When it comes to sewing, I’m a tool junky.

Apparently there are many sewing enthusiasts out there with similar attitudes. Basically, we just want an easier way to “get it done.”  Our need is the very reason that a young home economist named Nancy Zieman started a sewing notions business back in 1979. Nancy realized that the notions many sewers needed were difficult to find. She conceived the idea of a direct distribution company for sewing notions, and not too long after, a 12-page catalog called Nancy’s Notions Catalog was born.

Today Nancy’s Notions is much more than a mail order business. While sewing enthusiasts can still purchase notions by catalog from Nancy, the center of operations is a combined warehouse and retail center located in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. These days Nancy is an author, pattern designer, art quilter, television producer, educator, business owner and national sewing authority. Her sewing notions, fabrics, patterns, videos and books can be purchased in the retail center in Beaver Dam, online or via catalog. Her books include tips on how to use her favorite sewing notions, and are available through her business, in online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, and in quilting and fabric stores across the U.S. Her television show, Sewing with Nancy®, is a co-production of Wisconsin Public Television and SWN Productions and is the longest-airing television sewing series. Nancy now has a blog and an online video site called Nancy Zieman TV. In short, Nancy Zieman has become the Queen of Sewing Notions, and her kingdom reaches into the hearts and homes of sewers everywhere.

Though I cannot claim that I buy all of my sewing notions from Nancy Zieman, many of them were purchased in her Beaver Dam retail center, and so was my sewing machine. I own most of her books; one of them was even autographed by her when I attended one of her Sewing Expos. One fundamental tip I have learned from Nancy is that sewing tools do not have to be fancy to be helpful, and that simplicity often gets the job done best. That being said, I looked through my sewing room to find humble sewing notions that I consider essential. Can you name others? Add your favorite sewing tool to this list in the comments below this post.

The links and/or photos for the products below will take you to a page where these items can be purchased online. Obviously, there are multiple sources for these sewing notions; I have only listed one for each item.

Ezy-Hem® Gauge by Dritz is a lightweight aluminum gauge that is perfect to use as a hemming guide for both straight and curved seams. Lines on the gauge allow you to fold over fabric to the right depth, and simply press it with an iron before stitching the fabric in place. The gauge is also handy to use for pockets, collars, belts and waistbands, as well as pattern alterations.

Ezy-Hem® Gauge by Dritz

Cottage Mills Treasure Markers come in two varieties, one in graphite for light fabrics and one in soapstone for dark fabrics. Each marker fits into an aluminum handle and is  easy and comfortable to use. The graphite marks wash off, while the soapstone marks rub off. The markers last a long time, and may be sharpened with a standard pencil sharpener.

Cottage Mills Treasure Markers

Dritz® Bodkin Ball Point is one of my most frequently used sewing notions. The slotted end is perfect for threading trims and ribbons, for turning bias tubing for button loops, frog closures, straps and belts, while the ballpoint end is great for pulling elastic through a casing.  Either end is helpful as a point turner, or for poking stuffing into narrow areas.

Dritz® Bodkin Ball Point

Gingher 6″ Applique Scissor. These scissors handle well and protect your fabric from accidental cuts during not only appliqué, but also any kind of trimming, especially when you are working with fine, lightweight fabrics such as chiffon or lace. They are perfect for grading seams. The duck-billed blade pushes away the bottom layer of fabric, allowing for controlled cutting, while the bent handle positions your hand comfortably above the fabric.

Gingher 6″ Applique Scissor

Pin Curl Clips. Years ago a quilting friend gave me pin curl clips for holding quilt binding (or hems) in place instead of pins. You’ll never prick your fingers while hand sewing, using these clips. If you have materials that you don’t want to pin, such as leather or vinyl, these are perfect. You can also use Dritz® Binding & Hem Clips, or hair clips you can find in any drugstore. They look pretty much the same.

Pin Curl Clips

Post-it® Flags. Transfer pattern markings to the flags, not the fabric, especially when dealing with hard-to-mark or delicate fabrics. Mark the right (or wrong) side of the fabric. Use the flag colors to organize your fabric pieces before sewing. Mark buttonholes, or use the flags as a quick, removable sewing edge guide. The adhesive on the flags will not gum up your fabric, and any ink markings on the flag will not transfer to the fabric, either.

Post-it® Flags

Needle book, pin cushion, or needle nabber. There are many options for keeping track of pins and needles. Interestingly, a number of BBEST (Boomers and Beyond Etsy Street Team) members have come up with solutions, all of them different. Top row, left to right: Needle book by JN Originals, Needle nabber by Big Isand Rose Designs. Bottom row, left to right: Pin cushion by Asian Expressions, Pin cushion by kimbuktu.

Dritz Quilting Measuring Gauge 14 in 1. There are 14 different measurements in this double-sided aluminum tool. Anytime you need to check a small measurement while quilting or sewing, this tiny gauge will be handy. Measurements range from 1/8 of an inch to 2 inches.

Dritz Quilting Measuring Gauge 14 in 1

Clover® Seam Ripper. Not all seam rippers are alike. This one cuts cleanly through seams, basting threads, beneath buttons, or even through buttonholes.

Clover Seam Ripper

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.


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7 thoughts on “Humble but essential tools for sewing”

  1. I love it ! Some I’ve never seen before! I might buy one of those easy hem gauges – thinking of cutting up some favorite t-shirts above the hips! lol {:-D

  2. Judy, thank you for writing such a wonderful article! I’m honored. I posted your link on my Facebook page.
    Hopefully we will get to personally meet in the future. Nancy Zieman

  3. Splendid Little Stars

    I remember watching Nancy’s show a long time ago. I don’t do much sewing these days, but I’m getting ready to purchase a new machine. The pin curl clips is a great idea!
    Wow! response from Nancy herself!!

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