14 August 2012

Improvised Sewing Tools: Hints & Tips

Although it can save you money in the long term, sewing can be a costly hobby, particularly when you’re just starting out. In addition to investing in a machine, there are about a squillion tools on the market tempting you with their promise of making sewing that little bit faster, easier, more efficient.

But just as you’re being creative making your own clothing, you can get creative making some of your sewing tools yourself or improvising with things you have around the house. Here are some ideas…

1) Make your own dress form
I recently invested in a dress form, which I must say I love. But for my first two years of sewing I did without. I spent a fun afternoon making my own out of parcel paper – and you can too. It may not be quite as elegant as a padded form on a wooden stand, but on the plus side a parcel tape version conforms to your shape exactly.

2) Improvise pattern weights
You don’t need to buy specialist pattern weights to hold your pattern pieces in place while you draw round them. Grab whatever you have on hand – I use tins of sardines for corners, tins of beans for curves.

3) Alternative to a loop turner
I still can’t get over the fact that you can buy an implement whose sole purpose is to turn tubes of fabric inside out. Maybe I just don't turn enough loops in my life? Alternatively you can enclose a piece of string or cord inside the tube when you’re sewing it, stitch it to one end to secure it, then pull it out the other end while turning the tube of fabric. Okay, so the loop turner may be slightly quicker, but I’m pretty sure people made do without for decades :)

4) Improvise pressing aids
A tailor’s ham and seam roll are useful for pressing shaped parts of garments. But they’re not cheap, so if you can’t afford them right now, you can use a towel instead. Roll or mould the towel into your desired shape. I do this and am happy with the result!

5) Marking tools you may already own
My favourite tool for transferring pattern markings onto fabric? Washable felt tip! If you can’t get to the haberdashery store for your tailor’s chalk, look in your newsagent or supermarket for a cheap packet of kids' washable felt pens instead. They’re not suitable for all fabrics, so test them out first, but I use these for loads of sewing projects.

Do you have any make-shift sewing tool tips of your own? Do share!

[Soundtrack: 'Rich Girl' by Nina Simone]