Just about anyone who takes their dressmaking activities seriously would agree – having the right high-quality tools to get your work done efficiently and well is incredibly important. Good dressmaking tools not only make your work easier, but ensure that you are able to execute your designs with precision and care.
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While it is generally true that you get what you pay for, don’t spend too much time looking at price tags, and certainly not at brand names. Sure, Fiskars makes a crazy-good set of shears, but you can likely find a generic pair that is every bit as good at a lower price. Don’t mistake this message to mean you should buy all of your tools at the dollar store – quality is our deciding factor here, not price.
Whether you’re just getting started or not, it can be useful to have a short list of the most basic tools that will be found in every dressmaking studio. To that end, here is a quick look at the tool kit you’ll want to assemble:
1. GOOD fabric shears. Your shears will come into contact with every scrap of silk, cotton, leather, and linen that passes through your studio. You’ll likely spend hours and hours carefully cutting fabric with your dressmaking shears, so get a pair that will last. Look for something between four and five inches long and as sharp as the devil. Never cut anything but fabric with your good shears. Keep several cheap pairs old standard scissors handy for cutting paper, cardboard, thread, yarn, and string. You might consider a few task-specific set of shears, such as pinking shears, but they’re not strictly necessary.
2. Pins and needles. One of the most basic and vital tools in your arsenal will be good pins and needles. Dull, weak, and bent needles are a nightmare to work with, and can snag on and damage fabric when used. The cost difference between good needles and cheap ones isn’t all that great, so why mess around? Get some good ones, and you’ll be glad you did.
One thing that not everyone thinks of is buying pins in several lengths. You rarely need a really long pin, but on those few occasions that you do – such as when pinning together five or six layers of fabric – the extra length is nice.
3. Marking tools. You want to be able to make marks on the garments that you create, to remind you of the placement of a hemline, for example, but you want to be absolutely sure that you won’t stain the garment permanently. Similarly, making notes on patterns and in books is incredibly helpful, but you want to be able to remove them later. For these needs, tailor’s chalk and a good erasable pencil may be all you need. There are various water-erasable pens on the market for marking fabric, too, but I find that the chalk works fine.
4. Tape Measure. A flexible tape measure will allow you to take accurate measurements of your client/model, but you’ll be surprised how often you use it on garments in process, too. You can find tape measures in nylon and fabric, as well as various long-lasting paper materials. I recommend the fabric tapes, though I admit that this is just a personal bias. Any tape that feels good in the hand will do the trick.
You should also stock up on things like seam-rippers, rotary cutters, straight rulers, scrap paper, post-it notes, and fabric glue. I also recommend a white board to hang in the studio and keep track of important measurements and ideas, though this is hardly standard issue for dressmakers. With the right tools in hand, you’ll be ready to rock and roll.