This leads me to the purpose of this post...tools for sewing by hand or machine. When my mother taught me how to sew, it was pretty basic in terms of sewing tools. I had fabric cutting scissors and pattern paper cutting scissors, color ball pins, universal needles in size 11 only, general sharps hand sewing needles, a square of white chalk, seam ripper, yard stick, sewing gauge, basic iron, and the presser feet that came with the machine (general purpose, zipper, and automatic buttonhole attachment). I used the same universal size 11 needle to sew every type of fabric. I didn't replace them until I broke them. I also never replaced my pins or hand sewing needles. I never oiled my machine or had my scissors sharpened. I ironed everything on the same dry heat setting and used the same lightweight, nonwoven fusible Pellon to interface everything. I also never measured myself. I guessed what my size was and cut the pattern out and assembled the garment without any alterations.
The crazy thing is it all worked for me! Sure I broke some machine needles and snagged a few garments because of it. The snags were always hidden inside the finished garment. I sewed knits, satins, laces, denim and wovens all with the same needle, no problems. Cheap, cardboard interfacing somehow never detracted from my garments. And everything fit. My machine finally died after 10+ years of sewing without proper maintenance. It was only a basic mechanical machine so I'd say I got my money's worth.
I reflect on my old sewing techniques now and realize I must have been blind. I can't imagine all my garments fit correctly. Surely something needed altering...or did my body really change that much in 15 years. I'm sure the cheap Pellon interfacing didn't work so well on some fabrics. There must have been some bubbling or overly stiff facings somewhere in my wardrobe. What I do remember correctly, however, is my tools got the job done to the best of my abilities. I've since purchased several items to make sewing easier; these are my toys. Tools are the basics to get the job done and toys are the accessories that make it easier.
Now I have a Rowenta iron, various pressing aids and a large variety of pins and needles. I have pin cushions, magnets and even a "Needle Nest." I have numerous devices for measuring and marking. I own several types of presser feet now but still find myself sticking to the basic 3 (general purpose, zipper and buttonhole). I even bought pinking shears, snippers, and rotary cutters with mat. I love my pattern weights too. I've discovered Pellon makes more than one type of interfacing. I've also discovered that I dislike most of their fusibles and all of their nonwovens. Palmer & Pletsch and Fashion Sewing Supply interfacings make up the bulk of my interfacing stash now. I can take my machine apart and look for needed repairs and oil when necessary. I no longer crawl around on the floor pinning and cutting my material; my knees and back won't allow it. I'm still learning how to make the ideal adjustments to my patterns but I'm enjoying the process. I haven't bought a dress form yet and don't know that I ever will. Maybe some toys just aren't necessary for every sewer.
I do hope for some new toys, however. In my dream sewing space, I would have a large surface for ironing. I would also have a table for cutting and pinning and it would be at the correct height to save my back. In the meantime I'll settle for the dining room table and a portable mat for ironing, like this one.
Just yesterday I received some books I ordered from Amazon: The Sewing Machine Attachment Handbook by Charlene Phillips and Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques by Nancy Bednar & JoAnn Pugh-Gannon. I don't know that the Sewing Machine Attachment Handbook is a keeper in terms of a reference book. I read through it once and made a list of all the presser feet I think I will actually use and those that will really save me time. Once I buy those presser feet, I don't know that I have a use for this book anymore. What's on my list of must-have presser feet?
- Walking, aka Even Feed, Foot (instructions for use): stitching 2 different difficult-to-sew fabrics together, stitching velvet, leather or knits, and allow plaids to stay matched while sewing
- Adjustable Zipper/Cording Foot (instructions for use): adjustable for cord of any size and stitching as close to zipper as possible
- Button Sewing Foot
- 1/4-inch Foot with Edge Guide (instructions for use)
- Embroidery & Darning Foot (instructions for use)
- Edge Joining Foot, aka Stitch in the Ditch (instructions for use: stitch in ditch and edgestitching)
- Overcast Foot (instructions for use)
- Side-Cutter Foot
- Ruffler Foot (instructions for use): ruffles, pleats or groupings of gathering and pleats
- Sequin Foot for sequins, lace, rick rack
- Braiding Foot (instructions for use): adding decorative trim to projects (narrow ribbon, silk twist, wool yarn, and soutache braid)
- Invisible Zipper Foot--metal instead of the flimsy plastic one I already have, (instructions for use)
- Pintuck Foot (instructions for use)
What presser feet are your favorites?
(Photos from SewingMachinesPlus.com)