17 Feb 2021 • • by Amy

Sewing Tool Hacks for the Frugal Maker

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Hi all! Amy here. As I've said time and time again, I'm cheap. Not the stiff bartender variety but more the "do I really need that?" type of hobbyist. I use my mom's old sewing machine and save for a few nice tools (cheap scissors can die in a fire) and good quality fabric (polyester? No, thank you) my sewing practice is full of making do and resourceful thinking. Since during this pandemic a leisurely trip to the notions shop is pretty much a no-go,  I thought I would share my pioneer girl strategies for making it happen with what you might already have laying around. As Tim Gunn always says, "Make it work, designers!"


Don't throw away those last little shards of soap! They make a great washable marking tool. You can shave them to a point for finer lines and as an added bonus they smell good! And what about all those white pencil crayons (or wax crayons) that never get used? They make a great marking tool! As with any marking tool, make sure you test on a scrap before you wreck any special fabric.

If you need something a little darker or more precise you might want to try some kids' washable markers! Keep in mind some of these (particularly some of the cheaper brands) are generous with the term "washable". What comes off skin doesn't always come out of fabric so make sure to test before you commit. I used some of these on the wrong side of denim and they worked great though.

While wonder clips are super adorable there is no reason you can't hold some sewing in place with some office supplies! If you're sewing heavy fabrics (leather!) or many layers together, sometimes you need something a bit stronger and in these make it work moments who can be picky?? 

If you are cutting open a buttonhole you need to keep those threads from unravelling! Your last bottle of fray stop has dried up and the only thing that stands between you and that new shirt is buttons! You just need a glue that won't melt in the wash. Clear nail polish or any brand of non-water-soluble clear strong glue should do the job. Again, just make sure to test that it won't stain your fabric.

I've tried just about everything for turning spaghetti straps or belts. Anything with a blunt point will usually do the job. An easy little hack for a really tricky tube is to sew one end shut so you can push your turner against something. If it's a strap you can just leave it sewn shut or you can seam rip it open after it's right way round.

I have a confession to make: I have never bought a proper tailor's ham. It's been on my list for years but I always forget I need it until I'm sewing french seams on a sleeve and then I make one of these little cheats. I've used towels, stuffed animals or even just other socks stuffed into socks. You can just keep adding layers of socks to it to make it bigger and more firm. This is not a bad use for socks that have holes too, if you want to make it permanent. Between my husband and the kids, we have no shortage of those!


Of all the things on the list, this is definitely the one I've utilized the most random things for! Soup cans, hockey pucks, bean bags... nothing is safe from getting used to hold things down while I cut out a pattern! You can't really go wrong with this one, if it works, it works! 

So there ya go, no excuses! Cut it out! Sew it up! Make it work, designers! Oh and will you please share the weirdest thing you've used as a sewing tool in the comments? I love this stuff.

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