The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

From Beginner to Beyond…..Equipment

As well as getting organized, equipment is one of the things you can not forget.  There is nothing that will sabotage yourself faster than a machine that doesn’t work or important equipment that is failing…a spitting iron, one that doesn’t iron, a machine’s tension that’s whacky, thread that breaks – they all will defeat you before you even start, and let’s not talk about draining all your creative juices out of you.

Creativity is really a delicate thing, and zapping it like this can not only stop it dead in its tracks, but stop any creativity you may have in the future…who wants to sew with equipment that is always glitchy or just doesn’t work?

Here’s my best advice on this:  you write the check once for the equipment, but use it over and over and over.  I spent $7,000 on my sewing machine 20 years ago – this is my workhorse that works daily for me….that’s  $350/year.  I spent $400 for my iron 10 years ago and that’s $40/year.  And there is no sign that either of them are failing or headed for failure anytime soon….so that per year $ amount is still going down. Had I purchased a $500 machine that lasted  a couple of months?…well, you get the idea.  The real bargain is in buying the high-quality machine that lasts for a long time making the overall price very inexpensive….and that’s not counting the pleasurable hours sewing and creating that this excellent machine will facilitate.

This is where the real bargain is.

If you’ve gotten into sewing and are sewing these quick little projects, having fun with them and doing them well and you want to move on, it’s time to consider upgrading your equipment as well.You’ve gone past the intro phase – you know you like sewing and creating and you want to go further, get a good sewing machine.  This doesn’t have to be the top of the line machine by a company, but it must be a good company – Bernina, Pfaff, Viking, Janome, Baby Lock are a few.  What I recommend is buy the dealer.  You want to be able to come to someone and say help and get service.  Investigate this, cause you’re going to invest some $$$ in this, and you want service after you have the machine.

I can not impress enough how important this is.  This is the largest and most expensive equipment you will have in your sewing studio or space.  My sewing almost instantly went from mediocre to impressive overnight after I purchased my first Bernina.  Had it not been so, I would have told you and I wouldn’t own 5 Berninas today – each one an important part of my company and equipment I need.

I’m not recommending you purchase 5 Berninas, but do get one good machine.  For me locally, Bernina is the best dealer with fabulous service that is recognized internationally as one of the best shops.  So if you’re in my area, I recommend these machines, but if not – buy the dealer.  Go to the shop and if you are lucky enough to have more than one dealer, shop around until you get a good feeling about the dealer and the machine you want.

If you feel you can not afford a new machine, please consider a reconditioned machine or a demo model from the store.  If the store is a good one, the models will be in good shape and have a modest guarantee on them AND they will work!

Next most important piece of equipment is your iron.  Again, my sewing not only looked more professional but was so much easier to handle when I got my first professional iron.  I had a terrible time and problems with Rowenta, so I don’t recommend them, but that was almost 30 years ago.  Rowenta may make a fine iron today, but I was so ripped with them that I doubt I’ll go back  BTW, I wouldn’t buy a used or reconditioned iron…it’s just not worth it.



My first professional iron was the Sussman gravity feed and I really liked it.  It was a pain to have to fill the tank (which held a gallon of water) and then periodically I had to order and change the filer mix and that was really a pain to clean out and fill, but the iron was so far superior to anything I had used before that it was worth it.


I went to reorder a new one, and the dealer told me about the boiler irons.  I was not excited about changing but he guaranteed me that it was a great iron and that I would be happy with it, and it was a little cheaper, so I tried it.

Am crazy about the boiler system.  As opposed to the gravity feed, the boiler is a dry steam – sounds weird, but there really is no vapor like before.  Although it does condense,  the steam is so effective, I don’t care.  What’s more, I can push down on the steam button for 5 minutes and no spitting.  This is fabulous when I’m wanting to shape something.  This is the iron that I recommend if you are wanting to do some serious sewing – and besides your sewing machine, this is the next purchase you need to make.

Additionally, the tech support on the Reliable is fabulous.  There is a reset button that is worth it to know where it is, (in the instructions), and this is usually all the service the iron needs


Lastly, if you are still unsure about making a large investment, the Reliable Velocity is a great model for a very modest price.



Finally the next largest investment will be your cutting instruments.  I prefer cutting out patterns and fabric with a rotary cutter, it is much more accurate and faster than cutting with scissors.

I also find the Olfa mat the most self-healing mat.  Both of these make up the cutting system.  If your mat is old, hard (with age), has many ruts (finally it doesn’t heal any more), then it needs replacing.  The sharpest blade on the cutter will not work on an old mat.

The rotary cutting system is excellent, but doesn’t replace scissors.  I use both scissors, nippers and the rotary cutters.

This is another area not to scrimp, although good shears and scissors are not price-busters, but do get good quality scissors, and keep them sharp.

You can do this with a good whetstone like the video below:


These are the three major pieces of equipment you need, and you need to keep them in good working order.

Other equipment that I consider important after this are some basics:

Needles – I prefer embroidery needles because they have a long thing eye which is fairly easy (easier than a small-eyed needle) to thread.

Awl and large needles – both of these I use to pic and pull out stitching particularly when I’m dealing with heirloom or antique garments.  But these are also useful for general sewing.

Stiletto – although this has a nice sharp point, I do not use this for picking out stitching but for feeding and holding delicate areas when sewing.  It’s really a wonderful all round tool.

After that, I think this becomes personal – some of this make sing with you and some may not:

  • Awl
  • Tweezers (mine are very good, and I like them for that)
  • Various rulers – 6″ to 12″
  • Loop Turners
  • Bias cord turners
  • Magnetic Pin Cushion
  • Pins (duh!)
  • Suede brush (for brushing up fabrics with nap)
  • Canned air
  • Magnetic Pin Catcher (for quick collection of pins at the machine)
  • Safety Pins
  • Orange Stick (both sides are useful for a variety of tasks)
  • #11 blade X-acto knife
  • Pencils (#2B leads), Fabric Markers, Fabric Chalk
  • Nail file and cuticle clippers (I hate hanging dry cuticles, nails catching fabric)
  • Small crochet hook

These give you some ideas of other things to have around  – basically it’s whatever works for you after the big stuff.

Now that you’re organized and have good working equipment…onto the next step….



Leave a Reply