First up is a walking foot, also known as an even feed foot. I've had this one in my arsenal for a long time, but I've never sung its praises outside of a line here or there. Let's say you have your regular presser foot on your machine, and you're going to sew a basic seam. You may notice that sometimes the top layer ends up being a little bit longer than the bottom. That's because the layer on the bottom (that runs over the feed dogs) feeds a teeny bit faster than the top layer. Those teeny bits add up, making the top layer smoosh out of place a bit (unless you pin well and try to ease in any slight...offness). Most of the time this is no biggie. Try this on a quilt, though, and you could very well have a hot mess. Trust me on that one.... If you look at the above photo you'll see towards the left are two white pieces with what look like teeth on them. When this foot is attached to your machine those teeth (which are actually feed dogs of a sort) feed the top layer of fabric through at the same rate as the bottom fabric, so your layers stay nice and tidy. It makes quilting so much less frustrating. I also use it for edge-stitching around the top of my handbags, as well as keeping stripes and plaids matched up just right. These are pretty affordable, and well worth the expense. Just make sure you get one that's compatible with your machine (which, I believe most are--my Janome brand foot is exactly the same as the generic one I bought for my wee Singer all those years ago).
This one is one of my new favorite things. It's a clapper. Not a clap on/clap off clapper but a pressing clapper. I have the one in the bottom photo, that is just the clapper. The one in the top photo has the clapper on the bottom and a point presser (for pressing open tiny seams) on the top. It's made of a very hard wood, so if you're handy or have a handy guy you could probably make one of these yourself. These are used to get nice, flat seams and to give folded edges (think hems) that fabulous crisp finish. All you do is press as you normally would, then place this on top and apply some pressure. The wood absorbs the steam, and this has some sort of effect on the fabric. I get crisp hems like I've never been able to get before. I get asked quite often to hem pants, and this makes the work go so quickly as once I press with this I don't need to pin. My sister used it to hem a jersey skirt, and she was amazed at how simple the hem was to sew (when she had fought with the rest of the skirt). If you're into garment sewing this could be quite helpful (especially when you need to flatten thicker seams, like with jeans).
And now a little something for the non-sewists. I have tried several different kinds of crochet hooks over the years (it's almost ten years since I sat with my grandma and she patiently taught me the art--wow!!!) and I have finally found one that I can call my favorite. I've tried bamboo hooks, but was never able to get a nice rhythm going. I've tried Boye brand, but the way their hook is formed slows me down tremendously as I feel like it doesn't grab the yarn. My favorite brand is Susan Bates as the hook feels just right. OK, that being said--those aluminum hooks can be uncomfortable to hold. The grip is small, which makes my knuckles hurt, and in winter they're cold to hold. Last year I found them for sale with a bamboo handle. Wow. My favorite hook made infinitely more comfortable. Delightful.
So just in case you get stuck like I do when I'm asked "What would you like for Christmas?" you might consider putting the above on your list for Santa. None of them are actually necessary, but they make life so much easier. And I tend to enjoy my little bits of crafting time more when I'm not fighting with my project and begging and pleading for it to cooperate.
Are you asking for any crafty bits for Christmas? Do tell. Seriously, tell. I'm always looking for ideas.