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Essential Sewing Equipment Explained

Oct 31, 2007
The cave woman of prehistoric times used a fishbone with a hole in it for a needle, and a tough animal sinew for thread. In like fashion, modern women can sew with only a needle and thread. However, in order to achieve high standards of workmanship, with the least possible time and effort, it is important to have as many of the right tools as you can afford.

First choose the right size needle and thread for your sewing job. Remember to match your thread to:

1. The color of your fabric. The thread on the spool is darker than it will appear when stitching. Match one strand of thread, not the whole spool, to the fabric. With prints, use the background color. Use contrasting threads for basting.

2. The kind of fabric:

Cotton thread is used for cotton and linen, and mercerized thread, a shiny cotton, is also used for some wool, and for plastic-type fabrics.

Linen thread is used for tailoring and millinery.

Silk thread is used for silk, wool, rayon, and velvet.

Nylon thread, used primarily for nylon material, needs a fine needle and a light tension.

Elastic thread, sewed with a large machine stitch, may be used in order to get adjustable gathers.

3. The needle size.

Needles are sold in packages of one size or assorted sizes. Too long or thick a needle may leave holes in your material. Sharpen a dull point by pushing it in and out of your emery bag, but do not leave it in the emery all the time or it may rust. You will find size 6 and 7 needles, and size 60 thread, your best bets for ordinary sewing. Betweens, crewels, millinery needles and sharps are names given to various types of needles. Use only good steel needles that are suitable for the fabric being sewed on.

Challenge yourself to learn to wear a thimble, and practice until you sew better and more easily with one than without. Choose a light-weight thimble of silver, celluloid or chrome that fits your middle finger without pressure and without leaving any color on your fingers.

Get a tape measure with numbers on both sides, each series running in the opposite direction. Have a metal tab on one end and roll the tape up when it is not in use. A six-inch ruler, especially the transparent type, will often be more convenient to use and a 36-inch yardstick has special uses for measuring material, long straight lines, and hems. For all kinds of measuring, you will need gauges that you make out of cardboard or that you buy.

Scissors are less than six inches long and have both handles of the same size. They are used to cut in hard to get at places, and to snip short threads.

Shears are more than six inches long and have different size handles, the larger being for the fingers, the smaller for the thumb. If you can choose only one, choose shears of medium weight, about eight inches long.

Pinking shears cut with saw-tooth edges and are good for finishing seams.

Keep your cutting tools well sharpened, and use them properly, that is, only for cutting fabric and thread. Use a very inexpensive pair to cut paper or for household purposes. The scissors sharpener will keep points sharp for you.

A tracing wheel is handy for marking guide lines through several layers of material, on cotton, linen and heavy silk.

Tailor's chalk marks distinctly and comes in several colors. It is easily brushed off and is used very frequently to mark sewing lines, pattern perforations, and alteration lines.

Old belts, buttons and trimmings may come in handy when you least expect them to. Arrange them in labeled boxes and jars, with such labels as garment scraps, trimming fabrics, yarn, fur, ribbons, etc. Put away only clean fabric. Take advantage of sales and put away remnants for future use. Try to develop a system for greatest efficiency.

Now you have the tools it is time to start sewing!
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