Apr 082013

As many of you may have figured out Amity and I are very different in many respects.  As you can tell from her post on sewing tools she loves having the perfect tool for each situation.  Me, I like to use what I have around; hence the post title “Dual Duty Tools.”

Dual duty tool #1:  Sewing machine seam measure guides.

My 2 sewing machines don’t have usable seam markings on it.  My Elna Grasshopper has no seam markings.

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools

My Elna Carina has metric measurement.

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools

To create my own seam measure guide I position the 3/8” mark at the needle.  Our patterns will use mainly 3/8” seam allowance but more on this in a later post.  I lower the foot to hold the ruler and put a piece of blue tape or a post it note to mark 3/8”.

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools


Dual duty tool #2:  Straight stitch throat plate

Another use for blue painter tape is to create a straight stitch throat plate.  Straight stitch throat plates are extremely useful for troublesome or thin fabrics. Many times, when starting stitching lightweight fabrics, the larger throat plate sucks the fabric down the hole. With the smaller opening of a straight stitch only needle plate, the fabric does not have any room to be pulled under and you get a much better quality stitch without the headache!

Some sewing machines have a throat plate designed for straight stitching.  I’m not sure if the Elna Carina does or not but I don’t really care.  I make my own with a little bit of blue painter’s tape.  Cut a small piece, small enough to cover the hole without covering the feed dogs.

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools

Lower your needle to puncture a little hole.

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools

Presto you have your own straight stitch throat plate.

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools


Dual duty tool #3:  Thread spool holder

The thread I use to sew with is serger thread that comes on a cardboard tube.

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools

Yes, I use this for all my garment sewing.  No, my clothing is not falling apart.  I use an industrial serger thread that is strong, light weight and has very little lint.  This is not the junk I dub “crappy-lok” that you can buy at a nameless fabric store.  Since this tube has a big hole and wobbles around while I sew.  To stop this I stuff a hair curler foam into it.  The curler has a little hole in it, perfect for the spool holder.

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools


Dual duty tool #4:  Clapper

When I was sewing my fuchsia Fuchsia skirt, I was struggling to get the scallop hem to hold a press.  The fabric was 110% polyester.  The extra 10% was there to drive me extra crazy.  Amity suggested I put a clapper on it to hold the press while it cooled.  Great idea except I didn’t have a clapper.  I ended up making one out of a sleeve board, a heavy flashlight and some pattern weights.

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools

At first I had used a wide ruler instead of the sleeve board but it kept the moisture in and it wouldn’t dry even after many, many hours.  The sleeve board was perfect because it was breathable, covered a large area.


Dual duty tool #5:  Standing height table

Amity loves doing everything lying down.  I love standing. I told you we are opposites. I stand cutting, sewing, serging and even eating at the kitchen counter.  My sewing table is a piece of plywood we found on the side of our house one day.  It’s a great width and length without breaking the bank even if it wasn’t mysteriously donated to us.  To get it to standing height I used these adjustable saw horse like things from IKEA.  I also found some mystery furniture parts for the support across the 2 saw horse in IKEA’s as-is section.  I wrapped the top with a faux leather fabric to snazzy it up.

  Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools


Dual duty tool #6:  Chalk line eraser

I learned this trick from my mom who drafts her patterns with a piece of chalk right on the fabric.  She was a factory sewer and didn’t own any gizmos and gadgets.  She didn’t own pins, had one presser foot and her straight ruler was a piece of scrap metal that my dad scored a few marks with a razor blade.  When she made a mistake in her drafting, she got rid of it my slapping it with her metal ruler.


Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools

Now you see it

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools

 Now you don’t.

Lolita Patterns | Dual Duty Tools

 OK you can still see it a little but after handling it while sewing it eventually disappeared.  This is much faster and efficient than that itty brush.  Bonus:  she also used her metal ruler to flatten seams.


Dual duty tool #7:  Tube turner

My mom was a factory sewer in the 80s.  I remember her sewing a lot of waist ties.  I assume these were in fashion at the time.  To turn the tubes, I used chopsticks.  Shhh! No one report her to child protective services because I was only 8 at the time.  Chopsticks are inexpensive and readily available.

What do you think? Can you incorporate some of these everyday tools into our sewing room? Do you have any other tips to share?

Nhi Signature


  7 Responses to “Dual Duty Tools”

  1. where do you buy your industrial serger thread and is there a brand name? I only have “crappy-lok” thread, as you call it =)

    love the tips

  2. Loved this post. Even though I do have a lot of the extras, I multipurpose the tools I use. I’m a big fan of the Chopstick and also use it for a seamroll when pressing those tight little spaces. Blue tape marks the wrong side of pattern pieces, notches on fabric that is hard to chalk, and seam widths. Quarter inch scotch tape alters patterns, marks top stitching on zippers, bastes, and more. I’ve always wondered though, how people sew standing up. Maybe I should try it.

    • I love using blue tape to mark the wrong side of the fabric…huge help!! I also serge standing up….not because I wanted to try it, but because the chair for my serger is always piled high with stuff that I don’t want to move!

  3. Really cool tips here–I like the one for filling the cone of the serger thread.
    Also I didn’t realize the painter’s tape would withstand being like a plate for the needle. It doesn’t eventually get sucked into the hole? (I’ve been using painter’s tape on my presser foot for sewing with laminated fabric and it peels off–though the painter’s tape I have is for “delicate surfaces” so maybe it’s not as strong).

    • Thanks Kyle. I’m not even sure why I have those curler things. Must be from my drill team days. At least now they’re getting put to good use. The painter’s tape holds through the project but not through multiple projects. I do tend to pull it off because I need to use the full width for zig zagging. Have you tried Scotch tape or a Teflon pressure foot for laminated fabric? The painter’s tape has a bit of a rougher surface.

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