Tuesday, January 31, 2017

20 Beginner Sewing Essentials

Vintage Sewing Box

Students often ask me; what they should have in their sewing kit. This post will share some essential items that I believe should be included in any beginner sewing kit. As your sewing skills develop and your projects become more complex, you may find it necessary to expand your sewing kit and to add specialty tools and other supplies. If you are still shopping for a sewing machine, check out a previous post on how to choose a sewing machine. If you have a sewing machine, some of the items mentioned may be included with your machine. You machine may also have a variety of attachments that can be used for various sewing techniques.

Left to Right: meter stick, pins, paper scissors, cotton thread, safety pins, hand sewing needles, water-soluble marker, gauge, sewing machine needles, dressmaker shears (fabric), measuring tape, plastic bobbin, seam ripper, pin cushion, polyester thread 
  1. Scissors - This is the first and perhaps the most important tool in any sewing kit. Invest in the best quality scissors you can afford, and dedicate its' use to only cutting fabric. Your scissors should make cutting your fabric easy and provide a nice clean cut. I recommend holding the scissors (if possible) prior to purchasing to confirm how comfortable the grip is in your hand. I have several different scissors in my collection, but the "Gingher" dressmaker shears are my favourite. I generally use a smaller scissors to clip threads. A good quality scissors will last you a lifetime.

  2. Paper Scissors - Use a separate paper or utility scissors for cutting your paper patterns. This will ensure that your quality scissors are not used for this purpose. These scissors can also come in handy for other purposes.

  3. Seam Ripper - We all have to use a seam ripper at some time or another. Have one handy to help make opening your seams easier and avoid damaging your fabric. They are also really handy for opening up the space in your buttonholes. Often there is a small seam ripper included with your sewing machine. This will be fine for some time, but can be replaced by a larger seam ripper with a larger more comfortable grip. The most important thing in a seam ripper is that it is sharp.

  4. Pins - Good quality pins that are sharp are essential. There are different types of pins available to suite the fabric you are working with. I recommend glass head pins, which have the added benefit of not melting if you iron over them.

  5. Pin Cushion(s) - Having a pincushion near by can be very handy and a safe way to collect your pins while you work. You can purchase a pincushion, but I always find it more fun to make one.

  6. Bobbins - Sewing machine bobbins are available in different types. It is always best to use the type of bobbin that is suited to your sewing machine. You will find that there are plastic and metal bobbins available. I recommend referring to your sewing machine manual or take your bobbin with you when you shop for new ones. You can visit a previous post on how to fill a bobbin.

  7. Sewing Machine Needles - Your sewing machine will likely come with a sample pack of needles. You can use a universal needle for many different projects, but you should purchase needles to suite the type of material you are working with. It is also recommended to change your needle with each project, for best results.

  8. Hand Sewing Needles - Having an assortment of hand sewing needles can be very helpful for hemming, basting and other sewing jobs.

  9. Needle Threader - Not everyone has perfect vision or a sewing machine with an automatic threader. These little guys can therefore come in very handy for both hand and machine sewing.

  10. Safety Pins - Having an assortment of safety pins can be very helpful. I often use a safety pin to secure layers of fabric together or to help pass elastic through a casing.

  11. Measuring Tape - A dressmaker or tailor’s tape is an important tool for taking body measurements, as well as measuring other types of sewing projects. The measuring tape will generally measure to 60" and will often have increments in centimetres and inches. If you are sewing home decor projects, I recommend also getting a longer measuring tape that goes up to 120".

  12. Measuring Gauge - The 6" measuring gauge is a handy little measuring tool that is great for all sorts of sewing task. It can be used for measuring a seam or hem and can assist with an accurate placement of your buttonholes, buttons and zippers.

  13. Meter Stick - You can find a meter stick at your sewing supply shop, art store, office supplies or hardware store. I have on hand a wooden and a metal meter stick. I have found that the metal meter stick is handy when using a rotary cutter.

  14. Water Soluble Fabric Marker - Having a good marking tool is important for transferring pattern markings and other details onto your fabric. The water-soluble fabric markers are great on most fabrics and will easily wash away. You can also use other marking tools such as chalk or fabric pens as an alternative. I have found that tailors chalk works best on dark colours and the "Frixion" iron away pens are great for fine lines. I recommend testing your making tool on a sample of your fabric prior to use.

  15. Thread - This may seem like an obvious one, but my recommendation is to always have on hand a variety of thread for different types of projects. Purchase good quality thread, which will be best for your sewing machine and provide a better stitch quality. Also consider purchasing several spools when they are on sale. I recommend having cotton thread for your cotton or linen projects, silk threads for your silk and wool projects and quality all-purpose polyester thread that works well with many different fibres. Generally you will match your thread colour to the dominant colour in your project; however, you can also use a contrasting colour thread for a decorative effect.

  16. Iron and Ironing Board

  17. Iron - An iron with a steam and variable fabric setting can really enhance the finish of your projects. Press your seams as you go for best results. Use a pressing cloth when needed.

  18. Ironing Surface - There are various products available to turn virtually any flat surface into an ironing surface. However, I have found that I get the best results from using an ironing board at the appropriate height.

  19. Self-Healing Mat - Using a self-healing mat to cut your fabric, can save your work surface from damage. Even if you have an old worktable or a dedicated cutting table, a cutting mat can be a helpful addition. They can be pricy depending on the type and where you purchase them. You can find rather large cutting mats at your local sewing supply shop. However, if you are looking for a more economical option, consider purchasing one from your local office or art supply shop.

  20. Lint Roller - A lint roller may not be at the top of the list, but depending on your fabric it can be handy to have one around. It is also a great way to cleanup loose thread on your projects.

  21. Washi Tape - I have used washi tape as a seam guide and it does not leave a sticky residue on my sewing machine. As an alternative you can also use painter's tape. I recommend removing the tape at the end of each use.
I hope that you have found this post helpful. This list is by no means everything you will ever need for sewing, but it is a great start to getting you on your way to enjoying sewing. If you have any recommendations on what you think should be included in this list just comment below.

Happy stitching!


Monday, December 19, 2016

Five Hand Embroidery Winter Patterns

Crafted Spaces is excited to introduce its' first winter hand embroidery collection. This embroidery collection features five beautiful holiday and winter motifs that can be used on many different projects. We are featuring these designs as 4" embroidery hoop ornaments, but you can scale the patterns to suite other projects. These charming little ornaments can be hung on your Christmas tree or given as sweet stocking stuffers for the holidays.


The designs range slightly in the amount of time it requires to create them, but they all have just a few simple embroidery stitches. Our online store offers a PDF download that you can purchase and receive directly in your email. We also have available, limited quantities of our full embroidery kits.

The embroidery kits include:
  • printed copy of the pattern
  • pre-printed 100% cotton pattern
  • instructions
  • ribbon
  • embroidery floss
  • embroidery needle
  • stitch guide
  • tracing paper
Transferring Your Pattern
There are several methods for transferring your embroidery pattern onto your fabric or other materials. The type of material you use will determine the best transfer method. The ornaments seen in this post, were made with eco felt. Felt is a bit heavy and the method I chose was to create an iron on transfer. To create the transfer I used tracing paper (transparent paper or onion skin) and an iron on transfer pen. I placed the paper over the "reverse" image of the pattern and traced over the design using the pen. I then placed the design down on my felt and used a dry, hot iron on the back of the paper. Any wax free tracing paper should be good for this process. I was able to find tracing paper at Wal-Mart and the dollar store.

Tip! Lift occasionally on one end to see if the design transfers successfully. Do not remove or shift the paper until the design has been transferred. With any method you use, it is recommended that you first test with a swatch of your fabric.

Embroidery Floss
Six-strand cotton embroidery floss was used in the projects shown. I chose white floss on a red background for a traditional holiday feel. I also think it will also look lovely on a natural linen fabric. I used DMC brand cotton embroidery floss in Blanc. Divide your embroidery floss by pulling apart three stands together. For the projects shown, three strands were used for all of the stitches except the French Knots. The French Knots were made using six strands (three strands doubled over). You can vary the thickness of your stitches by changing the number of strands you choose to work your stitches. I suggest playing around with the number of strands you use and see what you like best.

Finishing Your Embroidery Work
To finish the back of the embroidery ornaments, I tied off and trimmed the threads. I then trimmed away the excess fabric, close to the edge of the hoop. Using a small amount of fabric glue; I then attached a piece of felt cut to the size of the inner hoop. You could also use another type of glue, just ensure that it will not show through the layers of your fabric. The method I choice for finishing these embroidery ornaments can also work for other projects. I then tied a length of ribbon to hang.


Crafted Spaces Holiday Embroidery Collection is available here!
Check out our Pinterest board for great links to other embroidery resources.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pattern Review and Project Update


We recently shared our Fabric Haul: September 2016 video, and one of the lovely fabrics we shared was this beautiful cotton floral print from Len's Mills in Barrie, Ontario. I am not quite sure what I was thinking, but I only purchased one metre of the fabric along with a half-metre of a coordinating solid. I did try to get more of the fabric, but it was sold out. There was just enough fabric to make a basic shell top. The sewing pattern I selected is New Look #6483. This is a simple top with side (straight) darts, opens at the back of the neck and has bottom side slits. There is a sleeveless and short sleeve variation. The pattern is available as a printed enveloped pattern or as a downloadable.


Changes I Made
The top required just over a metre of fabric, so I had to adjust the length. I shortened the bottom of the top by three inches, making the adjustment just at the start of the side slit markings. I did not use the facing pattern pieces. I decided to make bias binding from the coordinating sold colour fabric, and used the bias to face the neckline and armholes. I also opted to not include the slits at the side seams, given that the top was shorter than the original pattern. I also used a half-inch seam allowance on the side seams, which has given me a tiny bit more ease across my bustline.

What I Will Change
The darts needed to be adjusted for a better fit on my body. Dart placement may not be an issue for someone else, but I suggest measuring the shoulder to bust and making any changes prior to cutting your fabric.



Overall, I really like this pattern and the fit is very comfortable. This pattern is included in our Garment Construction I pattern list. I look forward to trying the pattern with our students. It is a basic top, but the pattern provides an opportunity to learn about side (straight) dart placement, facing and the option to add sleeves. If you are new to sewing and will like to try making a basic top, this pattern is worth trying. The only down side is that only smaller sizes are available, ranging from bust size 30 1/2 to 38 inches. However, you could find a similar pattern with a broader size range. You can sew as instructed or use as a block and experiment with various modifications to make it your own.


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