I Own Some Truly Useful Equipment, Too!

After my latest True Confessions, a wise reader left a comment. ‘You’re going to tell us what your best sewing investments have been, aren’t you?’ Oh, yes, Lisa!

I didn’t want to over think this one, so I just pulled out the first things that came to my head. I’ll be really interested to hear what other items readers have got the most use from. But first off…


I began my sewing life cutting out on the floor. Soon, my hips started protesting, then my knees, then people couldn’t see the telly over my humped back… Also, I noticed that my cutting out with scissors could be really, really bad. It was time to take things to the next level. Enter Ebay! I took the advice of Male Pattern Boldness, and bought the largest cutting mat I could accommodate/afford. Combined with an Olfa rotary cutter, these two things have made a massive difference to my sewing life. I can stand up at the table and cut out! I don’t have to lift fabric to get the blade beneath! The whole experience is much happier and much more accurate. Top tip: change the blade on your rotary cutter regularly. In exchange, any tips on cleaning a cutting mat? Mine’s awful!

Next up, measuring tools.


The French curve on the far right has been really useful. The wooden French curves I bought from Tate Modern, though I can’t see that they stock them any more. The quilters’ measuring tool on the left is really useful. Really, really useful. Like, very useful. Buy these things!

After that, my ugly tailor’s ham


Ugly it may be, but extremely useful it is. Time and time again, when I’m pressing work, it’s really useful to have a curved object packed with saw dust! It’s not just the curve that’s important, it’s the density of the object. This thing can take a lot of abuse! Any seam you want to press that isn’t straight – this if your friend.

Moving on, may I introduce the thread clipper?


I never sew without it. My sewing routine goes thus: switch on the machine, drape this around my neck, drape a tape measure around my neck … get going! I use this about 50 times during every sewing event and I’m thinking about buying a new one, as the blades are getting blunt.

And finally…


My Bernina invisible zip foot. I love you, invisible zip foot! When I get married, I’m going to marry Bernina foot number 35. Reliable, sturdy, does what it says it will, worth every penny. Now, if it can just cook me my dinner…

So, that’s my round up of the best things I’ve ever bought. I know you’ll have more to add.  Let me know!

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37 Responses to I Own Some Truly Useful Equipment, Too!

  1. liza jane says:

    I totally agree about the quilter’s ruler. So, so useful. In addition to the tailor’s ham, I also love my sleeve arm. I constantly use it to press seams that are hard to get to. I don’t have a serger so I’m quite in love with my overlock foot, too. And of course my Iron! You’ve got to have a good heavy iron.

  2. Kerry says:

    Thanks for this! A useful reminder to ask for a rotary cutter and mat for christmas. Do you have any recommendations on cutter size?

    • Lizzie says:

      I bought the 26mm cutter as my understanding is that it is better to get around smaller curves like armholes etc. Best thing I have invested in this year!

  3. Jen (NY) says:

    A real ironing board. It’s the curse of apartment dwellers, I think, to rely on one of those tabletop mini ironing boards. I finally got a real one, and it has made a big difference — I do not dread pressing anymore. However, because of my limited space I didn’t get a full-size surf-board like ironing board. I got an abbreviated board from Muji. It has real legs and folds up easily & nicely for storage.

    I’d love to get the Bernina invisible zipper foot, but I have an older machine (Designer 1000) & it seems like they don’t exist for that era. I’m stuck with the plastic thing for the time being.

  4. BeingZhenya says:

    My mom used to have so many of these back when I lived in Russia! I need to go there and raide her sewing stash, and my grandma’s vintage fabrics 🙂 Thanks for sharing your tools! I am just starting to seriously sew, it was extremely helpful!

  5. PoldaPop says:

    I need to give a shout out to the humble, but quality, seam ripper. For my first year of sewing I relied on the dinky red one that came in some sewing kit I acquired somewhere. I finally paid the $5 it took to buy a better one after a more experienced sewist commented on how dull my seam ripper was. Wow! What a difference! My only problem now is that I keep losing my good seam rippers (I never seem to lose the crappy ones). I’m thinking about nailing one of those dog leashes that winds up to the wall of my sewing room and attaching the cord to my best seam ripper. When I can find it, that is. Oh, and I second the rotary cutter and mat – can’t do without them!!!

  6. Peter says:

    Thanks for the shout out! Re cleaning the cutting mat, I’ve taken a scruffy sponge (the sort one would use for dishes) and some dish soap to it and it didn’t make much of a difference. But it’s a good idea to scrub it now and then to make sure it’s not stained with anything that could come off on your fabric.

  7. sarah says:

    I need to get me a rotary cut, I keep holding off but I do really need one. good Idea putting your thread clipper round your neck I’m forever loosing mine.
    I also love my sewing gauge, even though the movable bit has to be held in place with blue tack, it’s great for checking hems are turned up to the correct measurement.

  8. kaitui_kiwi says:

    Ahh my seam ripper, the most used (not always for deconstruction!) tool in my room (also need to be replaced regularly as they get blunt too) and my thread snips. My other favourite new piece of equipment is a pair of hemostats, they are like clamp scissors, fishers use them to make lures and they are also used for medical things but I like to use mine to turn fiddly things inside out, very handy – oh and my overlocker unpicker, so mean looking but the best for chopping through overlocker stitch.

  9. lynl says:

    I love my edge joining and overcasting feet and use them constantly. I asked my local owner-run sewing shop what to use for my cutting mat and he showed me this thing that looks like a translucent textured silicone pencil eraser block (that’s not what it is but looks like it). It had a really stupid name like Peter’s Rubber (or some other such embarrassing title) on a homemade looking tag. It’s amazing! You use it just like a pencil eraser and it gets things out of every groove in the mat. Then I wipe it down with a damp cloth and air dry. Perfect!

  10. MrsC says:

    Oh yes, There is also a new rotary cutter out, by Fiskar, that is small and perfect for free motion – you put your finger in the top ring and push it around. Brilliant.
    To clean your mat, curve it gently so the cutting surface is convex, and brush with a firm brush. The curving opens up the tiny cuts and the brush gets in and releases any fibres caught in them. I confess I’ve never tried this but I read it somewhere – it will be interesting to see if it really works!
    I too cannot live without my board and cutter and the big clear rulers. Also the thread snippers. Other big love are for my enormous, antique shears, and beeswax for calming down thread before hand sewing. And carbon paper and tracing wheel. And my sewing gauge, I love that little thing! Perfect for buttonhole spacing, evenly placed bunting flags, neat hems and so much more!

  11. I second all your choices apart from the rotary cutter and mat, which I don’t have. I think it’s time I invested in them! Perhaps a Christmas present to myself…?

  12. my big cutting mat, rotary cutter, grid ruler, good shears and great snips are used constantly. and my sweet pincushion! i recently started using pattern weights instead of pins when cutting out – wow, what a time saver. and, because i’m often turning a lot of small pieces right-side out after sewing, i have found my hand-me-down surgical needle driver to be indispensible! it is also great for pushing out corners.

  13. 5currantbuns says:

    Seam ripper,,,first last and always…I don’t know where mine came from but I seem to have always had it…more recent kit are snips, love them, shame i keep using them…think rotary cutter will be useful when i master them, so far all i’ve managed is to drop them whilst covered on my finger…cue loads of blood and no sewing for the rest of the night !

  14. Laura says:

    Haha, unpickers are the best! I have about half a dozen, because I tend to lose them, replace them and then find the old one again.

    Ive finally decided to bite the bullet and get a rotary cutter. I’ll still be cutting out on the floor, but I’ve noticed lately that my accuracy is appalling with scissors. So no matter how nicely I sew, the item always turns out a bit dodgy.

    Does anyone recommend any particular brand?

  15. pat says:

    My 6″ Dritz sewing gauge. I can make really precise hems with it. My daughter got back into sewing again and I bought her one as an early Christmas present.

  16. Lizzie says:

    Rotary cutter and mat, best investments I have made this year. Perhaps a tailor’s ham could be on my Xmas wishlist though.

  17. Leila says:

    Can I be invited to your wedding to your Bernina foot? Great list!

  18. sewbusylizzy says:

    My iPhone & iPad.
    I take pictures of fabric tags & inspiration outfits when i am out anf about – and of my sewing as I work. I also save my downloadable patterns, pattern backs etc into Evernote app, where I can email them to my computer to print, check yardage when shopping etc.
    I also use them to watch YouTube when I get stuck on a technique while sitting at the machine so I have a reference as I work. I also read PDF patterns on my iPad as I sew rather than print them out.
    Goodness! I never realised how dependent I was on them until now!!!

  19. Trice says:

    I am going to say my smallest rotary cutter, chapper and duck bill scissors.

  20. Susan says:

    Hi, Would love to find out more information re: your invisible zip foot. I bought a walking foot for my machine which I love and I’m wondering if maybe I should invest in an invisible zip foot. I have to admit to having a bit of trouble getting a zip just right.
    BTW … Love your blog !

  21. Lisa says:

    Brilliant!! Thanks for the tips.. I felt silly putting an invisible zipper foot on my christmas list as I’ve been after one for a while! Hopefully santa will come up trumps!!

  22. sung says:

    you can clean your cutting mat with a lint remover. Just roll back and forth and it will pick up all the lint caught in the cutting line. Hope this helps.

  23. LLADYBIRD says:

    Put me in the small corner as the sewist who hates her rotary cutter. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong, but I can’t get a smooth cut with that thing to save my life! I always end up with small threads every couple of inches (so after slicing, I have to go back through with my snips and cut every.single.thread). It’s not very efficient! And I don’t think it’s a matter of the blade being dull, because it’s been like that with every rotary cutter I’ve ever tried. Hrmph.

    My favorite rando sewing tool is my pair of duck-billed applique scissors. I resisted buying them for a long time because they seemed so silly and had a very narrow range of uses, but they are truly fabulous for trimming and grading seams. I also love having a walking foot, although it’s built into my Pfaff. I’m getting ready to switch out to a Bernina and I’ve already budgeted to buy the walking foot as well 🙂

  24. Teri says:

    Amen on all those items. I have to add my wooden point turner and my edge stitching foot…I cannot live without my edge stitching foot, which I believe is really a blind hem foot, but I have never used it for that….

  25. Clio says:

    I agree 100%! I was about to add, especially the _____. But then couldn’t decide which because it really is especially the all of them.

  26. USEFUL:
    – rotary cutter and mat
    – magnetic pin cushion

    – thread snipper
    – seam ripper
    – measuring tape


  27. wcdesigns says:

    Great topic! We have to appreciate what we have, sometimes it’s nice to just sit and take stock of what awesome stuff we have and use everyday. For me I can’t live without my Walking foot, a good seam gauge, my iron and ironing board, my 2″x18″ c-thu pattern ruler, and a nice sharp pair of fabric scissors.

  28. LubbyGirl says:

    love this – and all my sewing goodies. The seam ripper is my friend. My best friend on some projects. And my walking foot has been great to have; I’d also love to have a blind zipper foot – I wonder if there’s one available for a Janome?

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