Every sewer needs a few more tools besides their sewing machine! Oddly enough, the hardest part about sewing is the preparation. The most basic sewing tools are for measuring and cutting which need to be done with precision. Getting the steps right leading up to the actual sewing part are essential for having your project be a success. So choosing tools that help you achieve this most effectively are key. In general, I found choosing the best quality tools when possible are always a better value than going with cheaper ones first. It’s also likely you will need various types of the same kinds. It’s unfortunately necessary that you will need many tools. So choosing wisely is a task in itself. Here are the tools I feel every home sewer needs to get started. See Where To Buy: Sewing Supplies for where to get it all!
Dressmaker Shears or Fabric Scissors, 8″
Gingher 8″ Dressmaker Shears are highly recommended. I have Mundial 7″ Dressmaker Shears and I can feel the difference. I chose them for the size and price. Choose the best ones you can afford for these. You will be doing a lot of cutting and cutting neatly and accurately is key. So a nice pair of Ginghers are invaluable. To me, a Rotary Cutter for all cutting needs is ideal, the smooth precision is unbeatable and I like neat!, but cutting curves with the rotary cutter is a more advanced technique which will take more practice (and smaller-sized blades and a humongous self-healing mat depending on the piece), so for now Dressmaker Shears are most effective.
Kpixie.com carries a wonderful collection of exquisite and exquisitely curated yarns! They specialize in hard to find yarns and patterns for knit or crochet and carry some lovely tools and notions too. From Olympus, Loop D Loop, Blue Sky Alpaca, Spud and Chloe, Louet to Classic Elite brands. And the most unique and sophisticated lines from each. I found Kpixie when I discovered Make Make Yarn, a cute variegated yarn made by Olympus Japan. You can find them all at Kpixie.com along with great knitted up samples displaying just how these variegated yarns knit up.
Make Make Yarn about $18 a ball – 90% wool, 10% mohair . dk weight . 25 g / 68 yds / ball
Oliver+S, known for their lovely illustrated childrens patterns, gave away a free skirt pattern not too long ago on their blog: www.oliverands.com/blog. Their cute site and easy to follow patterns are great for the budding sewer.
An easy, no-pattern, sewing pattern for an elastic waist dirndl-style skirt from Oliver + S, The Lazy Days Skirt. http://www.oliverands.com/blog/2008/08/lazy-days-skirt-free-pattern.html [pdf] Easily modified to make an adult garment!
Starting November 30th – December 30th BurdaStyle.com will be giving away a new prize each day! From really great brands too! All you have to do is check the BurdaStyle Blog – www.burdastyle.com/blog everyday and make sure to make a comment to win! Here are some wonderful prizes you can win:
- Blumenthal Lansing
Coats & Clark
Jen Darling Bags
“The DIYcouture collection consists of twelve simple, classic pieces that can be almost endlessly re-invented.”
DIY Couture, London publishes sewing patterns to die for!! DIY Couture patterns feature simple visual instructions (no sewing patterns!) doing away with having to learn to read and cut patterns the old fashioned way. Making it accessible for even the non-sewer to try their hand at making their own clothes. Every single item above is sewable by you! Get inspired! Get off your computers! Handcraft your own heirloom garments while supporting the “slow revolution”. OMG! Heart it!! Here are my samples for Gathered Dress and Pleated Skirt.
Single Patterns are $14
Two Patterns are $25
Three Patterns are $35
Every sewer needs a pattern! As a beginning sewer it’s much easier (and more effective) to work with a pre-drafted pattern than to draft your own. Here are some of the most popular sewing pattern publishers. They have wonderful designs for both the beginner and the advanced sewer. Many of these publishers’ vintage patters are coveted by pattern junkies or anyone looking for inspiration from fashions of yore.
They have a huge variety of great designs, including a Learn To Sew Series of patterns. Great sales, and great prices too. This is my favorite sewing pattern publisher. I like how easy it is to browse and research all their different patterns on their site. They also carry tools and notions for sewing, knitting, and crochet!
More classic design patterns. Most similar to Simplicity. Bonus: They feature a pattern every week for $2.99. Published by McCall’s Pattern Co.
More younger contemporary design patterns. They also have sewing craft patterns. Bonus: They feature a pattern every week for $2.99. The pattern can be either craft or apparel. Published by McCall’s Pattern Co.
They feature fashion-forward couture designs. More for the advanced sewer looking for a specific design or fashion. Bonus: They feature a pattern every week for $4.99. Published by McCall’s Pattern Co.
From Burda Style! With lots of free patterns.
Pattern Review has a huge cache of patterns from all of the above publishers and more! Like Amy Butler, Oliver + S, and Sew Liberated!
Science can be cute! Here is a crocheted representation of a hyperbolic plane taken from Science News. In 1997, two mathematicians, Daina Taimina and David Henderson from Cornell University’s Department of Mathematics, were looking for a way to make durable models for illustrating the unusual shapes in hyperbolic geometry. So Daina began experimenting with knitting and crochet in order to accurately demonstrate these principles visually in 3 dimensions. Pretty! Her original paper, including the crochet pattern, is here. Daina also published a crochet book of here designs, Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina.
Research scientists like Hinke M. Osinga and Bernd Krauskopf,as seen on the left, from the Bristol Centre for Applied Nonlinear Mathematics, UK also turned to crochet to accurately illustrate chaos theory principles like this Lorenz Manifold.
It took Osinga 25,511 crochet stitches and about 85 hours! Boing Boing did a few write-ups on the above here Knitting Mathematics and here Chaotic Crochet. Extra cool is that they used their computer algorithms to create the crochet pattern.
So what’s a hyperbolic plane? In general, it’s the opposite of a sphere or ball. I think they resemble the curves and curls in a sea coral!
I had a terrible time looking for cheapie general craft supplies for my holiday projects. Poly-fill, googly eyes, black safety eyes, felt etc. Maybe I want a random bag of popsicle sticks or pipe cleaners!? So sue me!
You’d be hard pressed to find a good (if any) cheapie all-purpose crafts supply store here in New York. There are plenty of specialty and boutique stores for fine art but they’re usually more specialized (for fine art/architecture/design), high-end/pricey, while at the same time not having many options! Besides, who wants to go to 8 different stores just for poly-fill, googly eyes, felt etc? For better or worse, megastores like Joann or Michael’s are a rare beast here. But that’s New York for you sometimes.
However, there does in fact exist a single Michael’s on the isle of Manhattan which I think just opened up. And it’s located way up in the 100′s on the Upper West Side. The Garment District is decent for fabric arts but overrated. It’s grimy and dingy to start. I wouldn’t mind if it was worth it. But some stores are just extremely poor excuses for stores, selection-wise and service-wise. I’m not looking for corset boning just yet! Store hours are generally not work friendly or consistent. In general, it takes a lot of pavement pounding and teeth pulling in the Garment District to get what you’re looking for and doesn’t live up to its mecca status.
Michael’s Arts & Crafts
808 Columbus Avenue (near 100th St.)
New York, NY 10025-5139
Large and jam-packed with a good basic selection of a myriad of crafts for economy to mid-range quality supplies and tools. The prices are decent for those ranged goods. Not very specialized in each category, but extremely decent. It’s a veritable cheapie emporium for almost everything you can think of. Wooden dowels? Check. T-square? Check. Yarn? Beads? Flower foam? Check. And in Manhattan that’s a gem. Customer service is non-existent. So you are left to wander around the store for 30 minutes before you find the poly-fill in a very hidden and hard to get to spot. The sewing section is poor. Also note, they do not carry fabric here.
Fashion Design Bookstore @ FIT
250 W27th St. (7th & 8th Ave.)
New York, NY 10001
An art supply store with a wealth of sewing supplies, tools, and notions!
They even had poly-fill and a few sewing patterns! My #1 choice for sewing supplies so far.
Utrecht Art Supply Center
215 Lexington Ave (11th & 12th)
New York, NY
This was one of the first patterns I tried when I got back into knitting several years ago. It came free with the Noro Transitions Yarn I bought from Yarn Connection. I’ve since lost the pattern but it’s very easy. It makes a long skinny scarf and leaves a pointy end – like when you cut a ribbon diagonally!
2 Skeins Noro Yarn – Transitions
Or any Bulky Weight yarn
Needle – US Size 10.5
Skill Level: Beginner
Cast on 18 sts.
R1: Knit all stitches.
R2: Inc in first st. Knit to last 3 sts. Dec 1. K1.
Repeat R1-R2 until desired length. Bind off.
Total Time: About 3 hours
Try this with any bulky weight yarn of your choice. Or a super bulky weight for sportier scarf and an even quicker knit!
Noro is a beautiful handmade artisan yarn from Japan. On the pricey side at about $25-$32 per skein. The Noro Transitions yarn is made by combining not only different colors but different yarn fibers into a single strand. It knits up beautifully. Sometimes I get a patch of heathers, sometimes I get a patch of angora etc. It’s really beautiful. And a great way to make an easy quick knit scarf like this extra special. This yarn was discontinued in 2006 (sad face) but Noro still lives on and continues to make beautiful yarns.
Lulu Louise Crafts + Design has made the same exact design using Noro Yarn as well! It’s from a different line of Noro Yarns called “Iro”. Here’s some great close-up pictures she posted on her site. She has a lovely craft blog too including some great free patterns.