Explaining Useful Notions to a Teenager

useful notionsMy daughter asked me a funny question the other day.  “Mother, you keep using that word ‘notions', so what is a notion anyway??”  Unfortunately, I can't quite replicate the teenage tone that blends mild sarcasm with a whiff of indifference.  I think there was a little sideways shake of the head too, but I usually try to ignore that..  I'm sure those with teenage daughters will know what I mean.  I thought, well, this might be a good topic for a quick article.

When I began to do some research, I started to understand why my daughter might not instantly understand the term.  After all, when I checked the definition of the word in Dictionary.com, the meaning I was referring to was way down at the bottom and number six on the list of potential meanings of the word:

  1. notions, small articles, as buttons, thread, ribbon, and other personal items, especially such items displayed together for sale, as in a department store.

So if you, like I had to, need to explain what useful notions are to a daughter or granddaughter, I thought I'd put together some thoughts on what are the of the most important and useful notions she should start putting together for her own sewing room.  This was how I explained it:

The sewing aisles of a department store can offer an endless list of notions which you can use to maintain your wardrobe and provide quick-fix solutions for when things fall apart. Even if you are not a keen stitcher, having a well stocked sewing kit will make the difference between looking great, and conjuring the word ‘bedraggled' when you enter a room.

If you're starting from little more than a dodgy needle stuck in a reel of white cotton, and don't know where to begin building your kit, here are five essential notions that will help save you from any wardrobe malfunction:

useful notions1. Safety pins.

An essential for any handbag, safety pins are the ultimate fashion saver. When a zip breaks or a button pops, safety pins will hold you together until you get home. For those times when there just isn't enough time to re-stitch a hem, a few simple safety pins can save the day and get you out the door on time. Once you've pinned the fabric back in place, cover any tell-tale signs of your handiwork by painting the exposed metalwork with a touch of nail varnish or a marker pen.

Useful Notions2. Button jar.

It's more than an irritation when a button pops off your shirt and skitters off across the floorboards, never to be seen again. Often it can lead you to weigh up whether it is worth replacing the entire run of them, or having one mismatched button which glares at you accusingly from the back of the wardrobe. To avoid this heart-wrenching choice, keep a supply ready to go. Very often you'll find a spare sewn onto the care tag. Snip it off and store it away in a glass jar (the better to see all your collection with). Also, make a habit of harvesting any buttons on clothing that you intend to throw away. You never know which garment will be in need of them in the future.

Useful Notions3. Lint roller.

Nothing ruins a look more than a jacket covered in lint. Make sure you keep a lint roller handy by your front door for last-minute cleanups before you head out, and a second one tucked away in your desk drawer, just in case you need to remove the crumbs of evidence from your desk-bound lunch before a big meeting. If your roller has run dry, never fear as wrapping a strip of sticky tape around your hand (sticky side out) can serve as an excellent replacement in a pinch.

Useful Notions4. Fasteners.

We all have them, that one garment that we bought without properly trying on, and failed to return in time. Thankfully, sometimes all they need is a little ingenuity to bring them out into general wardrobe rotation. A shirt that gaps at the bust can be saved by a simple snap, while a skirt that is a little too baggy around the waist needs little more than a hook and bar stitched into the band.

Useful Notions5. Fabric scissors.

While having multiple pairs of scissors lying around your home may seem like a dreadful waste, you will soon come to recognize what a boon it has to have a pair dedicated to your clothes. Just think of the number of times you've picked up a pair, only to find the blades covered with glue, or dirty from cutting open a packet of sauce earlier that day. This pair will help you out when you have a hanging thread or a stitched up pocket that needs unpicking, without causing any more fuss than it needs to.

Once you have these items in place, you'll be able to rescue all those garments that got forgotten just for lack of love and care. If in doubt, you can always approach one of the lovely members of staff in a small sewing shop, who given the right prompting will preach for hours on the value of seam rippers, fabric adhesive, and snag repair needles.

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Great start on explaining notions. Having grown up making my own clothes from a pattern, it was widely known to read the ‘notions’ section on the back to know what items other than thread and fabric to buy to get the desired item completed, e.g. a 12″ zipper, 1/4″ elastic, 1 yard of lace. This is how I learned what a notion would be defined.

Mayra Cecilia
Noble Member
Reply to  Donna

Thanks for sharing Donna. I can only imagine the wonderful things you are capable of. Please when you get a chance share some photos.


Way back in the day, my Home Ec teacer explained the tools were little things you used over and over again (scissors, bobbins, pins) while notions were consumed while sewing (thread, buttons, zippers). Made sense to me.

Mayra Cecilia
Noble Member
Reply to  Diana

And sadly there is no more Home Ec….we need to bring back those days!

Trinity Benson
Trinity Benson

I really liked this article, as a beginner i wasn’t exactly sure what notions meant either, and it also made me laugh!

Mayra Cecilia
Noble Member
Reply to  Trinity Benson

You are welcome Trinity 🙂