Gadgety goodness

Last week I received an email from Pipany (I had been admiring the Grandad-style shirt that she had rustled up for her man) in which she mentioned how much she was enjoying using the walking foot that I'd told her about. I was so pleased as sometimes I feel reticent in recommending my newly acquired gadgety things as I assume that everyone must already have owned all these things for several years before I belatedly stumbled upon them. But I absolutely love sewing gadgetry, so the delight of knowing that evangelising about the walking foot caused Pipany to actually go and buy one and love it as much as I do...well, I suddenly find that I need no second bidding to share my delight in some other pieces of wonderfulness.

So, firstly, this picture above...can you see how tiny the hole in the needle plate is? It makes it perfect for quilt piecing or just about anything else where you frequently experience the corner of your material being sucked down towards the bobbin when you take your first or last couple of stitches. The hole is only big enough to accommodate the needle, meaning your fabric stays above the plate. Its restrictions are that you can only use it for straight stitches and with a central needle position...but then both of those things are fine for lots of projects. I think it's called a Straight Stitch Needle Plate.

You may have noticed that my machine was looking a bit linty in the first photo (it's quite amazing what only becomes apparent in a macro photograph), which is where this paintbrush comes in. The woman who ran the fantastic sewing course that I went on recently, told us that these brushes that are sold for £1 in the Early Learning Centre are the best thing to clean your machine with, especially around the bobbin one who used to only clean her machine bi-annually I am now quite disgusted by my old self, as my de-linting brush swooshes out such enormous cottony tumbleweeds on an almost daily basis that I can only think that my previous machine had been forced to become self-cleaning under my neglectful ownership.

I think it was Lina who prompted me to buy this 1/4 inch foot, and it is probably my most used machine add-on. When I'm making my own patterns they always have a 1/4 inch seam so that I can use this foot (I think you can get them with other allowances, but that's a treat for another day). You can see at the right that there is fixed metal guide - you simply keep your material butted up against it as you sew and this produces a perfect even seam without the need for marking out your seam allowances. The little red lines on it show you when to turn as you're approaching a corner. I think in theory the foot is meant for straight seams, but I also manage to go around gentle curves with it.

Last week I mentioned a new fabric marking pen which I came across quite by chance, as I had picked it up as a replacement thinking that it would be like all my other marker pens. The type I've used in the past (air & water erasable) have had a fine felt-tip style nib, which is brilliant, but I've found that they dry up quickly if you're having a long marking session and need a short rest before being able to continue, so imagine my surprise in opening this one up and finding something resembling a Biro. It is a dream to use, washes away easily and never seems to dry out and become awkward. It is made by Hemline and can be yours for £1.99. I have barely stopped using it this week and to steal a phrase from Katie Putrick, have found myself thinking that I haven't had this much fun since the pigs ate Uncle Billy.

I feel sure that everyone must have one of these, but as I can barely sew without it, it seems worth mentioning (although I know Jo & Lisa both have them....and neither feel quite as excited by them as I do, proving that one woman's vintage Orla Kiely is another woman's crimplene underpants). For those seams where you need to mark out a tricksy measurement (or non-tricksy, but it's especially good for those times where constantly re-identifying where 23mm is would make your eyes hurt) all the way along a length of material this is invaluable. Simply set the red marker and then slide it along the edge of the material and make dots to join up later.

Lastly, I've mentioned this cotton reel holder before, but it proved to be so fantastic that I have since had to buy a second one to go above it, as the first was beginning to overflow. Colour order has been restored and I am no longer being forced to hyperventilate over the lack of space in the row for pink threads.

But, gosh, perhaps you have all been using these things for years? - I'm so sorry if this post brings to mind grandmothers sucking eggs (such a hideous my mind the lady in question is wearing a polyester skirt and American Tan 10 denier tights, while toothlessly sucking on a freshly laid hen's egg complete with its shell)...does anyone have a more pleasing alternative to this expression - please do share, to save me from any more disturbing visualisations.


  1. My trusty ancient Elna is so old that buying new accessories for it is virtually impossible. But I do have one of those little metal seam rulers and I love mine too.

  2. Such lovely 'gadgets' :D

    I'd love to know where you got your thread holder from - I've only seen desk mounted, not wall mounted ones, and this would be perfect!

  3. Great post Florence, I love your gadgety descriptions - they all make perfect sense. I guess sometimes one just doesn't know that such fabulous tools exist! I need one of those ruler thingies (never heard of them before). I've also struggled to find fabric markers that don't fade within minutes, particularly annoying with not so fast embroidering!

  4. Oh, this is almost too much Florence. I actually own some of these gadgets as they cam with my machine, but to my shame have never used them. I LOVE the 1/4" foot especially as it marks where teh corners are...will use it forethwith and will try out the marker pen too as mine is of teh felt tip variety and is always in need of unpaid rest! Brilliant post and please continue to tell of your discoveries (and thaks for teh mention too x) xx

  5. I love this post. I don't own any of the gadgets - a felt tipped fabric marker is as close as I come! But they all sound very desirable ...

  6. hmmm... i want a walking foot AND a quarter inch foot ... that pen looks usefull .. my needle plate drives me to distraction, so I'll have one of those small hole ones too, but luckily as I may not be able to afford the Whole lot (!) I have one of those ruler thingys already (phew). Acutally I need one or two of those thread holders too .. I can see I'm going to have to get a new job as a celebrity or something in order to keep my habit contained!! (oh no, didn't i hear they were going to axe big brother?!) What about Selling Coals to Newcastle? but then I get an image of a coal blackened man on the doorstep with a bucket of coal ... still, i guess that's better than the granny with no teeth?... Great post with great imagery (crimplene underpants - lol!!)

  7. Yay! Sewing gadgets rock. I'm with you on te 1/4" foot. I just want to find one that's 1/8" for doll making. All doll patterns seem to have 1/8" seams. Grrr.. Why can't they use 1/4" and trim them down?
    Yay too for Katie Puckrick. She's sooooo funny.

  8. Mmm stuff. I still want a walking foot. And now I want a quarter inch foot as well - it makes me yearn for the metal guide I could screw onto my old machine, but since that's the only thing I miss I will turn my yearning towards the machine feet shop instead.

    I like the marking pen too - why is marking such a terrifically hard thing?

    And I've lost my seam guide. Rats.

  9. Lovely post. I love my walking foot and I couldn't live without my quarter inch foot (Is that just too dramatic!). I have a sewing guage like your too - it's a recent acquisition and so useful for seams and spacing buttons. Gadgets I love them.

  10. Where is your spool holder from? I've been looking for one for ages! I wish I understood more about sewing machine feet then I think I'd really appreciate your gadgets!

  11. My husband bought me a walking foot for my birthday ( after I asked him to following on from you mentioning it)but I have to admit I haven't used it yet....will have to rectify that this afternoon I think!
    I like the look of the needle plate with tiny hole, I always get a corner bit of fabric jammed down the hole and end up cursing.
    Thanks for the great tips!

  12. I too would love to know where you get your thread holders from as they would look fab in my new studio when it eventually gets finished.

    Great tips!

    Vanessa x

  13. What an interesting post, you make me want to go out and buy all these gadgets and I don't really sew. Even though my manual said you should clean out your sewing machine on a regular basis, my poor machine has only been cleaned once in the last 16 years, and I haven't dared use it since, because then I might have to clean it again.

    I'd also love to know where you got your thread holder from.

  14. What a fabulous post - lots of these gadgets I've never used before.

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  16. Thank you for teaching this grandmother how to suck eggs. I had one of those gauges sitting in my Bernina tool box since 1995, wondering what on earth I would possibly need it for.

    In the meantime, I measured the hems of hundreds of garments using my trusty old tape measure, mentally saying to myself, "Two and a half inches and a couple of bits", or whatever.

    Thanks to your wonderful post, I now whip around the hems with my fantastic gauge, singing a happy tune instead of muttering my crude measuring system mantra.

    So yes, you can teach an old chook how to suck away at new eggs!

  17. congratulations on finding the perfect marking pen! I love your bobbin iead, and I for one had never seen it before :)

  18. Ooooh I love the idea of a straight stitch needle plate. I'd bet my bottom dollar you can't buy them for Toyota's like mine though. I am now a devotee of the seam guide since you so kindly sent me mine. I do like a good gadget!

  19. Thank-you so much for all this great gadgety info! As a relatively new sewer I found all this stuff really helpful - I LOVE the idea of a 1/4 inch foot!!! I now have so many things to covet ;)


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