What’s the best self healing cutting mat for sewing and quilting?

When you start quilting or need to cut small pieces of fabric with a rotary cutter you’ll find that a cutting mat is almost an essential piece of equipment.  Self healing mats are ideal because they can withstand a lot of work and if you have lots of quilting to do this is what you need!  In this article I’m looking at the best self healing cutting mat for sewing and quilting but even if you do other crafts such as model making you should find this buying guide helpful.

What to look for in the best self healing cutting mat

Size – see below for my thoughts on what size to go for, but in general make sure it’s going to be big enough for your needs.  How big are the pieces you’re going to be cutting?  If only small squares then a small mat might be sufficient, but if you’re cutting larger pattern pieces then a larger mat should be considered.

Measurement markings – most cutting mats have measurement lines on them but not all of them have them in inches and in metric (centimetres).  Depending on what you like to work with just check that it suits you.

How thick it is – I find that a slightly thicker mat is much nicer to cut on than the really thin mats

How well it copes with cuts – a self healing mat should do just that, self heal.  It shouldn’t show up cuts from your rotary cutter or x-acto knife (although some don’t do well with straight edge blades).  Always check reviews from many people to see if it does hold up – the mats picked below have been checked for you.


What size cutting mat should you go for?

This question can only be answered thinking about the space that you have available.  I have to say that since I got the biggest one that I had room for I’ve been much happier – it feels less fiddly to cut my quilting pieces because I am free to put things wherever I like rather than being confined to a small space.  Obviously if you cut large pattern pieces then you’ll need something that can accommodate them.

Most rotary cutting mats come in various sizes from small to very large but when you go up in size the prices go up quite dramatically too.  Think about your budget and the space available and get the best and biggest you can afford.


Our self healing cutting mat reviews:


Alvin Professional Cutting Mats

The top of my list and one that is quite reasonable on the pocket book is this cutting mat from Alvin.  It comes highly recommended and when you see the quality of this item you’ll see why.

It self heals really well and can withstand a lot of use from both rotary cutters and from straight edge blades too.  It’s green on one side and black on the other side, with both sides featuring grid lines in 1/2 inch gradations.  The measurements are solely in inches.

Also if you’re looking for a large cutting mat this one comes in a variety of sizes – the largest being 80″ x 40″!

You can see more about this item on Amazon here


Fiskars Self Healing Rotary Cutting Mat

Fiskars is one of the best names when it comes to tools to cut your fabrics and so it’s no surprise that they have a cutting mat on sale too.

This one is a really great product and available in three different sizes – 12″x18″, 18″x24″ and also 24″x 36″.  It’s a solid white colour, not see through as the picture might suggest and it’s double sided so you can use both sides.

As well as the guide lines, which are in inches, there’s also some really helpful diagonal lines at 30, 45 and 60 degree angles, great if you’re cutting shapes like triangles and stars that need that.

Fiskars also do a 3 piece set that includes a cutter and ruler, so if you’re searching for the best rotary cutter and mat then I’d also check that set out – you can see it here.  It would be perfect for those starting out.

If you’re just after the cutting mat then you can see more about it here.


Olfa Double-Sided, Self healing Rotary Mat

Finally we have the self healing mat from Olfa – another really good brand in the craft world.

What I like about this mat is that the grid lines are really helpful on it.  It’s measured in inches but there’s also a section of the mat that has more lines in it so if you need smaller measurements it’s easy to use that section.  There’s also lots of angled lines to help with cutting on the bias etc.

This mat comes in 2 different sizes – 18″ x 12″ and 24″ x 36″ so both really good sizes.

The Olfa mats are for use with rotary blades, not utility knives although you could use them it might reduce the life expectancy of the mat.

You can see more about the Olfa mat on Amazon here.

Best sewing machine for beginners 2018

Choosing a beginners sewing machine can often feel like minefield for novice sewers.  Do you need just the basics or should you go for a bigger and better machine that runs the risk of being too overwhelming?  In this article I’ll be looking at the best sewing machine for beginners that are on the market right now and hopefully helping you to narrow down what will hopefully be the machine to help you move on from beginner status and provide many hours of happy sewing!

Choosing the best sewing machine for beginners – what to consider

You have two options when looking for your first sewing machine – you can get something extremely simple and aim to get a bigger and better machine when you’ve become happy and confident in how to use them.  Or you could choose to get a more feature rich but easy to use sewing machine that will be fine even when you’re at an intermediate or advanced level.

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My personal thoughts, and the way I went when I was a starter was to go for the latter.  I chose the best easy to use sewing machine around back then and it lasted me quite a few years.  I’m glad that I went this way as I would have outgrown a more basic model really fast.  However if all you want to do is simple stitches and you’re not sure whether you will need more features then a starter sewing machine should suffice.

This guide shows a few machines from each group.  Things to bear in mind no matter what you choose are:

  • ease of use
  • price – good machines can be had under $150 but perhaps raise it to $200 if you want it to progress with you
  • reputable manufacturer – I’d advise staying away from names you’ve not heard of even if they are cheap sewing machines.  You may need repairs or spares in future and good brands means you’ll be fine with finding them.
  • how often will you use it?  A more expensive machine might not be worth it for your intended use.
  • What kind of projects will you want to do?  If clothing, make sure you have buttonhole capability – makes life a lot easier!
  • weight – if you intend to take it to classes make sure it’s easy to carry


Our beginner sewing machine reviews

The following are some of the top rated beginner sewing machines around at the moment.


Brother XM2701 Lightweight Sewing Machine

If you’re looking for an all round great value and easy sewing machine then this entry level one from Brother is a really good choice.  I like it because it’s simple, but not too simple!  It has a variety of stitches, including buttonholes and hemming stitches so a great choice for dressmaking and all of the stitches are selected by turning the dial at the front.

I think this particular model is perfect for budding dressmakers who don’t want to be overwhelmed but similarly don’t want really basic machines.

  • 27 unique built in stitches
  • instructional dvd
  • 6 accessory sewing feet
  • automatic needle threader
  • lightweight

Overall I think the BrotherXM2701 is one of the best starter sewing machines and it’s my top choice.

Click here for the latest price


Singer 3232 Simple Sewing Machine

This sewing machine from Singer is similar in specification to the one above except this one has slightly more stitches.  It includes 32 – 6 essential stitches, 6 stretch stitches, 19 decorative and 1 buttonhole.  Definitely enough here to learn and experiment with some new ones and again would suit student dressmakers, those wishing to do soft furnishings or decorative items too.

If you’re looking to save money but you like this one, there’s a version with just 21 stitches that is a little bit cheaper and is worth considering.

  • 32 stitches
  • Automatic needle threader
  • 4 snap on feet included – all-purpose, buttonhole, button and zipper

Singer is an excellent brand if you’re looking for a good branded but basic sewing machine so you’ll not go far wrong with this one.

Check out this item here


Singer 1234 Sewing Machine

This machine, again from Singer, is probably about as basic as you want to go.  If you want to do just basic sewing, alterations or want the easiest kind to learn on without spending a lot of dollars this one would be great.  It’s a really competitive price being almost half what some of the other machines cost – if you decide you don’t like sewing you certainly won’t have lost a lot of money.

It’s a really fun machine too with decals to decorate it and a free tote bag project sheet that you can make and customize to store your machine.  I think it’s an excellent choice for a child or teenager too.

  • no bells and whistles – just a basic sewing machine
  • 6 built in stitches including a 4 step buttonhole
  • fun and customizable design

If the best basic sewing machine is what you’re looking for then you’ll find it in this one!

See reviews and latest price on here


Janome 2212 Sewing Machine

Janome is an excellent make of sewing machine and their 2212 model is a great entry model.  This one comes with a bonus bundle of extra sewing machine needles and bobbins – always handy!  It’s a high quality machine that is basic yet works well even when dealing with lots of layers.

  • 12 built in stitches
  • 4 step buttonhole
  • lightweight
  • basic but high quality

Janome are again a really good brand so great if you ever run in to issues.  This is a really good starter sewing machine for all beginners.

Check the latest price here


Brother CS6000i Sewing Machine

Definitely not in the basic category but I feel this one deserves a spot as a the best computerized sewing machine for beginners so if you’re looking for something that will grow with you it’s perfect.

Some people don’t want anything too basic, possibly because they have some experience with machines or because they can see it becoming something they want to move way beyond the basics of.  Either way, a computerized sewing machine can be a good choice for a newbie if you’re not daunted easily and this one is excellent and not too expensive.

It has 60 in built sewing stitches which are all selected by the lcd monitor.  Many are decorative but there’s also 7 different buttonholes as well as the basic stitches.  You get a host of accessories with this sewing machine too including lots of different presser feet and a hard carry case.

  • computerized – controlled by lcd screen
  • 60 stitches
  • oversized table – great for quilting
  • comes with hard carry case
  • easy to use

Brother is one of my favorite sewing machine brands because of their customer support – you’ll find that this machine is one of the best Brother sewing machines for beginners!

Check out the reviews and latest price here


I hope you enjoyed this series of reviews and that it helps you purchase the best sewing machine for beginners!  Do let me know if you need any help with your purchase.







What’s the best light for sewing room?

One of the main excitements for me this year is doing up my sewing room – it’s been pretty much my sewing machine in a spare room for ages, but this year I’m converting it to a full on craft room!  It’s a pretty dark room even in the height of the summer and in winter it’s not the most welcoming so I’ve been searching for a good lamp.  I wanted to share with you what I’ve found to help make the choice of the best light for sewing room easy for you too!

How to choose the best light for sewing room

When I was looking for a lamp I wanted a few things –

  • it had to be a free standing lamp.  I want to be able to move it should I need to.
  • It had to be able to be angled – again with sewing we need the light in certain parts!
  • It had to provide good natural light – I suffer from migraines and bad light does not help.
  • Energy efficiency was also important.
  • It had to look nice!  I didn’t want an ugly plastic lamp.

Ok, so with that in mind here’s my top 4…

Sewing room lamp reviews

Brightech Lifespan LED Reading and Craft Floor Lamp

This is the one I chose personally and I think you’ll see why – it’s beautiful and I really love the addition of wood on the base and light fitting.

It ticked every single one of my wish lists above with a gooseneck that can be angled, a freestanding wooden base (you can get other colors too) and an energy efficient, yet bright, LED bulb.

The bulb is also dimmable so you can set it to how you want it to be.  The only downside for me is that it’s integrated in to the unit so when the bulb goes the lamp needs to be replaced – it does say that it will last 20 years so I have a while to worry about it.

What sold it to me was all the positive reviews on Amazon as well – if you want to take a look at the many thousand (!) on there and to see the latest price click here.


Lavish Home Natural Full Spectrum Reading and Crafting Floor Lamp

If price is a concern to you and you’re looking for the cheapest yet best floor lamp for your sewing room then I think this is an excellent choice.  It’s about half the price of the one I went for so a good deal.

It has many features such as the gooseneck that can be angled where you want it. The bulb in this one is replaceable and is also inexpensive when it does need replaced.   It lasts around 5000 hours.

One of the main issues with this one is that it isn’t very sturdy so if that’s a problem for you it might be better to go for a different lamp.  For the price though I think it’s definitely a steal.

Check out the latest price on Amazon here


Trond LED Gooseneck Floor Lamp


Now this lamp is pretty special because not only is it a floor lamp it can also be transformed in to a desk lamp by removing the poles.  I do like the different functionality but whether you’d do that often enough for it to be worthwhile as a feature I’m not sure.  Nice to have the option though.

It uses dimmable LEDs, which like the Brightech cannot be replaced, and can be set at 5 different lighting levels depending on what you’re doing.  It’s very sturdy with a decent weight base plate too.

As well as being able to be a desk lamp by removing the poles, you can adjust the height by using all or just some of them meaning it can be as tall as 70″.

This is a really good option if you want some versatility, perhaps if you want to use the lamp for different things.

You can see more reviews and the latest price of this model here.


Baltoro LED floor lamp

Finally we have this one from Baltoro which I liked for the fact that it wasn’t as expensive as some of the other options and for the fact it has diffusing cover which means the light is a softer and less harsh experience while still being helpful for seeing while sewing and crafting!

This has LEDs in that should last 20+ years and can’t be replaced and it is extremely energy efficient using just 12 watts.  It’s a fairly basic lamp but has all the features you’d need like a dimming option and an adjustable head.  It’s 65″ tall and comes in black or a light gray.

Check out the latest price of this lamp on Amazon here

Best dress form for home sewing

If you’re at all interested in sewing clothes then investing in a dress form or mannequin is well worth it.  Finding the best dress form for home sewing might seem like a tricky task though so I hope you find this article worthwhile where I’m going through some of the most popular items on the market at the moment from the budget end to the more professional.

Why do you need a dress form for sewing clothes?

Put simply, it’s the best way to get your own measurements (or those of the person you’re sewing for) and see how it hangs as you’re piecing your clothes together.  You can see if it looks too tight over a certain part of you or too loose and you can add darts or take it in to see if it looks better.  Believe me, it’s easier on a mannequin than it is on yourself!

If you plan to make a lot of your own clothes I really think they are an excellent investment.

What to look for in a dress form

When buying a dress form you’ll want to bear in mind the following:

  • ease of adjustment
  • size range – especially useful if you’re sewing for more than yourself
  • where it can be adjusted – is it just bust, hips and waist or more?
  • how stable is it – you don’t want it falling over while you’re working.

Best dress form for home sewing – our reviews


Dritz Sew You Dress Form – small and medium


One of the most popular dress forms around at the moment is this one from Dritz.  I like it because it’s got a huge amount of features but without the professional sticker price.

It’s an adjustable dress form and uses 9 different wheels to enable you to make the form to your desired dimensions.

Make sure it will be right for your body shape you’re looking for though – the dimensions of the two sizes available are as follows:

Small – Bust: 33-40 Inch; Waist: 26-33 Inch; Hips: 36-42 Inch; Back Length: 15-17 Inch; Neck: 14-17 Inch

Medium – Bust: 39-46 Inch; Waist: 32-40 Inch; Hips: 41-47 Inches; Back Length: 15-17 Inch, Neck: 15-18 Inch


Easily adjustable with 9 adjusting wheels

Good price for the features


Available in 2 sizes – small and medium


although height adjustable, you have to measure the height rather than it being on a dial.  (no big deal if you won’t change it often)

plastic base which may be less than ideal if it gets heavy use


Ideal for:

This dress form is ideal for someone serious about dressmaking but not wanting anything too expensive.

Check out the latest price of the Dritz dress form on Amazon here


Singer DF250/DF251 Adjustable Dress Form


This a really professional looking dress form from Singer with a lovely and classic navy colour.  It’s adjustable in over 13 places and includes a nice easy height adjustment too.  The metal base is much more durable than a plastic one like above however it still can have some stability issues.


13 adjustable settings

easy height adjustment

metal base

1 year warranty



can be tricky to set up

not the most stable


Check out the latest price of this item on Amazon here


Dritz My Double Dress Form

Here we have another dress form from Dritz.  If you’ve a slightly higher budget and have more specific needs, for example a fuller figure or need a petite dress form, this one might suit you slightly better.  This range has 4 different sizes – Petite, Small, Medium and Large.  Check the link below or click the image and you’ll see what size each one covers.



easily height adjustable

10 adjustable body dials

can get one that is closer to your body size – goes from extra small to a fuller figure


Can be unstable


Ideal for… fuller figures!

Check out the most up to date price for this dress form on Amazon here