9 Favorite Small Tools I Use All The Time

Nine Favorite Small Tools I Use All The Time

 

With the Holidays fast approaching I thought a list of my Ten Favorite Small Tools would be fun. These tools are listed in no particular order.

Pattern Weights/Washers

3 large meatl washers on a work table with 4 smaller washers nearby. I use the washers as weights.

Washers as Weights

I use large washers from the Hardware Store to hold my fabrics and patterns in place on my work table.  The size of the washer does not matter, but the weight of each washer is important; look for stainless steel or steel, zinc washers are too light. Washers come in many sizes from Grainger.com or special ordered from your local hardware store. The large washers are 3/4″ washers; washers are measured by the size of the inner hole ( to fit around a 3/4″ bolt.)  The smaller washers are 1/2″ washers. On the far right is a small washer that was spray-painted white to disappear in photos. I like 3/4″ washers as I can easily grab a stack with my fingers to distribute or gather up.  You can buy washers singly or in boxes of 20 for $43.41, plus $12. shipping, from Grainger or another hardware distributer.

https://www.grainger.com/product/FABORY-3-4-x2-O-D-22UG68

 

3 small magnets on a work table

Magnets

Magnets:

Keep a small magnet near your sewing machine and/or cutting table. When you tip over your box of pins a magnet will make picking up the pins much easier.

 

 

 

Seam rippers

A sharp seam ripper makes the annoying job of ripping out a seam much easier.

2 seam rippers on a work table

Seam Rippers

The small seam ripper is an inexpensive version like this one from Gold Star Tools.  I have  these inexpensive seam rippers in multiple locations in my work room.

https://www.goldstartool.com/seam-ripper–3-1-2-extra-fine-blade-fortiny-stitches.htm

The larger seam ripper was a gift from a cousin. It is double headed, with a large ripper on one end and a smaller ripper on the other end.  I use this tool if I have a long seam to rip out as the large, ridged handle is comfortable and easy to hold for that annoying,  mis-sewn seam. I have seen rippers like this one at craft fairs and small sewing/quilting stores.

Snips

I keep these by my sewing machine for clipping threads. The upper snips are inexpensive and efficient, but can’t be sharpened.

2 pairs of fabric snips on a work table

Fabric Snips

https://www.wawak.com/Cutting-Measuring/Cutting/Thread-Clips/thrifty-4-14-thread-clips/?sku=IS25 at $2.98

https://www.goldstartool.com/thread-clippers-springtype-all-metal.htm at $1.99

The lower snips are heavier and can be sharpened when needed. I keep these snips by my sewing machine and on my worktable; they are great for cutting notches.

https://www.wawak.com/Cutting-Measuring/Cutting/Thread-Clips/gingher-4-12-thread-snips/?sku=IS27 at $12.49

https://www.goldstartool.com/stainless-steelthread-clips.htm at $7.99

Fabric Markers:

There are lots of different fabric markers on the market. I have lots of fabric markers in my workroom, but these are the two I reach for most often.

2 fabric markers on my work table

Fabric Markers

The Chaco Chalk Maker leaves a fine line that can be brushed away. In the photo is my blue Chaco chalk Marker; they also come in white.

https://www.wawak.com/Cutting-Measuring/Marking-Chalk-Pens/Chalk/clover-chaco-liner-marker-white/?sku=CK4 at $5.81   Little bottles of ground chalk for refills in a 2-pack cost $3.44.

Frixon Pens are the newest version of “disappearing ink” pens. The ink in Frixon pens is heat sensitive; the heat of an iron (140°) makes the ink “disappear”. The ink does vanish from view, but will reappear if exposed to extreme cold: 14°. I recommend the “Fine” point at 07. I find the Extra Fine at 05 is too fine.

https://www.amazon.com/Pilot-FriXion-Erasable-3-Pack-31578/dp/B004JXHTDK/ref=pd_cp_229_2/143-5975381-7412206?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B004JXHTDK&pd_rd_r=9cc92d31-dabc-463d-865e-00f7a66a128a&pd_rd_w=zqHkG&pd_rd_wg=hl2No&pf_rd_p=0e5324e1-c848-4872-bbd5-5be6baedf80e&pf_rd_r=41K6MQM2CECJR619W5GY&psc=1&refRID=41K6MQM2CECJR619W5GY for a 3 pack at $5.79.

https://www.staples.com/Pilot-FriXion-Point-Erasable-Pens-Extra-Fine-Point-Black-3-Pack-31578/product_343209 for a 3-pack at $5.79.

Hole Maker and Pattern Notcher

Hole punch and pattern notcher on my work table

Screw hole punch and pattern notcher

The Screw Hole Maker is perfect for making a hole in your pattern to mark dart tips, button placement, the break point of the jacket lapel, etc. With changeable bits, you can make a small hole, a medium hole or a large hole; the large holes are large enough to sew Tailor’s Tack through.

https://www.goldstartool.com/japanese-book-drill—screw-hole-punch-with-6-bits.htm at $13.99

A pattern notcher eliminates the fussy cutting of the triangle notches the major pattern makers use. Instead of cutting out 3 triangles, squeeze the pattern notcher once (or three times side by side) and get a cut into the pattern’s seam allowance. When cutting out your garment in fabric make quick snip into the seam allowance to mark the notch.

Three overlapping triangles and 3 vertical rectangles, representing pattern notches.

Different pattern notches: triangles or slits

 

Pattern notchers are available at Gold Star tools, Wawak and other sewing tool suppliers.

https://www.goldstartool.com/pattern-notcher.htm at 14.99

https://www.wawak.com/Cutting-Measuring/Patterns-Supplies/pattern-notcher/?sku=TOOL15 at $18.35

Special Needles

Both of these needles help finish a seam. On the top, an Easy Thread needle, which threads from the top, is perfect for hiding thread ends.

2 special needles: an Easy Thread needle and a double eyed needle on my work table

Easy Thread needle and Double eyed needle

On the bottom, a double eyed needle has an eye on each end. Thread the ends of a serger chain into one of the eyes. Slide the other end of the needle back through the serger seam and bury the thread chain ends to prevent the chain from raveling.

Easy Thread needles are available at Gold Star tools, Wawak and other sewing tool suppliers.

https://www.goldstartool.com/selfthreading-needles-10-pc.htm at $3.99 for a 10 pack

https://www.wawak.com/Sewing/Needles/Hand/john-james-assorted-easy-threading-hand-needles-4-size-4-2-size-8/?sku=NEDE48 at $1.79 for a 4-pack

The Double ended needles are harder to find.  I found them at Sewing Machine Plus online:

https://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/havels_dbleneedle.php?gclid=CjwKCAiA5JnuBRA-EiwA-0ggPRwVPbTWsVMHRBbgbolswUNnQDq_fI-j_mUayHqFVQ3gPLkyQmYWGBoCMQMQAvD_BwE at $3.99 for a 2 pack.

I hope you have  found a new tool put on your Holiday Wish List or buy for yourself.  I’m sure you have other tools you love that aren’t listed here.  Please share!

NB: all of the links to the shopping sources are provided by me, without any sponorship from the vendors. I have received good customer service from GoldStar, Wawak and SewingMachings Plus.  Please let me know if the links don’t work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salmon pink short sleeve with grey Sashiko stitching

Sashiko instructions

Long ago, in June 2019, I promised to post instructions for Sashiko.  Six months later I am finally posting the instructions.   I took the instruction and photos directly from Creating Couture Embellishment, which means the text is quite small; I’m sorry.

In Step 1 of the text below it says to “see box, right” to learn about adjusting the tension of the bobbin case but those instructions have been moved to the bottom of this post.  Enjoy!

First page of instructions from Creating Couture Embellishment describing how to do Sashiko.

 

Second page of instructions from Creating Couture Embellishment describing how to do Sashiko.

Diagrams and text explaining balanced machine stitching.

 

Amazing Price for CCE

#37 – Amazing Price For Creating Couture Embellishment

 book-cover-creating-couture-embellishment

Amazon/ Super Book Deals is offering Creating Couture Embellishment for only $42.52 (+ $3.99 in shipping, total = $46.51)   Amazon/ txtbroker is offering  CCE for only $42.63  (+ $3.99 in shipping, total = $46.62)

The wholesale cost of Creating Couture Embellishment is $42.50.  If you have any interest in buying CCE now is the time to do it! click here.

For those of you who shop all year round for Holiday gifts, now would be great a time to buy Creating Couture Embellishment  for anyone who in your life who sews.

If you do buy CCE I’m happy to send you a personalized book plate you can add to your book;  write me a note in the comments section or send me an email.

Also, if you would be kind enough to leave a review on Amazon here,  or Goodreads  here, that would be lovely.

The glass-1/2-empty part of me says that Amazon is selling my books super cheap to get rid of them.  The glass-1/2-full part of me says the more copies that are sold, the more the word gets out that Creating Couture Embellishment  exists.

Please note: Amazon is offering  “flexi-bound” or “hard cover versions of Creating Couture Embellishment.  They are the same book; there is only way printing/binding of the Creating Couture Embellishment .

Happy Shopping everyone!

I’m Teaching at the ASDP Conference

#36 – I’m Teaching at the ASDP Conference!

It’s Official!  I’m teaching at the ASDP Conference!   I emailed a proposal for a class, which has been accepted and I’ve been put on the schedule.

Friday afternoon, October 18, 2019 in Milwaukee WI.  Here’s the class description:

Tempted by all the lush ribbons in the stores but not sure which makes the best flowers?  Wondering how to make a beautiful Dior Rose? Come spend an afternoon with Ellen W. Miller, author of Creating Couture Embellishment to learn all about making flowers and ribbon trims to suit today’s fashions. Using different kinds of ribbon and fabrics we will make lots of flowers: Peonies, Pansies, Geraniums, Foxgloves, Dior Roses, Poinsettias, with leaves and stems to round out our bouquets. Lest you think that’s all the ribbons are good for, we’ll make some Shark’s Teeth trim, a glorious Butterfly Bow and other ribbon trims. This class will spark lots of creative ideas for adding contemporary flowers, bows and ribbons to future projects.

If you are interested in signing up for the class here is a link to the ASDP Conference site.

ASDP Conference Schedule

ASDP Conference Schedule

 

I hope to see you there!

Inexperience and It’s Sew Easy TV

#35 – It’s Sew Easy TV 1505

In March 2018 I went to Cleveland to video-tape a 10 minute segment for It’s Sew Easy TV. Before I went I wrote about my preparations: Going to Ohio & England!

This was way out of my comfort zone; I was a professional stagehand, backstage, for many years. I think of myself as a support person, not the onstage, out-front person. I had never been video-taped but the producers of It’s Sew Easy TV assured me it was just like teaching. I’m comfortable teaching, so this should be different but fun. OK…

The rest of this post is about that experience, most of which was really difficult. Most of the problems were due to my inexperience and few miscommunications with the producers of It’s Sew Easy TV. Also, I want to emphasize how much I admire the people who do this really well- like Joanne Banko and Angela Wolf of It’s Sew Easy TV.

At home I prepared my 10 minute speech and my samples. I practiced at home in front of my cousin and my husband, until they could recite my lines. Then I packed my large suitcase filled with clothes and samples and flew off to gray, sleet flecked Cleveland.

The It’s Sew Easy TV offices and studio is in an industrial park: gloomy and unwelcoming. I opened the door to the offices and was greeted with big smiles by Sarah Gunn, Cheryl Sledoba and JoAnne Banko! Michelle Paganini was video-taping her segments. I spent a lovely afternoon getting to know these lovely sewists. Wicked Cool!

Problem #1: I am not a morning person. I was scheduled to video-tape first thing the next day. I had to be at the studio at 7:30 am for Make-Up. I got up extra early to drink lots coffee before heading for the studio. OK…

Problem #2: After make-up, I went into the studio to set up my samples. That’s when I was asked what was I going to sew during the demonstration? Why…. Nothing! I had all my samples pre-sewn as I didn’t think there would be time to get used to sewing on a new sewing machine before the video taping. Since Bernina is a big sponsor of It’s Sew Easy TV, everyone must sew something on the their machine during their segment. OK…

Problem #3: There was no tele-prompter and when I started to “recite” my script, I was told it too rote. Improvise more. OK…

Problem #4: When I teach I spend a lot of time looking at my students and gauging their reactions to see if they comprehend what I’m saying. When video-taping you are supposed to look at the camera: not the camera man who’s behind and slightly above the camera, the camera. And did you know cameras don’t show any sign of comprehension when you tech them something? OK…

Problem #5: It is really really hard to demonstrate a sewing technique with your hands, explain what you’re doing and look at the camera; don’t look at your hands or at the sample. When I teach I look down at the sample and my hands, look up at the students and make sure they are following along with me, look down at the sample- you get the idea. When you are video-taping a How-To segment, you must look at the camera, not at your hands. OK…

Problem #6: A very small amount of time was allotted for the video-taping of my segment. No stopping or redoing if I left something out or misspoke, both of which I did. Keep talking, even when you forget what you were supposed to say. When I started to cough during the taping I was told to keep going; I finally stopped when I was coughing so much I couldn’t speak. The tape was backed up to where I started to cough and we went on from there. I expected a second recording would be made and the two versions would be spliced together to get a good version. I didn’t know there would be no second recording until we were “through” the segment. OK…

Problem # 7: In an effort to streamline my presentation I simplified my presentation. In fact, I simplified it so much it’s completely incomprehensible! OOPS…

Solution to problems #1-6: If I am ever recorded again I will rehearse with a professional director recording until I am comfortable with the results on the tape, be recorded while teaching a class with students present. Combining both of these solutions would probably be the best: rehearse a ton and have students present.

To anyone who tried to follow my directions for Sashiko from It’s Sew Easy TV the directions in my book, Creating Couture Embellishment, are very clear and good. I will post the direction in my next blog post; this blog post is plenty long!

A second technique was recorded immediately after Sashiko: Flounces. I don’t know when It’s Sew Easy TV will be airing this segment. I haven’t seen it. I hope it’s better than the Sashiko segment.

Have you had an experience like this? Something you thought would be fabulous, but turned out to be awful?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Threads Gift Guide, 2018

#33 – Threads Gift Guide

November’s Threads Magazine features their annual Gift & Goodies Guide – For the stitchers in your life.

Cover of Threads magazine, novemeber 2018, featuring their annual gift guide

Cover of Novemeber 2108 Threads

Creating Couture Embellishment is among the 16 fabulous items they selected this year. “I’m chuffed!” as the English say. Or as New Englanders say, “I’m wicked pleased!”

one of four books picked for the gift guide is Creating Couture Embellishment

Threads recommendation of Creating Couture Embellishment

Need I say more?

Ellen with a gleam in her eye

Wicked Cool!

Giveaways

#29 – Giveaways!

It’s snowing again here in New England! To alleviate the gloom I have three tidbits- the first: the Word of the Day from the gratefulnetwork.com

You are the sky.  Everything else is just weather. ~ Pema Chodro  

https://gratefulness.org/?utm_source=A%20Network%20for%20Grateful%20Living&utm_campaign=8a658a7a3c-WOTD_03_13_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c606570b82-8a658a7a3c-114256889&mc_cid=8a658a7a3c&mc_eid=164fa8ba63

The second tidbit is from Goodbye Valentino: Sarah is offering a giveaway of my book!

Creating Couture Embellishment Giveaway for All Readers!

Sarah Gunn, author of the Goodbye Valentino blog, is co-author of The Tunic Bible, with Julie Starr.  The Tunic Bible is a wonderful book about tunics: how to make them, including patterns for them and how to change up your tunic with different necklines, sleeves, cuffs, hems. I can’t wait to dive into The Tunic Bible.  At Amazon:   https://www.amazon.com/Tunic-Bible-Interchangeable-Ready-Wear/dp/1617453560/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1520960118&sr=8-1&keywords=the+tunic+bible

 

Sarah Gunn

Sarah Gunn

I met Sarah in Ohio during the taping for It’s Sew Easy TV; Sarah couldn’t be nicer!  We had dinner together in Ohio, with Lynn Browne of Coats & Clark.  Lynn told us Coats & Clarks answers lots of questions about their threads and yarns.  The wildest question, so far, “Is there gluten in the thread and yarn?”  At first I thought this was silly, but as I thought about all the thread ends I put in my mouth to smooth the yarn before threading a needle I rethought my skepticism. If the thread and/or yarn are processed with a starch, it could be a wheat based starch…which could be troublesome.  Lynn said there was no gluten in the Coats & Clarks thread or yarn. Live and learn.

The third tidbit is from Paganoonoo: Michelle Paganini, whom I met in Ohio too.  Michelle is offering a giveaway of my book too!

Michelle Paganini's giveaway

http://michellepaganini.blogspot.com/2018/03/paganoonoo-give-away-fantastic-book-on.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ThriftedGiftedBoughtMade+%28Thrifted%2C+Gifted%2C+Bought%2C+Made%29

Michelle & Ellen in Ohio

Michelle specializes in up-cycling clothing. She sells patterns that create amazing garments from old fabric salvaged from clothing from the thrift store. I haven’t tried her patterns but her finished garments are beautiful, as you can see from the photo above.

A group of sewists taping at It's Sew Easy TV, 2018

A group of sewists taping at It’s Sew Easy TV, 2018  Sarah Gunn posted this photo in Goodbye Valentino, so she = me, in the center.

You can go to either (or both) blog posts to enter into the giveaways!

 

London part 2

London  part 2

Part 2 of our London trip included viewing Queen Victoria’s and Princess Diana’s dresses in Kensington Palace  in London. On the way to Kensington Palace we walked through Hyde Park. The sun was out, there were primroses in the planter boxes, wild parakeets in the trees and snow drops under the bushes just outside Kensington Palace.  At home in Massachusetts 5-8″ of snow was predicted.

Snow Drops

Snow Drops

Inside Kensington Palace we saw some of the rooms Queen Victoria lived in as a child. As we are watching Victoria on PBS and The Crown on Netflix, seeing these rooms in person was fascinating. The rooms are much smaller than one would think from the television shows. Several of the rooms in the Queen Victoria part of the museum were closed for renovations. This is the only photo I took in this section of the museum– one of Queen Victoria’s gowns.

Queen Victoria's gown

Queen Victoria’s gown

The contrast of the delicate white lace gown with the heavy red and gold over-robe and the thick gold rope belt tied in a loop knot is striking.

Lastly, we went to see a temporary exhibit of some of Princess Diana’s dress.

Shirred silk chiffon with beads and sequins

Shirred silk chiffon with beads and sequins

This gown, designed by Gina Fratini for Hartnell in 1991, was inspired by saris. Princess Diana wore the gown in Rio de Janieiro, Brazil. I was intrigue by the mix of beads and sequins at the top of the bodice.

 

Pastel sequin dress

Pastel sequin dress

 

 

 

Close up of sequins

Close up of sequins

This dress, designed by Katherine Walker, was worn on the same trip to Brazil in 1991. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a close up photo of the sequins.

 

Gold Falcon Dress

Gold Falcon Dress

This dress was near the end of the exhibit; it was designed by Katherine Walker and worn by Princess Diana during a visit to Saudi Arabia in 1986. I love the way the gold falcons start on the right shoulder, cross the front of the gown, continue around to back at the waist, and then cascade down the back, slightly left of center, all the way down onto the train. The falcons, made of padding and gold sequins, are different sizes and shapes accentuating the sense of flight.

Gold Falcon gown, front

 

Gold Falcon gown, back

Much has been already written about Princess Diana, the People’s Princess.  For me she represented a person who developed a style, which we would now call a brand, which could be adapted by regular people like me.  I grew up in the 60’s and early 70’s when to think about clothes and how one looked was considered shallow; we were supposed to be concerned with ending the Vietnam War, the future of our planet when it was being destroyed by DDT,  and other “serious” issues.  Clothing, make up and self presentation was not only unimportant but thinking about them was egotistic and vainglorious.  Fancy clothes, anything other than blue jeans,  were a “Costume” which didn’t reflect the “real you”.  This notion was further reinforced by my life in the theatre, where I  made costumes for a living. Somehow Princess Diana managed to marry her personal appearance in fancy clothes with political actions, like meeting AIDS patients while wearing a beautiful dress. While I didn’t need a beaded gown or even a tailored suit, I could analyze Princess Diana’s stylish appearance, her gracious ways and apply them to my life: to my wardrobe, my house and my interactions with others. Trite as it might be, she was a role model for me.  Her clothes were, and are, an access point into the courteous, smiling and accepting person that was (the public) Princess Diana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

London!

#25- London!
I am in London, England with my husband for a week! We are staying at the Rembrandt Hotel,    www.sarova-rembrandthotel.com  across the street from the Victoria and Albert Museum   https://www.vam.ac.uk/.   We bought a membership to the V&A, which allows us access to the museum and the special exhibits as often as we like. We’ve been 3 times since we arrived 4 days ago.

Kate & Ellen smiling

Kate & Ellen

On our first day in London we met Kate of Fabricated   http://fabrickated.com/ . Kate is charming, generous and fascinating to talk to. Kate told us about her day job and we compared notes about difficulties of buying a home, apartment/condo/coop in a large city like London or Boston without parental help or a 7-figure salary. We also talked about Kate’s book project, and I think we talked about blogging and making clothes but jet-lag fog has obscured that part of my memory. It was lovely to meet Kate in person; she’s extraordinary.

After a cup of tea and piece of cake Kate, my husband and I wandered through the jewelry exhibit while trying to find the William Morris textiles. That’s the thing about a large museum like the V&A: on the way to one exhibit you pass through another exhibit that’s fascinating!

necklace made of buttons & gold wire

Button Necklace

Here’s a photo of a necklace made by Rowena Gough in 1999, of mother of pearl button and gold wire. I love this! I want to know what kind of gold wire is strong enough to support all of those buttons.  Any ideas?

My husband and I saw the Balenciaga exhibit, also at the V&A, which was beautiful. I took some photos in this exhibit- technical sewing things that caught my eye.

Hem with pleated support

Hem with pleated support

Here is a photo of the train of a long gown, which is supported by a heavily pleated underskirt or maybe a pleated facing.

Feathers & Beads on a gown

Feathers & Beads

This photo of a feathered and beaded dress is supposed to show that the feathers are beaded and the dress itself is beaded. It makes sense to bead both the feathers and dress under the feathers in scattered patterns: lots of varying sparkles from the many layers, which move differently in the room’s air currents.

We have also been to Kensington Palace, where I took some photos of Queen Victoria’s and Princess Diana’s dresses but they will have to wait for the next post—coming soon.

 

 

Sitting by the river on a snowy day…

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Sitting by the river on a snowy day…which doesn’t quite match Robert Frost’s poem Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening.  As a child growing up in New England I had to memorize this poem.  Was it just children from New England who all learned this poem by heart, or did all U.S. children learn it? You can find the poem at the link below. It’s a lovely simple poem, but of course it has all kinds of deeper meanings.

http://<div id=’rg_embed_link_1875′ class=’rg_embed_link’ data-song-id=’1875′>Read <a href=’https://genius.com/Robert-frost-stopping-by-woods-on-a-snowy-evening-annotated’>“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost</a> on Genius</div> <script crossorigin src=’//genius.com/songs/1875/embed.js’></script>

snow falling on the river

A Snowy Day

 

I have been working on another version of the Burgundy blouse, seen below, as photographed by Jess McDougall.

The burgundy blouse with shirring and gold tone pearls on me.

Burgundy Blouse

 

I added to the length of the blouse and a bit more to the gathered section on the side.  Did I take the time to true the side seam after adding more fullness? No.  The side seam was already ugly in the Burgundy Blouse version, and adding more fullness her made this seam even worse.  I was hoping to just wing it and cut off whatever doesn’t fit.  Haha!  Another good idea ruined by the facts.

Front view of brown floral top

Front view

I like the fullness going from the left waist area  to right bust area.  But there’s extra fabric at the arm hole on the left and the rest of the top hangs badly.

 

Side view of brown floral top

Side view

The front is much longer than the back. Also it’s very lumpy at the waist– on both sides- which makes me think that might be the machine basting stitch I used to sew this together.  I wanted to baste it together to see if I could skip the side zipper.  I don’t have an answer for that question as the whole thing looks so awful I decided to put the garment aside for another day.  Argh!  Is it a redeemable wadder?  or forever a UFO?

Only time will tell.