a pretty cool life.: Essentials

Monday, April 19, 2010


I got a lot of really great feedback last week when I posted the basic ruffle tutorial, so I thought I'd go over some other basics.  And today is really basic...

My sewing tools that I use every day:

These aren't in any order of importance, just the way I laid them out in the photo.

1.  Cutting mat.  This protects your table and makes cutting easier with a rotary cutter (#10).

2.  Iron.  Pressing seams flat is important for a nice, finished look.  (And I am a total starch addict...I love a crisp finish!)

3.  Pinking shears/pinking rotary blade.  If you don't serge or do any sort of overcast stitch, these will keep fabrics from unraveling.  The pinked edge also is a pretty detail on felt.

4.  Pins.  I'll admit I rarely pin anything, and when I do I sew right over them.  Don't tell my 7th grade Home Ec teacher!

5.  Hem guage.  Just adjust the ruler to the proper width, and seams and hems are easy to keep uniform.

6.  Chalk pencil.  I use this to mark fabric, and it comes off easily with a little bit of water.

7. Seam ripper.  Ah, my best friend!  It makes ripping out stitches easier, but be careful not to rip through your fabric. 

8.  Tweezers. When I'm done ripping out all kinds of stitches,picking them out with tweezers makes it faster.  They're also helpful if I need to pull something tiny out of my machine. 

9.  Detail scissors.  I use these when I'm cutting out appliques and trimming threads off finished projects.  They're itty bitty and super sharp, so tiny cutting is much easier.

10.  Rotary cutter.  This makes cutting fast and easy.  Instead of scissors, the pizza cutter-like tool cuts fabric in a snap.  Make sure to always use it on a cutting mat (#1), though, and not your dining room table.  Not that I would know...

11.  Tailor's chalk.  I use this when I'm working with a really light or sheer fabric and don't want to use a chalk pencil (#6) to mark it. 

12.  Fabric scissors.  These are super sharp and only for fabric.  Cutting paper will dull the blade...my husband and sons are not allowed to even look at them!

13.  Knitting needle.  I think I've mentioned it a million times in my tutorials...a knitting needle is perfect for pushing out turned corners.

14.  Quilter's ruler.  This helps to mark straight lines on fabric and makes cutting with a rotary cutter a breeze. 

Naturally, all of these are in addition to a sewing machine with thread, bobbin, and needles. :)

And if you haven't noticed, I've added a FAQ tab to the top of my page.  I'll continue to add sewing/crafty questions up there, so ask away!


  1. This is great! I'm just starting to learn basic sewing so this post was right up my alley. Thanks!

  2. Great information Cheryl! I just tweeted about this post. Keep em coming!


  3. I'm kind of a beginning sewer, and I'm going to admit that I had no idea what #5 was in my sewing kit.

    A hem gauge?!!
    Make so much sense, haha thanks!! :)

  4. Saw Jen's tweet so came on over. Thank you for this. I'm a sewing ignoramus so this is perfect for me! I've bookmarked it for future use.

  5. Great post Cheryl! The tweezers are a great idea - I'm going to add some to my sewing supplies. Thanks!

  6. I am so excited to say that I think I own all of those items except for the knitting needle. :) Loving your posts lately...will have to link to this one too! :)

  7. Yay! Thanks Cheryl! I envision myself making all these cool, chic, funky things but really can only sew a straight line when my 9 year old daughter gets me all set up. I LOVE this basics lesson! Keep 'em coming and thanks again.

  8. Thank you! This is awesome. I've finally picked up a sewing machine but I had no clue what else I needed. I love your blog for daily inspiration.

  9. Great post. I use a chop stick instead of the knitting needle, cause I don't knit. I need to take all my fabric scissors to be sharpened. And I had NO IDEA that pinking the edges would prevent unraveling. WHat a great Idea.

  10. Holy moly Cheryl! I stumbled upon your blog through Dana Made It. You have some great ideas! I THANK YOU for the sewing kit necessities list. I am a novice sewer but eager to learn...and I can sew a darn good straight line! :) I'm going to work on your laptop cover and ipod case next! And I'm subscribing!

  11. You are a life saver! I am slowly trying to get the basic items needed to start sewing. I have a brand new sewing machine (still in the box). Yikes!

  12. This is great. I can sew a straight line, and have made many pillows and curtains, but I DO NOT understand the thread tension, stitch length, etc. I don't know when to use what. And I would love to know what all those other foot thingies are. I think you should make this tutorial series!

  13. me again. :) I would LOVE it if you took one of your tutorials (like the bean bags) and broke it down into maybe 1/2 hour work times, and do one segment per week. That way, it wouldn't seem nearly as overwhelming, and I'd be less likely to get frustrated and quit. I think that would be really helpful for people like me!!!

  14. LOVE this... I didn't learn to sew when I was younger, and didn't even take home ec, so I LOVE reading basic sewing info.
    We have a friday fun finds party... we'd love it if you'd link to this! :)

  15. Hi! Nice posting ^_^ Thanx for the tips on knitting needle.

  16. I would add Dritz fabric glue to the list. When I make or purchase a garment with buttons the first thing I do is put a drop on the threads on the top of the button and one the fabric when the button is sewn in. It has been years since I have had to resew a button


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