Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 24

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, but the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Best sewing skills guide

New Complete Guide to Sewing

When a struggling new fashion-designer needs to hone their sewing skills, Project Runway guru Tim Gunn steers them to this Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing. It’s got the best, clearest, and most complete introduction to 95% of the sewing skills you’ll ever need. It’s practical and methodical in its instructions. Not as good as grandma, but anyone will be able to pick up stitches, cutting and machine use from it. — KK

Easy threading needles

Spiral Eye Needles

These ingenious sewing needles can be threaded blindfolded. You pull the thread into a spiral from the side, and for the most part the thread will remain in the eye as you sew. That is not true for calyx eye needles (invented a hundred years ago) as a solution to the vexing problem of threading the eye. It’s as easy for the thread to slip out of the open slot at the end of the calyx needle as it is to slip in, and this wavering can fray the thread. The spiral eye needle doesn’t snag, but in my experience it will occasionally let the thread slip out. Expert sewers might find that annoying. It is dead simple to slip back on, and the thread is not frayed, so I can put up with that small inconvenience.

Spiral Eye needles are expensive: $5 each. However they should last a lifetime if you don’t lose track of them (they look very similar to regular sewing needles). What I really want is a side-threading sewing-machine needle. Schmetz makes some in limited sizes, but of a less ingenious design. — KK

Cheapest portable sewing machine

Brother Sewing Machine

I own, use and occasionally drag around my Brother sewing machine. Like the previous version of this machine recommended in Cool Tools, it’s light, small, cheap and reliable. I use it for occasional household work and mostly to make repairs to uniforms and sew on patches. It can do ten stitches and that’s more than enough for me. Especially handy is the buttonholer. This little box, in combination with a beginner’s sewing book, can help you do everything that you can imagine short of embroidery. It has held up most admirably considering how much I use it. — Angus mac Lir

Sag-B-Gone Jean Button

Larissa Holland of mmmcrafts came up with a good solution for people who don’t like belts or suspenders and also don’t like it when their jeans start to stretch and get saggy as the day goes on: a “sagb-gone” button! The no sew dungaree buttons are available on Amazon. — Mark Frauenfelder

Superior textile cutter

Engel Hot Knife

The Engel Hot Knife is fantastic for cutting and sealing synthetic ropes and textiles in one hot cut. Particularly when making kites, bags, tents, or anything with textiles this is faster by a factor of 10 than scissors, more accurate, and also seals the edges against fraying. It has two blade types, one long and arced, great for fast large things, one pointed and small for detail work. The fact it has a work light directed at the blade is a tremendous detail only the German’s would have thought of including. I use it for other things as well, like sealing plastic bags and various plastic welding jobs. This is probably a misuse of the tool, but periodically I find that useful. I own two of these, and have owned them for 5+ years, and I love them. — Saul GriffithPU


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