People who have never been interested in sewing before or who only practiced sewing as a hobby in their younger years may wonder what it takes to get started or get back into sewing. Many of these prospective sewists often wonder what are the essential sewing tools that would make up the perfect beginner sewing kit? And what's the cost to stock up on these items to complete various projects?
Below is a list of tools that can be considered “essential” for the beginner sewing kit. They are the tools you want to learn the name of, have in your sewing box and learn to use if you want to try various sewing projects to see what you like doing.
For your convenience only, each image links to the actual product on Amazon so you can check pricing compared to your local alternatives. You certainly don't need to buy these items here if you need them, but it won't cost you any more and it would certainly help us run the site;)
1. Bent Handle Shears
These shears can get really expensive. However, this is truly a case of getting what you pay for, and every expensive pair is well worth their price tag. The most important features for these shears include a sharp blade, a good fit for the way your hands are shaped and a good weight to the pair. The shears should be kept for fabric only. They need to be sharpened once a year. This service is sometimes offered by a specialty store like Jo Ann Fabrics for free. Watch for the ad. Also, watch for sales at Jo Ann's, since you can pick up a good pair of shears at a cheaper price during a sale.
2. Regular Straight Scissors
These scissors will be used for general tasks, like cutting patterns and paper. This means quality is not as much of an issue. It is important to remember not to cut plastic with these scissors. That can dull the blade quickly and make them hard to use when they are needed for a pattern.
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3. Embroidery Scissors
Thanks to their small size, these scissors are great for snipping off threads that are left over after the project is completed on a sewing machine. They are good for when you start and finish a line of stitching as well. These scissors can be simple and cheap or very ornate and have a price tag to match. That is up to your preference – and your budget.
4. Pinking Shears
These scissors have blades that have notches cut into them. They come together and cut a zigzag pattern into the fabric. This method of cutting prevents fraying. A good use for pinking shears is to cut the already cut edges of the fabric before you wash it. This can cut down on a tangle of fraying threads when the material comes out of the washing machine.
Technique Tip: Cutting with pinking shears is slightly different than using other types of scissors. Hold the blades steady and bring them together on the fabric, allowing the cut to start with the second rear tooth. Release the scissors after the cut is made and move them along, lining that second rear tooth up with the last notch of the previous cut. For the best results, make sure to completely close the scissors on every cut you make. This ensures a full cut.
5. Straight Pins
Since you need the straight pins, and the feeling of a pin sticking into your toe or the ball of your foot is not pleasant – this is another key item to have in your sewing kit. The pincushion gives you an easy place to store the pins and keeps them from falling onto the floor and becoming a hazard for your sensitive feet.
You will need two types of needles – those for your sewing machine and hand needles to complete project details that won't be manageable with a sewing machine. Universal needles are a good first investment. They fit into almost any machine and can be used on different fabrics and projects. For a situation where you will be working with thicker fabrics, needles made specifically for those fabrics or tougher fabric in general will come in handy.
Meanwhile, hand needles are sold in packs of 20. Some people note a preference for a specific brand, while others tend to purchase what is easily available in a local store. Either way, the needles are only good for about eight hours of use. After that, a new needle should be used.
8. Tape Measure
The one in your toolbox is not going to help here. You need a soft tape measure – one that will go around the body and take measurements of the human form. It is also a good idea to make sure you can read this tape measure easily. An inaccurate measurement will mean a project that can not be worn.
9. Seam Gauge (Hem Guage or Sewing Gauge)
All three of these names apply to a ruler that has a special slider attached. This slider can be set to a specific measurement. The seam gauge has a hollow area that helps guide your tailor's chalk. Meanwhile, the slider is a good visual reference while pinning, pressing, sewing or attempting to keep darts even. These rulers are flexible, but after time and extended use, they can get bent. It is a good idea to get a replacement at that time.
10. Clear Ruler
Typically made of acrylic, these rulers come in different shapes and sizes. For a large one, check the quilting section. Meanwhile, you can use these to make new measurements while referencing a previous mark or cut. You can also sew the material while seeing where other areas are marked. These rulers improve accuracy while they cut down on the time spent on a project.
11. Tailor's Chalk
During a project, material needs to be marked. The most common and long-trusted tool for that is tailor's chalk. It is smart to buy two colors – typically white and blue. That way, you have a color to use on light fabric and one to use on dark fabric.
Many people prefer the tailor's chalk since it shows up clearly during the project, is easy to apply and easy to remove. If you prefer the idea of water soluble pencils or pens (or the air soluble variety), make sure to test them on an area of the fabric that won't be seen in case they won't come off.
Other than the needle, the most important tool to have for sewing is thread. Once you start working on various projects, you will have multiple colors of thread. To start, buy a large spool of black and one of white. From there, you can buy colors as needed. Thread is labeled for the different uses, such as hand sewing, machine sewing etc.. Stick to the recommended uses. Also, it pays to note the brand of thread and whether it works well with your machine or is a brand you like to use and want to buy again. Some people develop a brand preference and only work with one brand of thread.
Remember: You will go through a lot of thread in the course of a single sewing project.
13. Seam Ripper
Mistakes happen. For that reason, it is wise to keep that seam ripper handy. If you recently purchased your sewing machine new, you most likely received one as an accessory with the machine. if not, they are cheap enough to purchase.
14. Iron and Ironing Board
It is not necessary to buy an expensive iron to use for sewing projects. It is important to make sure the iron has the steam feature and can be used for various fabrics. Most garments made during a sewing project will need room to be spread out, so invest in the ironing board as well. A table top iron is not going to be able to accurately handle most projects.
Muslin is a cheap material that can be purchased and used to test patterns. This saves you money on the expensive fabrics. The fabric does not have to be muslin; it only has to be cheap and usable for various projects. If you happen about a good sale where fabric is cheap, stock up with the intention of using it for testing patterns.
Once you have these tools in your sewing kit, you are ready to sew. For the more experienced sewists out there, if we missed anything you think is essential, please let us know in the comments below.
Good luck and happy sewing!