Top Ten Things Every Seamstress Wants

Today we’re going to explore some super handy (and some little known) tools that (almost) every seamstress would LOVE to have in their arsenal of tools. Of course, there are SO many tools out there, it would be hard to name them all, but these are the top ten on my personal list. We’ll also be including links to most of these products for your shopping convenience, should you see anything you think you can’t live without. Please feel free to comment with some of your sewing wants and needs to add to our list!

Top 10 Things Every Seamstress Wants

1. Gingher Dressmaker Shears– Gingher is fairly top of the line when it comes to sewing tools. The scissors are ridiculously sharp and maintain that sharpness well, making cutting through just about any fabric a breeze. It doesn’t hurt that they can also be very pretty.

2. 36″x24″ Self-healing Cutting Mat– Cutting mats are WONDERFUL tools to have. And in this case, bigger really is better. A large cutting mat will allow you to cut out larger patterns without having to reposition the fabric and pattern multiple times in order to get it all cut, especially if you’re sewing adult sized garments. I’m operating with a smaller mat right now, but I WILL be buying a larger one soon!

3. 45mm Contour Rotary Cutter– This ergonomically shaped rotary cutter is much easier on the joints while also allowing you a little more control. I cut all of my patterns with a rotary cutter now. And while there is a slight learning curve in figuring out how to cut those curves, it is definitely worth the time it takes to figure it out. I save so much time cutting now because of my rotary cutter!

4. Bias Tape Makers– If you sew with wovens often and/or use bias trim, this is a MUST have! You can make bias trim out of anything in your fabric stash to perfectly match your project! Definitely a nice touch with a more professional finish for your projects.

5. Sewing Machine Specialty Foot Set– You can never have too many specialty feet! These sets typically come with 30+ different specialty feet for any occasion. They will include things like an invisible zipper foot, ruffle foot, adjustable bias trim foot with a bunch of others. Definitely worth a look! (And keep an eye out for a future blog post going over our favorite specialty feet and what they do!)

6. Magnetic Seam Guide– Such a small thing that can make a HUGE difference in your quality of work, especially if you’re newer to sewing. This handy little piece sticks to your metal plate to help you perfectly guide your fabric through, making it worlds easier to achieve a perfectly straight seam or hem

7. Hemming Clips– Another small thing that packs a huge punch! These handy little clips can be bought in sets of 12 and will help you create the perfect hem every time. Another thing in my near future wishlist!

8. Nippers/Trimming Scissors– These are something I use ALL the time. Most people think of them as embroidery scissors, but I find them SO much easier to use for cutting threads than a large more cumbersome pair of scissors. They also don’t take up near as much room next to your sewing machine.

9. Thread Stand– If you often sew your projects with fabric matching threads, this is a fantastic tool for keeping things organized and tidy. They come in different sizes to hold different numbers of spools and are perfect for regular sewing or embroidery threads. And while you buying this, you can grab a handy bobbin storage solution too!

10. Adjustable Dress Form– If you sew for yourself, a dress form is so great to have in your space. You can get ones that are adjustable or purchase one that is just your size. It’s perfect if you’re an aspiring designer, just love playing with draping fabrics, or even just to “try things on” without having to undress and redress yourself so often. It’s an investment, but a worthy one!

Well, that brings me to the end of my list, but please add your favorite current or wishlist sewing items to our comments and join our amazing Facebook community to share BSD related projects, questions, and triumphs! We’d love to have you!

*All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. That means if you purchase something when clicking that link, we get a very small percentage which keeps this blog going. That being said, we only link to products that we actually use and recommend. 

Sahara Sew Along Winners!

I know I am a little later than planned with this, and for that I am sorry. You know when life just keeps coming like a freight train? That has been my last few days. But, I’m here now to share some absolutely stunning creations and announce the winners of this Sahara Sew Along!

Winner #1 was the Admins choice. All of the BSD admins looked over the completes projects and voted on our favorite… and that winner is Allison Rumbolt with her GORGEOUS adult blue floral Sahara! And look at that twirl! I just can’t get over how perfect this is on her!

Winner #2 was People’s choice. Our group members voted with their likes (and other reacts) to come up with this one. It was a really close race and I sincerely thought we might have more than one winner here, but in the end, the person to pull ahead and win this honor was Patricia Sandhu! This little Sahara was sewn with love for her niece and is unfortunately no modeled, as it had to be mailed, but even laid out flat it is just beautiful. Hopefully we will get to see modeled pics in the group once her niece receives it!

Winner #3 was a random draw. And not that this makes the dress any less amazing. We had a VERY hard time choosing winners because everyone did such a fantastic job and found such creative and wonderful fabrics to sew with! The random draw winner is Mary Howland with her red floral number that is equally breath-taking to all of the other entries!

Everyone did SUCH a great job! And I am super proud and ecstatic at the completion of this sew along! I am going to throw down a few honorable mentions as well, as they have given us permission to show their work on the blog and are ALL very worthy of the recognition!

I hope you all sewing along had as much fun as I did! Make sure you come join the Bella Sunshine Facebook group! There is SO much going on in there right now! And you never know when we might be announcing the next sew along! And don’t forget the big 25% celebration sale that’s going on in the shop right now! Get all of those patterns you’ve been eyeing at a GREAT price!

Sahara Sew Along Days 9 and 10

Well, some of us are done! Go us! And some of us are still working for the goal! Go us! These two days are dedicated to playing catch up! So, if you need them, here are the links to Day 1, Day 2, Days 3-4, Days 5-6 and Days 7-8. And if you are stuck and need help, PLEASE don’t hesitate to ask! Either in the comments below or in the Facebook Group! We’re here for you!

This will be a short post as we’re just touching base today. I do want to share my finished project too, so take a look at my cute little princess!

So cute, right? I can’t WAIT to see all of your finished projects in the album of our Facebook group for voting! There will be prizes awarded for people’s choice, admins choice, and a random draw from all participants who completed the project! And don’t forget, the Ladies and Girls Sahara patterns are still on sale through Sunday, so grab it while it’s still discounted! We’ll be back here in a couple of days to share some cuteness from a few of the participants!

Sahara Sew Along Days 7 and 8

Hello again! Welcome back! Are you ready to finish this crazy amazing dress of yours? Today’s the day! But first, if you’re just joining us, there IS time to catch up (I promise)! Just follow the links to Day 1, Day 2, Days 3 and 4, and Days 5 and 6. All caught up? Great! Let’s get started!

Today we add the skirt and finish the dress! But if you’re adding pockets, we need to do that first. You should have 2 half circle skirt pieces and 4 pocket pieces. First step is taking each pocket piece and pinning it to the flat side where the seams will go. There should have been marks on the pattern, but if you missed them, you can pin them about 2 inches down from the top like so:

Then baste all 4 in place individually, just inside of the seam allowance. Once those are secure, you will pin the skirt pieces together with the seams pressed toward the pockets. Once pinned, you should have something that resembles this:

Now, just sew all the way down both sides, taking special care around the outside of the pockets. Go slow if you need to. Don’t sew in a straight line all the way down or you’ll sew the pockets shut (I’m only saying this because I did that the first time I ever tried to sew a pocket lol). Once the side seams are sewn, finish the edges and you’re ready to move on!

Now, quarter the bodice and skirt waist openings and match them up to attack the skirt. If you’ve added pockets, make sure the side seams are pressed to the front so that the pockets will lay to the front of the skirt. Sew the waist seam with clear elastic to help stabilize it if you have it (I didn’t have any, but I highly recommend it’s use).

Now that you have the skirt attached, we’re in the home stretch!

All that’s left is to decide on a hem! Now, there are MANY options for hemming a knit skirt. One is to not. Some prefer to simply leave the edges raw since knit does not fray. If this is your chosen method, you’re finished! Congrats! Some fold up the bottom and use a coverstitch machine or a sewing machine with a double needle to sew parallel straight stitches into the hem as you see in many ready to wear garments. Some use a single row of straight or stretch or zigzag sitches to hold their hem in place. Me? I’m a little more unconventional in that area. My love is the lettuce hem and I’ll give you a quick rundown of how I do that on my sewing machine. First, the settings.

I set my machine to a zigzag stitch with a 5mm width and a 0.3mm length, giving me a satin stitch. I place my fabric under my needle with the edge centered under the foot. When you start, go SLOW! Trust me. And unlike most conventional knit sewing, you will WANT to stretch your fabric as much as possible as it’s feeding through the machine. The combination of the tight satin stitches and the stretch fabric will leave you with a very pretty ruffled edge.

Now, I’d recommend a matching thread if you’re newer to this method, but if you practice and get good at it, contrasting lettuce hems can be stunning on the right pieces. I will warn you, a lettuce hem does take a LOT more time than a traditional hem, and sewing one can get pretty intense at times. You’ll also want to make sure you’re starting one with a full bobbin, because they do use up a LOT of thread. But, to me, it’s worth it for the look.

And that’s it! You’re done! Go you! If you aren’t quite there, we do have some catch up days planned, so no worries there. Make sure you visit our Facebook group and add your picture from today’s steps into the comments of today’s picture in the album! I can’t WAIT to see all of the finished pretties! I LOVE seeing what you all make! In case you need a refresher, here’s the schedule again. And a reminder that the ladies and girls Sahara patterns will remain on sale through Sunday, so go grab yours while it’s on if you haven’t already!

Sahara Sew Along Days 5 and 6

Hi again! New day, new steps to do! If you’re just joining us, make sure you check out days one, two, and three/four to get started! Today, we finish our bodice. Ready? Let’s get started!

Steps 5-9 (or 10-13) today, which begins with pressing the neckline from the lest steps we completed. I did mine when I finished my neckline, and you may have too. If you did, that’s great! If not, do it now and we’ll get to the sleeves.

Burrito Method: If you’re opting for a sleeveless dress, Melissa has written an AMAZING tutorial for you all that includes a animated gif showing you how to execute this wonderful method of finishing a lined sleeveless garment! Check it out here.

Sleeves: If you’re adding sleeves of any length the first step is to pin. For girls, I start at the center and work my way out to each end. For women, you need to match the single and double notches on the sleeve to the ones on the armscye and start pinning from there, otherwise you might end up with a wonky sleeve, and we don’t want that! Remember that you’re pinning through ALL of the layers at this point. The shoulder and side seams will be visible from the inside of the garment. Once you have everything all lined up and pinned, sew through the layers and then finish your edges with either an overlock or zigzag stitch for a more professional finish (if you’re using a sewing machine like I do).

Next step is to sew the side seams. I usually start by lining up and pinning the armpit seams (seams toward the neckline at the top and toward the waist at the bottom) and working my way out from there. Once I was all pinned, this was what I had.

Sew and finish the side seams in the same manner as the sleeves were done. Easy peasy. Flip it all right side out and press the sleeve seams toward the bodice.

Last step for today is to hem the sleeves. There are many different stitches you can use to accomplish this. A straight stitch is most common in ready to wear clothing, but doesn’t take stretch well. If stretched too much, the stitches will pop. A stretch stitch is a good option, as it will stretch with the sleeve. My preference however is what I call a “baseball stitch”. This is what it looks like on my machine.

It has a great stretch factor and crosses over both sides of the hem so that there is no fabric loose on the inside of the garment, it is all contained. I’ve been using this stitch to hem for a while now and I adore it.

Once you’ve got your sleeves hemmed, you’re done for today! Great job! You should have a full bodice now! Here’s my completed bodice front:

and back:

It’s really starting to come together! Next session we’ll be wrapping it up! Don’t forget to join our Facebook group to share your progress in the sew along album and come back here on Monday (June 5) for the next sew along installment! Don’t forget the ladies and girls Sahara patterns are still on sale for the duration of the sew along and it’s never too late to join! And here’s the schedule again so you can catch up if you’d like!

Sahara Sew Along Days 3 and 4

Day 3 is here! Time to get sewing! If you missed the beginning, here is where you can find day one and day two here. Now, let’s go!

Today we sew steps 1-4. And because of the extended timeline to give people more time to complete, these steps will take place over the next 2 days. Steps 1 and 2 are sewing the shoulders together of both main and lining pieces. The instructions call for clear elastic to be used in this step to prevent your seams from stretching out and to help the pattern hold the integrity of its shape. It is very helpful, but if you don’t have clear elastic, it can be sewn without. Just be very careful not to stretch your fabric as you sew it. A walking foot is very helpful for preventing stretched out seams on knit garments. Also make sure you are using a ball point needle for the best results.

Step 3 is to pin and sew around the neckline. There is a note to apply knit interfacing to the seam line for stability, but again, if you are very careful not to stretch your fabric, you can accomplish this step without it. Here is my neckline pinned (not sewn).

Once you have that all sewn together, it’s time for step 4, understitching! Keep in mind, that understitching and top stitching are very different things. Understitching is a way to get your garment to lay flat and pretty without the stitching showing on the outside of the garment. Do do that, you need to separate the main from the lining, keep all of the seam allowance to the lining side and stitch 1/8 inch away from the seam through the lining and the seam allowance. This is the step where that interfacing becomes the most useful if you used it, as it will prevent a lot of the stretching that might otherwise occur. Here is a shot of my understitching in progress. Lining and seam allowance to the left, main to the right.

Now, I’ve gotta be truthful and say that 1) I didn’t have clear elastic or knit interfacing, so this project is being done without those things. And 2) I kinda skipped forward a step and ironed my neckline flat for these pictures after the understitching was done. If you want to iron now, that’s fine. If you want to wait for day 5, that’s ok too! We’ll all end up with beautiful dresses/tops in the end and that is what’s important, right? So, with that confession off my chest, here is the front of my bodice after today’s steps:

And the back:

You can see the understitching there along the front neckline. It really makes for a pretty, polished look when it’s all done.

That’s it for today and tomorrow! I’ll be back with you on Saturday (June 3) for day 5! Check out the schedule below for following along and don’t forget to join our facebook group to share the journey! Also, the Ladies and Girls Sahara patterns will remain on sale for the duration of the sew along, so it isn’t to late to get them at a steal!