Today we’re going to continue the tour of my favorite sewing tools. If you missed the first installment, it’s right here.
Correct and careful pressing is one of the most important parts of sewing. (Which is why I almost had a heart attack when I got my handmade silk blouse back from the dry cleaner a while back, flattened, creased, and practically ruined, but that’s another story for another day.) Anyway, let’s talk about something happier — good sewing is aided by good pressing. And for the best pressing, you need the best pressing aids, which you’ll never want to live without once you try them.
One of my best sewing tools is my great-grandmother’s sleeve board, a present from my grandmother (thanks, Nanny!). This baby is solid wood, and, barring unforeseen natural disaster, will probably last until the end of the world. A sleeve board is great not just for (obviously) pressing sleeves, but for all kinds of small things that won’t fit over the end of your ironing board. Also, this way you won’t have to press unsightly creases into the sleeves of your aforementioned handmade silk blouse (attention, accursed drycleaner!!!).
I also like to use the wider side of this sleeve board (the bottom side in the photo) for small projects when I’m too lazy to pull out my big iron board — I just plunk this thing down, press the item, and we’re done.
Next, here are some other beloved tools. If you intend to do anything with wool or thick, stubborn fabrics, a wooden tailor clapper is a great little thing to have. I picked mine up from a yard sale, I think, from someone who obviously had never tried using it (or it wouldn’t have been in the yard sale!). When you press a seam that just doesn’t want to behave, that’s when this comes into play. You load up the seam really good with steam from your iron, and then as soon as you lift the iron, you SMACK that seam with your tailor’s clapper and hold it down for a few seconds. Voila! Perfectly pressed. And good for relieving frustration, too.
Two of my other indispensables are the seam roll and ham (the plaid pieces in the picture). The ham is used for pressing anything that’s not flat (darts, curves, etc.). You can turn it any number of ways to align it correctly with the item being pressed. The seam roll is for preventing that unsightly seam allowance imprint that sometimes tries to show through on the right side of a garment. When you press over the roll instead of flat on your ironing board, the curve ensures that you’re pressing only the seam, and not the areas surrounding it. Hence, no unsightly seam allowance imprint!
Now that we can press everything to perfection, on to other areas.
One of the best items in my entire sewing room is the flexible clear ruler with blue guidelines. Another beautiful little tool that I learned from my professor Mrs. Bates, this tool is invaluable for pattern alterations, changing seam allowances, marking, measuring seam allowances, and practically everything else. What makes it so much better than a regular ruler is that you can lay it over the item to be marked and see exactly where you’re marking. I particularly like it for cutting bias strips — just lay it on your fabric, hold it in place, and zip your rotary cutter down one edge! I’m having a hard time finding it online, but I bought it in the quilting notions section at Joann’s. A word to the wise: Don’t leave it in the car in the summer, or it will warp irreversibly. (Yes, I found this out the hard way.) Same with the Olfa rotary mats — even if they’re lying flat (again, I know this from expensive personal experience). Buy one next time you’re out. Better yet, buy two.
Another of my favorite things — one I got totally addicted to while working at David’s Bridal — is my Grabbit magnetic pincushion. I have two of them now. It’s an amazing time-saver to be able to just chuck your pins towards it while sewing, instead of having to poke them all back into the pincushion (no, I’m not being lazy — I’m being efficient). Also, if you spill pins — even on your carpet — you just kinda swoop the Grabbit over the pins, and it kindly picks them all up for you.
Additionally, you’ll want to try quilting pins (shown on the Grabbit above). Again, something we used at David’s Bridal. They’re longer and thinner than most sewing pins (and don’t snag things), and also have larger heads so they’re easier to grab. The Grabbit comes with a few of them when you buy it; if you need more (and I always do), they’re in little clear boxes in the quilting notions department. I’ve tried at least four different types of pins, and these are clearly the winners.
That wraps it up for today! Come back next time to hear about some crazy nice thread for hand sewing, and a few other odds and ends.