When I started sewing, everything took me far too long. Yet, over time I have gained more skills and also collected a few tools that really simplify my work and make sewing much easier and faster. In this blog post, I will share with you my favourite tools I use most frequently and that I find really helpful.
- Double tracing wheel
- Dressmaker’s tracing paper
- Pen style chaco liner
- Rotary cutter
- Presser foot with a ruler
- Blind stitch presser foot
- Clover fork pins
1. Double tracing wheel – helps you with seam allowances
How could I possibly work without this amazing tracing wheel? It consists of two adjustable wheels enabling you to draw two parallel lines at the same time. The distance between them can be set to 0,5 cm, 1 cm, 1,5 cm, 2,0 cm, 2,5 cm or 3,0 cm (1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, 5/8 inch, 3/4 inch, 1 inch, 1 3/16 inch). It is also possible to remove one of the wheels and use it as a classic tracing wheel (see the image below).
The wheels have round teeth and as such they do not leave holes in the fabric or paper with the pattern on it. Another advantage is that I no longer need to cope with seam allowances. I usually set the wheels to 1 cm (0 3/8 inch) or 1,5 cm (0 5/8 inch) apart for seam allowances and 3 cm (inch) apart for jacket or trouser hems when I trace a pattern. The inner line indicates where I should stitch, the outer line where I should cut the fabric.
Therefore this tracing wheel makes work super quick and easy along with my next much appreciated aid -dressmaker’s tracing paper.
2. Dressmaker’s tracing paper – for transferring pattens quickly
Dressmaker’s tracing paper is the best friend of my double tracing wheel. It never rests. I am unable to recall the time when I transferred any pattern without it. With multiple-sized patterns on one paper, it is a huge help. I usually print out my patterns on my home printer and sew three different sizes of one garment for my kids. It is possible to use it many times – in fact as long as there is enough coloured material on it. So, how to use it?
a) Lay the tracing paper with the coloured side up. (The creases on this one are prominent as it has just been unfolded. Those will partially disappear after a few usages.)
b) Place your design fabric wrong side on the tracing paper.
c) Place your pattern on the top of the two above-mentioned layers (i.e. tracing paper and fabric) and follow the selected pattern piece with your tracing wheel. Lift the fabric, you will see the required shape on its wrong side.
d) Cut out the pattern piece. If the traced pattern is just one half of the whole piece, such as a sleeve, cut all the lines apart from the central one. Keep in mind the seam allowance which means that you need to cut along the outer lines! DO NOT CUT THE INNER TRACED LINES.
e) Bend the fabric precisely at the center of the pattern piece as indicated by two arrows on the pattern piece (as you can see in the image c) and trace a line along the cut out part. Use a water soluble sharpie or tailor’s chalk. I use my chaco liner.
f) Traced and cut out sleeve.
As I sew mainly for my family and myself, I use directly the patterns I have printed out. This really speeds up the whole process of transferring the pattern pieces to fabric.
3. Pen style chaco liner – universal marking tool
I use this pen style liner mostly when making a copy of a pattern piece I have already cut out such as a sleeve or a pocket. I trace the edges of the piece to the fabric . It is perfect when I need to economise with the fabric and have to use every centimeter or inch (see the image below). Of course, you can use it for any type of marking on the fabric.
Its filling is really long-lasting while additional refill is also available. I have to admit I have not refilled mine yet, although it has been well-used for about a year.
The liner is available in various colours, so you can choose white, blue, pink, grey or yellow.
4. Rotary cutter – versatile cutting tool
Rotary cutters come in various sizes. I have three different ones and use mostly the biggest one. The reason for this is that I cut straight long lines frequently. The small one is great for cutting out small rounded pieces of fabric.
Rotary cutters made by Clover are adjustable both for right- and left-handed users.
I use the rotary cutter in a very similar way as the liner, usually for softshell or other thick fabrics. I take a cut out pattern piece, put it on the fabric and directly cut out the new piece. One has to be careful not to cut through the piece that is already cut out, so be cautios there.
Rotary cutter is also really helpful when you want to cut out perfectly straight lines. Place the ruler along the line you are about to cut and go ahead. The result will be flawless, just be careful not to move the ruler 🙂 (see the image below).
When using a rotary cutter, always make sure you are working on a cutting mat.
5. Presser foot with a ruler – versatile for any sewing project
This presser foot is amazing when sewing parallel lines of stitching for creative projects like faux chenille technique, top-stitching seams or stitching a specific distance from the edge of the fabric.
You may notice in the image above that I have marked one of the signs on the ruler with a black sharpie. It indicates 1 cm (0 3/8 inch) seam allowance. This is really practical when sewing curved seams and the fabric covers the markings on your sewing machine.
This presser proved enormously useful when I was sewing ribbons to our Mexican Jalisco skirts where the ribbons have to be sewn straight and parallel to each other (see the images below).
What else to add? It is a very versatile presser foot, my favourite one which I recommend highly.
6. Blind stitch presser foot – great for hemming and topstitching
To be honest with you, I hardly use the blind stitch foot to sew a blind stitch. Instead, I use it frequently for topstitching seams or narrow hems. If you make a lot of sportswear, where usually most of the seams are topstitched, you will really appreciate it. Only adjust the presser foot and sew (see the image below).
A great advantage of this presser foot is its adjustable guide which helps feeding the fabric smoothly into the sewing machine and keeping your stitch straight. On the other hand, it can only be set to 0,5 cm (0 3/8 inch) from the needle at the most. In my eyes, this is a minor disadvantage of this helpful equipment.
7. Clover fork pins – never slip out of fabric
These fork pins are amazing and really useful little tools by Clover. I use them for various purposes.
a) Assembling pattern pieces where multiple seams (usually four) meet. Typically, crotches and armholes to make the seams form a really nice cross (see the images below with scraps of fabric). I do not take these pins out while sewing and sew right through them. This way the fabrics do not move and the result is perfect. The only thing that you need to care about is that the seams are nicely aligned.
b) When sewing an elastic waistband, I pin these fork pins to the waist band and fabric instead of classic ones. When you sew the elastic waist band, you have to slightly stretch the elastic band. These pins hold the elastic band to the fabric really well and do not slip out even if you stretch the band as much as possible.
c) While draping, sometimes classic pins tend to slip out of the fabric from time to time. The fork pins, however, hold the fabric more strongly. This is why I use them mainly for draping fitted bodices where the classic pins proved less reliable.
Conclusion: How To Sew Faster And Easier With These Tools?
Dear reader, no matter what kind of activity one wants to begin with, we all wish to be successful and efficient. Having a good set of tools is a great contribution to your success. Hence, my experience. Use it, enjoy your progress and come back with your questions or comments. What tools do you use?