Stuff a sewing stocking swiftly!
November 30, 2009 10:46 AM   Subscribe

I need some sewing related stocking stuffers!

My wife has decided to take up sewing, and she will be picking a sewing machine for herself as her Xmas gift from me (I know, how romantic!) I *would* like to surprise her with something on Xmas morning, so I thought I would assemble a sewing related stocking for her.

I have *no clue* what she'll need besides the machine itself, so I need hints! I have a budget of $100-$150CDN or so for the whole stocking.

I already thought of getting her a high quality pair of scissors, and we already have a generic sewing kit. Any other hints? Bonus points for links to sites that are in Canada, or can ship to Canada prior the holiday.

Help me hive mind!
posted by WinnipegDragon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (25 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
It would be really sweet to make something as part of it. this requires no sewing at all, but is a totally perfect tiny gift. Fill it with high-quality quilting pins.

Be prepared for high-quality shears to take up $40 or $50 of your budget, minimum.

A grid ruler is nice to have. Buy a big one.

A jewel box of colored sew-all threads (Gutermann makes a mouthwatering one with I think 18 or 27 colors) would be nice.

There are a lot of odds and ends that are helpful. It will depend a little bit on the kind of sewing she wants to do, too. But here are some universally useful things:

- Tailor's chalk, or chalk pencils
- A good seam ripper. I like the ones with a curved blade that you can replace, sort of like an xacto knife.
- A measuring tape
- A thimble

I suggest visiting a real life sewing store - around here they always seem to be sewing machine/vacuum stores, mysteriously enough. They'll stock all kinds of goodies that are nicer than the junk you find at JoAnns.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:56 AM on November 30, 2009

easy peasy: pin cushion, needle threader, seam ripper, quality pins, extra bobbins (make sure they fit the machine)... just google "sewing notions"... also something non-permanent to mark fabric, but this is a personal preference, ie chalk, vanishing markers...
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:56 AM on November 30, 2009 has a bunch of cool fabrics and other sewing notions. So does . You may also want to pick up a subscription to a few sewing magazines. If you pick one up now they may have ads from other vendors and you can get ideas that way.
posted by mokeydraws at 10:57 AM on November 30, 2009

I recommend just visiting a sewing store and sharing this story with the staff there. They will have fabulous ideas. Things that come to mind for me (a sometime sewer):

  • Bobbins pre-loaded with an array of colors
  • Thread spools in a matching array of colors
  • Small can of lubricant (though your machine may come with one)
  • Patterns for something fun/cute (patterns are usually under $15)
  • Gift certificate to a nearby fancy fabric store. (There are two kinds of fabric stores - mass market, and nicer than that. Mass market stores, like Jo-Ann or the Rag Shop in the
  • US, have a basic assortment of fabrics with broad appeal. Specialty sewing stores have fabric with unique, artistic designs, and higher quality and greater variety)
  • See if there are attachments for her machine which are sold optionally - some sewing feet can do special effects, sew unusual fabrics, etc
  • "Fat quarters" are small rolls of decorative fabric that measure 1/4 yard or so. They're great for small, improvisational projects or for quilting
  • Trims - rickrack, fancy ribbon, bias binding, piping, applique patches
  • A really good ruler, maybe a T-square or right-angle type, and a tape measure
  • Straight pins and pins with colored round heads on them, and tins or pincushions to keep them in
    A strong magnet. Indispensable for pulling fallen pins and needles off the floor and other small tasks
  • A seam ripper

    There are an infinite number of small items like this that she'll enjoy experimenting with. Really the easiest thing is to start at the sewing store.

    Also, be sure she has a nice, adjustable bright lamp to use in the sewing area, and a comfortable seat that doesn't have arms that will get in the way of work.

  • posted by Miko at 10:57 AM on November 30, 2009

    around here they always seem to be sewing machine/vacuum stores,

    This dates back to the days when both kinds of machines were fixed by the same small-engine repairmen.

    posted by Miko at 10:58 AM on November 30, 2009

    important to remember: don't use the dressmaking shears to cut paper
    posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:58 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

    I would recommend a couple of books to get her started. When I first started sewing I really enjoyed the projects in Bend the Rules Sewing and Sew U. In addition to having some fun projects, the books were very good at explaining the basics.
    posted by mcroft at 11:00 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

    Great answers so far, thanks everyone. My Mum is getting her a variety of books, so she should be covered there. The lists of items are a great help!

    I have to find a shop nearby and go spend some time with an experienced sewer.
    posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:03 AM on November 30, 2009

    GOOD shears, that will be sacred in the house and never used for anything else. Sometimes you can get a deal with a 40% store coupon - the craft stores in the US seem to do those regularly, you may want to check on that for your local places.

    Notions I love a lot:

    tubing puller/bodkin - looks like tweezers that you can clamp shut

    buttonhole gauge - you can set it to a certain distance to evenly space buttonholes - but also works for hems, pleats, and other things where you need to space stuff out evenly

    Extra needles and bobbins for her sewing machine. Get different types of needles (there are different points depending on what material you are going to sew) so she'll have a selection.
    posted by oblique red at 11:12 AM on November 30, 2009

    Everyone else has made some really good suggestions, so I won't add to your list, but I will note that it would be good if the pins were rustproof.
    posted by runningwithscissors at 11:16 AM on November 30, 2009

    I think they've all been listed already, but whenever people ask me what to get when they start sewing, I always mention:
    - small scissors for snipping threads
    - needles
    - straight pins (I keep mine in a little tin, but a pincushion is nice too)
    - empty bobbins (make sure they fit her machine)
    - rotary cutter, clear ruler, and self-healing cutting mat (these items literally changed my life)
    - seam ripper

    And if you're getting her books, I recommend Bend the Rules Sewing - it has lots of achievable projects, and they can inspire more advanced projects further on.
    posted by LolaGeek at 11:27 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

    Congrats to your wife on her new hobby! Just a word of warning: don't be surprised if it quickly goes from "hobby" to "obsession." Years ago, my Mom was bored and was looking for some sort of hobby. She had a little-used sewing machine in the basement and decided to take a four-week basic sewing class at a local department store. The students learned to read patterns and learned the parts/workings of a sewing machine. Each student sewed a T-shirt as a final project. Well, my Mom was off and running. She scoured the discount fabric stores and practiced on cheap material until she felt confident in her abilities. Less than two years after taking that one course, she sewed a winter coat for me that my friends and co-workers swore was store-bought. Anyway, even though Mom had a good set of shears, she coveted a set of snips but never considered buying a pair because she already had scissors and a seam ripper, and why spend another five bucks....? I finally bought a set of snips for her for Christmas one year, and she still uses them some 15 years later. (You can go to any sewing or fabric store and ask for "snips" - the clerk will know what you mean.)
    posted by Oriole Adams at 11:54 AM on November 30, 2009

    What everyone else said, especially about not using your wife's sewing shears to cut anything else than fabric. Because it will mean the end of your marriage. Seriously. I'd trust a man with my credit card before I'd let him use my sewing shears.

    My niece Peaches Swan gave me a "Pin Pal" last Christmas. It's basically a magnetic tray for pins. I didn't know such a thing existed, and it's so handy. Pin cushions do work just about as well, but it's fun to just toss a pin at it and have it stick. And I don't see mention of a bobbin storage case. Really good to have if you have a lot of bobbins, because otherwise it's tangle city, and you can see all the bobbins easily.

    If you're looking for bigger ticket items, a subscription to Vogue Patterns or Threads would be nice, or a nice sewing box. Get one with compartments.

    And this is such a practical, thoughtful idea, because you do need all these things to sew and they add up. What a considerate husband!
    posted by orange swan at 11:56 AM on November 30, 2009

    Ditto the rotary cutter. Mine came with a straight blade and a pinking blade, which is super awesome. Self-healing mat, too...the larger the better.

    Maybe some quarters of fabric in fun shades for her to play around with on Christmas Day? They are super cheap and she can start practicing right away by making simple pouches and bags. I know when I first got my sewing machine, it killed me to have to wait to sew SOMETHING.
    posted by dumbledore69 at 12:14 PM on November 30, 2009

    What a considerate husband!

    I have my moments ;)

    Okay, I've been in touch with a local shop and they are going to help me assemble my stocking with assistance from all your advice here.

    My shopping list is:

    Seam Ripper
    Bobbin Storage
    Pin Cushion/Pin Pal
    Lots of GOOD Straight Pins
    Grid Ruler
    Chalk Markers
    Measuring Tape
    Needle Threader

    If the budget allows it a Rotary Cutter and a Cutting Mat as well.

    posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:19 PM on November 30, 2009

    Seconding the magnetic pincushion - I love mine!

    How about a bobbin organizer? I like this one made from wire (no idea where you could get something like that though, sorry), or you could even make one yourself from a piece of wood, some fabric and a lot of nails.
    posted by amf at 12:24 PM on November 30, 2009

    I wanted to add a link to an online Canadian fabric shop with which I've experienced good service: Tonic Living. I love PurlSoho and Reprodepot, but if your wife does decide to order fabric online, it'll be cheaper to go with a Toronto-based store than going with one across the border (when you factor in duty and exchange rates).
    posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:29 PM on November 30, 2009

    I like my rotary cutter and mat. I wish I had a ruler or t-square or something to go with it.
    posted by radioamy at 12:34 PM on November 30, 2009

    I second every item on your list and I think going to the store for help is a great idea too. But don't skimp on the rotary knife and cutting mat, though. If she wants to learn to quilt she needs this and will go out and get it right after christmas if you don't supply it. Also seconding the recommendation for fat quarters. I got my sewing machine as a gift one christmas and having a couple of sets of fat quarters gave me something to actually sew on immediately and that was fun!
    posted by dchrssyr at 2:19 PM on November 30, 2009

    your list is great, just want to add: shears and then a tiny pair of scissors (maybe this is what's meant by "snips") - the classic in my mind is Gingher stork sewing scissors. They are lovely.
    posted by LobsterMitten at 2:20 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

    Seconding the Pin Pal! That thing is great for when she (inevitably) drops pins everywhere.

    I recommend this particular Clover seam ripper. It is the best seam ripper I have ever used. It's pricier than others, but oh so worth it. I've worked as a theater seamstress, so I've ripped a lot of seams.

    This is such a great idea!
    posted by apricot at 6:40 PM on November 30, 2009

    As a lifelong sewer, I'd say the most important pieces of equipment are good sewing shears (Fiskars are the best IMHO - the others are right about not using these to cut paper or anything but fabric), a thread organizer (I have one like this one, that allows me to keep all the small things together in one box), and a plastic storage bin to keep my whole collection of bits and pieces, fabric remnants, patterns, tape measures, fabric trims, zips, button-tins, and ironing cloths in one place.
    posted by Susurration at 9:03 PM on November 30, 2009

    Best sewing notion I've discovered in the last decade:
    A six-inch (or so) Hemostat: FAN-tastic point-turning tool, the perfect needle-puller, and the best possible aid when trying to knot too-short thread ends; a tiny third hand. She'll wonder at first what to do with it, but later she'll thank you.

    Best notion discovered in the previous decade:
    Glue stick.
    posted by dpcoffin at 12:25 PM on December 1, 2009

    Went shopping today, picked up everything on my list except for bobbin storage. I did get a rotary cutter and two sided cutting mat/pressing mat, although I did go slightly over budget.

    Thanks again sewing Mefites!
    posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:38 AM on December 3, 2009

    In case anyone was wondering, the stocking was a big hit :)

    Thanks to all!
    posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:48 PM on December 30, 2009

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