Sewing Tools of Note: All Kinds of Magnets

Another one in my series of useful tools that make your sewing life run that little bit smoother. Today we’re talking about magnets… now, before you panic about my beautiful computerised machine getting scrambled because I’ve filled my studio with electro-magnetic waves, I really do urge you to read Magnets Won’t Break a Computerised Sewing Machine and emit a sigh of relief….

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At my sewing class last week (I teach sewing classes now!), one of my students had a cute little magnetic gadget to help keep her seam allowance straight. It was so simple – just a magnet with a straight edge – and effective, and as I knew it would work on my machine (it wouldn’t be suitable for all, so do check), I added it on to an order I was making this week.

Seam allowance magnet

Now, I like to think I can eyeball seam allowances quite well after all these years of practice… but sadly the passing of the years is also causing a hideous falling off in my eyesight, so this is great for me –  I don’t have to focus quite so much on where the edge of my fabric is or where the lines are on my needle-plate. I love it! Not sure how it useful it would be for a 1/4 inch seam, but I have the edge of my presser foot for that..

I also threw some self-adhesive magnetic tape into my virtual shopping basket. I have long wanted to attach some to my sewing machine to store some of my Clover Wonder Clips whilst I’m stitching.

Magnetic strip for clip storage

Magnetic strip for storage

Looking good, although I have my doubts about the strength of the magnet, and I keep knocking the clips off with my saggy jumper sleeves, but hey, it’s nearly summer…

And finally my little do-it-all Merchant and Mills magnet, a stocking filler gift from my lovely husband, who knows me very well…

Quick magnet for picking up pins

I use it All The Time. It’s really great for picking up escaped pins from the carpet and pin spillages from the work top. I also keep it next to the sewing machine when I am stitching and just throw pins at it as I pull them out of the way. Much quicker than using a pincushion, and although not as fancy as a magnetic pincushion, it will do for me.

If magnets aren’t for you… I have plenty more Sewing Tools of Note

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Sewing Tools of Note (13): A rotary cutter with an angle

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After I published my last ‘Sewing Tools of Note’ about tiny needles, Kerry (my blog namesake, who is definitely one of my mentors, she crops up so much in these posts!) left a comment mentioning how important it is to use the right needle when hand sewing because it helps to avoid hand and wrist strain. Such an important point, and very significant to anyone who struggles with joint and muscular pain, whatever the cause. It got my thinking about the changes I have had to make recently to protect my wrist.

Earlier this year I had an encounter with a pub door (I promise you I had only had half a pint of beer) and managed go through the door, whilst leaving my thumb caught in the handle on the other side… The result of this ‘amusing’ (or so my friends thought…) incident was a trip to A&E, a wrist sprain and quite a lot of ongoing soreness. After this little incident, I really struggled with using a rotary cutter to cut my fabric, so I thought I would investigate alternatives to the standard Olfa rotary cutter that I’ve been using. I was recommended to try the TrueCut Rotary cutter – which has an angled handle design that aligns the wrist more naturally, placing your weight over the blade and eliminating stress in the wrist and arm.

truecut-rotary-cutter-and-threads

You can buy the cutter with special fancy rulers, but I just bought the cutter and use it with my standard quilting rulers.  It was odd at first, because the blade is in a slightly different position to standard cutters, and it took me a couple of days to get used to the fact that you have to use the cutter in  a certain way. But I soon got used to it, and have found that it makes a huge difference, because I don’t have to press so hard to cut the fabric, and because of the way my hand is positioned, it takes the pressure of my wrist. I love it, and wouldn’t go back to the other kind now.

I even fell for the little marketing point – you can personalize the handle with pictures, fabric or photos – I found this bit of selvedge that seemed to fit the bill!

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So using a rotary cutter hurts, perhaps it’s time to make a change. I’d be really interested to read about other ways that people have found to protect hands, wrists, shoulders, arms, and backs whilst sewing and crafting in general. It’s something I struggle with on and off, and I am sure other readers do too, so please share your ideas so I can do a bit of investigating and reporting back.

This post is another in my ongoing bloggy series on my favourite sewing tools – you can find more articles here on the main Sewing Tools of Note listings

Sewing tools of note (12): tiny needles

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The more I sew, the more I realise how essential it is to have the right needle for the job in hand. Whether you are hand sewing or machine sewing, the work can become twice as long and difficult, or even impossible, if you don’t use the appropriate needle. I am still learning, and I’ll try and share more about this as I go, for those of you who are as confused as I was (and still continue to be, sometimes).

But I wanted to share one of the lessons I have learned.

For ages I have ignored those teeny-tiny needles… you know, the ones you see and think, how can anyone even pick that up off the table, let alone thread it and sew with it? Well, I’ve discovered that not only can I pick them up (and thread them, most of the time!) they have actually become indispensable.

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This teeny needle is a Sharps 10. Sharps are medium length needles with a sharp point, for general sewing. The smallest size Sharps needle is a 12 (the higher the number, the smaller the needle)

A year or so ago, I read someone, somewhere recommending Sharps needles size 10, 11 or 12 for hand stitching shapes when English paper piecing. At the time I was really frustrated with how hard I was finding it to pick up just a couple of threads of fabric when sewing hexagons together (one the essentials for beautiful invisible piecing), so I thought I would check them out. When they came I was stunned – they were SO tiny. But I quickly realised (obvious really) that they are brilliant for doing tiny invisible stitches wherever you need them (stitching binding, sewing turning gaps closed, hemming a floaty skirt, you know the kind of thing). And if you get a good brand, they just glide through the fabric with minimal effort, and stitching seems to fly by. The needles that I used to use seem heavy and clumsy in comparison.

foxglove-cottage-needles

So once you have plucked up the nerve to take up the tiny needle, you need to make sense of all the brands… and it seems there are as many recommendations as there are stitchers. Bohn, Clover (especially Black Gold), John James and Tulip all have their fans – here’s a fab little article at Sew Mama Sew about the search for the best hand sewing needle – so it makes sense to experiment until you find something you really like. I spotted Kerry recommending the Foxglove Cottage range from Jeana Kimble, so I thought that was a good a place as any to start, so I bought this little taster kit, which I’m still using, and I’m really pleased with.

As usual with sewing, one purchase leads to another, and I’ve had to increase the size of my tool kit still further… these little needles can really give you a sore finger as you push them through the fabric, so a thimble has become a necessity. And the reading glasses too, so I can see what the heck I am doing!

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Do you have particular favourite needles? Or do you just reach for the nearest that looks about the right size for the job? Can you make head or tail of the different sizes and names  – Sharps, Betweens, Straw? I’d love to read your experiences.

This post is another in my ongoing bloggy series on my favourite sewing tools… Sewing Tools of Note.