Best sewing accessories for confident sewing – pinning, unpicking, taping and specialised tools

Best pinning, unpicking, taping and specialised tools

Part 2 of my guide to best sewing accessories review. Today I cover best pins, tapes and other specialised sewing tools that will make your sewing a breeze.

 

See out Part 1 of best sewing accessories HERE.

 

BEST SEWING ACCESSORIES aka the must haves!

Handling your fabric while sewing can make or break the final result. Below you will find some tips to keep your fabric in great condition during construction.

PINNING, UNPICKING & TAPING  ACCESSORIES 

washi tape

 

Shopping List:

1x MAGNETIC PIN CUSHION

1x FLOWER HEAD PINS

1x BRIDAL & LACE PINS

1x HEMMING TAPE

1x PAPER WASHI TAPE

1x UNPICKER/ SEAM RIPPER

flower head pins on magnetic pincushion

Having the right pins for the job will save you a lot of struggle when preparing and sewing your fabric. At first I didn’t think there is much difference in different types of pins, they all seamed small and sharp right? Wrong… I learned it the hard way, when I used my flower head pins on a very light net curtain fabric. I have created irreversible “holes” that were not going away no matter what I did. Similar thing happened with my delicate stretch cotton I was using to make a t-shirt. The fabric was quite light but had a print on top and my “fat” quilting pins didn’t want to go through with me forcing it. I’ve learnt my lesson and now always have at least two different types of pins: large flower head pins (also known as quilting pins), which I love and adore as they are so versatile and I use them in 90% on my projects,  and small and slim bridal & lace pins for delicate fabrics. 

Flower head pins are longer than standard glass head pins and have a significant advantage of reaching more material so you need less of them and therefore misshaping your material a lot less. Also put them horizontally to your sewing line and because they have flat heads you can sew right through them without having to remove them, great option for those we do not tack/baste and need to keep layers in place while sewing.

No matter what pins you use, you can’t do without a magnetic pin cushion. This £6 accessory is the best thing I have spent my money on ever. Especially when you have kids or pets and a bowl full of pins is at risk of being thrown all over the floor. This little thing not only holds them in place but also the magnet is strong enough so you can hover over any spilled pins and it will lift them from the floor just like magic!

Another great sewing tool to keep things in place instead of pins is a hemming tape. This double-sided glued tape will keep your hems, necklines, armholes perfectly together so you can sew it in place. Great especially for small tubes like cuffs or trouser legs where there is not much room to take up the material and pin it and then machine with pins sticking right left and centre. This is only a temporary glue that is meant to hold two pieces of fabric together for you to sew it easily, and I would not recommend it to be a long term solution instead of a seam as it will wash off and fall apart in the wash.

using washi tape in sewing
Blue washi tape used to mark seam allowance for easier sewing

 

 

To make my project assembly faster I like to mark my sewing seam allowance (usually 5/8 inch or 1.5 cm) with a paper washi tape. This paper tape is great for beginners as they learn that feeding the fabric at the right seam allowance is crucial to the seam being nice and even. For fast sewers who like to just get going it offers a visual reference without having to strain your eyes and look for a groove on the metal plate (where there are usually 8 different markings for seam allowance).

If you have large hands, like me, and find the unpickers that come with your machines too fiddly ( I do!), then buying a bigger one that will fit in your hand nicely is a very good investment. Unpicker/seam ripper  is probably the most used sewing tool, so having one that doesn’t slip through your fingers and gives you control over what thread you cut is what is going to make your sewing much easier.

 

SPECIALISED  ACCESSORIES aka the Xmas gift ones
sewing accessory for sewing bulk fabrics
Jean A Ma Jig in action helping sew bulky fabrics

Wish List:

1x JEAN A MA JIG (yes it’s really called that 🙂

1x BIAS BINDING MAKER

1x MAGNETIC GUIDE

1x HEM GAUGE FOR PRESSING

1x DRESS FORM

 

None of the accessories covered below are by any means necessary to achieve great sewing projects. However, once you have sewn for a while, you have also struggled with some construction steps or certain fabrics more than with others. You were not the first nor the last person to do so, so with time we started seeing a lot more sewing accessories that were made for one specific sewing task and make it less fiddly or tedious.

One of my favourite tools that does just that is a JEAN A MA JIG which is really a plastic rectangle with a slit in it, but however simple it might seem it does wonders to sew bulky seams and tough fabrics like denim, when your foot would usually be on the steep uphill and not feed the material correctly due to the bulk. This little baby levels the foot and makes the bulky seams easy to start with no problems what so ever. And what a cool name !

bias binding maker, magnetic seam gauge
Magnetic seam gauge (left) and bias binding maker (right)

Another tool that was invented to do one thing only, but very well is the bias binding maker. Well it does need you to iron the folded tape it creates to maintain it’s shape, but it does essentially create a double folded biased tape from your chosen material. Biased tape is great for finishing necklines, armholes and hems, and if it’s made from the same material as a dress it’s simply the most perfect finish you can get. So in theory I would recommend buying one if you make a lot of tops or dresses that does require a bias binding edge. In practice I have had one for over a year until I finally made a project that needed a bias tape, and then…. I realised that I have bought the wrong size of the bias binding maker that makes very wide bias tape, far too wide for what I need, so I’m on the fence with this tool. Had I bought the right one, maybe I would be praising it now, but again, it took me a year to actually open the packet, so judge for yourself.

The next tool I acquired only recently is a magnetic seam gauge, which can be used instead of the paper washi tape I described in Part 1 of the Best  Sewing Accessories. It has a powerful magnet at the bottom and “sticks” to the metal plate next to your sewing foot that has all vertical seam markings  to help you sew with the correct seam allowance. Do I prefer this to a washi tape, no. Is it useful, yes it is, however, it gets in the way if the seam allowance you need to use is small like 3/8″ or smaller.  It does work very well for the standard seam allowance of 5/8″ etc. It guides the fabric nicely at the marked seam allowance ensuring straight seams all the way.

hem gauge for ironing  aluminium hem gauge Also a recent addition to my accessories kit is this little beauty, an aluminium hem gauge for pressing. If you like your hems even and don’t like to spend a long time in measuring, marking, turning up, pressing, only to find that it is crooked, this is the one for you!

It has a gentle curve, so you can use it on circle skirts etc. and has all traditional hem lengths marked. All you need to do is to fold the fabric and press with an iron, couldn’t be easier. It has cut the preparation of the hem by at least 70% for me, as it’s so so so easy and fast.

Last but certainly not least, I would like to give you a quick intro to the most expensive sewing accessory that you can get (apart from the super duper machines), an adjustable dress form. This almost life size mannequin, is fully adjustable so you can set it up to your bust, waist and hip measurements and fir your projects during construction. Note that they would come in at least two different sizes so if you are like me on the larger ed of the scale, make sure that you buy a larger size dress form so it actually extends to your size, as having one too small defeats its purpose.

singer 501 dress form

It is particularly useful if you tend to have issues with fitting into the standard size of the patterns, and always require making adjustments. If 4/5 of your last projects, you cut out the pattern in your size and it fitted great then you won’t need one for quite a while. I end up adjusting every single pattern I make, and my Singer 501 dress form is very useful as I don’t want to rely on my boyfriend’s pinning skills.

I found it especially useful for marking the length of the dress or skirt to create an even hem. As most of use have a bum, the back of the garment will usually need to be tiny bit longer to compensate for our bum curve, and the dress form makes it super easy to take that into account and have a perfectly straight hem.

If most of your fitting issues are in the bust area, then you will find a dress form very useful as it allows you to pin every last pucker and seam as is you were wearing the garment yourself.

GET YOUR SEWING TOOLS

If you fancy getting any of the products described above, find the links below to both UK and Spanish amazon sites. As we don’t have many online choices in Spain, I tend to order from them and top up my sewing box on frequent visits to lovely UK haberdasheries. We only recommend products we have personally used, and by purchasing the products through the links below you support our sewing community, as the profits from the affiliate program are used to pay hosting fees for this website and our blog. Thank you for using the provided links. If there is a particular product you wish to purchase  let us know and we will publish a dedicated link for it.

Please visit dedicated product page with all the items listed. >>> SEE PRODUCT PAGE

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