Welcome back! We're finishing off our series into sewing today with a post about the big guns of your sewing repertoire. We started with an understanding that finding fabric you love is pretty easy. Who doesn't have a stash of fabric that was way too easy to accumulate? Using that fabric, on the other hand, can be a bit of a challenge. We introduced you to a few inspiring books to get you sewing. We also helped you get your sewing basket filled with sewing essentials. Now we've put together lists to help you decide which tools are for you!

First we'll start with cutting utensils in order of importance.

Scissors: We all have a pair of scissors laying around, but I'm a firm believer in having one pair only for fabric. A scissorsmith once told me that if you carry over a pair of scissors worn from other uses, they will fray your fabrics. 

  • Look for a pair that are comfortable in your hands, not your average person's. Smaller to medium size hands will be comfortable with 8" shears, but if you have longer fingers you may be more comfortable with 10" scissors.
  • Plastic versus metal handles, what's comfortable for you? Comfort really is a huge factor in your scissor selection.
  • Scissors can last you forever if you take good care of them. You could buy an everyday pair of scissors, but you'll have to replace them somewhere down the line because you can't really sharpen them. A nicer set of craft scissors might be perfectly comfortable for your hands (and your wallet) and can be sharpened. If you're concerned about the plastic handles, or enjoy the weight of a more classic pair these dressmaker shears are perfect! 

Pinking shears: Re-read the above paragraph and replace the words 'scissors' or 'shears' with pinking shears. Quite literally, you'll take the same ideas into consideration. As a sewer you will make up your own mind about how important pinking shears are to you. Mainly pinking shears are used when you do not want the fabric to fray. They are great for applique work or even making a dress, but if you want to invest a bit more longevity into a garment you will probably want to stitch the edges together to keep them from fraying instead. In this case you can get by with an average pair of shears, especially if you will use them infrequently. If you see yourself using pinking shears quite often, just as we saw with scissors, you'll want a pair that can be sharpened and cared for, like these Gingher shears.

Rotary cutter: A great addition to your collection of sharp objects is a handy rotary cutter. These come in handy when you're repeating a motion, cutting through a few layers, or getting through a lot of straight lines. Equally as useful for curved edges they make some jobs easier and work great in unison with a regular pair of scissors. Don't forget, if you decide to pick up a rotary cutter you will need a rotary cutter mat. Sometimes you can buy them as a set, I recommend a larger mat for the sake of spaciousness. Rotary cutter aspects to keep in mind:

  • Size: A useful size rotary cutter is a 45mm cutter, but smaller and larger exist. You may decide to add to your rotary cutter family with different sizes for different projects, as smaller cutters are better for detailed cutting.
  • Comfort: Some cutters will be of standard plastic body. Most cutters will be contoured to the shape of your hand, as well as soft gripped. These are very nice features.
  • Safety: You'll want to make sure that your cutter isn't always in "ready" mode. A safety feature that locks the cutter in when not in use is greatly important for your safety.

Sewing machine: Here is where it gets interesting! Here we will talk strictly functions, not brands. To each their own, but when you take into consideration what is important in a sewing machine you may find some brands are superior to others. But like any item you buy, you need to weigh some important factors. It may start to feel like a daunting purchase but here 3 major guides on how to choose!

  • How much do you want to spend? This is maybe your biggest decision. Sure, you could find something small for $40 on sale at your local retailer, but most likely it will break down on your most basic task. Having a sewing machine in your home is great even if you bring it out once a season. You won't be sorry spending at least $100 on a trusty machine, it is your biggest purchase after all.
  • How much will you use it? This is right up there with cost. Aspiring to sew more, then you may want to get in on some of those more advanced features. This could also effect how heavy of a machine you would like, will it have a home in your workspace or will it have to be moved around?
  • What will you use it for? Your basic projects are going to require a straight or zig-zag stitch (more on these later), and so long as it keeps on chugging you'll be fine. However, to be able to expand your sewing knowledge you'll want something that can grow with you, like decorative stitches or being able to adjust the width of your stitches.

Now, you've got a better idea as to what you're looking for in a sewing machine. But what about all those features written on the side of the box? What's important and what can wait for an upgrade? Here's a quick list:

  • Basic functions
    • Plastic versus Metal: This will more effect the weight of the machine than anything else. But if everything is plastic it isn't a good sign.
    • Electronic versus Simple: Simple machines are great for beginners but electronic/computerized will grow with you.
    • Manual: Your ability to change between straight forward-and-backward stitching and manually controlling how you sew.
    • Quilting: Can it handle multiple layers? This is always a good sign, even if you don't get into "quilting". Related to...
    • Foot control: Will the foot move up and down with the machine only or will you be able to control it. This helps for keeping control of what you're sewing as it is being sewn.
    • Free Arm: This just means that there is a small portion of your machine that will come off so that you can sew a sleeve or other small circular projects.
  • Not so basic functions
    • Buttonhole: This is nice if you plan on making garments, it really is a live saver! 
    • More than 10 stitches: They will come in handy when you expand your sewing to stretch knits, heavier fabrics, or would like to add some personal touches to projects.
    • Thread cutter: Most new machines come with them anyways, but not everyone uses it.
    • Adjustable speeds: Not a necessity but some projects sew up quicker than others, this could be useful.
    • Additional feet: These are a great bonus! When additional feet come with your machine you will not only have them for when you learn to use them, but they will not cost as much as if you bought them individually.

Now go out and shop! Or, re-evaluate the tools you already own. Let us know if we missed anything and please share your experiences with any of the items we mentioned! See you next week with a tutorial!

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