I must admit to being a bit of a gadget addict...If I can find a gizmo to do a job, be it in cooking, hat making or sewing then I really am useless at resisting. Quite a lot of the gadgets I buy are, to be honest a bit of a waste of time and money.... Rouleau loop turner-just use a safety pin, thread snips- just use a pair of scissors like any normal person! However, some of them are worth their weight in gold and I would probably go quite mad without them. So these are some of my total essentials that I would recommend anyone who sews a lot invest in.
This rather marvelous gizmo makes sewing annoyingly slippery fabric a doddle. Some fabrics like satin or velvet (or any fabric with a pile ie a furry surface) just will not stay still when you try ad seam them together, no matter how much you pin or baste them; I've even been known to baste and pin out of sheer desperation... Other fabrics like leather, can stick together when you seam them (and actually velvet can do this as well depending on the way the layers are laid). So they bunch up under the foot and end up all folded and lumpy. This can result in many seams having to be resewn and a serious waste of time! The walking foot ensures that both layers of the fabric get fed under the machine foot at the same rate- with a normal foot the under layer tends to get moved a bit faster than the top layer as it is in actual contact with the feed dogs. Add to that a slippery fabric or a sticky fabric and it ends up getting very, very frustrating, until you put the walking foot on the machine and then you can sew all these irritating fabrics with total ease-marvelous! This is particularly useful when you have a costume designer who loves velvet! This foot is available from all major sewing machine manufacturers and is really worth its cost.
This foot isn't as useful as the walking foot, in fact it is really quite frivolous! It creates beautifully pleated trim that can either be made up by itself or sewn directly onto the project as it is formed. It works by harnessing the movement of the needle (with the fork like arm being fitted over the needle attachment arm) which powers the front arm to push tucks into the trim. Its a bit difficult to explain clearly so if you want to see exactly how it works the watch this video by Heirloom Creations. It is such a fun deice and you can alter how many ruffles it makes by adjusting the lever on the front (in the pic to the right) so that you get a tuck every stitch, every six stitches or every twelve stitches. You can also adjust the look of the ruffle by changing the stitch length. I use this foot a lot when making petticoats, as it is so much easier to ruffle up fabric with this foot than having to gather the darn stuff by hand. I also love to ruffle up ribbons as a decorative trim, I used this to finish the edge of my cerise mini tricorn which would have taken forever if I had had to make it by hand.
Exactly what it says it is- a miniature iron. It is extremely useful for ironing seams open and getting the points of darts nice and flat. It is also invaluable for hat making- it makes forming felt into valleys, such as those in the crown of a pork pie hat, so much easier as you can get the heat and steam easily into the felt and it forms beautifully into the block. I also use it for flower making as you can use the sharp edges and point to makes really sharp folds that don't flop, you can also get extra ends for shaping petals too. All in all, my mini iron is on the ironing board all the time.
One for hat makers here, another fairly self explanatory tool-you use this for pushing pins into hat blocks. As my health has got more annoying I find this invaluable as hat blocks as necessarily, really hard! SO this gizmo holds the pin in the tube with a small magnet, and then you can push the tip of the pin into the block and the handle lets you use your whole hand to push the pin in. It really does give you much more control with how deep you push the pin in than using a hammer as I've seen some books recommend. Frankly my hat blocks are beautiful and expensive, and I don't want to ruin them by hammering pins into them (as suggested in some books!) that I then cant pull out!
Bias Binding Maker
So bias binding is really easy to make without a tool, but it is a bit time consuming and I always manage to burn my fingers when pressing it. So if you want it nice and even and no burnt fingers, then these tools are definitely worth it. I use a lot of bias binding in hat making so these get used a lot. They are very easy to use, you cut your length of bias ribbon and then gently feed it through the tool which forms it into the folds you need and you press it as it comes out of the tool and ta-da lovely, even bias binding. This video by Whipstitch shows just how easy it is to use.
Velvet Ironing Cloth
Another too to help deal with velvet-it really is a fiddle to work with! Any fabrc witha furry surface is a pain to iron because as soon as you press it (on the reverse of the fabric, you never put an iron on the pile!!!) all the pile (the fur) gets flattened down and it looks, well, a bit rubbish. You then can try and brush it back to looking good again, or only ever steam velvet with a garment steamer (expensive things, and not always that good at removing creases) but with some velvets, especialy silk velvet once pressed flat the fabric just never looks as good again... I found this whist making myself and evening coast from burgandy silk velvet. It was driving my nuts, until the nice lady in John Lewis mentioned you could get these cloths especially to cope with velvet. I had to order it online but it is fantastic! It is basically a large piece of velcro- all the little hooks merge with the pile as you iron it on the back of the fabric. This prevents the pile from being all squished and when you lift the fabric off, the slight grip of the hooks pulls the pile out and ta-da! No more rubbish looking velvet!