Tools of the Trade or What Every Seamless Sailor Wants for the Holidays

Do you have what you need to get your project started and completed?  Here’s a list of the items I use most.

(Elves:  does your Seamless Sailor have these tools?!)


Hot knife or soldering tool – Essential for finishing the ends of Sunbrella to prohibit raveling.  Don’t forget a safe surface to use it on.  See secret trick.

Heavy-duty scissors, fabric shears and small thread cutter – Like knives to a chef, scissors are to the Seamless Sailor.

Measuring tools, “L” and “T” shaped measuring tools – These measures are great for making patterns.  Also need a short measure for at the sewing machine and metal yard stick.

Marking pens – light and dark.  The washable ones work well as do the soapstone.  Get extras.

Heavy” T” pins or a stapler – You can staple Sunbrella to hold it temporarily.

Double stick tape or basting tape – Can be easier than pins with heavy fabrics.  Plus no holes left behind.

Hand sewing needles – For finishing work.  Try to have several sizes.

Seam rippers – Notice I have that as plural.  Seam rippers are our friends

Accessories for your sewing machine – A good light and attachments can make your time at the machine more enjoyable. If you get the left sided zipper pressure foot, you may as well get the right one.  If you need one, you’ll end up wanting the other.  The Captain added an extension to my light cord.  An extension cord with extra plugs helps sort the cords from the machine.

Extra machine bobbins – Secret trick:  While you are winding bobbins, wind 2-3 at a time.  You know you’ll need them. Store them with the matching thread spool in the foamy toe separators from your last pedicure or from the dollar store.

Grommets and snaps, cutting and setting tools – Adding cool grommets to use for attaching line, tie downs etc.  This drill attachment cutter makes quick work of  cutting the grommet holes.

Various tools – Hammers, punches, awls – This Seamless Sailor’s husband can usually find his missing tools in the sewing tool box.

Starboard – A good size piece of extra Starboard or a cutting board made of similar material will be useful when setting grommets or snaps.

Boxes or tool bag – Got to contain all this stuff.

Reference book(s) – Hard copy or Kindle version, you know you’ll have a question or two.

Fabric, vinyl (for chafe), thread and machine needles sized for the job at hand and extra for repairs.  Sailrite has a great chart in the catalog to keep handy.

Notions or items for your specific project – Shock cord and hogs?  Zippers? D rings? Snaps? Twist locks?

Where to Buy

You can find many of these items at local fabric stores and some at the hardware store or, of course, Sailrite carries just about anything you’d need as do other online stores.  Don’t forget marine consignment shops for bargains.


Finding storage on the boat for the machine and your tools and extra fabric can be a challenge.  The machine will need to be secured so it doesn’t become a hazard underway.  The extra fabric can we sealed in vacuum bags or extra large zipper bags and stored in a less accessible place until needed.  Your tools you may need to access periodically for a quick repair.  Make sure you can get to them.


Document your work.  My captain says it’s all about the documentation (or all about storage depending on the day).   If you are creating a pattern for something specific to your boat, you are likely to need to recreate it in a few years.  Make notes of pattern sizes, materials used (including color and thread size), and how you constructed it.  I have a file on my computer of sewing project directions.  You don’t want to have to reinvent the…hatch cover.


Free Radical ( – Julie offers a more detailed list of sewing supplies to have on board.  She also offers her list and more about notions in Canvas for Cruisers.

What other tools do you use routinely?  I’ll update the list as we think of others.

8 thoughts on “Tools of the Trade or What Every Seamless Sailor Wants for the Holidays

  1. For this sailing seamstress I cannot stress how often I use my seam ripper! It’s one of my favorite tools. The best one I have found I got at Walmart and it has a super ergonomic design. Best part was it was cheap 🙂

    Other tools I use regularly not on your list is clothes pins. When dealing with heavy fabrics these are a LOT easier to use than pins in my opinion.

    When we were staying at the yacht club they had a big 60″ metal yard stick that was amazing to have. Sadly, aboard my boat we only have a regular size.

    If you are sewing on a boat I would also recommend adding a head lamp to your tool kit as it helps once the sun goes down.

    My last essential tool that I recently acquired is a Pres-N-Snap. It’s genius. I held out for quite some time as they are so expensive but after one bloody thumb when my tool broke setting a stainless snap I had enough. I got a good deal on Ebay. I’m finding reasons to snap things now. I love it!

    1. Thanks, Kelley. Great tips! I haven’t used clothes pins, but I have used binder clips for similar purpose. I’m jealous about the Pres-N-Snap. I can’t quite justify the expense yet, but maybe… Enjoy your sewing projects! -Annette

  2. something I do related to your secret trick of multiple bobbin winding. I wind 5 to 7 bobbins (depending on fabric, project, etc) When I run out of bobbins, I change to a new needle. Skipped stitches are often the result of a dull needle. No more trying to figure out how many hours I have been sewing with a needle. Or trying to remember when I put in a new one.
    s/v Finally Free
    thanks for a great blog for those of us new to working with all these new fun toys

    1. Cyndy, Thanks for the tip. I couldn’t tell you when I last changed needles! I do have a piece of masking tape on the side of the machine telling what size needle I have in the machine. Was that a #18?! I suppose I could add the date there too. But changing every several bobbins is a great idea. -Annette

  3. Love the blog, btw!

    As for tools, one really nice set of seam rippers comes from Lee Valley Tools. It’s called the Pro-seam ripper and consists of two holders for different shaped surgical steel blades that I find really useful. They are quite pricey but come with spare blades and they do last a long time. They are also incredibly sharp so be careful 🙂

  4. I store my sewing machine with lots of little bags of silica gel which i have collected over the years. It all goes in a zip bag with sewing machine oil. No rust on my metal Elna after 5 years afloat!

Leave a Reply