About notions, useful or useless?

How often do you buy notions? Are there any that you’ve bought thinking  they would be very useful and you still haven’t used? I often wonder how essential some notions and sewing gadgets are… I suppose it depends on what you do more, if it’s quilting or garment making, embroidery, etc…

I started making patchwork with almost nothing. Just my mum’s sewing basket. Scissors, thread, pins and needles. I never used a thimble for hand sewing because it bothered me and it got in the way. I couldn’t hold the needle properly with it. (Now I always use it). I remember designing a pattern on graph paper, cutting the templates, using a pencil to trace them onto the fabric and hand sewing the pieces because I wouldn’t have a clue how to use a sewing machine.

Now I love my cutting mat, rotary cutter and ruler and my sewing machine (or machines I should say, about which I’ll dedicate another post). I don’t think I would even attempt to make any big patchwork project without them. Well, I would if there wasn’t really anything else. I’d say it’s like when you get a dishwasher for the first time. Once you have the dishwasher, it’s kind of hard to go back without one…You’ll wash the odd plate, that’s all.


Compreu sovint estris per cosir? Heu comprat alguna vegada algun estri que pensaveu que us serviria molt i encara no l’heu utilitzat? Suposo que depen del que feu n’hi ha que us faran mes servei que d’altres… vaig començar a fer patchwork amb quasi res, nomes amb el que hi havia al cistell de cosir de la meva mare. Tisores, agulles, fil i para de comptar. Cosia a ma perque no tenia ni idea de cosir a maquina. Ara no crec que pogues fer-ho sense el regle, el cutter “talla-pizzes” i l’estora de tallar… Es com quan de cop tens un rentaplats, costaria tornar als temps quan no el tenies… (i si no el tens no passa res perque vas fent). Amb el temps he anat comprant mes eines que creia que em farien servei. Algunes ho han fet i d’altres no tant… Com que ultimament m’interessa cosir roba, m’he adonat que les tisores que tenia eren una perdua de temps. Per fi em vaig comprar unes SUPER TISORES de modista com aquestes: 


Over time, I have bought a few other bits and bobs. There is one tool I have been taking for granted and because I’ve become more interested in garment making, I realised I hadn’t paid  attention to it. I now own a REALLY GOOD pair of dressmaker scissors like these ones:


I also love my shear scissors and embroidery ones too. I think investing in good scissors is really important, no matter whether  you are only into patchwork or a more varied sewing life. My good scissors ONLY live in my sewing room, they’re not allowed to leave the room or be used for anything else.  You don’t want to know the amount of scissors that have been kidnapped and never worked properly when I saw them again. Sigh. Something tells me I’m not alone here…


Tambe m’encanten les meves tisores de zig-zag i les de brodar. Ara nomes viuen a l’habitacio de cosir i no surten d’alla per a res. La quantitat de tisores que m’han desaparegut i han tornat fetes malbe… Ai… Hi ha una cosa que vaig comrar i que encara no l’he fet servir, estic tant acostumada a fer la meva veta que no li trobo el que per fer-ho servir. Una maquineta de fer vetes:


I do have a little thingy that I still haven’t used, just because I’m so used to not using it that I actually wonder is it any use at all!


A bias tape maker. It’s still in the box… I should try it some of these days. Do you have one? Is it worth having? Is it easy to use? And this other thingy below…


I que me’n dieu del d’aqui sota? un peu de maquina per a cosir vetes. Vaig interntar fer-lo servir i no me’n vaig sortir. Viu al calaix. Ja ho intentare un altre dia…



A bias binder foot. Tried to use it. Failed. Lives in the drawer. Maybe I should give it another go…

Now, as I said,  I spend a fair amount of time making clothes and I’ve even taken up some alterations recently (that’s what happen when your neighbours and friends know that you have a sewing machine… but I like the challenge and I’m learning a lot at the same time, and they know I’m not a professional and that I do me besht)

so… in the dressmaking area…

I love my sewing gauge! So much better than using a measuring tape which I kept doing for ages…


En l’area de fer roba, el que m’agrada molt es aixo, que no tinc ni idea de com se diu en catala… a “gauge” en angles (pronunciat “gueig”, com “lleig'” pero canviant la “ll” per “gu”, ja ho se, jo tampoc ho hagues dit mai…) i la rodeta per marcar patrons (que penso que tambe podria anar be per fer raviolis de pasta fresca).

Hi ha dues coses que vaig comprar fa unes setmanes i les recomano totalment. Una estora per afilar les agulles, tant de maquina com les de ma. Va perfecte! i l’afilador de fulles per al cutter rotatori (o talla pizzes que dic jo), m’encanta! (va venir d’EEUU i faig servir un adaptador, no cal convertidor per un aparell tant petit):



and my pattern tracing wheel

tracing wheel

A few weeks ago I bought 2 things that I’m very happy with and would recommend:

needle sharp

A needle sharpening pad. You can use it for your machine needles, hand sewing needles or pins. It’s great!

And another sharpening tool:


A rotary blade sharpener, after reading some reviews like this one, I decided to purchase it. I sharpened 2 old blades and I’m so happy with the result. I know I’ll save a lot of money…

There are 2 things on my wish list: I desperately need a new self-healing cutting mat which I hope to get soon. The other one will probably take a while to get… I’d love to have a dressmaker’s mannequin. I’m still deciding what would suit me best since I’m a beginner. Should I get an adjustable one or one that is my size? I’ve got a very tight budget, so I still don’t know what to do, but I’m tempted by this

Hi ha dues coses que tinc a la llista dels desitjos. Necessito immediatament una nova estora per tallar amb el talla pizzes, i espero poder tenir-la aviat. L’altra portara una mica mes de temps… un maniqui de modista. No se que seria millor si comprar un ajustable o un de la meva mida. El pressupost es petitet i aquest d’aqui em tempta…En teniu un les que feu roba? quin em recomanarieu? 

Aixi doncs, quina es la vostra experiencia amb eiens de cosir, quines son les que trobeu imprescindibles i que us agraden molt, i quines creieu que son una perdua de diners?


Have any of you got one? which one would you recommend?

So, after all my ranting, what is your experience with notions? Are there many that you find useless? which ones? Any good found that opened your eyes? what is it?




24 responses to “About notions, useful or useless?

  1. I use my bias tape maker a lot. It is the one you use by hand, not machine, and it is great. I usually make 50 or 60 yards of bias tape in a session. It is really easy once you get a rhythym going.

  2. kimberlee

    My friend got the bias tape maker and went crazy! I have to get one because I hate making bias tape. I have never seen a foot!

  3. I like the sharpner for the blades! No, I don’t like it…. I love it and I want it… NOW!!!

  4. Thank you for such an interesting post. I’m not really a gadget person. I have a cutting mat and rotary cutter and a couple of rulers, though for a long time I used a spare piece of brass carpet edging as a rule with the cutting mat! I do think think scissors are important though and I’d love a rotary blade sharpener. If you can afford it, I’d recommend an adjustable manikin so it will last forever and you can use it for other people too without them always having to be there for fitting. I also think a bendy ruler is good for making/adjusting patterns. I’ll be interested to hear if your bias maker is good – it would save a lot of ironing 🙂

  5. You can also make your own dressmakers form with duct tape and an old t-shirt. then you know it will fit you exactly. I think that is what I am going to do…thought it won’t look nearly so nice

    • Thanks for the suggestion! Somebody told me how to make one out of plaster too, but I think I might be able to get a second hand one if I’m patient enough :-)!

  6. I definitely have bunches of notions that I purchased and then never used…especially specialty rulers, which I now avoid like the plague. However, I have used the bias tape maker, and I really love mine. I have a couple of different sizes. I haven’t really used it in quilting, but I’ve used it when I make bags. It works great.

    • Thanks for reassuring me about the bias tape maker, after all your comments I think I’ll have to give it a go again, and maybe give it a bit more time to learn how to use it properly. I don’t have many rulers, the ones I use most are the big rectangular one 18″x 6″ I think it is, and a smaller 2.5″x10″. I bought a 60degree triangular ruler which I find it very useful.

  7. I’ve been very interested in the rotary blade sharpener, and now I just might have to buy one! Those blades are so expensive! I have one of the bias tape makers but have never used it.

  8. Marga

    A very intersting post Irina, useful what others colleagues use to sew ….In sewing like in the kitchen I don’t like so much tools arround me..they bother me , the mess in my studio confuses me !! lol
    But after that…tools are very important if you have good budget for sewing.
    Nowadays I don’t imagine my live without rules,inches and rotary cutter…
    I saw i tutorial video ‘how to made bias with two needles on the ironing board ‘..can you imagine !! it’s very funny…lol
    Mirar tutorials de l’Amèrica llatina ensenya com treballar sense tantes eines., son plens de truquets..es clar , poca pasta – molta imaginaciò!!
    Jo m’he comprat ja 3 estisores de zig-zag…les darreras les guardo com una joia !!
    Bona setmana !

    • I think there are many many gadgets that are not that necessary and become a waste of space really… I think it is over the years when you realize what it is that you’d need the most and what not. But I agree, that organisation is very important if you start collecting gadgets!

  9. I’m a self confessed gadgetaholic…

    I use my sewing gauge all the time! Wouldn’t be without one.

    The pattern tracer we used to mark darts, pocket placements, center lines… back in Jr. High. I still have it and recently inherited the sewing cabinet, of my grandmothers, that I scored the top of with the tracing wheel as a tyke! Now we have washable or disappearing ink pens and no longer need those dangerous things! (Well, unless, you still trace patterns!)

    Glad to know the blade sharpener is worth it. Wish I had bought one 10 years ago….

    And a good pair of shears are worth every penny and then some! I have had the same pair of Ginghers for 20 years and haven’t lost them yet!

    I covered all the curved seams, in bias tape of different sizes, with one of those inexpensive gadgets and it made the quilt! http://sewfrench.com/2012/10/26/out-of-this-world/

    • Your quilt is absolutely amazing!!! I’m a secret admirer of your blog… sorry I don’t leave comments that often, sometimes I’m browsing so many that I don’t have time. (I still haven’t cut the fabric for the Amy Butler’s lounge pants… shame on me!).

  10. What a great topic for discussion Irina. It’s strange but I’m always drawn to give close inspection to all the different notions when I’m in a shop, but I don’t know what to do with half of them, so I tend to turn them over a few times and put them back on the shelf lol! One thing I wouldn’t be without, though, is my water soluble marker pen! I use that the most, second only to my stitch ripper!

    I’ve often looked at those bias tape makers and thought nah!, but having read everyone’s comments on how well they work, I am definitely going to get one! I would also like to get one of those gadgets that is used to make fabric covered buttons. Natalie x

  11. I carry a retractable tape measure in my handbag and bring it with me to work every day, even though I have never had a need to take it out during the working day. (I work at a computer, not in a fabric shop.) Still, I like knowing it’s there and I do use it at different times. My never used tool is a Dresden Plate cutting template. Wish I hadn’t wasted my money on that one.

  12. I use the bias tape maker a lot. I have 3 sizes-but I only use it for applique, so, if you don’t applique . . . Also, I bought a vintage mannequin at a yard sale-don’t use it for dressmaking-it sits in the corner of my bedroom with decorative broaches, necklaces, scarves and purses hanging on it. It is tres cute:) I have square rulers from 2-16 inches and they are my best friends.

  13. Ostres, quin post més interessant!
    El bias tape maker em tempta, però no estic segura si surt a compte fer-lo tu. Per internet he vist preus desorbitats, però aquí el bias té un preu raonable.
    En quant al maniquí, et recomano que en compris un ajustable. Jo no en tinc, però la meva mare és modista i en tenia un que anava molt bé. Així pots aprimar-te i engreixar-te “tranquil·lament”. 😉
    Jo tinc un embut que serveix per posar bias, molt similar al peu, i em va molt bé.

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