. They're also quite small meaning that big projects might be made a bit more difficult. As it is you can spend anything up to thousands on a sewing machine but that's not really needed. For a beginner's sewing machine I would suggest going to your local sewing machine shop and trying a few different models out. Another option is to find out about reconditioned machines. These are often very well built and although older have been looked after over the years meaning that they'll last for a very long time without costing you the world.
My sewing machine (a Frister Rossman 66) was given to me by my grandmother. She had bought it in the seventies or the eighties and hadn't been used for decades. I got it serviced just to make sure that it was in full working order and then got sewing. Honestly, this is the best sewing machine I have ever used! It's very smooth and the whole feel of it is quality. Maybe reconditioned is the way to go. You might have to get used to manual tension control but I didn't find that too tough.

I hope this post has been helpful for anyone who wants to start sewing but doesn't know exactly where to begin!

Happy sewing!


1 comment:

  1. Certainly, this is true. Good tools are essential. Have a good week. Looking foward to see more about your sewing projects.