Sewing Blog

5 Common Household Items Every Sewing Room Needs

Sewing requires an abundance of tools to both conduct the craft as well as to make certain tasks easy and efficient. In most cases, the local fabric store in your marketplace carries everything one needs to sew whether its for sewing clothing, crafts or quilts. But, there are a number of common household items that also have a place in your sewing room.

Sewing doesn’t have to be difficult and there are many, common items that can help make any challenging task easier.

Here are the five everyday items you should keep in your sewing room

ball of yarn

1. String

Common household string is handy for a number of basic sewing tasks. It’s a must when fitting the waistline on skirts or pants, and bodices. Whether making muslins or working on the fashion fabric wrapping a length of string around the waist helps to accurately isolate one’s true waistline. Mark where the string sits around the waist for a perfect fit every time.

sewing a shirt
String is also my go-to item when gathering long stretches of fabric. It’s much stronger than regular sewing thread so I don’t have to worry about it breaking when gathering. Use it in place of thread when sewing those two rows of gathering stitches by sewing a zigzag stitch over regular string along the gathering lines.

Use the biggest zigzag your machine will do and be sure not to sew into the string – very important! Once that‘s done, go ahead and gather. The process is lightning fast and the gathers are nice and even.

using yarn in sewing

using yarn to gather fabric
A small piece of string is also useful when sewing zippers. Often when attaching a zipper it needs to be opened (or closed) to get past the zipper tab. This requires the tab to run under the raised zipper foot which sometimes can be a very tight fit. Tying a small piece of string to the tab makes pulling the tab through so much easier.

2. Tape

Regular invisible tape and a roll of painters tape are an absolute must in the sewing room. I keep a roll of ¾” wide blue painters tape at my sewing machine station at all times. It is the secret to achieving a perfectly straight seam. Run a strip of the tape along any desired seam allowance as a guide line and you will never have a wonky seam again.

As for invisible tape, there are simply too many uses to mention. The most obvious reason to keep a roll handy is to complete tissue pattern adjustments. But, one of my favorite ways to use it is to temporarily secure cut seams. How many times have you trimmed off the excess fabric when hemming and the seams begin to open up? Simply tape the seams to hold them in place until the cut edge is permanently sealed with either hem tape, turned under or serged.

how to use tape for sewing
Common tape placed under a regular presser foot is also a great alternative to a Telfon foot when sewing over leather or vinyl. The tape prevents the metal presser foot from sticking to the leather or vinyl. And, it is useful for temporally holding zippers in place before sewing. Center the zipper along the seam line and then use the tape to keep it there when sewing the zipper to the garment.

using tape to help sew a zipper
3. Safety pins

Safety pins are a must for quilters, but they are also good to have on hand for garment sewing. I use the big ones to guide elastic through a casing, but the smaller ones are also great to use as an alternative to marking pens for marking center points or matching points on fabrics like tulle that don’t take to any normal types of marking.

4. Tissue paper

Who doesn’t from time to time have to make alterations to patterns? Common tissue wrapping paper makes the task easy and is the most compatible with the tissue type patterns. I buy mine at my local dollar store. For a dollar I get 50 large sheets that I can use for a wide variety of uses.

I use it primarily to make or copy patterns, but it is a particularly useful aid for sewing sheer or very lightweight fabrics. I cut it into 2” wide strips that I can place under the fabric when machine sewing to prevent stitched seams from puckering.

tissue paper and a rotary cutter tissue paper to help with sewing how to use tissue paper for sewing projects

Placing it at the start of stitching a seam also prevents the light, delicate fabric from sinking into the needle plate.

using tissue paper for sewing delicate fabric

And, it is a must when starting rolled hems on very lightweight fabric. Getting started when sewing a rolled hem with a rolled hem presser foot can be very challenging. The tissue paper helps to stabilize the fabric and prevents it from bunching up as you begin sewing.

5. Flat-head Screwdriver

flat-head screwdriver to help with sewing

This might seem like an unlikely tool to keep on hand other than to use when changing presser feet but I keep one at my sewing machine station and use it all the time. It is especially helpful when sewing thick fabrics.

The flat edge when placed and pressed just in front of the presser foot as you sew helps to compress the thick fabric and can prevent the layers from shifting when sewing. I prefer to use it in place of a seam ripper or small scissors whose sharp points can very easily get in the way of the needle.

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81 Comments

Shellie F.

String, painter’- & invisible-tape, tissue paper, & screwdriver–the most helpful AND readily available sewing tools I’ve heard about in awhile! This has been VERY helpful, and I appreciate it! Thank you for sharing!

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Linda Reynolds

My pleasure. It’s amazing how many uncommon ‘things’ become useful for sewing. Thanks for the comments.

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Karen

I prefer brown kraft paper for pattern drafting, copying and adjusting. It’s stronger than tissue paper. I very much like the tips concerning tape.

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Yvonne M Menere

Another use for invisible tape or ordinary sticky tape is use it to stick buttons on so as they stay in the right place to machine sew on.

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Carol

I love this trick. Thank you!

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Pattie Otto

My husband teases me that my sewing room looks like a hardware store!

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Linda Reynolds

Love that! thanks

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Kim N

I use pliers to squeeze really thick, stiff, multiple layers of denim (like the outside seam when helming through all those layers). Or a hammer to smash those layers a bit.

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Deborah K

Great post with great tips. While I knew about string for gathering the other ideas were new and very helpful. Love the tissue paper tip!

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Linda Reynolds

Thank you. The good news is these items are cheap!

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Janice

Dental floss works well when gathering, also.

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Bunnie

string for gathering can be a bit hard to do…. raid the tackle box .. fishing line works quite well..I keep a spool in my supplies always….

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Kay

Slivers of bar soap are great for transferring pattern markings.

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Linda Reynolds

True. I haven’t used them lately but thanks for the reminder.

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Dale Blackstock

Like Ivory Soap? I use that to cleanse my face before shaving I’ll start saving my soap slivers! 🙂

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Audrey Warren

I find a small paint brush handy to clean fluff from the bobbin area. It stick to the brush and you can clean it off into a waste basket.

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Linda Reynolds

Good advice. Thank you for reading the post.

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Bette

I use a small foam paint brush to clean off those tiny threads after using the seam ripper. Great way to clean up the front of my shirt, too.

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Candy Berg

permanent markers. For when you are sewing or embroidering a pattern and the stitching is not dense enough, you can fill in the background with the markers for a clean line.

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Linda Reynolds

That’s a new one for me, so thanks!

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Barbara

Dental floss can be used also instead of string in gathering. It is very strong and can be pulled through after gathering easily. I also use the dental pick brushes to remove lint from the bobbin case, hook, needle plate, etc especially when sewing fabric with a nap or cat hair! I sometimes use painter’s tape (low residue type) to mark a long seam allowance line on the stitch plate to make it more visible or for weird width seam allowances. And I use a couple of clear plastic two dollar nail and screw organizer snap top boxes with adjustable compartments to store my sewing machine feet and needles which I no longer lose or mislay.

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Linda Reynolds

It’s truly amazing how many unexpected items are good for sewing. I like the dental floss idea. String can be too thick or heavy for lightweight materials. The dental floss is a great alternative. Thanks

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kim Jeffery

I am a bellydancer and use dental floss in my costuming. .it is stronger than beading thread and cheaper.

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Sheryl Wright

I use forceps a lot as they are handy for threading my serger and also for turning ( pulling thru ) bodices and short tubes when sewing doll clothes. All the tips you posted here are ones I have found out on my own for many years of sewing. Great tips ! i just did not think about others not knowing them. I also use masking tape to place on the right side top of the fabric when sewing drapes as have to cut them all one way and some fabrics hard to tell right from wrong side.

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Linda Reynolds

Thanks you for reading the post. I use those forceps as well. Aren’t they awesome.

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Carol Woosley

Linda, from now on I’ll think of you every time I pull a zipper tab with string while sewing. Great tip! So is your “screwdriver stiletto”. Thanks!
I keep a bobbin of heavy duty nylon thread handy for gathering. It is the strongest fiber, and can stay in place without bulk.
Carol

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Linda Reynolds

Like the tip on the heavy duty nylon thread. I have some of that and will use it next time. Thanks.

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Jann from Newton Custom Interiors

These are some great tips! I love the screwdriver tip especially.

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Linda Reynolds

Thank you. Appreciate the comment and happy sewing.

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Lynette

Fantastic & very practical ideas, can’t wait to try them out. Thanks

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Linda Reynolds

You’re welcome. Glad you found them helpful.

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Sara

Great tips! Sturdy 24″ wide tissue paper (tracing paper?) for making patterns can be found at engineering supply stores (and maybe art supply stores). My husband brought some home from work once and one roll lasted me a long time. If you don’t have a local source, there is always the Internet!

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Linda Reynolds

Are you talking about vellum? I had a roll of architect’s drafting paper which I believe was vellum. I was also great for making patterns. Mine wasn’t as wide as yours. Wider is better. Thanks for the reminder.

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Barbara

I use medical table paper 24 inches and on a big roll. Found on the Internet

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Anny

Thanks for the screwdriver tip. I know I’ll be using that!

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Linda Reynolds

You’re welcome. Thanks for the comment.

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Riad Klassen

A very lovely post, thank you for sharing these great ideas, Linda!

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Linda Reynolds

You’re welcome. Thanks for reading the post and your kind comment.

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Tina

All terrific tips! A few of my must havesin the sewing room include freezer paper for ironing on template and designs for appliqué; small squirt bottle filled with water to quickly remove water soluble markings; needle nose pliers for pushing or pulling pins or needles in and out of thick layer of fabrics; beeswax to lubricate threads.

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Linda Reynolds

Wonderful tips as well! Thanks so much for sharing.

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Shirley

Great tips. I use mascara brushes for cleaning the bobbin area of my machine. They are slim, strong and often curved which helps to get into tight places

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Evie Harris

When the screwdriver trick doesn’t work. ..time to use a hammer. An example of use is those very thick seams when shortening jeans. Some seams can have 8 -12 layers of denim to stitch through. After double folding up, hit them with the hammer…flattens them nicely and ready for slow stitching through.

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Kristina

I’d forgotten about that trick, Evie. Plus it helps you work through your sewing frustrations. Thanks for the reminder.

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Kathi

My late husbands mother was a professional seamstress at a store in Lexingron, Ky. She worked on all the riding clothes which can have very heavy seams. She [and the other seamstresses] always had a hammer and a screwdriver at their machines. The screwdriver as a stiletto and the hammer to pound down the really thick seam joints and hemming denim. Those industrial machines are very sturdy and powerful, but quite often they needed the extra ‘help’ of a hammer and screwdriver.

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Sandy Grogg

Great tips .. Also hear one of those waffle pads used for opening jars comes in handy under the foot feed to keep it from sliding across the floor. Saw this tip somewhere and wondered why had never thought of it.

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Beverly Wiggins

A mouse pad under the presser foot prevents sliding.
Another use for dental floss is for sewing buttons on decorative pillows–it’s very strong!
And tweezers are great tools for grasping tiny threads or items.

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June Van Alstyne

Thanks for posting! A few other ideas:
needle nosed pliers – to help pull needles when hand sewing heavy or bulky projects
hammer & small block of wood – for pounding to soften seams in jeans for hemming
metal, retractable ruler – to measure spaces when adding furniture or rearranging the room
small power drill & stone bits – to distress fabric
plastic dollar store tablecloths – to trace patterns for more sturdy patterns to keep

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Dee

I enjoyed reading about all the handy household tips and have one to add. I keep a pair of tweezers handy in a small bucket with my pin cushion and constantly use them along with the ripper tool or for help when threading the sewing machine needle and many other uses. Try keeping tweezers close by and you will find that you will reach for them frequently if not all ready.

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Linda Reynolds

Good to know. Sounds useful. Thanks for reading the post. I am sure there are many other common items that every sewer could use.

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Lisa Schetselaar

I use a new toilet brush (the one with stiff bristles and a sturdy handle) to sweep all the loose threads off the floor before I vacuum. Easier to remove thread from the brush then from the vacuum roller brush.

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Linda Reynolds

what a great idea! I made the mistake of carpeting my sewing studio so every pin that drops to the floor is lost forever until I vacuum them up. I will definitely try this. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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Marlene Bielawski

To pick up pins from carpeting, glue some magnet strips to the bottom of a cheapo Swiffer sweeper from the dollar store. I’m sure you can come up with a better method but you get the idea… just glide the magnet strips over your carpet. I tend to work barefoot so I am very mindful of picking up those pins!

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Moira Leitch

I use one of the flexible cutting sheets – the ones that come in different colours for cutting meat, veg etc – to help when I put zips in and for doing curtain hems.
I put the garment over the ironing board and slide the cutting sheet inside the garment so that I can pin and/or tack the zip in without catching the ironing board. Also useful when I need to fit in zips to even the smallest of garments as the cutting sheet stops me catching the other side of the fabric. Another use for the flexible cutting sheets is when I have to put curtains on the floor to pin the hems – or when I might need to do any pinning while using a polished table. I wouldn’t be without my flexible cutting sheets. Thanks for all your other wonderful tips too..

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Linda Reynolds

I have some of those and love this idea. I will add these to my sewing studio. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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Pat Jackson

I really enjoy reading your tips and comments. The tip about the string zigzag stitched onto fabric when gathering is very helpful. The tip using the flathead screwdriver is also helpful. Thank you.
Pat

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Linda Reynolds

Thanks so much for you comments and for reading the post. I hope the ideas from the others have inspired you as well.

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Pat Jackson

I enjoy reading your posts and comments. The one about using the string when gathering and using the screwdriver when sewing heavy fabric were very helpful. Thank you.
Pat

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Jane Albee

Loved the string for gathering idea – that was new to me. a bamboo skewer makes a great aid for feeding tight seams (like 1/4″ or less) – saves the finger skin! Also moleskin on the pressure plate makes a wonderful straight seam guide.

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Linda Reynolds

Great ideas as well. Thanks for reading the post.

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pat

I get a 2 pack of those sheets at the dollar store

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pat

My Bamboo Skewers are those small pointy sticks they put in Corn on the cob at KFC. Perfect size to go in that little compartment on your sewing machine

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Linda Birch

Great posting! Love the ideas. I also use freezer paper not only for quilting but also for patterns. About permanent makers; I was once in a judged sewing contest and had points taken off for using a regular pencil. Was advised not to use anything that would make permanent marks.

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Marguerita Martini

Great post and many useful tips. Thanks.
A helpful way to keep track of single needles (either machine or conventional needles) is to put them on the back side of a magnetic sticker (the kind businesses give out to customers). The sticker can be held by a clip and put on a pin board. A selection of needles is always to hand. My local vet sends out really big stickers with year-at-a-glance calendars which are particularly good.

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Linda

Great tips in this article AND the comments section! Thank you, everyone.
Here’s my small suggestion: grab one of those magnetic advertisements that often come attached to new phone books (do people still use those?!) and keep it in your sewing box to retrieve loose needles and pins.

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Carmen

These sewing hacks are genius! Thank you for sharing!

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Jan

I place tilers retractable ping line ( im not sure what you call it but its retractable and places a blue chalk line straight) at the height of the hem line I need ,between the door frame, and ping it onto the fabric whilst either on the tailors dummy or on the model. I hope this makes sense x

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Peggy

Chopsticks. I use them when I turn straps or a fabric belt right side out. You can use the smaller end to get the corners to be square.

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Margarita Casas.

Today I learn many things about sowing.Thaks

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Ilse

Doctor’s examining table paper work great to copy/alter patterns, strips underlay gauze, nylon curtain and other slippery sewing on the feed dogs.

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Cindy S

Thanks for all the great tips Linda and others.

about the exam paper, I was going to share that too. You can buy it inexpensively online. It’s nice and strong. One side is matte and one side has a slight sheen to it.

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Jane

I made a pin cushion to fit inside a smallish covered plastic food container. This really helps keep pins off the floor when I’m busy sewing. If I miss the cushion, the pins fall to the bottom of the container where they are easily gathered up. It also makes for a tidy sewing drawer – before I did this I seemed to always have pins in the cushion attracting loose threads and creating a rat’s nest.. Now, I click on the cover and toss the container into the drawer with no worries.

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Carol

Here’s one- use a curling iron or flat iron to press seems open. Heats up in just a minute, works great to turn up hems too.

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Vickie

Fishing line also works well for making gathers.

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Sandy

Ask your dentist for his/her old dental tools. They’re not only handy around your sewing machine, but are also great for sewing seeds and gardening.

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Sharon

I no longer use a regular ironing board. I covered a piece of plywood about 2′ wide and 4′ long with padding and gingham fabric. I have a small sleeve board I can use if necessary, but very rarely. I place the whole thing at the end of my bed and sometimes pull up a chair if I have a lot to do. But I love the expanse. Haven’t opened my traditional ironing board in years.

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Poli Fowdrey

Large washers make excellent pattern weights!

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Ethelgene Crounse

Thanks for the Flat-Head Screwdriver tip, I will be using it.

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Julie Leas

A flannel backed table cloth is a great tool for a sewing room – it can be used as an inexpensive design wall. When quilting, you can lay out your quilt, and roll it up keeping the pieces in place when having to move it.

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Rika brouwer

I also use a hammer, pliers,an all, glue sticks,pipe cleaners (for cleaning my machines),surgical tweezers, and any thing that makes things easier! Because I have a spnal injury, my husband has built ergonomic desks for my machines and a storage cutting table for me. He also comes up with tools and ideas for me to make my life better!

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Taryn

I love that I’m not the only one who NEEDS blue painter’s tape to sew. I’m very petite but also have a broad back and long arms so I (look like a monkey) have to make alterations on every pattern, so I use painter’s tape to tape down my favorite pattern making paper – PARCHMENT paper, cheap, very sturdy, translucent – 3/4″ blue tape peels right off my cutting mat, paper and pattern (Do NOT go too cheap – a hardware store brand is great. A dollar store brand? Haha I ruined a new cutting mat and this stuff was impossible to get off of ANYTHING.) .
A few things I’ve found indispensable:
Pin fitting sucks. So does basting. Use a STAPLERWorks with all but the most delicate fabrics, (haven’t used it on knits). They’re easy to get out, too, I use a flathead screwdriver or small jewelry pliers to loosen one end of the staple but generally they’ll slide out.
I use a zigzag over fishing line to gather fabric, and as I had always had issues getting my machine to shirr with elastic threads, I thought why can’t I just use elastic thread instead of fishing line, get an effect that’s very similar to shirring? Yep, works for me.
It’s a really versatile technique that I’ve used in so many situations (the understitching of facings on strap-py/-less tops and dresses to add some extra stay still while wiggling safety? Two rows.) I can’t recall all the situations I have used the zigzag over elastic thread thing, but if you think it might work, it will probably turn out better than you imagined.
Happy sewing!

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