No More Painfully Tight Cuffs!

Ribbed cuffs are nice and stretchy. They snug up around your shins or your wrists and give a perfect fit. Unfortunately, that lovely stretch can be undermined by the type of cast on you use. If you are new to making socks, mittens, leg warmers or gauntlets and you are finding that the cast on of your cuffs tend to bind on the leg or arm, I have a couple easy tips for you. I am assuming that you are knitting “cuff down”.

Because socks, mittens and related garments have a relatively small circumference,

it makes a big difference how you cast them on.

The traditional long tail cast on tends to give a strong stable foundation for your knitting. For many things this is excellent. On larger garments like toques (hats or beanies) or on sweaters there are usually enough stitches that using this method works well. It stabilizes the edge and helps to keep it from stretching out. Putting the garment on and off is not an issue for the most part, because the size of the opening is not restrictive.

We want our socks and mittens to fit snugly around our legs and arms. I don’t know about you, but slouchy socks drive me bananas, and loose mittens fall off me. We usually incorporate a folded cuff or a ribbed cuff that allows the foot or hand to easily fit through, while still allowing it to hug the wrist or shin. That long tail cast on, (and other traditional cast ons) with its lovely sturdy structure works against the need to maximize the stretch of the ribbing.

The Twisted German Cast On puts an extra twist into each stitch you cast on. It takes a wee bit of practice until you get used to it. I found that I had to refer to a video for the first three or four projects I used it on before I could remember it consistently.

Be aware that just using the Twisted German may not be enough.

If you are knitting for someone who has large calves or feet, forearms or hands this may still bind. There is one extra step that I suggest. When you cast on, take the time to either cast on over two needles of the size you’ll be using for your main project, or use a needle that is double the girth of the size you’ll use for the main project. When I say your main project, here’s what I mean. Often, patterns recommend using a smaller gauge needle to knit ribbing. This insures that the ribbing will have a nice “grab-ability” (also called negative ease) and will keep from stretching out. Then, once the ribbing is knit, the pattern will have you switch to a larger needle for the project. So what I’m recommending is that you use a needle that is double the larger size to cast on your Twisted German. Then switch to your ribbing size needle to knit.

When you first start you may think, “What? Judy, you are completely loopy! this is a loosey goosey mess!” Trust me on this. It’s only for the cast on. The person who normally struggles to squeeze their foot past the cast on; or gets nasty lines pressed into their calf from a rigid cast on will thank you.

If the recipient of your knitted masterpiece has average calves and forearms, then use double the ribbing needles’ size rather than double the project needles’ size.

The only thing about doing this method that you’ll want to be aware of is that when you start knitting the first row of ribbing, it’s really important that you knit those stitches as you normally would. Keep the tension nice and firm (without being overly tight). Focus on the right hand needle for the first row you knit and take time to keep the knitting very even and consistent. You may find a tendency to want to compensate for the looseness of the cast on by knitting that first row either tighter or looser than you normally would. Resist the urge. Once you get a few rows into the ribbing you will notice that the edge will tend to look a bit wobbly. That’s okay. Once the recipient wears them, that will give a nice soft edge that will allow their hands or feet to easily pass through, and won’t dig into their body. The ribbing will do the job of holding up the sock or keeping the mitten in place.

Here is a video that I really like that demonstrates the Twisted German Cast On:

 

Happy knitting!

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Money Saving Tips: Buying Serger Thread

So you bought a serger? Congratulations! And now you’re standing in front of the beautiful, colourful display of serger cones of thread, taking in the glory of it all. And then you see the price. And you do the math. And you wonder whether you’re going to have to choose between eating and setting up your serger

Fear not! I have some money saving tips for you today.

There is no question that setting up a serger is expensive. Most people purchase 4-thread sergers (although there are 3 thread models too). That’s 4 cones of each colour. Now if you have the money to get 4 cones of every colour, all the power to you. Most people don’t. Yes the cones of thread last for a really long time, so you don’t have to buy them over and over like with sewing machine thread. But you do have to use 3 to 4 cones at all times.

There is a certain amount of thread you’re going to have to buy. You can’t run a typical serger with less than 3 cones. And if you have a 4 thread serger, running it on 3 cones is just silly. That extra needle makes a huge difference to the integrity of your seams; like an insurance policy. Besides, even if you sometimes only run 3 threads, you bought a 4 thread serger for a reason and you’ll want the option of using all 4.

So here’s the thing. The needle that sits to the far left above your work is the really important one. That’s the one whose stitches will reveal themselves (ever so slightly) when there’s a little stress pulling on the seam of the garment. That’s the one that needs to have a colour that will blend well with your fabric. The others are tucked away in the seam allowance. The right needle thread and the upper and lower looper can be a neutral colour.

But what neutral colours should I use?

I suggest that over time, you invest in four different neutrals. I wouldn’t buy them all at once; buy them as you need them. Understand that even though you will be using them for 3 of the needles/loopers along with other colours, you also want to be able to use them for all 4 (3 if you have a 3 thread serger) when they happen to be the right colour for your project. So invest in 4 (3) cones of each of the following.

Black:

you definitely need to have a full set of black cones. Yes, that’s 4 (3) cones of black thread. You can use black for all those dark colours like navy blue, dark brown, deep green, violet and so on; and of course you can use it for black.

White or raw-white:

either of these will do. This is another must have. When sewing light colours you can use a white or off-white in the right needle and the loopers. Again, you want a full set of these. If you buy what’s called a “raw white” which is not quite ivory and not quite white it will blend in nicely with all the pastel colours as well as whites and ivories.

For a lot of sewing, you can get away with just having black and raw-white for your right needle and your loopers. But if you sew a lot of mid range colours then there are two other neutrals that are worth investing in.

A warm medium neutral:

You will want taupe (yes I know that taupe is for grandmas). The thing about a good taupe is that it will blend with so many warm colours that you’ll be surprised. All your browns, greens and in-betweens will work with a nice warm taupe.

A cool medium neutral:

for this one, you want a medium gray. Now trust me there are so many grays it’s crazy. You want a gray that leans into blue. This will be your neutral for all your medium blue and purple options as well as, you guessed it… grays.

These four neutrals will cover a lot of ground for you.

They’ll work with a lot of different fabric colours on their own. When you choose to work with a fabric that has a strong and very obvious colour, buy one spool that colour on its own. You can often get away with using a normal spool of thread for these. I know the sales person told you not to use anything but serger cones. I regularly use 3 different industrial serger-style sewing machines and when I’m doing a job that requires a very specific colour that I don’t own on a cone, I will use a 100m spool of sewing thread instead of investing in a cone. The only thing that will sometimes happen with these is that as the thread gets down toward the end, the spool will hop around unless you have it in a little mesh thread bag. If your serger didn’t come equipped with these, you can buy these at a sewing shop. They may have to special order them. It’s not something that most places would normally stock.

Once you have your four neutrals, you will likely discover that there are particular colours you really want to have on hand. Any colours that you know you will use regularly will be worth investing in. Just get one cone and use 3 cones of the closest neutral colour. Obviously, you can get a full set of any colours that you want, I’m suggesting this as a cost efficient method to avoid having to do so. 🙂

As you use your serger with the neutals on 3 (2) “needles”, bear in mind that the loopers use a lot more thread than the needles do. Some people like to use the same cones for the loopers all the time so that they don’t run out of all the same colour at the same time. That way when they need to replace them, they don’t have to replace them all at once.

Now that you’ve invested in these cones of thread, you may also want to consider purchasing a cone thread holder to go with your sewing machine. It’s a heavy base with a guide that allows you to use your serger cones with any sewing machine. They are relatively inexpensive and allow you to avoid having to buy the same colour of thread in both formats.

And there you have it! Happy serging!

 

Technique for Perfect Binding

The holiday season is approaching. Those of us that make gifts for friends and family are always looking for things to make that are relatively quick, simple and cost effective. Using bias binding to finish place mats, “mug-rugs”, table runners or other sewn items can make the process much quicker. If you have struggled to get really nice corners on these projects, fear not! Today I’ll walk you through an easy method to do just that.

Double fold bias binding is a continuous strip of fabric, cut on the bias (diagonal to the grain of the woven fabric), folded and pressed so that the seam allowance is already worked out for you.Double fold bias binding tape is available in many colours. You can easily coordinate it with most fabrics. I have yet to meet a sewing shop that did not sell bias tape, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it. Because it is cut on the bias, it easily navigates around curved edges, too.

bias tape makerIf you are making something with only straight sides, you don’t actually need your binding to be cut on the bias. You can make your own binding using the same fabric as your project. You can cut the strips across the grain of your fabric to accommodate the width of binding you want to use. There is a tool called a “bias tape maker” that allows you to fold and press your own binding easily. They are available in a number of different sizes.

For all those rectangular projects that you might want to bind like place mats, mug rugs, table runners, quilts, blankets or wall hangings you can use either straight or bias binding. I threw something together just so I could have photographs of the demonstration. In hindsight, the colour was probably not the best choice to show up. Hopefully you can see it alright.

Measure the perimeter of the outside edge of your project and be sure that you purchase (or make) enough binding to accommodate that measurement plus a little more, just in case. You need minimally enough to allow for attaching it together. Binding is inexpensive so don’t cheap out and end up short.

Begin by opening up the folded binding and aligning the edge with the edge of your project, right sides together.

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Leave a tail of at around 3 inches before you begin your seam. Back tack at the beginning of your stitching and sew in the ditch of the fold closest to your fabric edge. Before you get to the end, measure the width of the seam allowance. Measure from the end in the same distance as the seam allowance (it’s likely to be 1/4″). Put a dot there. Stitch to the dot and leave the needle down in the fabric.

Lift your presser foot and turn the work 45 degrees so that your presser foot is facing directly toward the corner. Stitch to the corner. Remove the work from the machine and clip your threads.

Pull the binding back against that little corner that you just sewed. Then fold the binding tape to align with the top and side. Carefully align your needle at the edge of where the corner of that little seam sits. You will be lined up in the ditch next to where that dot was facing down the next side of the project. Back tack and continue to sew.

Repeat these steps until all the corners are done. Stop stitching just after the last corner and allow a few inches to where you will have to join this end of the binding to your starting edge of the binding.

Make sure that the beginning edge of the binding is cut square. Lay it flat and mark a line 1/4″ from the edge.

Lay the other end of the bias over the top. Trace the line onto this layer of bias. This is your stitching line. Make sure that you cut past the line (the binding must be longer than where this line is marked). This is very important!

With right sides together, stitch the ends together. Clip the corners to reduce bulk. Align the binding to the edge of the fabric and finish stitching the section.

Turn the work and arrange the binding so it wraps around the edge and lays flat. You can see the stitching line on the fabric. What you want to really pay attention to here is that the binding is just barely covering that stitching. Now align your row of top-stitching so that it will sit just a little further onto the binding than the original line of stitching. I suggest testing out with a long stitch before you do it “for real”. The idea is that you want your top-stitching to land up going through both layers of binding. So when you do your test, stitch a few inches and then look at the underside to make sure that your stitches are not landing on the fabric beside the binding. Adjust the alignment of your top-stitching accordingly and away you go.

wonder clipThere is a product called “Wonder Clips” that you can use to hold the binding in place. The edge of the clip can be aligned so that the binding is positioned perfectly front and back. Some people love these. I find them bulky and cumbersome, personally. I do a lot of top-stitching, though. If you don’t, then the clips might be just the thing to help you match up the edges.

When you get to a corner, fold the bulk in the opposite direction of what you did on the opposite side. This will give a neater finish.

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Continue in this way until you have made your way around the whole project. And there you have it. YAY!

 

Knitting in the Round AHA! Moment

Are you someone who tried knitting in the round on two circular needles or using Magic Loop and struggled to figure out why on earth anyone would use either of these methods? Was your experience fraught with frustration? Did you decide that the person who suggested it to you was completely and utterly insane? I think I might know why… and it’s not you.

It’s interesting how you find a way that you like to do something and it turns out there’s more to it than you realized.

I have mentioned in previous posts that my preferred way to knit in the round is on two circular needles.

Depending on what it is, I will occasionally use the magic loop method as well. Always worked like a charm for me. Turns out it’s not just about the method itself. What I have discovered is that using the right needles for this method is vital.

I often see customers who are quite new to knitting.

They are looking for advice. I am happy to share my experience with them. I know a fair bit, but by no means do I know everything there is to know about knitting. I offer advice and I encourage them to embark on their own discovery mission on YouTube as well.

When people first approach knitting, they want to see whether they will like it before they invest a whole lot of money. Let’s face it, it’s easy to spend a whole lot of money on knitting! As a shop keeper, there is a very frugal part of me that wants to look out for them and help them to keep their initial costs down. If they discover that they fall in love with knitting, there’s lots of time for them to invest in top notch tools should they choose to. I carry a range of different brands of needles that have varied price points for that reason. Not everyone has a budget for the really nice ones.

After demonstrating them to customers, I invested in Knitter’s Pride Dreamz needles for my knitting, but didn’t really think about the fact that what makes these needles so lovely is also what makes it so easy to use them in varying ways. So when I encouraged people to try knitting in the round on circulars using either the 2-needle method or the magic loop method, it didn’t occur to me that a big reason that I love these methods is because my knitting needles make it easy to do so.

A customer came in, very frustrated, trying to hang in there with two circulars, knitting in the round. She pulled out her project and handed it to me. The look of defeat on her face broke my heart. I slid the working needle in place and before I even began to knit I knew her pain. The cords on her economy knitting needles were so stiff and so locked into the curled shape from being in the package that it was a nightmare to knit anything at all, especially with the second equally stiff circular needle insisting on always getting in the way. I pulled out my project, on two Knitter’s Pride Dreamz needles to show her the difference. I slid the stitches onto the working needle, passed it to her and suggested she give it a try. She took it in her hands and immediately understood what I was trying to demonstrate to her. The cords are light, supple and easily move out of your way without distorting the shape of the project. The second needle is barely noticeable as you work. After a brief discussion, she decided to get what she needed to have one long circular that she could use for Magic Loop method. This way she only needed to invest in one set of tips and one cord. She left happy and I learned something.

We hear it said all the time: ‘Use the right tool for the job.”

I have not used every knitting needle on the market by any stretch of the imagination. I assume that there are other brands besides Knitter’s Pride out there that also have light, supple, flexible cords on their circular knitting needles. Economy needles absolutely do the job. For anyone getting started they are a great way to keep your initial costs down until you decide whether you want to stick with knitting or not. High end needles glide differently, feel beautiful in your hands and make knitting more pleasurable. They really are worth the investment.

If you are unsure, ask your local yarn shop whether they have sample needles that you can try out in the store.

 

3 Simple Sewing Technique Alternatives

With pretty much everything, there is more than one way to do it. And, sometimes just changing one small method, can help make a process easier, and quite possibly more enjoyable.

1. Basting

a. Matching Thread Colour and leaving it in

For many people, it might just seem instinctive to use the same colour of thread as your fabric when you baste a sewing project. After all, you’ll have it on hand since that’s the thread you chose for the project. If the colour matches the fabric perfectly, there’s a good chance you can leave the basting thread in and no one would know. Then once you know that you’ve got everything placed as you want it to be, you can simply stitch again, over the basting thread with a finer stitch length to finish.

Pros
• Already have the thread colour on hand
• No need to spend time pulling out the basting thread

Cons
• If you look closely you can see the basting thread
• If your thread isn’t a perfect match, it can look sloppy

b. Contrasting Thread Colour and pulling it out

If you plan to pull out the basting thread when your final stitching is complete, having a contrasting colour is the way to go. It’s a lot easier to see a high contrast thread colour against the fabric. No need to squint! (Well, maybe you’ll still squint if your eyes are anything like mine, but at least the thread will be more obvious.) This is a great technique to use, especially, if you can’t quite get the thread colour to match perfectly, or if you know the stitches will be obvious on the outside. Removing the basting threads can really help to give a polished finish to the garment.

Pros
• Easier to remove
• Looks cleaner

Cons
• Extra steps
• If you do end up accidentally missing some thread, it will be more noticeable

2. Hand Stitching

a. Single thread

When you ask someone to thread their needle for the first time, it’s just the logical choice to cut the thread, and put one end through the eye of the needle and then to knot the other end. It’s simple, and uses minimal materials. It might not create the strongest stitches, and that initial knot can just be frustrating on sleepy days or downright ugly to look at. But, it is nice to only worry about getting that one thickness of thread through the eye of your needle. (I swear that they keep making the eyes smaller and smaller!)

Pros
• Thread only one thickness
• Uses minimal materials

Cons
• Fiddly to tie initial knot
• Weaker initial knot and seam

b. Double thread

Cut the thread double the length you need, and then bring the two cut ends together, threading them both through the eye of your hand sewing needle. “What?!” you say? “What is the benefit of this?” When you do your first stitch, pick up a tiny bit (a thread or two) of the fabric with the needle; pull the thread through the fabric until just a wee little loop remains. Then direct the needle through that loop and pull until it locks the loop. No knot necessary! This makes for a sturdy starting point to your work. While stitching, the doubled up thread gives you a stronger seam. It does take more materials, and can it be frustrating to thread the needle with two thicknesses of thread though. Personally this is my “go-to” method.

Pros
• No need for knot
• No worry that the knot might not hold
• Stronger first knot
• Stronger stitches (due to each stitch being two threads instead of one)

Cons
• Uses more thread
• Must thread two ends instead of just one

3. Cutting

a. Scissors

Scissors are nice and simple. They take up very little space, and most of us have been using them for a long time; we generally all have scissors around somewhere. And, good quality sewing shears glide through fabric. However, a lot of the time, you still need to do multiple strokes to cut your pattern piece, which can make it tedious to get a perfect edge. With each stroke of the scissors you run the risk of putting a wobble or jags in the cut. With enough patience and, it doesn’t need to be an issue. You can minimize any jaggedness in the cutting line by making long smooth strokes with the scissors. Scissors excel in cutting fussy shapes with inside corners.

Pros
• Space efficient
• Easy to use
• can use tips of scissor blades to cut inside corners and odd shapes easily

Cons
• Can be difficult to cut a smooth edge
• Might need to sharpen or replace

b. Rotary Cutter

Rotary cutters can take a bit to get used to, but their wheel-like blade means less lifting of the blade, helping to create a more seamless edge. When it gets dull though, the blade really needs to be replaced, or else it can do more damage than good. You also do have to have a cutting mat, as to not wreck a surface, or dull the blade faster. Rotary cutters are great for long straight or curved cuts. They are not as easy to use when making tight complicated cuts.

Pros
• Cleaner edges
• Less motions

fast

Cons
• Must replace the blade relatively often
• Need a cutting mat
• not as user friendly when cutting tight complex shapes

With sewing, like anything, there are many different methods you can use to get a job done. Hopefully one of these will be worth a try for you. I always encourage people to experiment and find the way that appeals to them the best.

Are there any particular tools or methods you love to use? Or something you like doing a little differently than most, depending on the project? I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Sewing 🙂

Buying Elastic

There are quite a few different types of elastic on the market for sewing and craft making. It can be rather confusing to be sure what you need. Today I thought I’d explain some of the differences and perhaps take some of that confusion away.

Elastic can be manufactured by being knitted or woven, it can be round or flat and some is even transparent. For many types of projects, whether you use knitted or woven elastic really won’t make that much difference. I hope I can give you a few tips on what to look for so that you know what to pay attention to when choosing.

Flat Elastics

Flat Elastics include

  • woven,
  • knitted,
  • transparent and
  • waistband or
  • non-roll elastic.

Most elastics come in a wide array of widths from 1/8″ up to 4″. Usually you can choose between white and black, occasionally an ivory or cream and in a few specialty elastics you can buy it in colours. Not every store will carry every width and certainly not necessarily every colour that is available.

Flat elastics are most often attached along the edge or hem of a garment (or craft project) or are pulled through a fabric channel and then fastened together in a loop. You can pull them through a channel at a hem too. They can be

  • stretched as you sew them in place with a large straight stitch or zig-zag stitch or
  • serged along the edge. Once stitched in this way, you let go and it gathers the fabric. (Be sure to use a long stitch though.)

Woven Elastics

Woven elastic tends to offer a little more resistance when you pull on it; knitted elastic gives a softer pull (in general). Waist band or non-roll elastic has a very firm pull to it. It has visible reinforced ribs and and as its name suggests, it will stay flat in a waist band. Most people have experienced a waistband that curls up. Ick. Personally, I prefer to use a woven elastic in small children’s trousers, but I also would stretch the elastic and stitch it to the edge of the fabric before finishing up the waistband. I like that it’s a softer elastic. When you are changing diapers it makes it easier to get them on and off. Once they are out of diapers, I would be inclined to use waistband elastic.

Folding Elastic

Folding elastic is intended to be attached along the edge of a garment like a binding with the bonus that it is stretchy. (Although when you attach it you might not feel like that’s a particularly nice bonus. LOL) It has a spine where it folds readily in half along its length to make it easy to line up. If you hold your tongue right, you can even attach it with one line of stitching. Zig-zag makes it easy to apply.

Decorative Elastics

Decorative elastics come with frilly or picot edges or in bright colours with patterns woven into them. These are often used on the top edge of underwear (the lacy ones) or on children’s garments (the bright funky ones). The latter are usually sold in small packages rather than in bulk on a spool.

Clear Elastic

Clear elastic is most often used as a strap for a “strapless” top or dress (although you can actually see it a little when it catches the light) or for hanging straps inside a garment so that you can keep the garment from falling off a hanger in your closet.

Bra Strap Elastic

Bra strap elastic is fuzzy on the back so that it is comfortable on the shoulder; it has a satiny sheen on the right side so it looks attractive. It comes in a few different widths to accommodate typical bras. I have personally only seen it in white, black and ivory from my suppliers.

Round Elastic

Round elastic is most often used as a drawstring in cuffs and hems on outerwear and winter gloves. However you can also buy heavy round elastic called “shock cord” to make bungee straps and tie downs for tents. The thinner versions of this come in black or white, the heavier ones are often striped for better visibility.

Elastic Thread

Finally, you can buy elastic thread. This is most commonly used to shirr (gather or smock) fabric. It is thicker than normal thread. It is wound on a bobbin by hand without tension on it, and sewn with normal thread on the top. This technique is a whole skill set in and of itself.

You know those groovy smocked dresses we wore back in the 70’s?

Well this elastic is what made those possible. I have seen people weave this into the back of cuffs on hand knitted sweaters to enhance the “staying-put” quality of the ribbing.

Deciding

When determining what type of elastic you want to use take a few things into consideration.

How do you plan to apply it?

If you are sewing stretched elastic into a garment,

  • how heavy is the fabric?
  • Will the elastic be strong enough to keep it gathered?

Conversely, if you are using a light weight fabric,

  • is the elastic so stiff that you lose the drape of the fabric?
  • Do you want something that will just give a little shape?
  • Does it have to help hold the structure of what you are making?
  • How much and how easily do you want it to stretch?

Most sewing shops sell elastic in bulk on spools. If you are unsure what you need, pull those spools out and give the elastic a stretch to see how it feels. Take your project into consideration as you eliminate which elastics won’t do what you want. This will help you narrow it down. Most staff members in sewing shops are sewing enthusiasts and will be able to guide you. If that doesn’t narrow it down enough, remember that elastic is very inexpensive; to purchase a few different types won’t break the bank. It will allow you to experiment and become familiar with their qualities.

Happy crafting!

Scissors and More

Do you remember your first pair of scissors?

Or when you first discovered how scissors worked? Oh, the power! Memories of scissors incidents came flooding back to me the other day when a customer came in with a brand new child’s jacket that was the victim of someone’s first experience with a good pair of scissors. This was my inspiration for today’s topic.

Whether you sew, crochet, knit or make crafts, at some point you are going to have to cut something. Today’s focus is on a variety of tools to allow you to do just that.

Scissors, as I’m sure you know, come in a variety of styles and sizes and are made out of various types of metal. Some are made with steel, some with titanium. Titanium is very strong and it’s nice, but not really necessary for fibre arts. In the realm of sewing for the average person (not everyone needs a 12″ long pair of tailor’s shears, after all) there are really only a few that most people use.

Sewing Shear

Most common is the sewing shear. These very sharp scissors generally have blades in the range of 7″ to 9.5″ that are offset slightly so that when you are cutting fabric that is laying on a flat surface, your hand is up and out of the way of the table. This prevents disturbing the fabric any more than necessary while cutting. Typical quality brands include Gingher, Henckels, Fiskars, Mundial and Wiss. There are also some less known brands that offer excellent quality scissors at a lower price.

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Pinking Shears

Pinking shears are scissors that cut a zig zag pattern. These are great for trimming seams to minimize fraying. They can also be used in making crafts where you want a zig zag edge. They tend to be a bit heavy so they can tire your hands out if you are cutting for longer periods of time.

 

Rotary Cutters

Rotary cutters consist of a handle assembly and a round razor sharp blade. They come in a few different sizes, measured by the diameter of the blade. The most common are 28mm, 45mm and 60mm. You need a cutting mat to protect your work surface when using this tool. The mats are printed with a grid in inches that works well with a wide array of rulers designed specifically to be used with rotary cutters. You can also get circle cutters that use small rotary blades. These cutters are fantastic for cutting out fabric for any sewing project. It allows the fabric to remain completely flat on the cutting mat, so there is less risk of any distortion that you can sometimes get when cutting with scissors. These also allow for a very smooth cutting line. Rotary cutters are extremely sharp! It’s very important to replace the blade guard any time they are not in use. Just brushing your hand up against it will result in a cut… and they hurt like paper cuts… ouch! The most common brands include Olfa and Omnigrid. Replacement blades are readily available. It’s possible to get blades that give a wavy or pinked edge. These may not be a regular stock item in your local sewing store, but they can certainly be special ordered in. You do have to press them firmly into the fabric as you cut. If you have problems with your wrist you may find them a bit challenging to use. I personally couldn’t live without mine.

 

Embroidery Scissors

Embroidery scissors are small with blades that are typically less than 3″ long. Many people will be familiar with the classic style that looks like a stork. These are handy to have in a little tool pouch for small or intricate jobs. If you are cutting thread, yarn or cutting out the pieces of a small felt Christmas ornament, embroidery scissors will do the job.

It’s worth paying the price for a good pair.

A good pair (provided no one sneaks them for cutting paper… LOL) can last for a lifetime.

 

Applique Scissors

Applique scissors are a strange looking creature. They look a bit like something out of a nineteenth century doctor’s kit. The blade is offset and has a shield attached that allows the user to trim away excess fabric when attaching appliques to a sewing project. Although these are not a “must have” tool, for anyone doing applique a lot, they are certainly a nice tool to have. They can be quite pricey as they are a specialty item, so this might be something to ask Santa for. 😉

 

Clippers / Snippers

Clippers, or snippers or thread snips are a cutting tool most commonly used to snip threads. These can be purchased with or without a guard. For knitters or crocheters, I recommend getting one with a guard. This allows you to cover the business end of it so it won’t cause damage in your project bag. This is a very handy tool to keep next to your sewing machine to trim threads as you sew.

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Folding Scissors

Folding scissors are usually very inexpensive. These are fine as a back up pair for thread and such.

Don’t expect to be able to cut fabric with them.

You get what you pay for. They are handy for things like the first aid kit, emergency sewing kit, tool box or in the glove box of your vehicle as a “just in case” tool.

 

Stitch Ripper

The stitch ripper (also called a seam ripper) is a specialized tool for cutting the threads in a seam when you need to disassemble a sewn item. It has a sharp point that allows you to direct it between stitches accurately. The point then leads the stitch you pick up to a very sharp curved cutting edge. Opposite the point is a shorter point with a ball on it. This ball prevents the second point from catching on the fabric. These are available in different styles. The differences are generally in the shape and size of the handle and whether the cover fits over the handle when not in use. You can also get some with a rubbery top that is intended to rub away the bits of cut thread as you go. It’s a must have tool for a sewing kit.

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Pendant Cutter

20171013_083314The pendant cutter is a neat little tool. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine they invented this one in response to all the travel restrictions affecting bringing scissors in your carry on luggage. This nifty little guy is a decorative but effective tool that you can put on a chain or ribbon like a necklace. The blades are tucked in behind guards so that it won’t cut unless you actually put the yarn or thread into the blade area deliberately. This is a very good cutter for the project bag as it is highly unlikely to cause any damage between uses.

You might want to have it in a little pouch so you can find it though.

If your project bags are anything like mine, that is.

 

I am a firm believer in having the right tool for the job. I personally appreciate that there are so many different cutting tools available to make creating fibre arts more enjoyable.

Happy Crafting!

 

Featured Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash