Tools worth owning

The tools recommended on this page are ones I personally own and use regularly in the production of clothing and accessories. If you enjoy the recreation of late medieval clothing, these tools are worth the investment.

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Woodworker’s ruler

This wonderful little bendable ruler became my best patterning friend last year. I can’t believe I didn’t know it existed before a friend finally recommended it to me. This is priceless for drafting sleeve caps and any part of a pattern that curves. Bend it to the exact shape you need and then ask yourself how you lived without it before now.

Wide paper for patterns

If you want to make historical clothing from your own patterns, you are going to need paper to capture the patterns. Wide-format craft paper is a must-have.

Left-handed fabric shears

Right-handers can easily go out and buy a pair of decent Fiskars or Gingher tailor’s shears. But many left-handers just make due with right-handed scissors when they really don’t have to. I was in my 30s before I bothered to invest in a pair of shears made to fit my left hand. Why did I wait so long?? If you’re a fellow lefty, give yourself the gift of shears that fit your hand properly.

Tapered tailor’s awl

Finding a proper awl can be a maddening experience if you don’t know where to look and exactly what to look for. Plenty of non-tapered awls are on the market. Just about every new sewer ends up with one and then later realizes that it’s useless for the purpose of poking holes in fabric for eyelets. The awl must be fat at the base and taper to a sharp point. Only this shape gives you the control you need over the size of the hole you make in the fabric.

Quilter’s pins

Forget about regular pins. You need extra-long pins with a colorful head on them. Longer pins are just easier to work with when sewing and the round heads are easier to see and to grasp.

Tailor’s chalk

I am seriously old-school when it comes to tailor’s chalk. There are a bunch of new-fangled pens and chalk dispensers out there, but nothing has ever worked as reliably and simply as a square chunk of white or blue Dritz chalk.

Circle template

If you make your own buttons from fabric, this handy tool will keep you honest. Make sure all your buttons are the same size.

Needle-nose pliers

Instead of struggling to find the perfect thimbles to protect your fingers and nails while hand-sewing through tough layers, why not find a good pair of needle-nose pliers and use them to pull the needle through? While you are at it, buy a second pair so that you can use them together to hold and crimp metal such as tiny jewelery settings and brass aglets.

C-clamp

This simple tool is great for fingerloop braiding. You can attach it to the edge of most tables and tie your loops to it. I have 3 or 4 stashed in various project kits.

Pantone color bridge

I used this color bridge when I examined the pourpoint attributed to Charles VI of France. I was able to capture the exact color of the silk and the lining so that later I could match it faithfully as I recreated it at home. Aside from that use, this is a great way to make sure you’re buying the right color fabric for any project. The color you saw in location X might not match the fabric you see later in location Y. If you capture it with your color bridge, you can be sure.

Ott Light

I cannot stress enough how important it is that you do your hand-sewing in proper light. Not only will your eyes feel better after a few hours of painstaking work, but your stitches will be nicer because you’ll actually be able to see what you’re doing. This is the version of the Ott Light that I own and I love mine.

Quilter’s floor frame

If you want to quilt padded garments by hand, this is the only way to go. You need a floor frame to stabilize your work. I used this one while quilting my reproduction of the pourpoint attributed to Charles VI of France.

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