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Earlier I shared my must-have list for jewelry DIY projects. And now I’m following up with this list for sewing DIY projects! (These Must-Have Tools for DIY lists are on my DIY Resources page if you’re looking for them.)

My mother taught me to sew back when I was 8 or 9 or so. My first project was a lopsided white stuffed bear with a face that looked both happy and sad at the same time. Since then, I’ve graduated to using and eventually purchasing a serger, learning how to use an industrial sewing machine, and even sewing my prototypes for my short-lived clothing line back in 2007. I love using patterns and making patterns, stitching things together from scratch and upcycling pieces, and basically letting my imagination run wild. Some of my favorite projects that I’ve shared on this blog have been my Cute Summer ShirtDress (the very project that launched my focus on DIY here on Chic Steals!), my Men’s XLSweatshirts to Blouson Top project, and more recently my Ballroom Skirt from a Shower Curtain. Here is my recommended list of really great tools for DIY Sewing Projects:

1. Seam Ripper

You.Must.Have.A.Seam.Ripper. You need it to rip back or to take apart pieces to be cannibalized, to fix stitches…this is vital to creating a perfectly-sewn piece (even if it didn’t work out the first time around).

2. Rotary Cutter

Perfect for cutting uber-straight lines, this is my favorite tool to get things cut out in a flash. (Don’t forget the cutting mat to go with it!) I like the OLFA but Fiskars makes a good version too.

3. Chalk Pencil

This marking pencil is my absolute favorite since it makes super-precise lines and works just like a mechanical pencil. LOVE.

4. Extra Bobbins + Bobbin Case

Who ever has enough bobbins when they’re sewing?? (I’ve been known to wind a new color thread on top of a half-filled bobbin when I’ve run it…which is definitely not a best practice.) Though you of course have to get the correct type for your machine, these ones are my favorite for my Singer. Plus a little case to keep them in will keep them neat and tidy instead of a tangled mess!

5. Sharp, Sharp Sewing Scissors

El-cheapo scissors won’t cut it (literally) if you do a lot of cutting and sewing. Prepare to spend around $30+ for an excellent pair of Gingher or Singer scissors, and they will last you a lifetime. (Just never, ever, EVER cut anything else besides fabric with them [especially paper]…this will dull them like nobody’s business.

6. Sharp, Sharp Pins + Emery-filled Pincushion

I’ve found that certain “decorative”-style pins aren’t all that sharp, and the round-headed ones tend to cause bumps when pinning a pattern to fabric in order to cut. I prefer the extra-sharp flower-headed pins so the pattern isn’t puckering and lifting, and they don’t get in the way of the machine foot so much. Plus an emery-filled pincushion to keep them all corralled is a must. You can also DIY your emery pincushion by following a tutorial here.

7. Hem Tape

Though I prefer to sew whenever possible, some stitchery DIY’s can be accomplished quite easily with permanent Hem Tape instead. (See my DIY J. Crew Sporty Pants and my DIY Windowpane Sweatshirt for example.) This hem tape is just great.

8. Curved Nail Scissors

I love love love these scissors! (They also appear on my Must-Have Tools for Jewelry DIY’ing list.) That’s how much I love them! They work great as thread snips if you don’t feel like investing in those, and help you poke holes and cut perfect buttonholes (just be careful of the curved edges).

9. Pattern Notcher

I fell in love with this tool when creating my clothing line, and again at the clothing factory I interned at in Portland. Normally you’d notch your patterns and fabric at center front and center back, and when matching sleeves. I don’t like using the scissors to notch, because often the cut is not easily visible in the fabric, and sometimes I notch too deeply, straight through the line of stitching. NOT GOOD. With a pattern notcher, it goes through the fabric in a lovely V- or rectangle shape and won’t go deeper than 1/4″, so no chance of ruining your stitching. It’s easy to see and looks professional, plus it can be used to notch the seam allowance of curved stitching. I LOVE IT and highly recommend it.

10. Pattern Weights

Usually I’d use any old thing laying around (my water glass, the sleeping dog, my glasses, the very scissors I actually need to cut with)…but having a group of dedicated pattern weights is extremely useful. You could of course DIY them and make them utterly cute, too.

11. Variety of Machine Feet

Though the project will often dictate what feet you need, I find myself reaching for the same ones over and over again. My Zipper Foot, Ruffler, Narrow Hem Foot, Butttonholer, and Teflon Foot (for leather/suede) help me stitch up a variety of projects with professional results. (the pack pictured is for low-shank machines)

12. Turn-It-All

I absolutely adore this kit I bought awhile ago. It’s for turning thin tubes of fabric (like for spaghetti straps, waist-ties, decorative tubing, and more). I often use the long thin metal rod in place of an awl for holding fabric under my machine foot, and for poking corners out and turning pieces right-side-out in general. I highly recommend this!

Any extra sewing tools that you can’t live without? Let me know in the comments!


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