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Notions About Notions

I love notions – there’s just something mesmerizing about all the small sewing tools you can find on pegs at the fabric store.  I also love the British word for notions: haberdashery.  It’s just fun to say… haberdashery.  (Go on, I dare you to say it without grinning afterwards!)

Just in case you want to add a few little items to your Christmas list or need some ideas for stocking stuffers for the sewists and crafters in your life, here is a list of some of my favorite notions:

Grabbit Magnetic Pincushion

Regular tomato pincushions slow me down and pin bowls (whether they are magnetic or not) usually result in stabbed fingertips.  I love the Grabbit Magnetic Pincushion (I love it so much I have two of them) because I can reach for a pin without looking and not stab myself.  And when I remove a pin from fabric, I can just toss it back on the Grabbit next to my machine.  It’s also strong enough to pick up pins when you hold it over a surface of loose strays (other magnetic brands can’t always do that) – another time-saver!  This is something you can use a coupon for at the fabric store, but if you don’t care what color they send, here’s a link.

Red Grid Drafting Ruler

One of the sewing tools I can’t live without is my blue 2×18-inch quilter’s grid ruler.  I use it for everything, including home improvement projects!  But I also discovered the same gridded style ruler in red in the art/drafting section of my local craft stores.  Now I have three sizes in red.  The red 2×18-inch is great because it is half a yard (very useful in sewing) and I use the small red 1×6-inch for checking small measurements all the time.  When I found the 2×12-inch in red, I was elated because it’s short enough to fit in my portable sewing kit and I always found myself missing my 2×18 rulers when I was on a job.

Clover Chaco Liner

This chalk marking tool is probably the newest notion I’ve added to my collection.  My friend and co-worker Traci first introduced me to it when she came to help on the Nike commercial.  It is now one of my favorite things!  It requires almost no pressure to dispense chalk powder with its little wheel, which means the fabric doesn’t shift as you mark (something that is especially wonderful when dealing with sports jersey fabric!).  I found mine in the quilting section at JoAnn Fabrics and used a coupon.  The Clover Chaco Liner comes in white, yellow, blue, & pink and chalk refills are available.  There is also a narrower pen-style version.


My mother-in-law is a retired nurse, and years ago, she sent me one of the most wonderful medical tools to add to my sewing kit – a pair of hemostats. They are essentially a locking pair of pliers with scissor handles that can be used to grasp a hand-sewing needle and pull it through when it is difficult to grip (make sure it is a pair without serrated jaws so you don’t rough up your needle!)  I need a second pair to keep in my portable sewing kit – these look like the pair I have and I also found this smaller version I might add to my collection.


The Jean-a-ma-jig is a tool I sometimes forget about but it is handy to keep near your sewing machine.  You put it under the machine’s presser foot to level out the foot as you sew over a really thick seam (especially when sewing denim).  It keeps you from breaking needles and distributes the pressure of the presser foot more evenly over bulky fabric.  It’s made by Dritz so you might be able to find it at a fabric store among the other notions (I got mine from a costume shop sale at the end of a show so I’ve never looked).  Here it is on

Flexible Ruler

I usually use my flexible ruler when I need to measure or draft a pattern, especially for curves like armseyes and sleeves.  It’s most useful when you need to copy a curve because it is just stiff enough to hold the curve you bend it to match.  Here’s a link to one on

Size #7 Embroidery Needles

I prefer hand-sewing with embroidery needles over sharps because the eye is narrow and slides through fabric more smoothly than the slightly rounded eyes on other needles.  The size #7 is the length I like best – not too long and not too short.

Thread Heaven

Thread Heaven is a non-waxy thread conditioner.  I started using it to prevent knots every time I hand-sew with the horrible new 100% polyester Dual Duty thread since it tangles so easily.  (I miss the cotton-covered poly Dual Duty used to be – I know they still make some of the cotton-covered stuff, but not in as many colors.)  This tiny cube will last for eons!


Snips are little spring-action scissors that you push closed to snip threads (but they don’t really cut fabric well).  Not all snips are created equal, but if you find a good pair & get past the slight learning curve, you will love having them next to your sewing machine.  For years I hated snips, but I got used to using the good kind when I was working as a cheer uniform sample-maker and there was a pair at every machine.  Because they aren’t regular scissors, they usually don’t wander away from a machine and you always have them when you need them.  I like the plastic handle snips because they are lighter and easier to handle than the all-metal kind.

Small seam ripper

You can never have too many seam rippers since they always seem to disappear when you need them most!  (I hate using the bigger seam rippers – they are too fat to get under small stitching!)  They are cheap and can be found almost everywhere (including grocery stores), but here’s the link on

Metal knitting needle

I don’t know how to knit, but I have a couple of metal knitting needles for turning points.  The smooth rounded end of a knitting needle is especially useful when I make a collar.

Pattern notcher

I mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning this again – I use a rectangular scrapbooking hole-punch as a pattern notcher  It’s a lot more budget friendly than a real pattern notcher and the scrapbooking tool has rubber handles and a chamber to catch the paper punches!

Magic Sizing

Another item I’ve previously talked about is sizing.  It comes in a spray can (usually next to the starch at the store) and you iron it in to give fabric a little body.  It’s not crunchy and stiff like starch, but it helps control slippery and drapey fabrics, making them more manageable while sewing.  If you can’t find it at your grocery store, you can order it.


Did I forget to mention anyone else’s favorite notions?  Please share your favorites in the comments – I’m always interested in new little tools or remembering ones I’ve forgotten about!

(And Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the U.S.!)

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