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Turning and Pressing Skinny Straps & Ties

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Do you ever watch those TV hospital shows and think, "I could do that"? Maybe not be an actual, real-life doctor. But you could wear a white coat, carry a stethoscope, and yell, "Get me a C-Spine, Chem 7, and a V-Fib!" I have no idea what any of those terms mean. They're just fun to shout. To get you just a little bit closer to your doctor daydreams, we're here to show you how one of the medical devices you saw Dr. Greene use every week can also be a big help in your sewing room. It's called a hemostat, and it's basically a locking clamp shaped like a long pair of scissors. (Probably what Dr. Greene wanted when he yelled, "Clamp!") A hemostat is extremely useful when you need to turn long, narrow tubes right side out.

We need to give a shout-out to one of our Sew4Home visitors who originally brought this idea to our attention when she was making all the tiny ties on our crib bumpers project.

Don't read this if medical descriptions make you queasy

A hemostat (also called a hemostatic clamp) is a surgical instrument you clamp onto a blood vessel to stop bleeding. It's made to reach into small spaces and easily lock in a closed position. They come in various lengths, from 6" up to 12" or more and you can buy them relatively inexpensively. The idea is to get the longest, skinniest, locking pair you can afford. The longer and skinnier it is, the longer the tube you can fit the hemostat down into and turn right side out.

We purchased a good 10" pair from Amazon for under $6. This is probably not the price your local medical center is paying for the surgically sterile kind.

When all the way closed, they really do look just like a pair of scissors – although you can see the grippy ridges along the edges of the pointed ends.

When slightly open, you can see how the locking clamp at the top works.

Hemostats are also handy for pulling cording through a drawcord channel/casing for drawstring-type openings. 

Turning a tie (or other long tube) right side out

If you sew your own ties, they're wrong side-out when you finish the stitch. Now you have to figure out how to get them right side out. With a bit of careful work and a safety pin, pencil or a chopstick, you can probably get one done. But if your project has dozens of ties and they're over 18" long, you're in for quite a time-consuming chore.

For our example, we assumed we were making a basic tie that would be 21" long x 1" wide when fully finished and sewn into place.

  1. Cut out the fabric for your tie, accounting for your seam allowance. We're planning a ¼" seam allowance and used one half of a jelly roll strip for our sample. This makes the starting strip of fabric 21½" long x 2½" wide.
  2. Fold it right sides together and press. Now it's 21½" long x 1¼" wide.
  3. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch across one end and along the entire long side, pivoting at the corner. Leave the opposite end open. Clip the corners at the sewn end, making sure not to cut your seam.
  4. Slide the open end of the tube over the hemostat. You'll need to bunch it up below the hemostat's hinge to allow the tips to open just a little bit.
  5. Keep bunching until the tips of the hemostat's pincers reach the end of the tube. Use your fingernail to push a little fabric between the tips then lock them shut. They only need a tiny bit of fabric to clamp on to.  
  6. Gently pull the end through the center of the tube.
  7. Continue pulling until tube is right side out. You can use this technique even with really long tubes; you just keep bunching the fabric as far down as the hemostat will go, then pulling and repeating the action until the entire length is right side out. 

Cardboard trick for ironing the sewn tube flat

  1. Now you need to iron your skinny tie flat. But it doesn't want to lie flat to be ironed. It wants to twist and turn. To stop this, insert a piece of cardboard, or similar stiff board, before you iron. Since our sewn tube is 1" wide, we made our cardboard strip just a little narrower than that.
  2. We inserted it and can now iron the tube flat without a problem. The stiffness of the cardboard makes it easy to center the seam along the edge, as shown above, or rotated to the back to create a clean front, as shown below. 
  3. You can press right over the cardboard
  4. A fast, easy, perfectly pressed tie ready to sew into your project.

Why don't you just use a loop turner?

Good question. A loop turner is the traditional sewing tool for turning sewn tubes. It's basically a wire with a tiny hook at one end...

... and a round loop at the other to hang onto.

You push the hook to the end of the tube, hook it onto your fabric and pull the tube right side out in the same manner as described above with the hemostat. We have point turner, but it's given us two problems we didn't have with the hemostat.

1) Sometimes it's hard to get the loop turner's hook to actually hook into the fabric. The hemostat isn't piercing your fabric just grabbing it, which is much easier on all types of fabric.

2) The loop turner's hook has a little protector that's supposed to keep it from hooking your fabric as you pull it through. But this doesn't always work, and we've torn fabric during the turning process. There's nothing on the hemostat to catch your fabric.


Comments (31)

Gail G. said:
Gail G.'s picture

You can sew in a narrow scrap piece of fabric, longer than the tube you're sewing, to the end; keep it from getting sewn into the seam, then pull it through and cut it away.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Gail - Thanks for adding your extra tip - we love it when our visitors chime in their their expertise. 

Nana Shirley said:
Nana Shirley's picture

One is never too old to learn. This truly is a 'slap the forehead, why didn't I think of that' trick.

I have several hemostats, but none that long. Most of mine are used by my grandkids to get the hook out of the fishes mouth when dangling at the end of their poles.

I will be ordering a long set, for Nana only tomorrow.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Nana Shirley - Glad you found it helpful - we are happy to have helped to add a little knowledge to your store.

Melanielovestosew said:
Melanielovestosew's picture

I am going to try the cardboard trick for pressing flat my apron ties.  The ties normally twist and I am disappointed with results usually.  I use a quick turn made by Dritz for turning the fabric tubes.  Has anyone who has used both the Quick Turn Tool and hemostat have athought on what was better to use?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Melanie - Well, our vote is for the hemostat, but Dritz makes great tools. Personal preference in many cases. 

Renee.Anij said:
Renee.Anij's picture

I am GETTING one of these!  Drawstring clothes run amok in our house and this is just the tamer we need.  Plus, it makes a cool clicking sound...

GailJB said:
GailJB's picture

To those of us who worked in the OR the "clicking" sound is music. I use a short version of this clamp to grab and pull threads on those frequent occasions when l need to remove a line of stitching. I have a Turn- It-All that works well for most turning tasks. Happy sewing.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Renee - let us know how you like using it. And, yes ... too often, the benefit of a "cool clicking sound" is overlooked!

Roberta H. said:
Roberta H.'s picture

Thank you for this! I am going to have to try the hemostat and the cardboard. I just have a question about the little purse in the picture, do you know what that pattern is? Its just so cute. Its the one kind of a light blueish-turquoise with the green leaves and a fold over zipper? Thanks in advance!

Maria P said:
Maria P's picture

The cardboard is genius! One of those "slap my forehead why didn't I think of that " tips!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Maria - Thanks, but isn't that the mark of a truly great tip - when it's something you'd have thought of yourself?! Enjoy!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Suez - You're welcome - it's a great little tip.

Maureen the Budget Queen said:
Maureen the Budget Queen's picture

As someone who used to sew a lot of my childrens clothes I spent many evenings fighting with the loop turner and various other devices to turn ties.  I eventually just avoided making them as they were so time consuming and so often the seams came apart while trying to turn them.   This looks like a great idea, I am really impressed, I just may go back to sewing ties!  Thanks for the tip!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Maureen - Welcome back to straps  We're glad to have helped!

roseytheriveter said:

I love this idea!  I have learned that many tools can be cross-used in other professions.  One profession I borrow from regularly is the the medical profession; I am a beginning silver smith and I've learned so many items in the medical arsenal can be used in silver smithing as well.  Thanks so much for this tip, I will be buying one,"stat"! 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@roseytheriveter - You are so welcome - and so right - helpful tools and tips can be found in many corners!

Betty Meyskens said:
Betty Meyskens's picture

The hemostat looks like a cool tool that I will need for my arsenal.  Also love the cardboard tip - this will be great because I do get frustrated sometimes with ironing those seams sometimes.  THANK YOU!!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Betty - you are welcome! New tricks - new tools!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ amrovetto - Yay! Let us know how you like using it. 

Lanetta said:
Lanetta's picture

Thanks for the great advice.  i just order a hemostat and I am so excited to use it. 

auntbarky said:

I've been using hemostats for years on my sewing projects (don't ask where I got them, I'm an ex OR nurse!) and they do work great.  I could never get the hang of a loop turner.  However, the cardboard trick is a revelation to me.  I hate fighting to get the seam flat.  thanks for the tip!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ auntbarky - You're welcome. It's makes such a nice, flat seam every time!

Sally M. said:
Sally M.'s picture

I knew about the hemostats but didn't know about the cardboard.  Love the way you can put that darn ole' seam right in the middle.  What a fantastic idea, I'm definitely going to use that trick.  

juliainnorway said:
juliainnorway's picture

Thanks - this is so helpful! I especially love the cardboard tip - going to use that idea for other difficult-to-iron-the-seam projects as well. Every day I learn something new -  your website is AMAZING.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Julia - Thanks so much! This is such an easy little thing, but makes a big difference.