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Sewing Tools and Notions

Cutting Fabric

Dressmakers’ shears have long blades and angled handles. The handle allows the fabric to remain flat on the cutting table while you are cutting. These are a necessity and should be used only for cutting fabric— and nothing else—to keep them from becoming dulled.

Sewing scissors are similar to the shears except they are a little shorter and the blades themselves are a little thinner. This makes them ideal for trimming seams and interfacing and other close work. The shears and the sewing scissors can double for each other if your budget won’t allow for both.

Rotary cutters can be very helpful when you are cutting out geometric shapes by measure rather than with a pattern. They are always used with a special cutting mat and often with acrylic rulers.

Choosing Measuring Tapes and Gauges

Accurate measurements are important to assure a good fit in garment construction and a successful completion of craft sewing projects. Discard wooden or plastic rulers with nicks or faded markings, metal gauges that are bent, and cloth tape measurers that have frayed or stretched. (In fact, it’s a good idea to avoid cloth tapes entirely because if and when they do stretch, you might not even realize it.)

A plastic tape measurer is a necessity. You will use it to take body measurements as well as during several other steps in the sewing process.

A rigid ruler or yardstick will be useful for altering patterns and for drawing straight lines. An 18” by 6” acrylic ruler is highly recommended. It will serve all the functions of a conventional ruler, but, because of its width and because you can see through it, it will help you measure more quickly and accurately It also serves as a straight edge if you are cutting with a rotary cutter.

A measuring gauge is so useful that if you’ve ever used one, you probably consider it a necessity. They are 6” metal measurers with a sliding tab. They are particularly helpful when you are pressing under seam allowances or hems. A new version of this gauge has a short sliding ruler in place of the tab. They are intended for spacing and marking buttonholes.

Learning about Interfacing

Interfacing is used between layers of fabric to add a small amount of stiffness. Nearly every collar and cuff pattern is going to call for interfacing.

Interfacing comes in a few different weights. It is generally white, off-white, black, or gray Occasionally you can find it in other colors. It doesn’t need to color coordinate with your fabric—it just needs to be invisible on the finished product, and so you don’t want it to show through the fabric.

Interfacing is generally sold by the yard, but occasionally you can find it packaged. Since you will be using only small amounts of it for most projects, keeping some medium-weight white interfacing on hand will probably take care of most of your needs.

Fusible interfacing, which adheres to fabric when it is ironed, can save some time and is indispensable for some projects. It is usually more expensive than the nonfusible, sew-in kind.

Decorative Trims

Decorative lace, ruffles, and fringes come in a wide array of styles and colors. They are generally sold by the inch off oblong spools. Some of these, especially the cotton fringes, will shrink. Buy a few inches extra and wash it by hand before you sew it to anything you intend to machine wash and dry.

Decorative lace comes either flat or ruffled. Notice the bound edge of the ruffled lace. Sometimes it is finished appropriately to sew externally on a garment. Other times it’s designed to be hidden inside a seam. Consider your purpose when making your choice.

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