Secret Lives of Kitchen Tools

Sounds like a spy novel but I’m proud of myself for using that phrase here because it is so apt! You may have all the gadgets and notions designed for certain sewing tasks, or you may not. If not, amble into your kitchen and…. we’ll, read on.

Chopping board :

In the kitchen I used my a new wooden board mainly for cutting produce type stuff, or slicing bread. Until it got a good scrubbing, and was used for slicing open buttonholes. There are two more chopping boards dedicated to kitchen work, so it was never missed there. I’ve had enough with the 2 inch (or less) wood pieces that are marketed with the buttonhole chisels and get all gouged with repeated buttonhole cutting in the same spot; the larger kitchen board will eventually get gouged out with use, but at least I can place the entire buttonhole strip on it and make fast work of slitting open the buttonholes.

Dinner Fork:

How it’s done starting with 2nd row, left pic: the width of fabric should be 3 times the desired pleated measurement. I started with a 36” strip which is really 35” — oopsy. Mark lines 3 inch apart (black lines in photo), then three sections within each 3” section (red lines. Fork facing you, insert fabric into lowest prong at the middle red line. Turn the fork over, pushing front fabric under all the way to the presser foot. Slide out fork, adjust if needed and stitch up to the new fold. Oh heck, watch it on YouTube here.

Using a fork to fold pleats as I sew along was a revelation. It was something I’d heard of vaguely but never tried — until I did. Sure, I could pull out the Bernina ruffling attachment which pleats fabric but what if I want large pleats in relatively thick fabric? A fork will help ya. Things to remember: one pleat has three layers, so predetermine and mark accordingly. A dinner fork has a 1” wide tine (prongs) area — the part that goes in your mouth. Therefore, if your sewing plan includes 1” pleats, go grab a dinner fork. Needs a few minutes of practice but it’s easy to get a hang of.

Coffee stirrers:

Lower left photo is a project from Carol’s book, Fine Machine Sewing . Obviously I need lots of practice. Prepping is important, so starch the fabric well. Tape the stirrer centered in front of the presser foot, select a stitch such as zig zag or the feather or Venetian stitch, adjust to the widest width your machine can do. For my sample, I folded two strips of starched muslin, placed each on either side of coffee stirrer and under the presser foot. Stitch slowly, making sure to hold down the fabric on both sides. Sorry, no video.

I credit sewing author and teacher Carol Laflin Ahles with this trick. Fagoting is an embellishment technique which joins two pieces of fabric together with decorative stitches and a little gap between edges; here, accuracy is required whether using a machine or hand. Carol tapes a coffee stirrer in front of the presser foot to guide the two fabric edges evenly. Thing to remember before you even begin is that the stirrer should be narrower than the width of your machine’s widest stitch width. Again, it took some sample making on my part — and I have questions about the decorative stitches – a zig zag is the only one that worked for me; the feather stitch and the Venetian stitch looked like a zigzag stitch once sewn. This requires further research and development on my part. I’ll report back.


There are many accomplished sewing enthusiasts who have taken advantage of a dinner or smaller plate shape to trace an evenly scalloped edge, or trace a rounded corner on a linear shape such as a patch pocket. Sure, us sewing gadget enthusiasts own scallop rulers or pocket templates. I assure our beginners that you don’t need to go crazy with purchases if you would like to try a scalloped edge on a hem or other project. Go crazy about scallop rulers after you’ve mastered sewing the scalloped edge.

Kitchen counter or stand alone island: I discovered this a bit late in my sewing life. My folding wood cutting table had become rickety and went to someone who could fix it and put it to good use. Fabric cutting tasks were then relegated to the floor level on a gridded mat. Ouch. Someone recommended that I use a kitchen counter to cut out stuff. Hmmm. Well, my counter does have three open sides and curved on the breakfast area side, so it’s pretty wide for small cutting tasks but it isn’t long enough for things like pants. Still, my back thanks me when I do use the counter.

Coffee filters as a stabilizer: I’m a tea drinker so there are no coffee filters here but I have heard of people using them as embroidery or buttonhole stabilizers in a pinch.

Baking Parchment paper: I am a baker, and therefore have a steady supply when I need to trace or quickly sketch something. (Smiling smugly emoji here).

Before I Leave:

….. I’ll share this image from InStyle magazine. It’s bound to bring a smile to a sewer’s heart. All those little used thread spools make for a whimsical and cutest hairstyle. Love it! Wishing health and happiness to all — Samina

2 thoughts on “Secret Lives of Kitchen Tools

    1. I had no idea what was “groot” until I received the chopping board! Only bought it because of the interesting shape. And then saw the Marvel logo on the back, and “Groot” on the label. I’m so out of it. Hahaha 🤣


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