Presents For Sewers (People Who Sew)
November 15, 2018 9:23 AM   Subscribe

My wife has recently gotten back into sewing her own clothes in a big way, making shirts, sweatshirts, skirts and the like. They're pretty amazing. She's got a very nice Bernina machine, and I expect her scissors and other basic accessories are good. I'd like to get her something(s) that will help her keep at it and get even better, make some interesting things, and so on.

She loves stores like Purl Soho, and has been taking classes at our local shop (Pintuck & Purl). Any tips about must-have tools, patterns, kits, or fabrics? Any online shops that might be worth a gift certificate? Maybe even some online classes?
posted by schoolgirl report to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Melismata at 9:31 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Does she have a dress form? Because, wow did I feel like a big shot in my sewing once I had a dress form. Also, how ergonomic is her sewing set-up? Could she use a better chair? Does she have room to cut her fabrics? How about storage? Also, as far as informative gifts, having a big fat reference book (like Vogue Sewing or some such), or a book on drafting one's own patterns is also a treat.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 9:32 AM on November 15, 2018 [16 favorites]

Closet Case Patterns Jeans makings kit, pattern and class is the top of my sewing wish list.

Jeans are seen as quite scary to sew yourself, but I've seen such amazing results from this combo.

I would also think about upgrading her iron/ironing board if she's using ones that aren't amazing (and a clapper and ham can be really nice presssing upgrades). And glass headed dressmaking pins and pattern weights would make really good stocking stuffers!
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 9:38 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

What's the lighting situation in her workspace like? A few highly adjustable task lamps are invaluable for both detail work and overall comfort when she's been at it for a while, and sewing rooms often suffer from lack of good lighting. A clamp light or two plus a floor lamp with multiple arms can feel like a huge upgrade.
posted by Mizu at 9:40 AM on November 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

The Bernina folk do in person classes - keep an eye out for them.
Does she have The Big Book of Feet? It is a Bernina essential. You will then be buying her new feet :) once she discovers the ones she likes to use.

I also would recommend good quality thread as a stocking stuffer type gift. Go find the local store that deals Bernina and buy thread there; Mettler or the like.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:43 AM on November 15, 2018

These Clover Chalk Pens are literally my most prized possession as a sewist. I have yellow, blue, and pink. They are amazing. Buy one for her in every color.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:51 AM on November 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Does she already have a giant cutting mat and a really nice Olfa rotary cutter? This combo of items will save her a TON of time over just cutting out patterns with fabric shears, and it'll likely improve the precision of her cuts, too.

Pattern weights are a nice thing - they save you the work of having to pin a pattern down to the fabric. You can find many styles of them on Etsy.

Craftsy has well-regarded online classes (and they're 50% off right now, apparently).

An Emma One Sock gift certificate for fancy fabric would be an awesome gift.

If she's been making sweatshirts and other knit clothing, she might like a serger machine. This is definitely a higher-budget item, likely $200-250 for a starter model. Here's a serger purchasing guide with recommendations.
posted by ourobouros at 9:52 AM on November 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

One other really awesome little accessory: WonderClips. They're way better and faster than pins for certain applications.
posted by ourobouros at 9:53 AM on November 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

What's your budget? She's making sweatshirts, so she's sewing with knits - does she have a serger? Also, this custom dress form from Beatrice Forms is at the top of my wish list :)

Seconding all the suggestions for upgrading her tools or workspace. Is she cutting fabric on the floor? If she uses a rotary cutter, does she have a nice big self-healing cutting mat? Could the lighting be improved?
posted by kiripin at 9:54 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

If she's used to cutting out patterns, a rotary cutting set with a cutter and mat would be a nice gift. Once I started using one, I never went back to the pin-and-cut method.

If she's interested mainly in apparel, a subscription to the online University of Fashion may also be helpful. They have a lot of resources and tutorials, higher quality than what you'd typically find on YouTube. Craftsy also has a particularly good series on draping, if she is interested in getting away from patterns and has a dress form.

And, of course, a gift card to Nancy's Notions is always a safe bet. They have all of the things (like thread and needles and marking tools) that sewists have to buy again and again. Plus, they have a good selection of helpful little tools and gadgets that may save her some time.
posted by Elbe at 10:02 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

A good cutting mat and a good ironing surface and iron! My favorite ironing board is a big sheet of plywood with batting, covered with canvas. Being able to easily press open seams and hems makes a huge difference in the finished look of my sewing, and the board is less cumbersome than opening up an ironing board and has a bigger surface area. You can buy them pre-made (search "pressing board"), or they are an easy, cute DIY.

. A tailor's ham makes a HUGE difference in shaping the sleeves, too--it's a soft ironing surface for pressing round shapes.
posted by assenav at 10:09 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ask of she has a wishlist of books anywhere, since there are tons of new books on sewing. They are just so much better and brighter than those from even 20 years ago. Some may be too basic for her, so I suggest asking her for specific titles.
posted by soelo at 10:16 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I also want to second everyone suggesting a serger. They take a little while to learn, but they produce such professional results so easily once you get the hang of them. If it's within the budget, it would be a great gift for someone who likes to sew with knits.

My serger is among the lowest-priced options (Singer Pro Finish) and it works great. It was under $200 and it is one of my favorite sewing-related purchases.
posted by Elbe at 10:33 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, thank you all! Can I just mark everything as the best answer? So many good suggestions and links, and things I've never heard of (tailor's ham!). I'll have to look into the serger situation, that seems like a real game changer. I'll sneak off to a few local shops and see what they recommend considering the model of Bernina she has (if that even matters).
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:36 AM on November 15, 2018

I have been known to give my husband a jazzed-up card with a homemade gift card reading "You now have $XX towards the purchase of the [item] of your dreams" when I didn't know enough about things involved with his hobbies to be able to buy him an object associated with any of them.
posted by telophase at 10:37 AM on November 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

Get a gift card to Wawak. It's an online stire that caters to drycleaners, tailors and other small professional places. This is THE place to get quality supplies at great prices.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 10:53 AM on November 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

The best sewing gift I ever got was a larger sewing room. If she is running out of space in her current sewing area, perhaps there is another, larger room in the house that could trade places so she gets more space with dedicated cutting tables and storage.
posted by oxisos at 11:18 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

A Bernina walking foot is pricey and worth every cent spent on it. I rarely sew without that foot. Had to order it from the dealer and wait but wow its a fantastic assessory. I think 10 yrs ago it was over $100 but would buy again in a flash. Also a subscription to Threads magazine is nice.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 12:40 PM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

These are all great ideas but if it were me, I would prefer to pick out my own supplies and machines. I know that sounds like such a downer but my dh, bless his heart, would not know what to buy even with help. And sometimes $$$$ is not always better. I vote for a homemade “gift certificate” and a trip to the sewing stores. You are super thoughtful and I’m sure she will appreciate this gift even if though you didn’t handpick each item.
posted by jraz at 2:29 PM on November 15, 2018

Another vote for serger - she will certainly appreciate it. An assortment of presser feet might also be good, but not something I would buy without checking with her first.
posted by she's not there at 2:59 PM on November 15, 2018

Another vote for Threads magazine. The current issue has gift suggestions (they always do in the November issue) of various price ranges. Their picks are always good quality and unique things.

Some of my favourite notions:
Cutting mat and rotary cutter
Storage containers specifically for bobbins and spools
My dress form (it changes everything!)
Books on drafting patterns
French curve (for drafting patterns)
Fun presser feet for my machine (they do things like pin tucking and pleating while you sew. There are many different types of specialized feet that have to be custom for your machine, but each provides a new challenge to lear)

My wishlist for my sewing room includes tall cutting table that can fold away, well designed storage, better lighting, and machine tune ups
posted by chapps at 8:06 AM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, yes, yes a large cutting mat and an Olfa cutter with extra blades. If she needs a good tshirt pattern, Love Notions has a great one she can print off at home, it's easy and comes in xs-xxxl all in one. I've made 3 in the past 2 weeks.
Jansbo light from Ikea is very bright and I move mine between machines and iron as needed.
More space and storage would be a dream. ( I cut out on the dining room table, and it's a pain.)
Also, Craftsy has some amazing tutorials she might like to check out. You could get her a gift subscription.
posted by Enid Lareg at 11:09 AM on November 16, 2018

If you think she wants a serger, a gift certificate would be the way to go unless she has said 'I want a Bernina 800' or something just as specific . Sewers will want to go do a test run on different machines; they are definitely not all alike. This Bernina Features reference book is great for info on presser feet. Feet come in so many forms and they are fun to play with--some will turn your regular machine into a serger. The walking foot is definitely worth the price. My sister is a Bernina fanatic; she stores her vast collection of presser feet in velvet lined jewelry boxes.

Stocking stuffers could be high quality thread, extra bobbins (be sure they are the right ones!), quilting length pins (game changer for ease of use) that I use for any type of sewing, different sizes of Gingher scissors (embroidery, 6" or 8" , thread snips, seam ripper...). I like Gingher for quality & that you can send them to the company for sharpening & repair and they come back like new. Joann fabric stores often has Gingher on sale. If she is sewing mostly knits, she probably won't need a tailor's ham--useful for woven fabrics for crisp seams, curves, etc. Knits do not have crisp seams. A good steam iron is an asset, though. Heavier is better, like Rowenta.

A Threads magazine subscription or other Taunton publications would be fun, too. Filled with useful tips and also aspirational projects.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 7:53 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

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