Sunday, 23 November 2014

Slightly strange sewing kit

My friend Kebi came over on Friday; mainly for a chat, a cuppa and an early mince pie (although to my mind it's never too early to start on the mince pies), but also so that we could cut out her latest project, Vogue 8920, on my big worktable.

When we were clearing stuff off the table she noticed an A4 sheet of thick perspex on there, and asked what it was for. I explained, and it struck me that I have quite a few rather odd bits and pieces in my workroom. I don't just mean things which are specialist but recognized sewing tools like a rouleau loop turner, and chalk powder and a felt pad for prick and pounce, but items which at first glance have nothing to do with sewing at all.

Loop turner, chalk and pouncing pad on the perspex sheet

First up is the perspex sheet. I use this when I have fabric laid double on the table, but I only want to pin through a single layer; for example attaching the roses and leaves onto the bottom of my Politics of Fashion dress. The dress was laid flat on the table, and the sheet slipped between the front and the back. It is thin enough that it didn't pull the dress out of shape, but unlike a sheet of cardboard the pins couldn't stick into it when I pinned the pieces onto the dress.

Rose and leaves attached to the dress

The next thing is a pair of knee pads, bought from my local DIY (hardware) store.

Foam knee pads with elastic and velcro straps

I now have a table big enough and high enough for most of my cutting out, but for really big things like circle skirts I still need to work on the (wooden) floor. My knees definitely don't appreciate all the crawling round on a hard surface, so knee pads really help.

From the same store, in fact bought at the same time, came a set of a dozen clamps in three different sizes.

Small and medium clamps

These are invaluable when working with any fabric with a mind of its own, such as chiffon or fine satin. The sort of fabric which sneaks across the table the instant your back is turned. Find the straight grain, clamp the fabric to two sides of the table, and it's (more or less) under control. If it's a fabric which marks easily, I put a pad of soft paper such as kitchen towel between the fabric and the clamp. The clamps are also handy for holding things like my cord maker to the table.

Decorating tape

Another DIY staple is low-tack masking tape, used during decorating. My sewing machine has seam allowances of ⅛" to 1" marked on the needle plate, but occasionally I need a wider seam allowance. Then I use a strip of tape.

Tape strip in place

It's easy to see, and because it's low tack, it doesn't leave any residue on the machine arm.

Next up, these.

Vernier calipers (in case you were wondering what the heck they are)

This isn't a tool which many people would need, but because I do a lot of decorative work I need to be able to check the diameter of beads and sequins easily. Sequins in particular often come in packets without size details and it's hard to check accurately with a ruler or tape measure, especially as the difference between two brands can be as small as half a millimetre.

Checking the diameter of a sequin

What little lacemaking I do now is on proper lace pillows; slightly domed, and mostly filled the traditional way with tightly packed chopped straw. However my original beginner's pillow still gets a lot of use. It is made from two polystyrene ceiling tiles, glued onto a thin wood base and covered with cotton.

My 30cm / 12" pillow

Nowadays it's used for beading. I can pin beads, sequins and embroidery stones onto it to plan out designs. Once I've decided on the pattern, I can put a sheet of paper over the pillow and pin through that to get a permanent record of the arrangement.

A design pinned out, and one in progress

Finally I'll come back to where this post began, with the greatest sewing aid of all; a nice cup of tea (on a coaster of course, nothing food or drink related is allowed to sit directly on the worktable!).


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