Stitch up a storm with these clever everyday items that double as sewing tools.
Hey y’all, today I’m sharing some household items to use as sewing tools. These “not sewing” tools are items beyond the essential sewing notions (thread, scissors, sewing machine, seam rippers, etc). that I always have in my sewing room. Everyday tools are all items that aren’t specifically for sewing, but useful nevertheless. Even beginners might find these items helpful, whether you sew quilts or garments.
So, what are these tools and how can they help with your sewing projects? Take a look at the video below or on YouTube here, or you can scroll below the video for more explanation of each tool. I’ve also got affiliate links to the tools below the video.
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. All affiliate links are identified with (affiliate link) after the link or a commissions earned statement above the link(s).
Starch is a staple in my sewing room to help make all kinds of fabrics easier to handle. It’s useful for rayon challis – I spray my rayon and iron it before cutting out my pattern to make it easier to stay on grain. The starch also makes the fabric easier to sew since it gives it more body. And since starch washes out, I just wash my garment when I’m finished sewing and that lovely, flowy rayon drape returns.
I also use starch to help tame my stretch fabrics. It’s great to help straighten the raw edges of knit jersey when it’s trying to curl. I also starch almost all my knit hems before sewing them. Usually I don’t even have to use pins if I use starch while pressing my hem. It also helps stabilize the fabric so I don’t get a stretched out hem unintentionally.
These are hands down my favorite tool for fabric marking, even though they were originally made so that kids couldn’t permanently mark their clothes. And in fact, I think having these markers for my kids is where I got the idea to use them for sewing. There’s a reason they’re on the top of my list of back to school supplies I buy for sewing. Whether I’m marking darts or dots, these work well.
Chalk pencils and tailor’s chalk don’t always give me as precise a line as I can get with these children’s markers. And I have yet to find a washable fabric that these won’t wash out of, but I do recommend testing on a scrap if you’re unsure. I have not used them on dry clean only fabric because I generally don’t sew with dry clean only textiles.
I love washable markers for marking because they come in so many colors and they mark on so many surfaces. No other marking tool I’ve used will reliably mark on fleece, for example. But these work!
Card stock is useful to me in the sewing room in two ways. First, if I’m sewing something that I’m going to be cutting a lot of things out of, making a card stock template means I have an easier way to trace with a marker or rotary cutter to cut out multiples.
But most often I use card stock in this second way – as a pressing gauge. Mark a straight line with a ruler measured in from the card stock edge. Repeat these lines at different intervals – I do 1/8 inch marks up to 1/2 inch, then 1/4 inch marks to 1 inch. You could also do centimeters and millimeters – maybe do inches on one side and metric on the other if you’re someone who sews both U.S. and international patterns. Then I can fold the edge of my fabric against the edge of the card stock to press precise folds. Eventually, after much use, the card stock may warp from the steam from the iron. When it does, I just replace it with a new piece. I prefer this to a metal sewing gauge or pressing guide because it doesn’t get hot.
The first use for tape that probably comes to your mind is for taping PDF patterns together, but I was using tape in my sewing room long before the advent of digital sewing patterns. I use it in place of pins sometimes, particularly with zippers. You can see it in action in this zipper pouch tutorial.
I prefer tape to pins when sewing zippers because it doesn’t shift the zipper like can happen when inserting, removing, or sewing over a pin. Instead it holds the zipper flat in place and then it peels off when you’re done. I have a much easier time precisely aligning my zipper for an in seam application than using pins. And as the needle stitches it punctures the tape, which makes it easy to peel off on either side of the seam.
Out of all the things on the list, this might be the least expected household items to use as sewing tools! But I always have a set of matches on a high shelf in my sewing room. You might guess that they’re for burn testing fabric of unknown origin, but that’s not the most frequent use I have for them. While matches are useful for burn tests, the way I most frequently use them is to seal the raw edges of synthetic fabric.
This is a trick I learned back in my days as a costumer. I sewed a pile of skirts for a community theatre production, and like most community theatres this one didn’t have a big budget. So the skirts were all made from a polyester twill fabric. And this particular fabric frayed like crazy. Like even serging the edges didn’t help, because the overlocked edge would just separate right off the fabric. Fray check was no match for this fabric either. So the head costumer suggested using a lighter on an edge to see what happened. The heat from the lighter melted the fraying threads into a thin bead of plastic along the raw edge, and all fraying stopped. While it took forever and was nerve wracking to seal all the raw edges with heat without burning or melting entire skirts, it was the only thing that worked.
Nowadays, in my sewing room I’m not sealing all the raw edges of an entire cast’s worth of skirts, so I don’t need a lighter. A short lived match works just fine to seal the cut edge of a zipper or ribbon, and that is why I keep them in my sewing room.
So as you build your sewing kit with traditional tools like pin cushions, straight pins, tape measures and shears, also consider these household items to use as sewing tools. Do you have any other tools from elsewhere around the house that you’ve found useful in sewing? If so, leave a comment and let me know what they are!