Sewing Machine Needles

Recently, I have seen quite a few people who just bought their first sewing machine. They are excited to get started and come in looking for  advice to get them started. One of the items that I try to take some time to go over with them is sewing machine needles. There are a variety of types and gauges to meet whatever your sewing needs might be.

First of all, no matter what type of needle, they all have a particular gauge.

The gauge refers to the girth of the needle; how thin or thick the needle is.

You will see numbers like:

  • 70/10;
  • 80/12;
  • 90/14;
  • 100/16;
  • 110/18.

70’s (10’s) are fine, 110’s (16’s) are thick. When choosing a gauge think of it being relative to the weight of the fabric.

Sewing chiffon? Use a fine needle. Sewing many layers of denim or canvas? Use a heavy needle.

For most sewing a 12 gauge will do the trick.

Needle tips vary depending on what they are designed to do. There are three main varieties:

  • sharp;
  • ballpoint
  • and leather.

Sharp tips are used for woven fabrics. It’s best to avoid these if you are sewing knits. Think of pantyhose; they are knitted. If something damages one of the threads (imagine a sharp needle cutting a thread as it sews) you get a run in the fabric. How do you know whether needles are sharp? You can be sure that packages labeled either Universal or Jeans will have standard sharp tips.

needles

Jean Needles

Jean needles are sharp needles with a heavy gauge. These usually range from a 14 gauge to an 18 gauge. On my industrial machine, I use a 16 gauge for this type of work. If I were using a household machine, I’d probably go with an 18. Jean needles are rugged, because it takes a rugged needle to sew through heavy jean seams.

Quilting Needles

Quilting needles are sharp and have a particular taper to them that minimizes skipped stitches when either piecing or quilting. These can range in gauge from 10 to 14. In my store, I carry a multi-pack of quilting needles that has the entire range of gauges. In a dedicated quilt shop, you would find full packs of each gauge. Many quilters have a specific gauge that they like to use. Some prefer on gauge for their piecing and a heavier gauge for machine quilting.

Topstitch Needles

Topstitch needles are designed to be used with heavier topstitching thread. They are a heavy gauge needle, usually 16 or 18. What sets these apart from jean needles is that they have a large eye to accommodate topstitching thread. Assume that these will be sharp needles.

Ballpoint Tips

Ballpoint tips are used for knit fabrics. These are pretty cool. They look and feel sharp when you touch them. But the tips have a very fine ball point that allows the needle to gracefully move between the threads that makes up the fabric, rather than piercing through, like a sharp does. Because most people use their serger for knits, needle packs that are specifically labeled for a serger are safe to use for knits. Ballpoint needles are usually labeled as “stretch needles”.

Twin Needles

Twin Needles are a form of topstitch needle. This needle has a single shank that allows you to install it as you would any other needle. Then it has a bar into which two needles have been embedded. Your machine must be able to accommodate two spools of thread to use this type of needle. It only needs one bobbin for both. Many machines have a hole on the top of the machine, and a secondary thread holder to fit into it. You would find that in the accessory kit that came with your machine. If it was lost, you can order one specific to the make and model of the machine. Twin needles come in both sharp and ballpoint. The packages will indicate whether they are intended for stretch sewing, for jeans or are simply a universal needle. They come with different distances between the needles as well. If you are using these for the first time, definitely take the time to practice before sewing your garment. These will have a decent sized eye, depending on the gauge of the needle.

Leather Needles

Leather needles mean business! The ends of these needles have three sides that come down to a point. Each of the three sides cuts through the leather. There are no “take backs” when you sew leather. Once you make a hole, you’ve made a hole. It is there forever. You really don’t want to use these for any fabric that isn’t leather. Don’t even use them on vinyl. (If you are sewing vinyl, use a universal needle in a gauge relative to how heavy your vinyl is.)

Although for most things you can get away with using a mid-gauge universal needle, the many specialized varieties of needles allow you to have confidence in a consistently successful result.

Happy Sewing!

 

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With This Ring, I thee Strand!

Sometimes you see something and your immediate reaction is: “Well that’s hokey.” Sometimes you’re right. But sometimes you need to set your first impression aside and give it a chance to prove itself. My “Well that’s hokey” moment was with a ring designed for use in stranded knitting. I gave it a very skeptical try, and now I wonder how I ever lived without this clever little device.

A year ago, I entered the 2017 Tour de Sock competition.

The warm up pattern was my first experience with stranded colour knitting. In the chatter thread on the forum, people were talking about devices they used to manage their yarn. Some people used rings or springs to separate the strands, yet hold them in one hand. They swore by them. I looked for these products but my catalogues never had them. Then one day, I got an email from my supplier about new products they had brought in and the “Boye Finger Guides” were among them. I ordered them thinking that at least I would be able to offer something of this nature to my customers. When they arrived, it was busy. So I didn’t think about them much; I just got them into the inventory and onto the shelf. I then promptly forgot about them.

Tour de Sock 2018 is in now underway (registration ends July 7, 2018). I’m working on this season’s warm up sock; a stranded project. I got to the point that I was ready to turn the heel, and I remembered about the finger guides I had brought in. I took one out of the package, took a good look at it and I will be completely honest. I was fully prepared to expose this stranding ring for being silly.  It comes with no instructions. There is a photograph on the package that shows someone combining 3 strands of light yarn together to make one strand of thicker yarn as they knit a project. Of course, the image is set up to make the yarn look pretty. So you can’t use that image as any guide to how you should hold your yarn or use the product (in the real world).

First off, my preference is to knit in continental style. I tension the yarn with my left hand and I pick the thread with my right hand. Up until now, when doing stranded colour work, I carried my main or dominant colour in my left and my contrast colour in my right. I picked the main colour from my left hand and I threw the contrast colour with my right hand.

When I first learned how to strand, it took me a little while to get past the awkwardness of carrying two yarns at once.

Throwing the yarn with my right hand was very cumbersome at first.

Once I got accustomed to it, I found that I was almost as fast knitting with two colours as I was with one. Remembering this, I gave my attitude a shake. Trying anything new is going to be awkward and I really did want to be fair in my assessment of this product. I decided I would keep on trying long enough to get past the awkwardness of it being new to me.

So the ring itself is rubbery. It stretches and I would guess that it should fit most adult hands. The top of the ring is flat with a couple little holes.

There are three platforms that each have 3 hooks.
These are designed to accommodate

  • light,
  • medium or
  • heavy yarns.

Now, the heavy one looks to me like it would accommodate a worsted yarn. It might be okay for a chunky, but definitely nothing heavier. On the bottom of the platforms are a couple pegs that fit nicely into the holes on the flat top of the ring.

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I selected the platform that was right for my yarn. I had to fuss around with it to figure out how to hold my yarn and which direction to have the hooks facing to get a sense of what would actually work and not end up slower than what I was already doing. I spent about half an hour with very poor results before I had a brain-wave. I won’t bore you with the details of all the things that failed.

In the end what I found to work well for me was to have the hooks face toward my left wrist. I brought the two yarns together, wrapped them around my pinky (as I always do to manage the tension),  and then I hooked the yarns in from opposite directions. So the main (dominant) colour I brought from the front of my hand over the top of the ring and into the far left hook. The contrasting yarn, I brought from behind my index finger, across the top of the ring and into the far right hook. I hold my index finger relatively high. Some folks hold it lower. I don’t expect that this would make much difference. This puts your index finger between the working yarns. You can easily choose the one you want from the correct orientation.

It’s important that you always keep the two yarns in the same position relative to each other in this type of knitting. One will always be taken from the left, the other always from the right.

Inconsistency results in sloppy colour dominance in the finished work.

On this particular pattern, the heel turn requires stranded purling. I am delighted to report that it was just as easy to purl using this ring using this set up, as it was to knit. Although it was very awkward to figure out what would work, once I found it, it was great, and fast. I love it!

Happy Knitting!

Variety: Boredom’s Foe

In my business altering and repairing garments and outdoor gear, I get a wide variety of sewing jobs.

It’s great because it means that I never get bored!

Although I do get some straight-forward jobs like hems, a great deal of my work requires considerable skill and ingenuity to complete. It also helps to have a variety of equipment to make the work easier.

Before moving to Revelstoke I had never been asked to repair backpacks. You’d be surprised how many different styles of backpacks there are. This is a very specialized type of gear. I remember one customer who had a collection of over 20 backpacks. She brought them all in one day because she wanted all the excess webbing shortened to eliminate what would otherwise dangle off the pack. It was both entertaining and informative as she explained the reasons she chose to possess so many packs. Each one was distinctly different and specific to a particular purpose. Until opening my store, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an “Avi-pack” (a pack with an airbag that is designed to keep you above the snow if you are caught in an avalanche). Since opening my shop I have seen a lot of them.

I see gear that is specific to

  • skiing;
  • snowboarding;
  • snowmobiling;
  • motorbiking;
  • hiking and more.

There are some repairs that I see very frequently.

In ski pants, if it isn’t the edge guards needing to be replaced, it will likely be either a crotch blow-out or a hole from catching on a branch in the glades. I’ve reconstructed powder-skirts, I’ve hemmed ski pants, I’ve replaced snaps and zippers on them and at times I have advised customers that they are simply better off to buy a new pair. Snowmobile gear usually comes in because the exhaust has melted holes into the legs of the pants. I don’t see a whole lot of motorbike gear because it tends to be built very robustly. It has to be, as it acts — essentially — as body armour. When I do see it, it may be because a zipper slider has broken, or a snap broke. Usually it’s to sew on badges though.

Jackets usually come in because the zipper is no longer functioning.

Sometimes I can just replace the slider and they are good to go.

Often I do have to replace the whole thing. I have actually come up with three different levels of zipper replacement to accommodate people’s budgets. One of the things I see a lot, is down jackets on which the fabric is so light and delicate that you can’t so much as lean against a wall or tree without putting a hole in them. It’s all good and fine to want your gear to be lightweight, but honestly, they should stand up to the terrain they are supposedly designed for. Things like that irritate me. I like things to be built to last.

Someone talked me into replacing the zippers in their boots one day.

Since then, I have done many boot zipper replacements; often in Nordic ski boots. It’s not my favourite job by any means, and not every boot allows machine access all around the zipper. But it’s satisfying to know that they don’t have to end up in the landfill.

But it isn’t just gear that I work on. I do alterations on clothing and although I don’t do wedding dresses any more (one too many Bridezillas) I do alter prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses. I have altered suits, jeans, shirts… you name it. I have done all sorts of custom sewing jobs too. One memorable one was a cot foundation where the frame was made of PVC pipe; it was intended for a toddler. I have made many cushion covers as well as slip covers for helicopter seats, and cushions for kitchen nooks. Besides all that I have done a considerable amount of adaptive clothing for folks who are restricted to a wheelchair.

When I started out sewing for people, 30-some years ago, I had a typical household sewing machine that I used for everything.

After a while, I invested in a household serger. Then, as I took on larger contracts, I took the leap and purchased an industrial straight-stitch sewing machine and an industrial serger. Once I got used to them, I couldn’t believe that I had ever lived without them. Because I was getting more and more costuming jobs for skating, dance and gymnastics and was doing more with stretch fabrics, the next machine I bought was a convertible Elna serger that allowed me to do coverstitching. This meant that my work took a leap forward in looking professionally done. Unfortunately, the volume of work I was doing was just too much for it for the long term. It broke. I was able to get it repaired but now I have it dedicated for doing lingerie hemming only.

So next I invested in an industrial coverstitch machine and an industrial blind hemmer.

That’s what I had when I opened up my store in Revelstoke. After about a year, it became obvious that I was not going to be able to meet the needs of the community without investing in more specialized equipment. So next came the roller post machine and the leather patcher. These allow me to access areas on most packs and heavy gear. The snap and grommet press followed shortly after, allowing me to apply industrial quality snaps to clothing and gear and to smoothly apply grommets. Although there are some jobs that are iffy, I can take on most tasks. The one thing that I generally cannot repair is suitcases as I simply can’t work them around the machines to access what needs repair.

I had no idea how much of a demand there would be for my services when I opened my store.

I am grateful to the community of Revelstoke for embracing me and supporting my business… and keeping me from ever being bored!

My 10 Must-have Tools For Knitting

No matter what creative activities you love, they all have their gadgets and tools. Some of those may be a bit gimicky and perhaps nice but unnecessary. Others are well worth having and keeping handy.

As a knitter, I love to challenge myself to try new patterns and techniques. The more that I knit, the more I have noticed that there are some tools I simply can’t live without. Whether the pattern suggests you use them or not, they are worth keeping in your tool pouch. This list is for things other than the needles you’d be knitting with. After all, you kind of need needles… Well, in most cases at least.

1. Crochet Hook:

I always have a crochet hook on hand. Besides the tiny one that I use for adding beads to my knitting, I keep a 3.5mm crochet hook in my tool pouch. For most yarns, it’s a good size for picking up dropped stitches. I also use it when I realize I made a mistake a few rows back and I want to drop the stitches directly above it so I can fix that mistake. I suppose if you wanted to be fancy, you could have a whole set of crochet hooks, though. I do find that 3.5mm is the size that I usually reach for; even when the yarn is thicker.

2. Knitting Needle Gauge:

Size sometimes actually matters. Although there are times when you can fudge it a little, sometimes if your needles are even 1 mm larger or smaller than the pattern calls for, it can change the final size of your project. On many knitting needles, the size is printed or lightly etched on the side of the needle. Unless your needles are brand new (or your eyes are) it’s been my experience that it can be all but impossible to read it. Having a Knitting Needle Gauge handy means you always have a way to be sure that you’re indeed grabbing the correct size of needle. If it’s in the pouch, you can always find it when you need it.

3. Darning Needle(s):

Whether you prefer a large one with a big eye, or a finer one that is easier to control, or if you like to have a selection of them to choose from,  as I do, darning needles are a must for doing a neat job of hiding your threads when your project is done. (Oh, and if you have one that’s a fine enough size it can double as a key for your interchangeable needles.)

4. A Double Point Needle or a Cable needle:

Whether you are cabling or not, having a fine needle such as these give you something you can use to catch a dropped stitch to keep it from running away on you and yeah, if you do cables, they are handy for that too. 🙂

5. Measuring Tape:

I personally like a retractable measuring tape because it won’t get tangled up with all the other odds and ends in my tool pouch.

6. A Pencil:

Right? No brainer. Well, best have an eraser too, though it doesn’t rate its own spot in the list after all it is probably attached to the pencil.

7. A Pen:

Okay, before you tell me it doesn’t deserve its own spot… it does. Sometimes you need to make sure that your notes won’t get rubbed out or smudged beyond recognition (can you tell I speak from experience?). Sometimes, you want to be clear what you did, to make a pattern special just for “Bonnie” (who appreciates and deserves to be gifted hand-knit presents). Sometimes you want a reference so when Clyde (also deserving) says, “if you make it exactly like you did for Bonnie, but in this other colour, it will be perfect!” At which point you think, “oh crap! I know I changed the pattern for Bonnie, but I can’t remember for the life of me what I did!” Then you’ll wish you had a pen in your pouch so you could have marked in very clearly that you cast on an extra 10 stitches for Bonnie at row 42. See? So there!

8. A Highlighter Pen:

I like to use a highlighter to show when I have completed a section. It helps my eye to move directly to the section of the pattern where I am actually working. Sometimes if there is something a little bit tricky that I want to be sure I remember I’ll circle it with the highlighter so it stands out from other marks I’ve made.

9. Something to cut with:

Whether you prefer a small pair of embroidery scissors, mini-snips or a thread-cutter pendant, there are enough times you’ll need to cut and not tear your yarn that you’ll definitely want to have a compact cutting tool on hand.

10. Stitch Markers:

I am a firm believer in having a variety of stitch markers. Whether they are just a variety of colours or styles or both, I couldn’t live without them. The judicious use of stitch markers can save your sanity! Even if the pattern doesn’t indicate the need for one, I use them (often colour coded or style coded) to make it easy to see the different sections of what I’m knitting. For instance, let’s say you are doing a 3 stitch selvedge. Pop a stitch marker in on either end, three stitches from the edge of the work. Use the same type; but one colour to show that you are starting a right side row, and the other to show it’s a wrong side row. Are you making a shawl? Does it have a centre-line? Put a stitch marker on either side of the very centre stitch so you have a way to double check that your increases are happening in the correct place on BOTH sides of the fabric. (Thank you very much!) Oh the messes I have made by not just indicating a new section with a humble stitch marker!

And there you go!

Happy Knitting!

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.

 

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