Most pictures are links to larger pictures.
Revised 23 March 2018

Pictures of Sewing Tools
Whatever pictures I happen to have

Table of Contents


small bottle sitting 
                     on one-inch squares

This picture is more than twice life size, as you can see by the one-inch squares the bottle is sitting on.  The tiny bottle contains undiluted bottle starch; I can squeeze out a small amount, or use it like a crayon or marker to lay down narrow lines.

Pre-made starch solution can be found in the laundry aisle of your supermarket if you look hard enough.  Check the top shelf and the far ends — they know that starch is never an impulse purchase and don't waste eye-level space on it.


Whisk Broom


I could see right off that this object was useless as a foot-scrubbing brush.  Wood and water don't get on at all well, natural bristles go limp when wet, and the "pumice stone" glued to the back was obviously ground scraps in come sort of cement, and no use for smoothing calluses and corns.  But hey, a real boar's-bristle brush for seventy-five cents!  I can't leave that on the shelf!

So I hung it in the laundry room and forgot about it until I happened to knock it off its hook and the "pumice" popped off when it hit the floor.  When I picked it up, I realized that this was the perfect tool for getting lint out of pockets, and later found it much better than a whisk broom for getting small specks off fabric I'm about to cut.

(And it turned out that a small lightweight block of concrete is very handy for cleaning erasers and other things.)

I'm pretty sure that real-bristle clothes brushes are available, but I'll bet they don't cost $0.75!  And clothes brushes that I've seen are larger and less handy for getting into pockets.

corn, plastic, 
                     toothbrush, stencil brush

Left to right:  an old-fashioned corn whisk broom, a fifties-era all-plastic (except for the staple) imitation of a corn broom (complete with embossed "straws" on the handle and bristle cover), a toothbrush, and, for delicate work, a boar-bristle stencil brush.


Crochet Hook

steel crochet hook
A #14 steel crochet hook is handy when an end is too short to thread into a needle.

steel crochet hook

Note the sheath that protects the hook when it's not in use.  If you have no sheath, a piece of drink-stirring straw will do.



glycerine bottle

Licking your fingers is unsanitary, you have to keep doing it after every stitch, and eventually it will irritate your skin.  Put the smallest-possible drop of glycerin on one fingertip, then rub it on the other fingertips.  Glycerin doesn't evaporate, it's good for your skin, and it doesn't contain any grease that might stain your work.

If you get too much glycerin on your fingers, blot them on your elbows and knees.


Measuring Gadget

blue plastic thingy

A surprisingly-useful advertising premium, which outlived the store that gave it to me.



steel ruler on front pocket of overjersey

My stainless-steel pocket ruler
My shaku stick

I bought this in Hawaii in the early 1960s, but it wasn't until 2017 that I found out what it was.  The stick is one cloth shaku long, and is divided into ten sun.  Wikipedia says that a tenth of a sun is a bu, but doesn't say whether "bu" applies to both the carpentry shaku and the cloth shaku.  The cloth shaku is longer than the carpentry shaku, which makes me think of the "clothyard arrows" mentioned in Robin Hood tales (or something of about that era.)

It has been very useful.  I've used it mostly for centering, but I sometimes measure in bu when neither centimeters nor inches works out neatly.


Plastic bags

bag of 

Zipper bags that I found in the beading aisle of Walmart's "craft" department have been very useful for sorting spools of thread.  This bag contains a nearly-empty spool of thread, a new spool, a wound bobbin for each of my two sewing machines, and two needles in a scrap of wool flannel.

snack bag of tools

A snack bag accumulated a set of handwork tools.  You can see magnifying glasses, scissors, beeswax in a "pill pouch" bag, and a thimble.  It also contains needles stuck in a bit of yellow wool, a seam ripper with a brown handle, straight pins in a "pill pouch", and tweezers.

snack bag open

A better view of the contents


Labeling a bobbin with removable correction tape

bobbin with 
                     correction tape stuck to it

Stick a piece of correction tape onto a bobbin.

labeled bobbin

Shear off the excess with a razor blade.


Single-edge Razor Blades

package of razor 

A lifetime supply of single-edge razor blades is very cheap.  Each comes with a cardboard cover to protect the edge, which is convenient when you stash a razor blade in your emergency-sewing kit.


Headlamp as sewing-machine light

new light and the 
                     package it came in, on White

The clamp-type clothespin holding the light onto the machine is barely visible because I have pushed it to the back to keep it out of the thread path.

I learned something from buying this light.  My other light adjusts the brightness by turning on only two of its LEDs when you push its button.  Push again, and four light up.  Push a third time and all eight come on.  The fourth push turns the light off.

This one adjusts the brightness by adjusting the power to its three LEDs.  That's all very well and good, but it comes on at maximum brightness.  That renders the dimmer setting pretty much useless, because one's eyes have already adjusted to the brighter setting.

But then, a single-brightness light works.  That used to be the only kind there was.


Copper Brads for Hanging Patterns

brads in a bobbin box

Everything has to be someplace.  I've never put more than four bobbins into this twelve-bobbin box, so it was a convenient place to stash some nails to drive into the panelling to hang patterns on.

Since 100/6 cotton thread is what I use most, it was convenient to give it a bobbin box of its own.  It currently contains, besides the nails, a white bobbin, an ecru bobbin, and a threaded needle.  The corresponding spools are on a shelf to the left of the Necchi.  The White bobbins of cotton 100/6 are in the bobbin slots of the White.


Front-loading Presser Feet

closeup of White 

Sewing machine feet come in high-shank, low shank, slant-shank, proprietary snap-on feet (to be avoided if you want to keep your machine for a while), and then there are these guys.


Ironing Board and pieces of Plywood

ironing board on patio, with leg board, sleeve board, iron, and other bits of plywood

I set out to photograph the leg board, and thought it appropriate to lay it on the ironing board, but there isn't enough light in that room, so I carried the ironing board out to the patio.

Then I thought it best to add all my other pieces of plywood.  Well, except the two that are "temporarily" allowing me to keep a scanner on a printer stand.  And that's the entire collection; I must have been doing everything with the leg board.

When I put the plywood that lives under the iron on the board, the iron naturally came with it.  The padding on my ironing board is so thick that the iron falls over, so I keep a small piece of plywood under the iron.  Despite being beat up from the feet of the iron, this often serves when I want to press a crease against something hard.

Then I remembered that I keep a piece of plywood in my embroidery-gig backpack.  The folding sleeve board that moved into the backpack permanently after I bought a cantilever sleeve board just naturally came along.  Originally the plywood and a thick towel served as a pressing surface; it stayed after the sleeve board moved in because I need a safe place to put the iron when working on a plastic table or a synthetic carpet.  Some of the paint that got on it when it was a useless scrap didn't sand off, but I never use it as a raw-wood pressing tool.

The small bits of eighth-inch plywood were salvaged when I disassembled a tangerine crate.  Sometimes I find a use for one.  None of them have been sanded up or corner blunted.

The leg board is a scrap from the banner board that lives behind a bookcase at the church.  The banner committee needed something to protect the plastic tables when we were ironing appliqués onto banners.  I bought a sheet of "cabinet grade" plywood and had eight inches trimmed off one side so that it would fit into the closet.  "Cabinet grade" is thinner than regular plywood, but is already sanded, so one needs only to blunt the corners and sand the cut edges.

My husband cut bits off the scrap for a few small projects, then one day I realized that what was left was just right for shoving inside pants legs when pressing seams, and when trying to stick pins and needles in without catching all layers.  So I blunted the corners with an Exacto knife and rubbed the edges with a sanding sponge.  It has been surprisingly useful — not least because I store it on the ironing board; when I pick up the leg board, the accumulated clutter comes with it and I can iron without first spending an hour putting stuff away.


Plywood under cutting mat

cutting mat and board ready to shorten cotton-lined gown

Once upon a time, I needed to take my smaller cutting mat to meetings.  To protect it in transit, my spouse cut a piece of plywood just a little bit bigger than the mat.  I rounded the corners of the plywood with an Exacto knife, and smoothed the edges with a sanding sponge.

I quickly learned that that meant that I always had a firm place to put the mat, and that continues to be a great advantage, when, for example, I wanted to shorten a dress that was draped over my thickly-padded ironing board.

Note the cutting line drawn with a blue wash-out marker an inch above the stitching of the hem.


Old sewing-machine needles

Old machine needles stuck into base of thread cone

One is supposed to keep a special "sharps" container for throwing away used machine needles.  I stick them into the base of the cone of basting thread that hangs in the window, and every now and again I find a use for one or two.

Old machine needles are classic for putting slack into the thread when sewing on buttons:  the narrow end for light fabrics, the shank for heavy fabrics.  Even the narrow end is thicker than a sewing pin, and it's less inclined to bend.  (Once I used the handle of a seam ripper when sewing a button onto a heavy winter coat.)

I was trying to nail a rolled-wool pincushion to the wall to make a place to hang press cloths, and feeling frustrated because the thinnest nails were too thick.  Two old machine needles anchored it perfectly.  No chance of getting a picture; it's right beside the window, so the light will never be right.  I nail the rags to the pincushion with two T-pins — pulling them out one at a time enables me to add or remove a rag without dropping all of them.

I have found that old sewing-machine needles are better than brads or nails for hanging patterns on the wall.  Pound them in pointing slightly up.



bodkin in use

A bodkin stamped from sheet steel, which came in a packet of "weaving needles", which makes it expensive if you don't want the other bodkins or the needle. It has to be sewn to the elastic -- the picture shows me in the act of working buttonhole stitch over the bar tack to secure the thread -- but it fits through very narrow openings.  This bodkin is the only one that will fit through the tunnels in the flat-felled seams of my bias-linen bras.  I didn't realize that I'd used it enough to wear the plating off until I took this picture.

the bodkin from nappanee

I've forgotten what the manufacturer called this bodkin.  It's very convenient:  just grab the elastic with the tweezers, then slide the ring down to keep the tweezers closed.  But the opening into the casing has to be large enough for the ring to pass through.

It has been a convenient clamp, at times.

grandmother's bodkins

Grandfather made these bodkins out of sheet aluminum.  I hardly ever need to thread anything that wide, but the leftmost bodkin, which is slightly bent at the tip, is a perfect tool for flattening fabric as it approaches the foot of the sewing machine, and I keep it tucked behind the feed-dog switch for ready access. It was already polished on the convex side when I inherited it, so I suspect that Grandma used it the same way.

Oh how I wish I could have bought her sewing machine at her sale. The person who did buy it trashed it before my eyes. When her quilts started going at a price that suggested that the buyers wanted to cut them up for one-season "art to wear", I bid in all of them, and my niece has them now.


Needle Books

Sunbonnet-baby needle book
Sunbonnet-baby needle book on grid
Sunbonnet-baby needle book apron exposed

Thimble Case

Some time in the sixties, this felt thimble case was given to me as a pattern.  The cases I made are long lost, but I stored my grandmother's silver thimble in this one.  It was made of six identical pointed ovals of wool felt, three for the outside and three for the lining. Two were embroidered before the case was sewn together with matching sewing thread, probably cotton "six cord" -- 100/6.

top view

Top view, showing the opening that lets you put the thimble in.

end view

End view, showing how the three pieces were sewn together.

side view

Side view, showing the embroidery.  I wonder how one calculates exactly how much longer than its width the oval must be to look round after being bent?

The lining covers the back of the embroidery. There is no embroidery on the side opposite the opening.  The two embroidered sides are identical.

I shall take one more picture to show the angle of the pointed ends of the ovals, on a cutting mat marked into one-inch squares to show the scale.

ends of ovals

I cut off the end deliberately to show more detail in the other end, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The angle appears to be about 120°

According to my tape measure, the plain oval is two and a quarter inches between points and one and three quarter inches across. The embroidered ovals have drawn up a little smaller.

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Comments and criticism are solicited.

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