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Sewing notions is an umbrella term used to describe the many small accessories used in sewing. This includes objects which are stitched onto a garment or other piece of sewing work. It is also applied to the small tools used to sew. Some of the most commonly used sewing notions are thread, fasteners such as zippers, buttons, and snaps, needles and pins, and seam rippers.
Thread is the fine string which is usually stitched through two pieces or ends of material to join them together. It is normally sold in spools, and can be loaded onto a sewing machine or fed through a needle for handwork. Thread is available in a wide array of colors. Often, sewers choose a thread that matches the material with which they are working, although a contrasting shade is sometimes chosen for decorative purposes.
Fasteners such as zippers, buttons, and snaps are another common variety of sewing notions. These notions are sewn onto projects requiring a closure that is not fixed. For instance, when constructing dresses, sewers often put in a zipper closure. This zipper can be opened, allowing the wearer to easily slip the dress on, and then closed to keep it in place.
Needles and pins are two of the most essential sewing notions. It is the needle which does the actual work of stitching, whether by hand or as part of a sewing machine. A length of thread is fed through the needle’s eye. The needle’s point is then passed in and out of the material at hand, pulling the thread with it and creating stitches. Needles are available in a range of sizes and are normally selected to suit the thickness of the material being sewn.
Pins are also indispensable to most sewing projects. They are similar to needles, except their tops are blunt and they do not have eyes. Pins are generally used to hold two pieces of fabric together before the pieces have been joined with stitches. This helps ensure that the sewer places her seams accurately. The pins are usually removed in stages as stitching progresses.
Some sewing notions are used for deconstruction rather than creation. Perhaps most common among these is the seam ripper, a small tool with a forked end which is used to tear the stitches from a project while causing minimal damage to the material. A seam ripper is useful in releasing a hem that must be readjusted. It can also be used when a sewer is unhappy with a row of stitching and wishes to remove it and start again.
It's hard to have too many sewing notions. I always make sure I have a packet of hook-and-eye fastenings, metal snaps and safety pins in my sewing box. I bought a button assortment and keep those too, along with any extra buttons that come with a garment I bought.
It's not a bad idea to have a couple of packets of elastic, either, in 1/2 inch and 1-inch widths. These can be really helpful for a mending/restructuring project. Elastic can deteriorate over time, so I always keep some around. You never know when you might need it!
I'd also add that the person looking at sewing notions needs to look for good, sharp needles. Some needles, while not blunt ended, just aren't sharp enough for precise hand sewing. Look for "sharp" or "sharps" on the package to make sure you're getting good needles.
I'd also recommend stocking up on some basic thread colors: white, beige, navy, red, pink, black and gray. Thread isn't that expensive, and these colors should get you through most situations, particularly in an emergency.
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