13 Fashion Design Tools I can’t Live Without

Over the years, I’ve accumulated lots of tools and equipment that I use for pattern making, sewing and craft projects. You could say one of my guilty pleasures is shopping for pattern making and sewing tools, I know it may sound strange but I’m not the only one that does this… my fellow creative friends can relate to this.

As a student my friends and I use to disagree when it came to my scissor and its usage. It’s funny when you say to someone they can’t use your fabric shears to cut random things it becomes a heated debate - (why not its just a pair of scissors). I’ve invested a lot of dollars in my tools & equipment from the get-go because I wanted to get good mileage out of them before they become collector’s items.

1a. OK, let’s dive in; these are the 13 or more fashion pattern cutting and sewing tools and equipment I can’t live without, even if I tried. Just having the correct tools and equipment makes your job even more of a pleasure to do. My pattern cutting tutor always advised us to keep our tools in a tool bag or a box to preserve them, I passed on the tradition to my students.

I can remember my first week at fashion college we made a sewing tool bag in our garment construction lesson, I’ve kept the tool bag but I no longer use it as its worn out totally, it’s now become a collector’s item. I’ve since updated my tool bag to this one which is padded to protect my bradawl and tracing wheel.

1b. Nothing beats having a comfortable pair of scissors to cut fabric especially when you’re cutting all day. I use my card scissors to cut manila card, it’s heavy with a short blade and a long handle. When you cut along a pencil line on the card using the length of the blade you end up with a smooth cut line whilst resting the scissor on the table, the main reason why I like to use a mechanical pencil with a 0.3mm lead.

I use these lighter weight paper scissors for cutting paper only.


1c. I like using these lightweight scissors when I’m cutting linings, silks and fusible interfacing. It has long blades and what’s good about this type of scissor is the scissors rest on the table as you cut the fabric.

This type of fabric shears is heavy like the card scissors, I have a collection of scissors that I use for varies types of fabrics wool, silk, net, linen and cotton with the size ranging from small to large.

Professional clothing block patterns

2. I always have a set of digital block patterns or customised block patterns printed out that are made to the client’s specifications, this enables me to crank out flat patterns effectively.

3. I’ve got a thing about mechanical pencils. I like to use a 2h or 4h 0.5mm lead pencil when I’m making patterns on pattern paper for accuracy and precision. When I’m teaching I sometimes use an HB or coloured pencils with a 0.7mm/0.9mm lead so it’s visible on the screen.

When I’m transferring the pattern onto manila card then I’ll use a 3h 0.3mm lead pencil purely for accuracy and precision.

4. Over the years I’ve used a pattern makerfashion curve and a set square grader. These can be used to create patterns, draw straight lines, add seam allowances, mark in hip-lines, grain-lines, establish 45 and 90-degree angles, neckline curves, shape armholes, measure around curves, use as a compass and grade patterns.

One of my student gave me a beautiful set of see through grading rulers from China over 20 years ago and I’ve been attached to these bad boys ever since then. Their very light, compact and it also has 0.5mm, 0.7mm and 12mm markings, the red markings have faded out.

5. Omg, I couldn’t make patterns without my garment stands. I was first introduced to them when I started fashion college, before this mum taught me to make clothes by measuring the body with the tape measure, mark with tailor's chalk straight onto the cloth, cut and sew.

It just made so much sense to invest in a professional dress stand of my own; frankly, it’s a pain to do fittings in the mirror by yourself. You can make the dress stand larger by making torso covers in larger sizes to fit on your base size dress stand, just like Christian Dior fashion house did many years ago.


And the half-scale dress stand I use when I’m teaching/demonstrating or when I'm creating garments to be made in expensive fabrics.

6. My tape measure usually spends the day around my neck. I don’t like tape measures that have a 2cm metal tip on the end because it’s covering a part of the numbers. It has to be fibreglass all the way; the other types I find tend to stretch or the markings fade really quickly.

I use a narrow tape measure when I’m working on a small scale, this allows me to measure in the smallest places on the stand or flat pattern.

7. Whenever I need to create style lines on a 3d design (on the stand) I use either adhesive styling tape or cotton stay tape with pins. I don’t like to use the adhesive styling tape directly on the stand because it makes the stand become sticky after a while, I create a duplicate body and place it on the stand and use adhesive styling tape.

8. I’m a stickler when it comes to sewing pins; I use the colour headed long pins for the majority of projects i.e. silk, lace, jersey etc. I don’t like machining over my pins as they become blunt and it also ruins my sewing machine.

9. This is my faithful friend my pattern notcher, this particular one I love because the notch is 0.3mm wide. You can also purchase a notcher with a 0.5mm notch. Others I’ve used in the past have a more wider cut out for the notch. Can you imagine a pattern without notches? 

10. This spot and cross pattern paper is widely used in the fashion industry by pattern makers to create paper patterns, it’s available in various widths on a large roll or you can purchase in small quantities. I also use plain pattern paper to sandwich fluid fabrics like crepe satin or Georgette in between before cutting out as this method stabilises the fabric.

Then I place my pattern on the top with weights or sometimes with cloth clamps before cutting out, you have much more control. The 350gsm Manilla card is used for master/block patterns.

11. You’ll be amazed at the amount of scotch magic tape you use each season. I prefer to use the magic tape because it does what it says on the tin (whenever I write, draw and erase pencil lines its like magic). I also use pritt stick for pattern work. 

12. I use mapping pins when I'm working in small scale and different size pattern weights to hold fabric and paper in place. They are an absolute god sends especially when I’m working with large pattern pieces i.e. bridal or evening wear. Pinning and cutting volumes of fabrics can be very time-consuming.

13. Last but not least is (drum roll please) my industrial sewing machine. Whenever I sit at my machine I cruise off into another world… I have wonderful memories of when I first started sewing with mum at the age of seven/eight. This bad boy is a must if you’re doing lots of sewing or you could use a good quality and sturdy domestic sewing machine. Just make sure you test out various domestic or industrial sewing machines before you purchase the chosen one.

In a nutshell, when you invest or have the correct tools and equipment for any job, boy does it make your life a whole lot easier. 

What's your favourite pattern cutting, sewing or crafts tools and equipment?

Tell us in the comments below...

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