Tagged: sewing

gift guide: the ultimate beginner’s sewing kit

sewing basket gift guide

I’ve noticed a trend in my holiday wish lists: I never want mere “things”, I want “things for making things”. Last year it was an orbital sander, the year before all I wanted were some high-quality Gingher shears. And really, what better gift is there than the gift of creativity? It’s a gift of unlimited possibilities.

When I worked at a certain large chain fabric store, the most common question I was asked at Christmastime was, “where are your sewing kits?” And, somehow, we didn’t have a good answer. We only had tiny mending kits with weak scissors, a few needles, and easily torn thread. I’m saving you from all that with this comprehensive list of sewing basket essentials: they’re all my favorites. And best yet? Most of them will ship in 2 days with Amazon Prime.

sewing basket gift guide

SNIP: Gingher 5″ Craft Scissors, $14; Cutter Bee Precision-Cut Scissors, $9

Good snips are crucial for all machine- and hand-sewing. Nothing is more frustrating than dull scissors that can’t snip a thread!

The Ginghers are super high quality – they’re the snips I use most often, and the sharp, sturdy end is perfect for installing safety eyes. The CutterBee snips are lightweight and wonderful for just about anything, and they come with a nice guard that makes them very portable.

MEASURE: Clover Retractable Tape Measure, $7; Dritz Extra-Long Tape Measure 120″, $5

From curtain hems to inseams, a flexible tape measure is essential for working with fabric. The retractable ones are tidiest (and this one is extra high quality), but for larger projects the full tape is key.

CUT: Gingher 8-Inch Dressmaker’s Shears, $27; Fiskars 8-Inch Razor-Edge Bent Scissors, $16; Fiskars 8-Inch Non-Stick Bent Scissors, $11

I’m obsessed with my Gingher shears. They are worth every penny. But you can never have enough scissors – especially if you’re like me and tend to set them down in the most ridiculous places.

Grabbit Magnetic Pin Cushion, $14; Wrights Glass Head Pins, $4; Dritz Quilting Pearlized Pins, $6

The Grabbit Pin Cushion changed the art of pinning for me. I used to have an older pin magnet, and an errant swipe of my arm would send pins flying around the room. This one falls on the floor and all the pins stay on it. If you drop pins on the floor, hover the Grabbit over them and it will pick them up. It’s life changing. Seriously.

RIP: Fons and Porter Ergonomic Seam Ripper, $5; Dritz 5-1/2″ Seam Ripper, $4

Sorry, but every beginner (and intermediate, and expert!) is going to need a seam ripper. I also recommend naming the seam ripper so you hate it less. Up there you see Marvin (blue) and Bessie (red). Bessie is comfy on the hands but less heavy-duty – I’ve snapped a few Bessies on the heavier projects. But I keep buying them because they sit nicely in my hand.

TURN: Turn It All, $10

This set of three tubes & rods is the most ingenious sewing tool I’ve ever encountered. It makes turning narwhal tusks, spaghetti straps, octopus legs – all those things that were painful to even think about – manageable and EASY. Plus, the dowel rods double as stuffing sticks. I can’t recommend this tool enough.

That’s a great start to a well-stocked sewing basket! Add in a pack of needles ($4), and the seamstress/seamster in your life will be ready to tackle just about any project that comes their way.

Did I miss anything? What are your favorite sewing tools, and what would you recommend for building up one’s sewing supplies?

(links are amazon referral links, but i put this list together as a helpful review of my favorite things. these are all my honest opinions and nobody paid me to put this here. i hope you find it helpful!)

treasures from the portland flea-for-all

door of the portland flea-for-all

While in Portland, I had to make a stop at the Portland Flea for All, a store filled with antique and vintage treasures.

bikes in the interior of the portland flea-for-all

The bottom floor is split into small spaces, each housing an independent vendor of wares both vintage and handmade. One woman in the corner had a large assortment of vintage bowling accessories and ephemera, what a fun thing to collect!

They had some beautiful old bikes, although I wouldn’t trust their mechanical condition. The vendors clearly took their curating seriously, and the prices were fair.

The second and third floors held all sorts of wonderful old furniture. Obviously furniture shopping was not the focus of my trip, but there were some goodies. Complete 4-seat dining sets, gossip benches, dressers, and cabinets – plenty of charming choices for those looking for a “not-Ikea” home.

incredible knit fabric: old londontown

My treasures were on the smaller and lighter side: first this fabric, a yard-and-a-half of knit with the best print, in the best colors. When I showed it to Brad he declared, “Old Londontown!”, so when this shirt is made it will most definitely be called my Old Londontown Shirt. It’s a large print but it will be fun to wear.

little monkey friends fabric

I also couldn’t pass up this pink cotton with jungle friends – the monkey is so happy! The price was good on this one, too: almost 3 yards for $4! Can’t beat that.

Both of these fabrics were from a vendor who had quite the assortment of vintage fabrics, and I’m guessing she was a seamstress as well because she stocked some handmade pillows and small plush.

vintage maine harbor wallpaper

And the Pièce de résistance was this nautical/harbor-themed old wallpaper (click for larger image). The colors are wonderful. The aged paper is dry and slightly brittle, so I have to be careful with it, but I can’t wait to put it to good use. I may simply frame some sections, but it would also be fun to try and use it in a small space somewhere (like the lower half of a bar – I have 2 21×42″ pieces). It will be a nice reminder of my summer spent in New England.

If you’re in Portland (Maine, that is!), I would absolutely recommend stopping by the Flea for All, especially if you’re in the market for furniture, but also if you’re like me and love browsing through old things.

Now I’ve got to clean out my sewing room and start stitching up “Old Londontown”!

prehistoric plush: dunkleosteus

Theodore Roosevelt summed it up best with this quote:
“whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘certainly i can!’ then get busy and find out how to do it.”

a dunkleosteus rendering (source: wikipedia)

Dunkleosteus: a big, old fish.

I think, barring anything incredibly complex, it’s a great philosophy. So when one of my photography friends said, “hey sam, can you make a plush dunkleosteus?” I said, “sure!”

(well, first i said “what is that?!” and he told me it was a giant dinosaur fish thing.)

At first, I was worried. Those teeth, all the layers of bone, all the details and hard edges… what if I couldn’t do it? But it was one of those moments where, as soon as I stopped thinking about it, I could see it perfectly in my head. It’s a plush, right? I can do plush. At that point I gave myself a pep talk, rushed to Joann’s, snagged a ton of gray fleece, and got to work.

This was one of the most complex plush I’ve ever made: he’s got side flippers, a top fin, little tail fins. With all the “bone”/exoskeleton layers, the back of his body is three layers of fleece. And then there are those teeth! Man, those were tricky. Symmetry is always a challenge.

He took longer than expected, because there was a lot of pattern drafting to be done. But I think he was worth the wait. Wanna see?

dunkleosteus (prehistoric fish) handmade plush

dunkleosteus (prehistoric fish) handmade plush, goofy smile and all

dunkleosteus (prehistoric fish) handmade plush

I just love his goofy smile, and the fleece, as always, is just so soft. I also finally broke into the ultimate safety eye stash that I’ve been hoarding for a few years now – it sure is handy to have some of every safety eye lying around!

I just love doing custom plush. It’s always a scary challenge, but they usually come out alright, and that just feels so good! Do you like it?