Part 1: Tools of the Trade | Part 2: Pattern Hacking | Part 3: Interfacing | Part 4: Fastenings
Ever wondered what goes on in a professional sewing studio? Has the Sewing Bee inspired you to give it a go yourself? Here are some useful tips and insider secrets on how to take your projects from amateur home sewer to professional couturier in no time…
The key to any successful project is to start with the right tools for the job:
I have lost count of the pairs of scissors I own but I’ve narrowed it down to the five (yes five!) essentials.
1. Embroidery scissors or snips – these are for small threads, cutting into curves and those fiddly jobs. Keep these on a ribbon around your neck whilst sewing and snip as you go along.
2. Paper scissors for pattern card and paper. Cheap but sharp will do the job.
3. Aviation tin snip – may seem overkill but these are for cutting either flat steel or spiral steel boning that I put in my dresses that have inbuilt corselettes.
4. Pinking shears – for good old fashioned seam finishes and pesky fabrics that fray.
5. Tailors shears – This is the one place I advocate investing in a good pair. As long as you can pick them up, the heavier the better. I prefer ones with solid metal handles. These Wilkinson shears look perfect at 12” or 13” if you have larger hands.
You will need a set of french curves (for drawing curvy thing like arm holes, neck lines, princess seams), a 12” ruler and a yard stick and a measuring tape.
Remember to replace your fabric measuring tape every few months as constant use can stretch them out and will no longer be reliable.
Unless you have a live-in model, a dummy is invaluable. Standard size ones are more common in studios but for home use a good adjustable dress form that can be shaped to your measurements will be the most useful. Expect to spend around £100 but think of the hundreds of garments it can help you to make and the money you’ll save as you can now drape fabric instead of buying patterns!
There is nothing worse than running out of something you need halfway through a project. In my sewing room at all times you will find:
– Zips – a selection in all sizes and colours in both invisible and standard-closed.
– Thread – mostly black and white. Buy these two in bulk and never run out!
– Grosgrain ribbon – for waistbands, straps and fun finishes.
– Boning – for anything that needs support!
– Horsehair braid/ crin – for supporting necklines and to eliminate the need for petticoats by adding this to your hem. Can save a lot of time and bulk and I wouldn’t be without it. Of course I then add petticoats as well because they are so just gosh darn pretty.
– A good steam iron. Heavy, reliable and clean!
– Pins – dressmaking, glass-headed, lace and long. Each do a different job for different fabrics.
– Lots and lots of tea/coffee (delete as appropriate!)
– …and don’t forget the interfacing:
When buying your machine do not get carried away. It’s very easy to be seduced by the embroidery and 7 buttonhole settings and 7 billion other stitches.
You NEED: A straight stitch, a zig-zag, a buttonhole and THAT IS IT. With these three stitches you can create any garment you see on any runway around the world. However do look for machines that have metal mechanics rather than plastic!
This is just a tiny sample of things you will find in my studio (but are definitely some of the most useful) and they’ll help you go from amateur to professional in no time. Remember, a workman is only as good as his tools!
Let us know what tools you stock in your pattern room below!