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Tools of the trade

26 Apr

389x421We all love the latest in gadgetry or digital technology which most of us want to possess even if we don’t actually use! If you’ve ever observed an artist or trades person using their tools at work, you’ll have noticed that the tools are very simple or very special but, very well used. Painters use the same brushes over and over until the bristles have all fallen out or have broken off. Cabinet makers use the same planes, chisels and mallets that perhaps they’ve inherited or started out with. Hair stylists use their favorite scissors and combs. You get the picture.It is no different with dressmakers, tailors and couturiers. Once we’ve invested in the best tools we can afford, we use them constantly, and stay with us forever if we can help it.

A few examples of tools I mean are scissors, thimbles, sewing needles, yard sticks and tape measures. Tape measures drape around your neck, get rolled up and unrolled, the printed markings become worn, and they gain a few nicks along the edges, but getting a new one is one is just one big hassle after breaking-in the one you’ve been using properly. Yard sticks are good for setting hems, marking lines, and swatting flies when necessary.
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Sewing needles sometimes become visibly plate bare in spots along the shafts, and eventually do get replaced. But to lose one is irritating bordering on disaster and finding one that became lost is a near-on victory! Using cheap needles is total waste of time because they only bend and break.
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Thimbles actually become a comfortable extension of your middle finger. I’ve used very few in my career, only replacing two that acquired punctures in the tops from repeated needle pressure, and it takes a long time to warm up to a new one so I guard mine closely. They need not be pretty, but good quality metal is essential. In the studio, holding up your middle finger is not a rude gesture – it means ‘have you seen where I left my thimble?’ without speaking.
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Scissors and shears become your pride and joy when you’ve invested in high quality tempered steal. Purchasing them really hurts at the time, as they’re rather expensive items – which no one else will understand the value of, and hard to justify when you’re just starting out. Good ones will last 40 to 50 years and longer if you take good care of them!
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We don’t use special pattern drafting tools either, just the basics. Straight edge or T-square, triangle, pencil and eraser. We go through proper tailors chalk like crazy. Pens are banned from the studio. We use ordinary un-waxed wide width white butchers paper for drafting, only using tailors card for patterns we plan to keep and reuse – this 92lb card stock is sold in rolls and is extremely heavy and somewhat expensive.

Wonderful gadgets, fancy sewing aids and swanky drafting tools are a boon for sewing hobbyists. DIY stores offer a specialized tool for every conceivable do-it or fix-it job you might ever do at home. As appealing or impressive as they might look they’re not necessarily manufactured for the professionals. However, it seems everyone wants them and they do look terrific on the collector’s shelf!
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