Tools to Make Sewing Easier

I vaguely remember that when I first thought learning to sew, I had visions of saving money on clothing. Ha! I had no idea at the time what a ridiculously expensive hobby this could be. And I suppose it could be true that you could save money if you had been buying expensive clothing in the first place. However, I almost never buy clothes, and when I do, it’s usually Old Navy on sale. You could easily argue that I will now have much better quality items that actually fit me (although Old Navy tends to fit me pretty well), but you certainly could not argue that I’m saving money.

I love a nice fabric, and though I had yet to spend over $7/yard on fabric (except for the cotton lawn on my first Simplicity 3835), it can still add up over a full garment. (Side note, I finally understand how far $100 can go in Mood for a Project Runway challenge!) And, of course, every garment needs elastic or buttons or snaps or zippers or hooks, which can add up.

But it’s not just the fabric and notions, it’s the equipment too. I’ve always had a problem with gadget lust. I can always be found drooling over a computer or ebook reader or cell phone that I want. Sewing has changed that; it’s just focused it.

Now instead of this:

Acer Aspire

Is it wrong to want a computer for just the month of November and novel writing?

I want this:



Okay, well really, I want both. But you get the point. I have dreams of sergers and dress forms and sewing rooms. However, I discovered this weekend, while working on the Star Trek dress (more on that in a later post), that all it takes is a few cheap items to make sewing a whole lot easier.

I placed an order on recently for needles for my sewing machine (since I have an annoying tendency to forget to change a setting and end up breaking a needle), and I sprang for extra bobbins while I was placing the order anyway.


$3.99 Bobbins

This is pretty cheap as gadgets go, a mere $3.99. But it made such a huge difference. When I need to sew with red thread this weekend, I didn’t have to first unwind a bobbin (and waste thread). And I didn’t have to be super careful in winding the bobbin that I didn’t end up with too much thread. I just wound as far as I wanted and figured if I had leftover thread on the bobbin, that was just fine because I’ll use a new bobbin for my next project!

When my mother gave me all her old sewing gear, I had spent an entire afternoon untangling spools of thread in her sewing bag. It was not a fun task, and I vowed to never let my thread get that tangled. But then I threw all of my thread into a new sewing blog, and the tangles started anew. So while I was in JoAnn Fabrics this weekend, I picked up an item I’m very excited about: a thread box!

Therad Box

Something designed to keep thread from tangling! Yay!

Joann’s website says it’s a $6.99 item, but I bought it for $5.49. And it’s perfect. Simple, no frills, but it keeps the spools apart. And I should be able to keep bobbins with their coordinating thread for true ease of use. They only had two sizes of this kind of box–for 40 spools and for 18 spools. I went with 18, but it’s already full, so perhaps I should have gone larger. On the upside, I can fit this box in my sewing bag. There are also hole in the box to allow thread through so that you don’t even have to open the box, but since I do almost entirely machine sewing, that’s a useless feature for me.

Finally, I picked up the item that I am MOST excited about, which has truly revolutionized sewing for me: the magnetic pincushion.

Magnetic Pincushion

Best. Product. Ever.

This is actually two things in one for me because I got 50 new, bigger pins (and I bought more big pins to go with it). I had been using the 100 tiny straight pins and tomato pin cushion that came with the Singer Beginner Sewing Kit I bought before Sewing 101. It was serviceable, but just barely. The tiny pins without real heads would hurt my hands after hours of sewing, and I would just keep the pins out on the table in between steps rather than try to stick them all back into the pin cushion. I don’t know about you, but I have a habit of dropping pins on the table, on the floor, on the cats, and picking up tiny pins was a nightmare, especially off of the bamboo mat we have under the dining room table (where I do most of my sewing). Now things are better in two ways: the bigger pins are much easier to work with and much easier to see; and I can just wave the magnet over surfaces to pick up pins. I find myself returning pins to the pincushion with each step now. I even return pins individually as I pull them out one at a time (for instance, while sewing a zipper). It’s fantastic and well worth the $8.99!


11 responses to “Tools to Make Sewing Easier

  1. Good finds! I’m sold on a magnetic pin cushion (though I wanted to sew a cute one too…)

  2. Magnetic pin cushions do rock 🙂 I support these purchases!

  3. I’ve had that stacking bobbin case for a few years now. It works really well at keeping your bobbins with the spools, but my only complaint is that the centre section is a bit short. The threads I get now only fit down the sides.

    I have to admit I always splash out and buy the metal bobbins. The plastic ones we get over here at least have rough flash on them I thought would snag the thread. As you can always reuse them I don’t mind paying a pound or two more (plus they feel nicer).

    And I completely agree, I’ve been dreaming of an overlocker for years, but can’t quite justify the costs. I can’t get my hands on decent fabric over here, only quilting or upholstery material, so I usually make things not clothes. My latest project was a a marching banner, which was a bit more tricky than it sounds.

    • A marching banner sounds tricky to me. 🙂 I don’t know if I could handle making just things. I’d probably make clothes out of quilting fabric if that’s all I had (and, in fact, I have made some clothing out of quilting fabric because it’s cheaper). Even with clothing, though, the expense of the serger is difficult to justify. Now if I sold clothing…

      I can see what you’re saying about the bobbins, but I haven’t had any trouble with the plastic ones so far.

      • Ah, well it doesn’t help that our quilting fabric is usually at least about £10 a meter.

        Here’s a picture of the banner. It wasn’t my favourite design, but the Meeting liked it best. Because we’ve seen other banners tear at the top corners I may have over engineered it a bit.

      • That looks great. And like a ton of work!

  4. I actually… kind of… sort of… bought a netbook for NaNoWriMo and writing in general. Luckily for me and my wallet I’m not yet that obsessed with sewing that I want to buy a serger. 😛

    • Yay for NaNo! I don’t even like typing on netbooks, but I do like the 8-hour battery life. My Macbook lasts about an hour, so I always have to find writing spots with outlets. Sigh.

      But I do want a serger more than a netbook. 🙂

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