sewing equipment

ESSENTIAL TOOLS FOR A DRESSMAKER’S SEWING BOX

Essential tools for dressmakers

We've teamed up with WeaverDee and Prym to chat about the essential tools for making your own clothes at home including some items that you might not have heard of!

What you need for the 3 key areas of dressmaking: measuring, marking and cutting out.

1. MEASURING
Tape Measures
"A good, quality tape measure is an essential item for your dressmaking tool kit."

Prym offer an excellent range; the top-seller is the Tailor's Tape measure. This has a metal strip at one end (approx 50mm). Very popular too is the Prym Ergonomic Tape. It's clever, award-winning design allows the tape to lay flat instead of twisting when rolled out, which makes the tape much easier to handle."

Sew & Knit Gauge
'This is a really handy and useful measuring aid that has an integral sliding piece which you position for equal spacing of buttonholes, buttons, and for accurate folding and marking of hems."

Advanced Level
Those among you that either create your own patterns or adapt existing patterns will no doubt be familiar with special tools available to aid the process.

Here, we list two very commonly used professional dressmaking rulers:
French Curve
"Used for marking out armholes, sleeve heads, shoulders, neck, hips, waist, etc."
Dressmaker's Rule
"For making uniform or recurring spacing such as seam/hem allowances, buttonholes and pleats, as well as on neckline and sleeve/armhole curves and hip, crotch and waist curve."

TOP TIP: Buy a long, heavy ruler

"Most haberdashery suppliers, whether on the high street or online don't sell extra long, heavyweight rulers so take a look in the ‘Man Shed’ or visit the building tools section of your local DIY store. A builder's or carpenter's metal ‘T’ Square is a fabulous aid for marking long, straight lines across or along a large piece of fabric. The extra weight will help prevent the ruler from slipping or the fabric from shifting. Also, invest in a metal metre rule, which has more weight than it's wooden counterpart."

2. MARKING

Chalks
Tailor's Chalk and sharpener
"Probably the most commonly used and cost effective method for marking lines on fabric. The marks can be easily removed by brushing with a soft-tooth brush but always test on a piece of scrap fabric. On the down side, the chalk piece will soon blunt, making the markings too thick for accurate, recurring marking. However, this can be rectified and sharpened using a sharpener.

Chalk Pencils
"The pencil lead is made from special chalk. Using an ordinary pencil sharpener will enable you to sharpen the tip down to a fine point allowing finer, more accurate marking. The pencil has a brush at the other end, which is used for removing markings."

Water Erasable Pencil
"This white pencil is ideal for marking on dark fabrics, and marks are easily removed with water or a damp cloth."

Chalk Wheel Markers
"
Fine lines give more accurate measurements. An ergonomic Chalk Wheel marker will produce fine, erasable chalk markings. The chalk is contained in a renewable cartridge that just clicks into place. The wheel action will prevent the fabric from puckering as the marker is being drawn along the ruler edge. You can choose either white or yellow interchangeable cartridge refills. The ergonomic parallel chalk wheel mouse is equipped with an adjustable edge tracing wheel for altering patterns, adding seam allowances, etc."

Free Standing Chalk Hem Marker
"This is ideal for marking garment hems. White chalk puffer deposits thin line of chalk around skirt at the desired hem height. Then you're ready to pin, baste or slip stitch to the hem level."

 

Marking Pens
"There's a huge choice available, some very good, some not so good. They mainly come under three categories: Vanishing Ink, Water Erasable and Permanent."

Vanishing Marker Pen
Useful in situations where you are unable to remove markings. The vanishing ink pen is perfect for sewing, quilting, dressmaking, embroidery and much more. The pen has a medium fibre tip, and purple ink which is suitable for use on medium or light coloured materials. After a few hours, the marking becomes invisible, so no unsightly markings will show once the project is complete.

Water Erasable Pen
"This marker penis perfect for marking out your project. It's water-erasable, so the markings are removed with a damp cloth or water."

Fine-line Vanishing Pen
"This works in the same way as the regular vanishing pen. This one gives a finer line for more accurate marking."

Fine-line Water Erasable Pen
This also works in the same way as the regular water-erasable pen but this one gives a finer line for more accurate marking."

Permanent Black Ballpoint Pen
This one permanently marks fabric and the markings won't wash out. It's ideal for name tabs, etc.

 

Tracing Wheels and Carbon Tracing Paper
"These are generally used in conjunction with dressmaker's carbon paper to transfer lines and markings from the sewing pattern onto the fabric. There's two types: serrated to produce a dotted line and smooth for continuous lines."

Ergonomic Tracing Wheel (Serrated)
This a professional quality tracing wheel with recessed index finger rest and curved ergonomic design that helps reduce fatigue. Serration on wheel produces a dotted line. The ergonomic tracing wheel (smooth and blunt) is the same but makes continous lines.

Prym ergonomic serrated tracing wheel

 

Dressmaker's Carbon Tracing Paper
Simply lay your fabric onto the carbon paper, then lay the sewing pattern onto fabric. Trace round pattern using a tracing wheel. Markings will then be transferred onto fabric.

3. CUTTING OUT

Scissors
It's well worth investing in good quality dressmaking scissors. Budget-priced scissors will only lead to fatigue and frustration during the cutting out process.

Prym Kai scissors are by no means the cheapest available,  nor are they the most expensive. However they do provide exceptional quality, comfort and cutting power along with innovative design at an affordable price.

A dressmaker's tool kit is normally equipped with the following scissors: dressmaking and/ortailoring shears, general purpose and/or needlecraft scissors, fine point embroidery scissors or thread snips and pinking shears. The latter not being essential, but can sometimes be really useful. 

 

Dressmaking/Tailoring Scissors
TOP TIP: The longer the blade - the straighter the cut!

When stating a size, most scissor manufacturers are referring to the overall length of the scissor (not the blade) so 21cm for example is measured from the start of the handle to the point of the blade.

Most of dressmakers will buy dressmaking scissors with a length of around 21 to 25cm. As a general rule, it's easier keep a straight cut with a longer blade. This length is generally ideal for both long straight cuts and for cutting round curves, etc.

Here's the top sellers in the Prym range:
KAI 21cm Hobby Dressmaking - Smaller sized, good quality and very reasonably priced.
KAI 25cm Hobby Dressmaking - The extra long blade makes it easier to keep a straight line on long cuts.
KAI 21cm Professional Xact General Purpose Dressmaking Scissors - Micro serration on the edge of one blade - ultra sharp cutting edge on the other. This combination gives you tremendous cutting power. The blades are made from Vanadium steel for longer life.
KAI 25cm Professional Tailor's Shears - Larger version of the above. The longer blade will give better performance on long straight cuts.
KAI 23cm Professional Sidebent Tailor - Dressmaker Shears - The raised handle (sidebent) and straight lower blade allows you to rest your hand on the table whilst cutting. This makes it easier to achieve a straight cut as well as providing extra comfort.
KAI 21cm Professional Left-handed Tailor/Dressmaker Shears - As above, slightly shorter blade - reversed for left hand use. In addition, the ergonomic shape of the handles has been designed for holding in your left hand. Larger version of the above. The longer blade will give better performance on long straight cuts.

 

Small scissors
Popular ones include:

KAI 16cm Hobby Needlework scissors
KAI 11.5cm Hobby Embroidery
KAI 13cm Professional Embroidery/Needlecraft Scissors
KAI 12cm Professional Thread Snips
KAI 10cm Professional Embroidery Scissors

Other specialised scissors
KAI 13.5cm Professional Textile Curved Scissors -
The unusual 'banana' bend blade with specially rounded tip allows you to cut between fabric layers without snagging.

Pinking Shears - Pinkers produce a zigzag cut to the fabric that prevents the edge from fraying. They're handy for finishing and trimming a fabric edge where you are unable to neaten with an overcast stitch. A common mistake is to buy cheap pinking shears because they won't be used very often. However, cheap pinkers are useless on fabric; they'll only work on card or paper.

All Prym sewing tools mentioned in this feature can be purchased from WeaverDee. We'd like to thank WeaverDee for helping put this blog post together.