Sewing is an important life skill that can come in handy in your daily life, whether you choose to learn it to be able to fix a split in your trousers, adjust a fit, or to make an outfit from scratch. Just like with any other basic household skill, sewing requires a variety of essential tools to execute. Assembling the supplies that you need for sewing can be intimidating especially if you are just getting started and are not too sure of what you will need. This article will give you a list of sewing essentials you will need to have on hand to get started.
There are a few basic supplies you will need to get started with sewing. To begin sewing you will need a variety of tools, including scissors, needles, a tape measure, safety pins, rulers, a thimble, buttons, a pin cushion, fabric chalk/pencil, seam ripper, iron, and of course, fabric.
If you are keen on sewing, then it is important to have a complete sewing kit. Why? A fully-stocked sewing kit can be compared to a great carpenter’s toolbox – with the right tools (sewing supplies), there is almost nothing you won’t be able to do, even if plan to sew by hand. Below is a detailed list of all the supplies you need to create a sewing kit.
Table of Contents
One of the most essential tools you will need for sewing is a pair of scissors. You need them to cut threads, fabric, and a variety of other items. Scissors come in a variety of designs – it is important to choose the right design to avoid damaging the fabrics you use. The different types of scissors include:
- Pinking shears – These are saw-toothed scissors that can be used to create a zigzag fabric design. They are effective at preventing fraying of the fabric, and their serrated edges grip slippery fabrics as you cut through them. The handles feature a bent design to make it easier for you to cut through fabric. The length ranges from 7-10 inches.
- Dressmaker scissors – Dressmaker scissors can be used to cut through a variety of fabrics. They have relatively longer blades to increase your cutting accuracy. The blades are tapered with one rounded and one pointed tip; the rounded tip keeps the fabric from snagging on threads and seams. The length ranges from 7-10 inches.
- Applique scissors – Applique scissors are used to cut or trim close to the fabric to reduce the risk of damage. They are most suited for making rugs as well as applique work. The blade takes the shape of a paddle, and it can cut the bottom layer of the fabric to allow for better control. The offset handle enables you to position it in your hands comfortably.
- Thread nippers – Also referred to as thread scissors, thread nippers are used to cut threads. Most of them are around 4 inches long, which makes them smaller than other scissors used in sewing. By applying a minimal amount of pressure, you can cut threads concisely using these scissors.
- Tailor’s scissors – These are short scissors that have a blade length of 5 inches. They are a top choice for sewers, crafters, and quilters alike due to their ability to cut through several layers of fabric as well as heavy-duty materials like leather with ease. They are easily portable and can be carried around in a sewing bag.
If you have just started assembling your sewing kit, consider getting two or three spools of gray, black, beige, and white threads. You should also consider investing in spools of invisible thread as it is quite versatile. While it may seem like a good idea for the inexpensive stuff, always choose to go for quality threads that won’t break if you are sewing too fast, or if the tension on your sewing machine is off.
There are many variations of thread, but as a beginner, all you need is a few general-purpose threads. It might be a good idea to use 100% polyester thread, or at least 37% cotton/67% polyester. Polyester is very smooth and sturdy, unlike 100% cotton thread which tends to break easily. If you are not too sure of what to purchase, ask the attendant in your local fabric store what is the most suitable thread to use for the type of fabric you intend to buy or for your upcoming project.
2. Seam ripper
The seam ripper will become one of your go-to items if you take up sewing. The seam ripper is the tool you need when you make a mistake during sewing. This clever tool takes a bit of the frustration out of undoing your stitches. A seam ripper features a two-pronged design, with a sharp blade between the two prongs. The short bulbed prong is intended to keep the fabric from getting sliced along with the thread.
To use this tool, all you have to do is slip the pointed end of the seam ripper under your stitch, taking care that the fabric doesn’t catch as you go, and proceed to cut through it by pulling upwards gently. When selecting a seam ripper, go for varieties that have non-slip handles as they are easier to use.
Whether you intend to do some hemming on your trousers, make a cross-stitch, or start an embroidery project, you will need your needle. There are a wide variety of hand sewing needles. They come in varying sizes. Some of the most common include:
- Ballpoint needle – This is a needle that is intended for knitting. Unlike a sewing needle that has a sharp point, a ballpoint needle has a rounded end that pushes between the yarns of the fabric.
- Regular point needles – These are needles that are best suited for use when handling woven fabric such as line, embroidery, or cotton cloth. These needles are common in basic sewing kits and are great for sewing an even stitch that won’t damage your fabric.
- Quilting point needle – This type of needle features a trapped point that allows you to stitch fabric layers. The tapering design keeps the needle from damaging the quality of your fabric as you sew.
- Universal point needle – This needle type is typically used for sewing machines as well as for knit fabric sewing. Because it can easily slip through fabric waves, this needle is great for when you are sewing with knit and woven fabric.
- Embroidery needles – This is a self-threading needle that is made for embroidery stitches. These needles can be used on embroidery cloth or fabric.
5. Needle threader
A needle threader is a tool that helps you precisely thread your needle. It is a flexible wire that features a diamond-shaped opening that you can easily thread. Once you push the thread through the eye of the needle, the opening closes, and you will have successfully threaded your needle.
A thimble is worn on the middle finger, and it is used when the needle is held between the forefinger and the thumb. They are great for protecting your finger while hand sewing. They can also come in handy when you need to get a needle to go through fabric that is thick and heavy.
7. Extra buttons and other fasteners
Extra buttons come in handy for when the ones that are attached to your clothes fall off. When you assemble your sewing kit, consider storing all the extra buttons that come with the clothing items that you buy. This way, you will build a little collection of buttons that you can use when you need them. Otherwise, you can buy some generic extra buttons that can serve you in case of emergencies. Other than buttons, you will also want to have other fastenings in your sewing kit for when you need to make quick repairs. They include:
- Snap fasteners – Snap fasteners, also commonly referred to as press studs, are fastenings that are used to hold 2 pieces of fabric together without being seen from the front.
- Hooks and eyes – These fastenings are used to hold the edges of the fabric flush together. Alternatively, you can go for magnetic fastenings, which are especially great for purse and bag closures.
- Safety pins – These are ideal for securing thicker fabrics, as well as for when you want to thread cord through casings.
8. Straight pins
Straight pins are useful for when you want to hold seams in place as you sew, or for when you want to hold the pattern to the fabric. There are different types of straight pins. Below are some of the most common:
- Glass headpins – Glass head pins are some of the most popular sewing pins. They are made from nickel-plated steel, and while they are strong, they are not overly flexible. They feature an extra-fine shaft that leaves very tiny holes in the fabric, and the glass head remains intact even when subjected to the heat of the iron.
- Silk pins – Silk pins are entirely made out of metal, with no plastic or glass balls. They come in a variety of weights, so it is important to ensure that the shaft thickness of the silk pins you choose to use is compatible with your silk fabric.
- Plastic head pins – If you plan to work on craft projects using material such as felt, you may want to use plastic head craft pins. They typically feature big multi-colored plastic ends and make a great addition to your pin collection.
9. Tape measure
Measuring fabric correctly is a very important step in sewing as it will determine the final results of your project. The rule of thumb is to measure twice and cut once. As a result, a tape measure is a crucial tool that you need in your sewing kit. Look for a tape measure that is around 150 cm (59 inches) and features both imperial and metric units to allow for quick conversions.
10. Rotary cutter and ruler
This is a tool that is useful when you’re cutting through layers of fabric. Depending on the type of ruler that you use your rotary cutter with, you can get either crisp straight lines or curved lines. A rotary cutter comes in handy for when you want to speed up the cutting process and still get accurate cuts. When choosing a ruler, go for a see-through one so that it is easy to make markings on your fabric.
11. Self-healing cutting mat
If you plan on using a rotary cutter, you will need a self-healing mat that will ensure that surface on which you are cutting is not damaged. Many rotary mats feature printed measurements that serve as an alignment guide for fabric cutting.
12. Pin cushion
To ensure that you don’t lose your pins, you will want to invest in a pin cushion. They are great for storing sharp pins and needles alike, and you can even make one yourself out of scrap fabrics.
13. Iron and ironing board
Before you begin cutting, you always want to iron your fabric to remove any wrinkles and consequently reduce the risk of inaccurate cutting. Consider going for an iron that features an automatic shut-off as well as a non-drip function.
You will also need a sturdy ironing board – look for one that features non-slip feet and steady T-shaped legs. Consider finding one that features a perforated material suited for steaming fabrics as well as an adjustable height feature that allows you to lock it in place.
Before you start sewing, you need to have the fabric that you will work on. You can usually buy fabric by the meter or yard, but if you don’t want too much material, you can buy a yard that has been divided into four sections. Depending on your sewing project, there are different types of fabric to choose from, including silk, chiffon, cashmere, etc.
15. Sewing machine
One of the most important tools to have is a sewing machine. It is used to stitch fabric and other material varieties together using thread. Unless you plan on exclusively hand sewing, you will need a sewing machine to make your sewing projects more effortless.
Having a complete set of supplies for sewing will likely increase your confidence when it comes to sewing on your own. With proper maintenance, many of these supplies and tools will last you for years. Keep in mind that it might take time before you perfect your sewing skills, but with the right tools, you are one step closer.