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Saturday, 9 April 2016

Sewing Hacks

Sewing hack
A drinking straw hack! What a concept!
Until a relatively short time ago, the word "hack" usually meant one of the following things to me: 1) as a noun, a taxi, 2) as a noun again, a person who does something really badly, 3) as a verb, to infiltrate the security of a computer system covertly, and 4) as a verb again, to cough.

And actually, the word has even more meanings beyond just those. But I was not familiar with the use of hack as meaning "coming up with an unorthodox — and often clever — solution to a problem" until recently.

As a person who is a fan of recycling and repurposing, I like and appreciate a lot of "hacking" solutions. So when I discovered that AllFreeSewing.com had put out a post on their blog about sewing hacks (from 2014; this post you're currently reading was actually written over a year ago), I was right in there checking it out.

Three of the featured hacks stood out for me.

First was this trick for storing filled bobbins using a foam toe separator from Donna Babylon via Sew4Home...

Donna Babylon tips for Sew4Home
Image courtesy of Sew4Home...

This just seems so creative! Not only will your bobbins look totally cool, this hack also secures the threads and keeps them from tangling. (My other favourite way of keeping bobbin thread secure is the "plastic tubing" method. I've seen it mentioned on various sites, here is one of them.)

Another trick, courtesy of Deanna McCool, involves adding a seam allowance to a pattern by tying two pencils together and tracing over a pattern outline. Again, simple but effective. This would actually be a perfect way to create a smaller pattern template for cutting your interfacing pieces!

SewMcCool.com adding a seam allowance to a pattern
Image courtesy of SewMcCool.com...

Finally, there was a third hack about how to sew with a spool of thread that's too big for the sewing machine (like a serger cone). The solution was to put the spool inside a mug. I had just recently purchased a huge spool of black thread and had been wondering what my options were, but this solution did not have the right amount of elegance.

Check out Craftsy's latest promos...
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Lo and behold, a commenter named Dina shared a tip of hers to put a drinking straw on top of the spool pin to accommodate the cones! Now that solution appeals to me. Moreover, I had a hard plastic straw saved from a reusable drink bottle, so my hack is even sturdier than it would otherwise be with a regular straw.

Dina's comment on Seams & Scissors blog
Dina's simple, but oh so clever and ingenious hack... 

Since that AllFreeSewing post, I have come across other hacks that have stood out for me from other sources, like this one... don't care to invest in a pricey gauge to measure your hemlines for pressing? Make one out of cardboard. See how here.

Pressing Gauge from ShowTellShare
image courtesy of ShowTellShare...

I'll close off this post with a quasi hack/tip.

See the bobbin beside my big spool of thread at the top of this post? One of the unpleasant surprises of sewing is running out of bottom thread and not knowing it. (On most machines, you can't see it and it's a hassle to check.) If you use a fully loaded bobbin at the beginning of a project for both the top and bottom threads, you will be able to see — by looking at the top, obviously — how much thread you have remaining. You will still eventually run out, but at least you'll know when both threads run out at approximately the same time!

If you want to read the full sewing hack blog post from AllFreeSewing, click here. (Coincidentally enough, this topic was revisited by their newsletter this past week... after I had already scheduled this post.)

If you have a clever or favourite hack to share, leave a comment below.


  1. I too shared the toe separator hack in my tips, but I prefer the single toe separators. I usually only store my bobbin weight thread in the toe separators so that I know it's bobbin thread weight. I also use those silicone ice cube trays that make those long skinny cubes for bottles to store my bobbins too.
    A friend of mine uses a straw to keep her thread and matching bobbin thread together. I make my own stilettos for sewing out of a thick bamboo skewer and added some Fimo clay on the ends. Cheaper than a metal stiletto and if you were to ever hit the stiletto while sewing with your machine needle, the bamboo skewer would be less dangerous and easier to replace. Hacks are fun and I am always thinking about other uses for things especially as I look around thrift stores or yard sales.

  2. I can attest to coffee mugs working well to hold large spools of thread.

  3. Oh...sewing room hacks! I have sooooo many. For bobbins, i like to use the colored baby elastics instead of tubing. Cheap, stretchy and can basic color code to match thread. I keep my bobbins in altoid containers by "thread type" so this works great for me. Marking quilts...i used to by those six dollar blue markers for this unril i found out that crayola washable markers wash out great! As does regular dollar store colored pencils...regular lead pencils dont wash well though. For those of us that use Supreme Sliders for quilting...no thank you! I use teflon sheets off ebay at about $2 for a 20X24! Just cut a hole in it for the needle and tape it down. Actually, i bought a roll of it and i covered my entire table with it (i have a homemade table, just four legs and a sheet of OSB on top, so, my table is 4foot by 8 foot! WhooHoo for slippery quilting! And those expnsive thicker "ruler work" rulers? Um, i just tape two thin cutting rulers together for straight lines, i use jar lids for circles and i HAVE made custom ones out of foam board scraps...oh lord im cheap! And for batting for quilts? Oh my biggest secret here...while i LOVE wool batting and buy it by the roll, i do use LOTS of matress covers for quilt batting for anything smaller than a queen...i get them at thrift stores for a dollar (of course i wash them in hot water and bleach!). For my big cones of thread, i did not buy a $15 spool holder, i bent a wire coat hanger into the right shape and taped it to my machine and set the spool in a cup beside the machine. I get "thread drag" when i have the thread from cones pull off the side-and besides, most cones are wound in such a manner that they SHOULD be released form the top, not side dscharge-yes! It really does make a difference which direction it is pulled from based on the winding. I have wire shelving mounted on a wall and as i have about 25-30 packs of machine needles, i decided to hang them, like the notions wall in a store. I bent S-hooks from wire and sorted by needle type and hang them from the underside of the shelf and they are right there to grab as i need. I also have cutting templates hung in the same fashion as i had my machine tool friend cut me a bunch of squares in a great range of sizes for squaring up my HSTs! Love them! Slippery templates? Dont want to spend $4 on those silly sticky dots? I cut little squares of sandpaper and glue on backside wth glue stick. When they need to be replaced, the glue washes right off with soapy water. General storage containers for purse hardware? Ya cant beat tackle boxes! This may not be a "hack" so to speak, but i change needles a lot based on project and keeping up with the use rate can be tricky. I replace a needle after 5 bobbins, unless it is a titanium needle, then i can go about 8-10 bobbins. I keep a sticky note on machine and use tick marks to ndicate how many bobbins ive been thru. When i change the needle out but it has not been used a lot, i stick the needle in the sticky note and keep it hung up on my wire rack for future use. I estimate bobins that havent been completely emptied as half bobbin. Really looking forward to folks sharing more hacks! I have tons more!

  4. I use the straw on the spool holder to accommodate 2 spools for twin needle sewing.

    1. And that actually works? I'll have to keep that in mind if I ever use my twin needle!


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