Sewing machine mats tutorial

Crafty Sewing Room Accessories!

Sewing machine mats tutorial

Hi All, I hope your New Year is off to a great start! I’m really excited about my sewing plans for this year but I thought I’d start with a simple but fun project for my newly created sewing space. As part of that reorginastion, I also cleaned and oiled both my machines. Undoubtedly they’re both running smoother but the racket my overlocker still produced when working at full pedal continued to jangle my nerves. I figured quilted mats were the answer!

I had one metre of this fab tape measure print cotton poplin and I wanted to see how much I could make from it. I ended up with two machine mats – one for each machine – a cushion cover and enough scraps left over to perhaps make a matching pin cushion too! The difference the mat makes to the running of the overlocker can’t be overstated – it’s like a new machine! If you haven’t got one for yours I highly recommend making your own; I’d never quilted a thing in my life prior to embarking on this and, at least with a project this size, it’s a simple yet fun thing to do! And I got to bust out the ‘quilting guide arm thingy’ that came with my walking foot and has been languishing in a drawer ever since!

If you want to find out more about the making of this project, including a bit of an ‘how to’ demonstration, the full post is now live on the Minerva Craft Blogger Network, including links to all the products I used (see HERE).

How to make your own sewing machine mats

Hope to meet you back here soon – I’ve got a really busy week or so coming up including making a couple of Review garments from the new Wendy Ward book, a pattern test and my first magazine article being published; not exactly a bad stitchy start to the New Year eh!

Until then, happy New Year stitching to you too!

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Sewing storage

My Sewing Room Set Up + Tips for Sewing in a Small Space!

Sewing storage

I don’t know about you but I love checking out other people’s sewing spaces. And I’m always on the look out for neat storage ideas. So I thought I’d share my new dinky sewing area / set up with you, to illustrate how little room you actually need to create a really efficient sewing space!

This all came about when I finally spat my dummy out threw in the towel over sewing on the dining table last month; I was totally fed up with getting everything out and packing it all away again at the end of each sewing session. It meant, of course, that I couldn’t just grab half an hour sewing here or there and could only be arsed sewing when I had hours to spare and was pretty much guaranteed to have the kitchen / dining table to myself for the duration. Inevitably even then one of the kids would come in and trip over the extension lead I’d trailed across the floor. Or bemoan the fact that my ironing board was in the way of the biscuit tin. Or ask if they could use the table, blah blah blah.

I was under their feet and they were under mine.

And that’s not even getting into how much time I routinely wasted turning the kitchen into a sewing area and then back into a kitchen again. Time I could have better spent sewing, right? Or hanging out with the kids. Or napping! I’m sure plenty of you also recognise the frustration.

We (I) increasingly began to talk of moving house. We (I) needed an extra room. But that debate went round in weary circles; the kids love it here. Then the Husband asked why I didn’t just set up in our bedroom. It’s a fairly long room. I mean, once he said it, it was the obvious solutionThe guy’s a frikkin genius. Or, y’know, just good at stating the blindingly obvious to the blinkered!

He measured up the space and I got to looking for what I needed, trawling through IKEA online like a woman possessed. I figured when we (I) eventually reclaim one of the kids’ bedrooms, it will be easy to source extra matching stuff from there to expand my set up.

Right now, I’m kicking myself. Why oh why didn’t I do this ages ago?!

I’ll start with the Alex drawers. These are the five drawer version (measuring 36/58/70 cms) with three shallower and two deeper drawers.

They are designed so they could fit underneath the table. though I decided to leave them out to the side to create extra ‘table top’ space. On the top I have my makeup brushes, a radio alarm clock, a few toiletries (this is in my bedroom, after all!), some sewing books and, crucially, a really strong directional daylight-bulb lamp.

Sewing room tour
Bits n Bobs

The top drawer is where I stash my notepad, iPad, glasses, other crap I can’t find a better place for. Let’s not bother taking a peak in there!

In the next drawer down, I’ve used these drawer compartmentaliser strips; you can cut them down to size and they interlock. I’ve got snaps, self-covered buttons and button maker, bendy ruler, Prym Tube turners, elastic threaders, a spare blade for my guillotine, spare pins and my bias binder makers in here.

Sewing room
If only the rest of my life were so easy to organise!

In the drawer below that I’ve got my Prym pliers kit and a box containing all my sewing machine feet, a buttonhole kit I sneakily nicked appropriated from my husband, safety pins and a lint shaver.

Sewing tools

Next drawer down I’ve stashed my overlocker threads:

Sewing room storage
Overlocker rainbow

And in the drawer below that I’ve got my hair dryer and makeup. (My daughter has inherited my dressing table!)

Next to the Alex drawers, on the floor under the table, I’ve got several clear plastic storage boxes which contain the cut fabric and notions for my ‘next in the queue’ projects. The box I’m currently working from sits atop.

Sewing storage
Upcoming ‘Project Boxes’

Moving back upwards, let’s have a look at my peg board shall we?

This is the Skadis pegboard; they come in various sizes with different accessories and can all be fixed together to create a really large space. However, I figured one would be enough for now. I really love the accessories, they’re super useful:

Sewing pegboard

You’ve got your usual hooks, from which I’ve suspended my shears, paper scissors, snips, embroidery scissors, duckbilled applique scissors, pinking shears, rotary cutter and French Curves (though you may have to really focus to see them in the picture!)

I’ve also got a Bluetooth speaker, which means I can keep my iPad out of the way when listening to Podcasts and have clearer sound. Given that I’m practically deaf as a plank, this is really useful.

Sewing storage

I really like these little storage container boxes; the lids remain fixed to the pegboard whilst the little container underneath slides out. Sooooo handy.

I’ve got glasses’ wipes, Tailors Chalk, Wonder Clips and machine needles in each of mine.


On the right hand side there are two large pocket bags. I’ve stashed the Patterns I’ll be working on next in these (they marry up with the project boxes underneath the table). They’re a good size and can easily hold large plastic wallets containing PDFs.

Sewing in a small space


The little table top spool holder pictured above contains the sewing machine threads I’m using currently or in upcoming projects…

…the rest of my threads are still hanging on the back of the door in the sewing cupboard in the kitchen.


The table itself, by the way, is the longest version of the Adils / Linnmon combos, measuring 200 cm x 60. This makes it a great length but not so deep that it takes up too much space into the depth of the room itself. It’s a really sturdy table, especially given its price!

Sewing room sew Sarah Smith

In between my sewing machine and overlocker I’ve got a couple of handy little storage bits…my little caddy holds Frixion pens, nail file (don’t want to snag that fabric!), Clover chalk pen, tracing wheel, makeup brush (for cleaning out lint from the overlocker), tissues, hand cream, Fray Stoppa (and a little brush to dab it on with), tweezers (for threading), a point turner, fork pins (for seam matching) and a bit of folded card (to help get my sewing machine foot over bulky seams). Oh and a flexible thimble. Which I never use. Ever.

Sewing gadgets

I’ve also got this cute little tree stump thing which my daughter made me last year, drilled with three holes, it’s perfect for holding my seam rippers and a pen!


This box pin cushion is really useful. It holds my needle threader, hand needles and thread wax. On each of the labelled collapsible sides, I stash used machine needles which I tend to use for toiles.

Sewing room storage

At the furthest end of my table I’ve got my ‘pinning station’, i.e. the place where I generally pin pieces together (I really didn’t need to clarify that did I?!) It’s covered by my self-healing mat with a directional clip on LED lamp. It’s also where a couple of fabric weights, a ruler, retractable tape measure, pins and (because my ironing board is set up right next to it), my Hot Hemmer, some Sullivan’s Fabric Stabiliser, tailors ham and sleeve roll, like to hang out.

Self healing cutting mat

And at the end of that hangs a full length mirror so I can check my Makes for fit whilst trying to ignore my reflection. That’s no mean feat let me tell ya. And yes, my  ironing board is at this end too. My dressmakers dummy hides in the corner.

And to slide between each of the stations / work areas on my table I’ve got this Skolberg / Sporken funky swivel chair. Turns out its much more forgiving to the lumbar region than a dining chair! And, yes, I do spend more time than is sensible just spinning around on it whilst my children roll their eyes at me for being immature; jealousy gets you nowhere, kids!

Sewing room ideas

I’m still utilising the storage space in the kitchen larder cupboard but this now contains ‘only’ fabric, my Patterns, guillotine and my haberstashery stuff. It needs a good sort out. But that’s for another time.

So that’s it! It takes up a relatively small amount of space and yet I feel like I’ve got plenty of room with everything I need to hand. I think I’m missing a couple of ‘really want’ items; a magnifying illuminating mirror (for unpicking hard-to-see stitches. Gawd I’m getting old) and a tailors clapper. Hopefully Santa (or someone) is listening!

Anyway, I hope that was potentially useful or at least … a bit interesting!? (And, no, this post was not sponsored by IKEA!)

I’m off, after all that it’s time to get cracking with some sewing!

Sew, until next time, xx



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Simplicity New Look 6884 shirtdress

Chambray Shirtdress (New Look 6884) & a Snap Chat (How to Insert Prym ‘Love’ Snaps Tutorial)


Girls Shirtdress sewing pattern
New look 6884 with Prym ‘Love’ Snaps

Hello! Well,  #sewtogetherforsummer has ended for this year; the winners notified and the prizes distributed but, curiously, I still wanted to make another Shirtdress! This time for my Pixie Princess – let’s face it, she’d heard me harp on enough about shirtdresses over the last few months she was bound to want one too!

So I made her New Look 6884 in a ‘Cherry Crimson’ Art Gallery Fabrics chambray (which comes in a gorgeous palette of colourways) as part of this months’ Minerva Crafts Blogger Network (see HERE). This is a great girl’s Shirtdress pattern with lots of options including a soft collar, a ruffle hem band and several sleeves. Whilst I like doing buttonholes, I decided to use the Prym range of plastic ‘Love’ snaps, which I thought added a fun and practical touch instead of the traditional button down front. You can read my post for Minerva which gives links to all the products and tools I used, from the pattern and fabric to the pliers and snaps HERE.

// How to Insert Prym ‘Love’ Snaps //

But I thought I’d talk about how to insert the snaps themselves in more detail here – a SnapChat if you will ;-) as I’d been a little unsure how to use them at first but, like most things, they’re incredibly simply once you know how! This little tutorial is a collaborative effort – I’ll supply the ‘how’ – you get to insert the smutty jokes and euphemisms! Ok?!

prym vario plyers pliers kit

I’ve had my Prym Pliers set (above) in my sewing kit for an age. Although it comes with a gazillion gadgets it doesn’t actually come with the specific ‘heads’ you need to use for the plastic snaps, so I bought the extra kit for a few quid (left pic). However, you can now get just a set of the pliers with the right heads in a special ‘Love’ kit (right pic):



The snaps themselves come in a range of colours and a variety of shapes; I used the red assortment ‘circle’ pack.

I definitely recommend practicing on a scrap piece of fabric first! Preferably the same thickness of fabric you’ll be using in your project.

plastic snaps how to insert

There’s a ‘female’ and ‘male’ under segment to each snap, which the fabric gets sandwiched between. They look like the pic below when they’re paired with the top shape (the bit with the long prong):

plastic snaps

So, firstly, put your attachments into your plier; the top is a clear silicone piece with a small hole running through its centre. The bottom is a white plate that holds the snap head.

prym plastic snaps how

Next put one of the top snaps (the one with the prong) onto the white plate…

prym vario love snaps

…and put it through your marked hole (I describe how I lined up and marked the snap holes on the dress itself on the dress blog post HERE).

prym love snaps tutorial

Then place the ‘female’ part of the snap over the protruding prong (insert your own smutty joke here ;-))

how to use varop pliers

Then the fun bit … SQUEEZE!!! What the plier effectively does is squeeze the two components parts of the snap together, securely sandwiching the fabric between. What it also does, essentially, is squish down and flatten that now defunct extra prong length. The snaps won’t, err, snap closed together without this.

pliers pkastic snaps

Repeat the whole process for the corresponding underside snap. Remember, if you’ve used the ‘female’ snaps on top, you’ll need the ‘male’ ones underneath. Use your own euphemism here to help you remember!



Really simple huh?! I hope I’ve explained it clearly enough; let me know! (If you’re tempted to have a go, as I say, links for everything can be found here). I now want to add snaps to all the things! If you see me with a pair of pliers in my hand, unless you want to be snapped, probably better to keep your distance for a while!

Until next time, I’ll be sewing up a pile of viscose for my holiday suitcase!





You can also find me on Instagram here xx



Sewing tools

What’s in my Sewing Kit? My Favourite Sewing Tools & Gadgets

Sewing tools

I’ve been thinking of doing a little ‘What’s in my Sewing Kit’ series for a while. Given that I’ve got something of a reputation over on Instagram as ‘Inspector Gadget Smith’ (because I regularly post whatever the latest thing to make me go “Squeeee!” is), I thought I’d kick off with my favourite sewing gadgets. Some may be obvious, others perhaps less so but, happily, most are fairly inexpensive (I’m not covering sewing machine feet here as my favourite feet deserve a post all of their own!)

Now, don’t get me wrong, these gadgets are not necessarily the essential basic ‘must haves’ in your kit or mine; I’m not talking seam rippers here! They are however my absolute favourite tools that I routinely reach for and thank my lucky stars I possess; I would shed real tears if you were to wrestle them out of my hands and run off with them! (So, y’know, don’t) haha!

In no particular order:-

Clover Hot Hemmer

Favourite sewing tools

I owe Clueless Leigh major thanks for this one, as she mentioned it in one of her Vlogs; a basic concept, simply fold your fabric to your desired marking and press for perfectly even hems/seam allowances. I use it constantly. I think I got mine from Amazon and probably paid over the odds for it. I don’t care, it’s worth every penny.

Clover Fork Pins


For matching seams these little fork Pins can’t be beat! I leave them in place as I sew, slowly, by turning the hand wheel. They come in a little plastic treasure chest type box, which I mention because these little fork pins are my kind of treasure! Again, I think these were an Amazon purchase.

Hemline Bobbin Match Mates


These things are genius! Genius I tell you!! Keep your bobbin threads together with your main spool (they hold up to two bobbins). Your spool and bobbin thread ends wrap neatly together to stop them becoming a jumbled mess. I got mine from Minerva here.

A Bit of Folded Card

Favourite sewing tools

Yeah don’t adjust your glasses; I’m serious. I use this all the time! In case you’re wondering, I slide it under the back of my sewing machine foot to level the foot out when negotiating thick seams etc. I’ve had this particular bit of folded cardboard for over a year!

Hemline Sewing / Quilting Measuring Gauge

What's in my sewing kit

A nifty double-sided little tool which has 14 different measurements on front and back (from 1/8″ to 1 3/4″). I think it’s fair to say mine has seen better days, having nearly come to a sticky end under the iron! This is just brilliant for marking out your stitching lines prior to sewing something where accuracy is key, like the shirt collar here. I really ought to order another but I’m curiously attached to its wonkiness!

Masking Tape

Beginners sewing kit

Oh slightly sticky paper how I love thee. Great for marking the right side / wrong side as well as numbering your pieces; marking stitching lines and as a guideline on your sewing machine. It peels off easily leaving little to no residue. I loves it!

Wrist Pincushion

What's in my sewing kit

Oh there are flashier sexier wrist pincushions out there but this little sunflower is priceless. It was bought for me by my then 5 yr old daughter out of her own piggy bank pocket money. It makes me smile every time I use it. Using it has also meant the percentage rate at which I hold pins in between my teeth and, therefore, the rate at which I routinely stab myself in the mouth, has dropped significantly!

Clover Wonder Clips

What's in my sewing kit tools gadgetssewing tools gadgets kit

I say Clover, but I’m sure there are loads of generic brands out there. These little clamps are so quick and easy to use; they don’t leave pin holes and are supposedly designed so you can sew past them…although I haven’t tried that last bit so don’t take my word for it!

Simflex ‘Buttonhole’ Gauge

What's in my sewing kit

Not an accurate depiction of how you’d use this thing admittedly but y’know artistic license an’ all that! I haven’t used this a great deal to be fair but I can see it’s going to be seriously priceless when I come to sewing up some summer shirtdresses* soon. Great for evenly marking out pleats or anything else for that matter too. I got mine from Jaycotts; they have a tendency to get them in and then they sell out for a while before restocking.

Makeup Brush

What's in my sewing kit

No, not for re-powdering my nose when things go wrong and I get all hot and bothered; if you’re anything like me a brush barely meets my hair on sewing days never mind putting makeup on haha! But repurposing a brush from from your makeup kit is a good idea if you haven’t already. Thorough yet gentle when used for cleaning out the fabric dust from your overlocker or sewing machine and so much better than the itty bitty thing your machine probably came with. It tells you something about my priorities when I can say my overlocker is kept cleaner than my oven haha *feelsguiltyandrunstocleanoven*

Bias Binder Makers

Sewing gadgets

I love my little rainbow of binders and they work brilliantly; the set came in sizes 6, 12, 18 and 25 mm. I love making my own bias strips from left over fabric pieces. I tend to buy block colour bias but if I want something a bit more individual or particular, I make my own. I can’t remember where I got my little bias making kit from but a quick Google search reveals you can get them practically anywhere!


What's in my sewing kit

Great for when threading your overlocker or for pulling your threads out from under your sewing machine foot as well as a multitude of other little fiddly jobs. Especially good for pulling out nests of thread that have got tangled up in the feed dogs. Ask me how I know.

Chaco Chalk Liner

What's in my sewing kit

Does ‘exactly what it says on the tin’. The chalk is dispersed over the super fine drawing wheel so you can achieve sharp lines; great for marking darts etc. Comes in lots of colours and is refillable.

Any here you have or want? What’s your favourite tool(s),  I’d love to know…

Until next time,

Sew Sarah smith


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