The notions department of a sewing and crafts store holds a wide variety of items that can enable anyone to sew faster and/or better. Here are some of the best tools and gadgets.
Measuring and Cutting
Accurate measuring and cutting prevent time-consuming errors. Retractable tape measures are inexpensive, so keep one in your purse for shopping, on the cutting table, and at the sewing machine. Having a measuring device handy at all times eliminates the temptation to “just eyeball” a measurement and possibly make a mistake that will require ripping.A T-square is not just a drafting tool. Use one to straighten fabric at the cutting table. This tool is also great for marking simple rectangular pieces such as ruffles, quilt borders, or skirt tiers–much quicker than pinning a tissue pattern for cutting.Scissor sharpeners are a good investment. Prevent downtime while your best shears are at the shop getting sharpened. Dull shears make cutting slow and aggravating, delaying the pleasure of sewing. Shears should glide through layers of fabric without hesitation.
Pattern weights hold tissue patterns in place during cutting. Placing weights is faster than pinning and unpinning pieces. When pins are needed, don't use dull ones. Synthetic fabrics dull pins after a while, so toss pins when they no longer pierce fabric with ease. A new box of sharp pins is a simple pleasure and a time saver.
Marking and Basting
Skirt markers come in several styles. The clamp and pin enable you to sit on the floor and mark an even distance from the floor with perfectly placed pins while your model slowly rotates. What if you need to mark your own skirt? In this case, get a model that sprays a thin line of chalk. You stand next to the hem marker while holding a small plastic bulb. As you turn in place, squeeze the bulb at intervals to mark a line parallel to the floor.
Tailor's chalk comes in squares and makes a clear mark, yet disappears when touched with an iron. You need not be a professional tailor to enjoy the convenience of this chalk for marking buttonholes, pocket placement, or roll lines for lapels. It comes in white or various colors and lasts a long time. Unlike dressmaker pencils, it needs no sharpening.
Thimbles may seem old-fashioned, but they are indispensable for safely pushing needles through multiple fabric layers. While they feel awkward to an inexperienced user, they are far less awkward than the discomfort of pushing a needle through a fingertip–ouch! Try a thimble with an open end or a flexible leather thimble if you dislike the standard style. Be sure to get one that fits.
Extra bobbins are inexpensive and allow you to wind several at the beginning of a project instead of stopping to wind an empty bobbin in the middle of a seam. Prewound bobbins are available in white, clear monofilament, and other basic colors. Get the right style for your machine and zip through large projects with no winding at all.
Extra sewing machine needles should always be available near your machine. Keep boxes of the size you use most–stock up whenever there is a sale. Be sure to have the right needle for each project: ballpoint for sewing knits, sharp for firm woven fabrics, embroidery for thicker decorative threads. Often problems with skipped stitches or jammed bobbins can be fixed simply by changing needles.
Have we missed any time saving sewing notions? Please let us know in the comments below. We'd really love to hear from you.