Necessary Tools for Laying Out and Cutting the Fabric

Now that we have –


    the place to sew

    the machine or hand tools with which to sew

    the pattern

    the fabric and

    the notions


we will want to gather the necessary tools.


Wow, what else can we need? Well, it depends on the sewing processes used in your sewing pattern.


For example, if you need to insert a zipper by machine, it's quite possible that you'll need a zipper foot. If you will be marking dart locations, maybe you will want a fabric marking pencil. So let's take a look at the pattern instructions to see what you will want to have before you start.

List sewing tools needed

Before we continue, I want to reassure you a bit. Please don't panic when you see the lengthy list of tools you may need.


First of all, you probably won't need nearly all of these things at once. Also, many of them are pretty inexpensive.


Further, many of these items can be replaced with things that can be found around the average household, or can be homemade rather than purchased at the store.


So, the first step is to pull out the pattern instruction sheet for the pattern you want to make. Open it up with the first page facing up. Let's take a quick tour.


Usually, most pattern companies use a similar layout for their instructions. On the first page, you'll often find a list of all pattern pieces, general directions on using the pattern and cutting layouts for best use of your fabric.  This is all useful information.


After the general directions and so on, the instructions for the specific pattern you are using will start. This is where you will find hints of tools you will need.


Let's look at the instructions for a princess line dress with princess seams from shoulder to hemline. This dress has side pieces that include a cut-on sleeve. It has a back zipper for easy donning and

features a wide ruffle at the sleeve hem.


How to Choose Sewing Tools Needed

As we go through these instructions together, I will quote bits of them with the verbs (remember action words from English 101?) shown in italics like this.


1. “Stay-stitch neck and side edges of front and back....”


 To stay-stitch simply means to stitch 1/8 inch inside the seam allowance – before sewing the pieces together -- to keep the fabric from stretching out as you are sewing them together.


Obviously, to stitch something you need either a needle and thread, at the very least, or a sewing machine, so make note of what you plan to use. Make sure that you have, or can get, matching color thread.



2. “Pin front to side front and sleeve....”


This refers to using straight pins to hold the fabric pieces in place prior to sewing them together, so you need straight pins. Add those to the list.


Stitching and Clipping

3. “Stitch and clip curves.”


See #1 about stitching.


To clip the curves on the fabric you will want small scissors that are sharp all the way to the point, if possible. This enables you to clip right up to the stitching without actually cutting it. This allows the fabric to stretch enough so that it can be pressed into a curve, such as at the armhole or at the neck opening.


When you choose the scissors, try clipping into a piece of fabric for about a half inch. Move slowly and watch to make sure the cut continues all the way to the points of the scissors.


Pressing Fabric

4. “Press under 5/8” on back opening edges.”


To press fabric, you need an iron and a pressing surface. The pressing surface can be an ironing board with cover.


If you don't have one, you can use a wood surface that you don't mind possibly damaging with heat and moisture.


A small old table or perhaps a small wood chest top would work. You simply cover with a heavy cotton towel topped with an old cotton sheet.

Sewing in the Zipper

5. “Stitch in zipper, using an adjustable zipper foot.”  (This simple sentence used to send chills racing up and down my back. I thought sewing in a zipper was very difficult. Once you figure it out, though, it's not that bad!)


Again, to stitch, use the tools listed under #1, but this time, you also want to have an adjustable zipper foot. It makes this job much easier and probably was included with your sewing machine. That is, of course, assuming you are using a machine. Otherwise, a handpicked (hand-sewn) zipper is classic.


Many of the following instructions are variations on the instruction to stitch or to clip. These are, of course, mentioned above, so I won't go through them again.


Applying Fusible Interfacing

6. If we move on to the next interesting sentence, though, we find the following: “Apply fusible interfacing to wrong side of front and back facing sections.”


To apply can mean so many things and what in the world is fusible interfacing?


According to Wikipedia, “Interfacing is a textile used on the unseen or "wrong" side of fabrics to make an area of a garment more rigid.”


Please note that this does not mean making the garment as stiff as a board! Very rarely is anything like complete rigidity actually desirable in sewing.


Further, it describes fusible interfacing this way: “Most modern interfacings have heat-activated adhesive on one side. They are affixed [or applied] to a garment piece using heat and moderate pressure, from a hand iron for example. This type of interfacing is known as 'fusible' interfacing."


Make note of what width and length of interfacing you need, so that you can purchase the correct amount.


As with pressing, we will need an iron and ironing surface to accomplish this task.


Measuring and Marking the Fabric

7. As we continue, almost every step is described using the terms shown above, with the tools mentioned above.


The last instruction which uses a different term and thus a different tool is this: “Measure and mark length, then press up hem along marking.”


This one gives us two new terms and two new tools needed as a kind of bonus for making it this far!


To measure the length, I prefer to use a tool called a hemming gauge, but before I found this neat little tool, I simply used a 12” ruler or my tape measure.


The other term mentioned to mark the length. The marking tool can be any of several alternatives. In fabric stores and such, there are various chalk and water erasable types of pens or markers which are generally not terribly expensive.


I would caution you that the water erasable markers do not always erase as thoroughly as they should. Even if you think you have washed every bit of the ink out of the fabric, it sometimes reappears later and will not disappear again.


When I was first starting out, I would simply fold up the hem at the desired length over the measuring tool I was using and pin it into position about an inch above the fold. Keeping the pin above the fold allowed me to carefully press the hem in place without melting the plastic head of the pins I was using.


You do not have to have these two new tools, but if you want them, be sure to write them down on your list. Of the two, I recommend getting the hemming gauge first. It is inexpensive and very useful in several ways. We will talk about it again, later.

To Sum It All Up

I know this was a lot of reading, but I hope it gives you an idea of how to figure out what tools you need to have on hand for your project. After you've done a few sewing projects, you will find that you have acquired everything you need for many projects, with only one or two small purchases needed here and there.


If you find sewing terms you don't understand or know, please feel free to send me your questions and I will answer to the best of my ability.


Happy sewing!