In a Pinch -- Substitute Sewing Tools

It has happened to all of us -- you're about to start, or in the middle of a sewing project when you realize that you don't have the appropriate tools. For whatever reason, going to the fabric store right now isn't an option, so just what are you going to do? There are many little items in your house already that you can substitute for the real thing. Here are a few tips that might save you a trip to the fabric store:

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My most beloved sewing tool is my edge guide foot -- I find it almost impossible to top-stitch without it. But if you don't have one you can still accomplish the task neatly. Simply take an empty sewing machine needle box (or a Lego, or whatever you have on hand that will work), and tape it to the throat plate of your machine to create an edge guide for your fabric.
Where you place your guide will depend on how close you want your stitches in relation to the edge of your fabric. Just make sure you don't cover the feed dogs.
This is also a great tool for beginners -- place it at the 5/8" mark on your sewing machine throat plate to create a solid guide. This will help you acclimate to watching your guide-line while you're sewing instead of watching the needle.

Have you ever had your tailor's chalk just grow legs and walk away in the middle of a project? I have. The pencils are great, until you have to sharpen them -- then suddenly the tip keeps breaking off. Then there are those fabrics that just don't accept tailor's chalk well -- wool, or felt for example. Dried soap slivers work very nicely as markers for dark fabrics. I always keep a few in my sewing box, but if you don't have any then just slice a piece of soap off the bar. If you need to mark light fabrics, but don't have a dark tailor's chalk, or a disappearing ink pen, you can use a regular #2 pencil (with a light touch)-- it will wash out.

I recently purchased some clear vinyl to make a rain coat. As I stood there staring at the pieces I had cut, trying to figure out how I was going to mark the vinyl for construction -- tailors chalk won't work, a sharpie won't come off, and soap won't show up clearly -- I suddenly remembered the dry erase markers I had in the desk drawer. These worked great; the markings stayed on while I was sewing, and wiped off easily when I no longer needed them. I've not tried the dry erase markers on other vinyls, or oil sure to test on a scrap before you start marking your fabric.

Really? Canned goods? Yep...they make great pattern weights. It's not always practical, or desirable to pin your pattern tissue to your fabric. In the case of knits, I much prefer to use pattern weights to hold the tissue in place while I cut. But I don't have any of those lovely pattern weights, so I use canned goods instead. You can make your own pattern weights with some scrap material. Cut a square or rectangle, sew 3 sides closed, fill with dry beans, or rice, and sew the 4th side closed.

In the absence of a smooth pressing cloth, use parchment paper. While steam from the iron won't penetrate it as well, it can take a good deal of heat to protect delicate fabrics, and it will allow enough heat through for fusing appliques, and interfacing. It also works well as a tear-away topping (and or underlay) if you're sewing vinyl, and don't have a teflon presser foot. Locate it on the baking aisle of your local grocery store.

Freezer paper is amazing stuff. If you're cutting shapes, or portions of a design from fabric, or small pattern pieces, stabilizing the fabric with freezer paper makes it a breeze. Simply place your fabric on the shiny side of the freezer paper, and press with your iron. The fabric will stick to the freezer paper while you cut, and then easily peel off when you're done.

I've also used the freezer paper method to run fabric through my ink-jet printer. Once you've fused your fabric to the freezer paper, cut the 2 layers to a size your printer will accept (8 1/2" X 11", or 8 1/2" X 14"). You can now place it in your printer just as you would do with paper, and print right on the fabric. Be aware that unless the fabric has been treated, the printing will wash off (mostly). I've used this method to print "patterns" for hand embroidery onto fabric, and for printing small shapes to be cut for applique, etc. It's a great time saver.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post - full of great ideas. The thought of using a Lego for an edge guide is my favorite. I never would have come up with that, and I'm going to give it a try.