My Favorite Tools: Everyday Sewing Basics

My Favorite Tools: Basics | Grainline Studio

I thought it’d be fun to start a little series on some of my favorite sewing tools, starting with my basic everyday sewing must haves. These are the tools I find myself using almost daily while sewing around the studio and things I’d be lost without! Clockwise from top left we have the following…

  • Dritz #110 Super Fine Sharp Pins: These are my absolute favorite pins. They’re thin and super sharp so they’ll go through whatever you need without leaving a mark or damaging your fabric. They’re pretty average in length, perhaps a slight bit longer than standard dressmaker’s pins, so they don’t get in the way while you’re working the way some longer quilting style pins can. The only things I don’t use these pins on are heavy wool coating (they’re not strong enough for that) and knits (usually don’t use many pins there).
  • Buttonhole Foot: Since we sew a lot of Archers around here the buttonhole foot is in heavy rotation at the machine. The buttonhole foot shown above is for our BERNINA machines but no matter your machine you should have one of these in your toolkit that came with the machine. I highly recommend getting familiar with it and making it one of your best friends. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who tell me they’re scared of buttonholes and either won’t make anything with a button/buttonhole or have garments completely finished waiting around for months for the buttonholes.
  • Button Sew-on Foot: This foot goes hand in hand with the buttonhole foot and is indispensable to me! There’s nothing I like less than sewing on a ton of buttons by hand, so having this foot is a total game changer. And before you ask, no I’ve never had a button fall off when attaching it by this method. There’s a button sew-on stitch on my machine that knots the thread at three points during the sew on process so it’s actually more secure than when I’m in charge!
  • Quarter Inch Foot: This foot is my number one most used machine foot! BERNINA calls it a Patchwork Foot which I really think sells it short. I learned on a sewing machine that had one of these feet (a Sears Kenmore from the 1970’s), then in school all the industrials we used had a similar foot. I love that it’s small and has an open front so it affords me a better view of my sewing. I really feel lost without it!
  • Scissors: I’m not much of a rotary person, but the scissors I find most useful for almost every project I make are my Gingher bent handle shearsembroidery scissors, and my not pictured thread snips. I couldn’t sew without them! I use the small scissors for things like clipping, grading, and other small precision cuts. The shears are for cutting my projects and cutting corners, while the snips live next to my machine and serger for clipping my threads as they come off the machine.
  • Buttonhole Chisel: If you’re making buttonholes this is a must have. You’ll never live in fear of slicing a buttonhole open and the cut it makes is so nice. People always ask me if I use fray check on my buttonholes and I really feel it’s not necessary when you’re using the correct tool to open your holes. There’s no pulling of threads when using a chisel like there is with other methods, so the cut is super clean and precise. Just a heads up, you’ll likely need to get this sharpened with your scissors if you use it a lot, they do dull over time.
  • Bone Folder: You’ll find these at your local paper supply store as they’re used in book binding a lot, but I love them as point turners in sewing. They’re sharp enough to turn the point but won’t poke through the corner the way some sharper tools will.
  • Seam Gauge: These are excellent all purpose measuring tools. Use them for measuring your seam, checking your needle distance when adjusting it from left to right, placing buttons, etc. They’re super handy!

So those are my favorite tools for my everyday sewing with a heavy dose of buttonholes! What general tools can you not live without?

16 replies on “My Favorite Tools: Everyday Sewing Basics

  • sewinsteady

    I love the look of the Bernina buttonhole foot! It looks like it means business. What model Bernina do you use in your studio?

    Reply
  • Kate C

    Hi! This may be a silly request, but I would love to see a tutorial on the ways you use a seam gauge. It seems self explanatory enough, but as a novice sewer I always feel like I’m wrestling with it while trying to iron a hem just right. Does it just take a lot of practice, or is there a trick? And I’d never thought to use it to measure my needle position. Any tips/photos would be so helpful!

    Reply
    • Jen

      Haha I know exactly what you mean! We’ll definitely put that on our list for future posts and has made me think, maybe it would be better to do a post for each tool showing how we use it, rather than round up style like this one.

      Reply
  • rauten2014

    You don’t find the flat pin heads a little hard to grasp if you’re trying to pull them out while you’re at the machine?

    Reply
  • Nina

    I always chuckle to myself when reaching for one of my most useful sewing machine tools, because it’s just a bit of folded card that I use to get the presser foot over bulky seams. The other thing I use all the time is of course the unpicker (seam ripper) – is there a sharpenable option for that? They get blunt so fast! Would also love to know if there’s a better quality seam gauge out there anywhere – I’ve only ever seen one type, and they feel so cheap and flimsy, don’t they? (I reckon rauten2014 means that metal pins are a bit harder to grab than the glass-headed type.)

    Reply
    • Jen

      I always buy those little blue seam rippers so I think they usually break around the same time they go blunt. I know what you mean about the seam gauge though…I’d love to find one with a metal slider. I always use it around my iron but am terrified of melting the plastic piece!

      Reply
  • Sue @ A Colourful Canvas

    These are great! I’m guessing that the buttonhole attachment is being used on a mechanical Bernina. Is the foot generic or an actual Bernina foot? I have a workhorse 801 and a generic foot that I haven’t been using much lately. Since you love yours…maybe I’ve got an inferior one.

    Reply
  • Moira

    I’ve been sewing for a billion years and still learnt a few things from this post. Like using the seam gauge for other purposes, a bone folder for corners and using smaller scissors for grading seams. Rather obvious things you would think! Thanks.

    Reply
  • jendavismiller

    Love the Bernina buttonhole foot. I have a 560 also, and for someone who is afraid to do absolutely everything lately, I make buttonholes like a champ without an ounce of fear. (Funny, but I haven’t used the button sew-on foot yet.

    Reply
    • Jen

      Ooh you’ll love it when you finally try it! It makes 3 knots during the sew-on process and in the 6 years I’ve been using mine I’ve never had a button fall off. Blows my mind!

      Reply

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