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Identifying Sewing Equipment

People who sew often collect various tools and equipment, some needed for routine tasks and some for special purposes. As your skills and interest grow, you can add to your sewing supplies, but for now you'll probably need only a few basic items. Check with your instructor to find out what those are.

Sewing equipment can be divided into six groups, according to purpose. You'll be using tools to help you measure, pin, cut, mark, stitch, and press as you learn to sew.


Your sewing box won't be complete without measuring tools. Most of these tools have scales in both English and metric. The three essential measuring tools are a tape measure, a sewing gauge, and a yardstick or meter-stick. Fgr. 1 shows the measuring tools listed below.

• Tape measure. This flexible tape is 60 inches (150 cm) long. With it, you can take body measurements and measure fabric; keep the tape neatly rolled in a sewing box. See Fgr. 1A.

• Sewing or seam gauge. With a 6” (15 cm) scale, this gauge measures short lengths, such as hem and seam widths. You can set a marker on the gauge for the width to be measured. See Fgr. 1B.

• Yardstick or meterstick. To check grain lines and mark hemlines, this 36” (91.5 cm), rigid, measuring stick is useful. It may be wood, metal, or plastic. See Fgr. 1C.

• Transparent ruler. The ability to see through this device makes it useful for measuring and marking buttonholes, pleats, tucks, and bias strips. See Fgr. 1D.

• Hem gauge. Made of metal or plastic, this tool marks straight or curved hems. See Fgr.


• Skirt marker. This device is used to measure and mark hemlines with either pins or chalk.

See Fgr. 1F.

Fgr. 1 Measuring Tools



Follow these safety suggestions when using sewing equipment.

• To prevent accidental swallowing, never hold pins in your mouth.

• Don't place pins in the clothes you're wearing. Forgotten pins might cause injury or be dropped and later picked up by a child.

• Keep shears and scissors closed when not in use.

• Pass a sharp object handle-first to another person.

• Keep all tools in your sewing box when not in use.



For many stages of sewing, you'll need pins.

See Fgr. 2. Use them to hold patterns to fabric, to hold two layers of fabric together while stitching, and to mark hemlines. To avoid damaging the fabric, pins should be sharp, slender, and smoothly finished.

• Silk pins. Made of stainless steel or brass, silk pins can be used with most fabrics. See Fgr. 2A.

• Ballpoint pins. These are silk pins with rounded points that allow them to slip easily between strands of yarn, preventing fabric snags. Use them on knitted fabrics. Fgr. 2A.

• Ball-head pins. These pins have colorful, round, plastic or glass heads, which make them easy to see and pick up. See Fgr. 2B.

• T-pins. Distinguished by a large T-shaped head, these pins work well on loosely woven, bulky, or pile fabrics. See Fgr. 2C.

Fgr. 2 A pincushion provides a safe way to store pins conveniently. How would you use the pins shown?


Pincushions come in many different styles.

The pins in Fgr. 2 have been placed in one common pincushion style. Another style has an elastic or plastic band for wearing around your wrist.

Others use an adhesive backing to attach to the sewing machine. Magnetic pincushions hold pins securely, even when tipped over. When turned upside down, one style in the shape of a bowl picks up scattered pins.

Underhanded Uniquizing Effort Sub-Series:

Wiki Sewing

Owners’ Manual

When you purchase a new sewing machine, be sure to keep the manual because it will have all the information you need to operate your machine. No matter when your machine was manufactured, it will have variations from other machines, even those made in the same year.

Take the time to read the manual and learn about everything your sewing machine has to offer.

If you don't have a copy of the manual or can't get one from the manufacturer of your sewing machine, you may be able to purchase one from one of the following sources. Be sure to have your machine's manufacturer and model number on hand when you're trying to track down a manual.

Shoppers Rule sells manuals for more than 20 brands of sewing machines. To enlist its assistance with your machine brand and model number.

• Needlework Goodies and Other Neat Stuff has a Web site with lists of manuals that are available in photocopy form via Internet order.


Cutting tools are essential for sewing. Two basics that you'll need are shears and scissors.

Shears have long blades and two handles with different shapes. They are used for cutting out fabric. Scissors, which are smaller than shears, have two handles with the same shape. Use them to trim and clip fabric and cut threads. Scissors and shears need to be sharp since dull blades make it very difficult to cut accurately.

This list summarizes the cutting tools you may use in sewing. They're shown in Fgr. 3.

Dressmaker's shears. The bent handles on these shears allow fabric to lie flat on the table as you cut. Results are more accurate when you don't lift up the fabric while cutting. One handle fits your thumb and the other handle, with its different shape, fits several fingers. Blades are usually 7 to 8” (18 to 20 cm) in length. Quality shears have an adjustable screw so you can change the cutting action of the blades. See Fgr. 3A.

Sewing scissors. These scissors have small round handles and blades 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in length. The blades are different widths. Sewing scissors are easier to handle than shears for detail work. Use them to trim seams, clip curves, and cut into corners. See Fgr. 3B.

Pinking or scalloping shears. With these shears, you can finish a seam edge or other raw edge on firmly woven fabrics. The zigzag or scallop design helps to prevent raveling. These are not for cutting out fabric pieces because the uneven edge is difficult to follow when stitching. Instead, pink or scallop the seam edges after the seams are stitched. See Fgr. 3C.

Embroidery scissors. These small scissors are only 3 to 4” (7.5 to 10 cm) in length, with very pointed blades. Use them for such detail work as cutting buttonholes and ripping stitches. See Fgr. 3D.

Seam ripper. You can remove stitches with the small blade on one end of this pen-shaped gadget. The blade lifts the thread away from the fabric before cutting. Be careful not to cut the fabric. See Fgr. 3E.

Thread clipper. This tool has spring-action blades for clip ping thread ends or stitches. See Fgr. 3F.

Rotary cutter. The round, retractable blade on this tool makes it resemble a pizza cutter.

Crafters and quilters like the straight, clean cuts they can make through multiple layers of fabric. The cutter must be used with a special "self-healing" mat.

Fgr. 3 Cutting Tools



Keeping tools sharp. Sewing tools won't stay sharp if you use them to cut paper (other than pattern tissue), string, and other objects. At home, keep a pair of household shears handy for other cutting jobs. To have your shears or scissors sharpened, check with a fabric store or hardware store.



Marking tools transfer symbols and lines from pattern pieces to fabric. Accurate markings help make construction easier. The marking equipment you choose depends on the fabric.

These tools are shown in Fgr. 4.

• Fabric marking pen. Because of this pen's disappearing ink, you can mark on the right or wrong side of fabric. With some pens, the ink marks disappear when treated with water. With others, the ink evaporates, usually in less than 48 hours.

See Fgr. 4A.

• Tracing wheel. When you run this wheel over dressmaker's tracing paper, the marks transfer to fabric. Use a smooth-edged wheel for delicate fabrics, and a saw-toothed wheel for most others.

Special waxed carbon paper for tracing is available in several colors. Washing or dry-cleaning the fabric removes the tracing marks. See Fgr. 4B and C.

• Tailor's chalk. These small squares or pencils will mark fabrics. The markings can be brushed away or will disappear when pressed with an iron. See Fgr. 4D and E.

• Ordinary thread. Make simple hand-sewn stitches to mark construction lines on fabric.


Fgr. 4 Marking Tools

Here are some special items for faster and easier sewing.

• Disappearing basting thread. Dissolves in the wash or when you iron over it with a damp press cloth.

• Liquid seam sealant. Prevents cut edges from fraying when you apply this colorless liquid to fabric or ribbon.

• Stabilizer. Adds temporary body and support to fabric; particularly useful for machine embroidery and machine appliqué work. One type of stabilizer can be torn away after the work is finished. Another type dissolves when washed or sprayed with water.


Fgr. 5 Stitching Tools

Although machine stitching nearly completes most projects, some hand sewing may be needed.

All sewing boxes need a variety of needles and at least one thimble. Some other possibilities are also listed here.

• Needles. Needles should have sharp points and smooth eyes to avoid snagging fabric or splitting thread. Sizes range from 1 (coarse) to 12 (fine). The smaller the number, the larger the needle is. For most hand-sewing tasks, use a size 7 or 8 needle. Use a finer needle on delicate fabrics and a coarser needle on heavy fabrics. Some packages contain only one size; others contain a variety. The lengths and shapes of the needle eye vary. Needles called sharps are all-purpose, medium-length needles with a small eye and sharp point.

Embroidery and crewel needles have larger eyes and are easier to thread. Specialty needles are available for heavy-duty fabrics and crafts.

See Fgr. 5A.

• Thimble. This tool will help protect your finger when sewing by hand. Made of metal or plastic, thimbles come in different sizes. Small indentations on the top and sides help hold the end of the needle as you push it through the fabric. See Fgr. 5B.

• Needle threader. This small device has a thin metal wire that helps thread a needle. See Fgr. 5C.

• Glue stick. Use this fast, easy way to temporarily hold two layers of fabric together. Be sure the glue is thoroughly dry before stitching through it. See Fgr. 5D.

• Basting tape. This narrow, double-faced tape holds two layers of fabric together or a zipper in place for stitching. See Fgr. 5E.

• Bodkin. A bodkin resembles a large, blunt needle. Pull cord, elastic, or tape through casings with it. See Fgr. 5F.

• Loop turner. A long metal rod with a hook, this tool turns bias tubing right side out. See Fgr. 5G.

• Pointer. This wooden tool has one pointed end for pushing out sharp corners, as on a collar point. The other end is rounded for holding seams open for pressing. See Fgr. 5H.



Thimbles. Using a thimble may seem awkward at first. Choose one that fits your middle finger well. Try dampening the end of your finger. The suction will hold the thimble firmly in place.



A garment takes on a professional finish when carefully pressed. You should press as you sew and also when a garment is complete. Three essential items are an iron, ironing board, and press cloth.

Pressing equipment is shown in Fgr. 6.

• Iron. Needs a wide temperature range for all fabrics. A combination steam-and-dry iron gives best results. See Fgr. 6A.

• Ironing board. Level and sturdy surface with a tight fitting cover and smooth padding. A silicone-treated cover helps prevent scorching and sticking.

• Press cloth. Lightweight cloth that protects certain fabrics from developing a shine, or glossy marking, and from scorching. Dampen a press cloth to create steam for special pressing techniques. You can use a clean cloth or handkerchief as a press cloth. See Fgr. 6B.

• Tailor's ham. A firm, round cushion used to press curved areas of a garment, such as darts and curved seams. See Fgr. 6C.

• Sleeve board. A small ironing board about 20 inches (51 cm) long; used to press narrow areas, such as sleeves, that don't fit over the end of a regular ironing board. See Fgr. 6D.

• Seam roll. A long, firm tubular cushion used to press long seams and small curved areas. A seam line can be pressed without having the imprint of the seam allowances showing through on the right side of the fabric. Fgr. 6E.

•Point presser. A narrow wooden surface with a pointed end for pressing collar points.

Other edges can be used for pressing curved and straight edges. See Fgr. 6F.


By keeping sewing equipment together in a box or basket, you'll always be able to find what you need. A measuring tape can be folded and held with a rubber band. Needles may be kept in original containers or placed in a pincushion. Small boxes or plastic bags can hold small items, such as thimbles, chalk, but tons, and other fasteners.

Spilling a box of pins is frustrating, yet it happens easily. Using a pincushion helps prevent such accidents. You may want to store a large supply of pins in a container but keep the ones you use regularly in a pincushion.

Taking care of your equipment through good organization helps ensure that items last longer and don't get lost.

Fgr. 6 Pressing Equipment

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Friday, 2012-06-01 11:19