If you’re buying for a person who loves to sew but you’ve never picked up a needle yourself, it can be tough to know what they’ll actually appreciate. But finding the right gift can be surprisingly simple. “The irony is when people ask me, ‘What do I need to get me sewing more?,’ I tell them, ‘Patience’,” says content creator Wendy Liu of YouTube’s With Wendy channel. “So when it comes to actual things, I try to pick tools that will help them get in the mood and make their patience run a bit further.” To point you in the right direction, we asked experienced sewers about the gifts that would make their life easier, from shears that glide like butter to a pattern-cutting system that’s almost wizardry.
The best sewing tools
“I dislike the back-and-forth motion of grabbing pins from my pin box and stabbing a finger or two,” says sewing vlogger Tracy Garcia of Transformations by Tracy. To keep her fingers unshredded, Garcia now snaps this magnetic caddy around her wrist, holding the pins within reach. Liu — also a fan — likes the snap-shut band, which fits a wide variety of wrist widths. “It’s also that feeling of suiting up,” she says. “Once the wrist caddy is on, it’s business time.”
Chances are the sewer in your life will at some point need to measure out an equal distance multiple times. A gauge like this gets the job done — and Garcia has one on her own wish list this year. You customize the amount of space you want between, say, buttons, grommets, or pleats, and then you’re able to mark them out “in seconds” without pulling out a ruler.
“You can’t beat a good pair of shears,” says podcaster and blogger Holly Frey (and half of our sewers agreed). Her “treasured” shears have improved her “cutting game” consistently, gliding through fabric as she cuts out pattern pieces. And she’s barely needed to do any maintenance on her Gingher pair since she got them more than a decade ago.
If the person you’re shopping for prefers to work with heavy-duty materials such as nylon or denim, DIY-er Jason Wagnon recommends these utility shears. “I actually learned about these when I worked for a manufacturer of leather bags,” says Wagnon. “Nothing else was quite strong enough to cut through the material.”
To get a really exact finishing cut, Liu reaches for a pair of snips (small, precise sewing scissors). “They’re so enjoyable to use and get you so much closer than regular scissors can,” she tells us. “I notice in a lot of my YouTube videos when I’m cutting fabric with them, people will say, ‘Oh, that sound reminded me of being at my grandmas.’ There’s something satisfying about a good shoop snipping sound.”
It’s so easy to lose seam rippers that Wagnon suggests getting several as a great stocking stuffer. “These brown-handled ones are my favorites,” he says. “They’re nothing fancy, but I fell in love with them because you can actually hold on to them unlike the tiny seam rippers that come with most machines.”
Whether sewing or quilting, you can’t properly press down seams without an iron. For Tracy DeChurch, who runs the Sewing Channel on YouTube, a cordless iron adds an extra bit of edge as “let’s face it, a cord gets in the way no matter what the project is.” She likes this lightweight model from Panasonic, especially handy for sewers who — like DeChurch — have arthritis.
The best sewing accessories
These doodlelike labels were brought to our attention by Brandon Hayden, a sewing teacher and the founder of the sustainable brand Happily Dressed. “Sewing labels are such a fun way to reward yourself for a make well done,” says Hayden. They can be stitched into a freshly made garment for an added personal (and professional-looking) touch — plus they’re pretty adorable.
“Sometimes the inspiration strikes, but then you don’t have the right color of thread to get it done,” says Liu, “so this spool collection has saved my butt so many times.” This rainbow collection of spools comes with a neat, transparent storage case, so you won’t have to root around for the right color of thread (or, even worse, run to the store) once you’ve gotten started.
The best educational sewing gifts
If teaching yourself to sew isn’t quite cutting it, Hayden says, “Lessons from a professional can make the beginning of your journey so much more digestible.” He recommends the online course by Mimi G on the fundamentals of sewing as well as the basics of dressmaking. “You can skip the constant Google searches and YouTube videos and go straight to the source.”
Even advanced sewers can still learn something new. For them, Frey suggests “you might consider a top-tier Patreon subscription to one of the many creators turning out custom patterns and other sewing content.” She recommends the creator Gertie’s World as she shares rare retro patterns and has an all-inclusive approach to fashion and sizing. “Everyone’s welcome, and creativity is celebrated with incredible style.”
The best sewing books
This all-encompassing sewing encyclopedia comes recommended by Raph Dilhan, an occasionwear designer and finalist on The Great British Sewing Bee. “It’s the best book that you can have as a beginner,” says Dilhan. “It’s got all of the techniques and the technical terms that you could need.” A classic way to learn the basics.
There’s a system in dressmaking called the “golden rule,” and both Liu and Hayden recommend gifting it as a ring-binder set. It’s kind of groundbreaking: You take one measurement (say, the bust), and then the system uses rules of body proportions to draft every pattern piece you’d need to make a whole garment. Usually, that’d take lots of measurements and some mental math.
“I know that if I can find any pattern in there that matches what I’m trying to make, you just follow their system, trace the dots, and make it,” says Liu. “I tested it because I felt like this was insane. I tried it on myself, my assistant (who’s petite), and my assistant’s friend (who’s plus-sized).” The result wasn’t “to couture level, but the fact that it was so on the mark was so impressive to me.”
The best sewing machines
Both Garcia and Hayden agreed that a serger is the perfect gift to help elevate a sewing hobby. The machines allow a type of stitch — a chain stitch — designed for fabrics that a regular machine can’t quite handle, such as knits, woven fabrics, and stretchy material. Although it’s by no means cheap, the Babylock serger is favored by Garcia as it’s so user friendly. “The difficult thing with sergers is threading the machine: Do it wrong, the thread snaps, and you have to go back in, which is the most stressful thing,” she says. This machine uses jet-air threading: “All you have to do is put in the thread and the machine shoots air and it threads it for you.”
Sewing vlogger Dre Chin, known as Glory Allan, has an embroidery machine at the top of his wish list. “I’d love to be able to personalize my designs with my own graphics, though I’ve heard there’s a big learning curve,” he says. Frey recommends the Brother SE600 as a great starter machine for someone who’s expressed a similar interest. “The price point isn’t so steep that it’s a loss if the sewist in your life doesn’t use the embroidery functions that much,” Frey says, “and it’s a great machine for just standard stitching needs.” However, she did let us know that those wanting to sew custom designs will have to look into additional software, which will come at a cost.
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