Essential Sewing Tools for Beginners

Essential Sewing Tools For Beginners

It was clear from my recent sewing survey that although there are a lot of experienced sewists that visit this site – many of you are new to sewing, just starting out, looking to improve, or even don't sew yet but want to learn.  So here is my list of essential sewing tools and my good-to-have favorites that might be helpful to those starting out.

Essential Sewing Tools. My list of favorite tools in my sewing kit and recommendation for those beginning to sew, from So Sew Easy.

My essential sewing tools

1 – Fabric Scissors – never use your good fabric shears for anything other than fabric, interfacing, etc.  Warn your children they will be grounded, your husband that he will be divorced, and write on the blades with a permanent marker.  Having good fabric scissors is essential.  You might be cutting through several layers of fabric at once and still have a nice smooth cut.

2 – Seam Ripper – sounds worse and more violent than it is.  A tool with a sharp point, a blunt point, and a sharp blade in the middle.  Can be used to carefully unpick stitches when you've gone wrong, and cut the stitches in a seam using the center blade.  Plus its a useful pointy tool that can also be used for a lot of things that are nothing to do with sewing.  Not just for mistakes – use it to remove basting stitches too. I also use mine to hold fabric in place as it goes under the presser foot so I don't get my fingers too close to the needle.

3 – Zipper foot, invisible and adjustable. I tried to get a good result with a regular presser foot but that is never going to happen.  To make nice neat zippers you need to use the correct tool – either an adjustable zipper foot or the invisible zipper foot.  Best to get both because there will certainly be times when one is better than the other depending on the application.

Sewing a zipper required the correct tools to get a good finish. Image courtesy of Keerati /

Sewing a zipper requires the correct tools to get a good finish.
Image courtesy of Keerati /

4 – Tape measure– for taking your own body measurements, measuring fabric, measuring pattern pieces at the bust, waist, etc.  Mine always seems to be missing and I find the cat has dragged it under the bed again and attacked it thinking it is a snake.  Better get two.

5 – Large clear ruler – commonly used by quilters but lots of regular sewing applications too.  I use this every day for marking out for cutting the purses I sell in my Etsy shop, and it sits at the front of my sewing machine for quick measurements as I sew.  Useful for extending grain lines on patterns and any time you need to measure and still see what's underneath your ruler.

6 – Pattern making paper, Double Tracing Wheel, and Saral Transfer (Tracing) Paper.  My pattern tracing and fabric marking kit.  Used to trace and copy patterns and to transfer pattern markings onto fabric.  You can read more about the easy way to trace patterns using these tools.  I also use the wheel and transfer paper to transfer patterns and markings, darts, etc directly to the fabric without having to cut out the pattern at all!

Tracing Burda Patterns the EASY Way

How to trace off Burda pattern, vintage patterns and multi-size patterns the EASY way - by So Sew Easy.

7 – Sewing Machine.  Well, you could sew everything by hand, but you will get a better and quicker result with a sewing machine.  I am on my second machine, the first one was borrowed and I looked at a lot of machines before settling on the Brother CP-7500 (now discontinued – best alternative is the Brother CS6000i). I've been extremely happy with it, it does everything I need quietly and smoothly and has lots of features I've not even used yet, but it's good to know they are there for when I need them.  Such as buttonholes and decorative stitches.  The best things about it – the built-in needle threader, the 3 different overcasting stitches, the walking foot, and the 3 different speed settings.

8 – Overcasting foot.  I use this on almost everything I make.  I don't have a serger, so I use the 3 different overcasting stitches on my machine with this overcasting foot to give a nice neat finish on my seams, and also to sew and finish my knit projects with a neat narrow, and stretchy hem.  Highly recommended if you want to sew with knits.

Easy summer dress - free pattern and step by step tutorial from So Sew Easy.

Get a great finish on knit fabrics using an overcasting foot. Stitch and finish in one pass.

9 – Fray Check .  One bottle may well last you a lifetime if you keep the top on tightly.  Magic in a bottle to stop fabric from fraying.  I use it when cutting ribbon, and when cutting through fabric for any reason such as to add a magnetic snap to a purse, or sewing a buttonhole.  Also good to add a dab when you sew buttons to stop the thread from unraveling.  Can be used to stop fabric fraying as you work with it before edges are finished.

10 – Clover Wonder Clips.  Like magic pins.  Regular pins have their place, but I often use the clips instead.  Work well when you have lots of layers to secure together, and they don't leave any holes or marks in your fabric.  And there is no chance that you will sew over one of these by mistake and break your machine needle.  They seem a little expensive compared to pins, but I think they are well worth the investment (why not hint that you would like these for your birthday!)

Clover Wonder Clips

11 – The right machine needles.  It never really occurred to me when I was starting out that there might be more than one type of machine needle.  But in fact, they come in different sizes, different points, different sized eyes, for different fabrics such as denim and leather, and more.  Of course, keep a supply of the multi-purpose needles but also consider adding in a twin needle and some ballpoint needles for sewing with knits.  A lot of the problems that occur when sewing knit fabrics can be eliminated simply by using the correct needle.

You might find this article about which sewing machine needle useful and interesting.

Which Sewing Machine Needle? + Bonus Download Worth $1.95 FREE

12 – Disappearing marking pen.  Again – an essential I use every day.  It's nice and easy to use, leaves an easy to see mark and then fades over time or can simply wash out.  I have noticed that fabrics all behave differently and sometimes this can be fading within 30 minutes.  I've never had a problem that has left any kind of mark after use.  Mark out your darts for precision sewing, mark sewing lines, notches, and more.


So have I included all of your favorites, or are there some essential sewing tools you use regularly and can't do without?

If You'd Like To Support Our Site

If you want to help us continue to bring you a wide selection of free sewing patterns and projects, please consider buying us a coffee.  We'd really, really appreciate it.
Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Essential Sewing Tools for Beginners

  1. Helen says:

    During this situation we all should must wear mask. So comfortable masks are essential .

    I hope this DIY will be effective. The one without sewing machine seems easy & beneficial. I assume that DIY masks will be more user friendly. Also in this we can customized the size!

  2. Rosemary Portrait says:

    Great list althought I am old school and still like my pins to hold my material together instead of clips and a pin cushion to use with a nice sewing box to keep everything together.

  3. Emma says:

    Good info. Thanks

  4. Tracy says:

    I would add a hump jumper (aka multipurpose tool) to the list of must-have sewing tools. It’s been a game changer for me! There are YouTube videos that show how to use it.

  5. Roch says:

    Passing this on, it may be of help: i lent my zipper foot out and did not have it. When I went to purchase one and the thread needed, they were out! The knowledgeable salesperson told me to try carefully using the 1/4inch seam foot to place the zipper. She was right. It did work perfectly.
    It took more care and time to do the job well, but I was able to replace the old zipper with a new one using only the 1/4inch seam foot.

  6. Sarah says:

    Hello ! Where would I buy an overcasting foot and how would I know if an old White sewing machine I am looking at to buy would have overcasting stitches? Thank you, I am loving this blog!

  7. Kris joy says:

    Just subscribed to your website looking forward to hearing from you.

    • Deby Coles says:

      Good to have you following along Kris. Watch out for the regular newsletter coming every Sunday, and because this week is special there will be a one-off Black Friday sales one too. But don’t worry – its not always sales! Just once a year.

  8. Carrie says:

    Great list of essentials! Thanks for linking them up to Think Tank Thursday last week. I have featured you today!

  9. BeBetsy says:

    Deby – tip #10 is wonderful and I may need to pick some of these up! Sharon)

  10. This is awesome! I just got my first sewing machine (at a garage sale). Thanks for the tips!

  11. Emily says:

    Never seen wonder clips before, I think I need to get some!

  12. Pam says:

    A great list, Deby. I’ve been looking for the Clover Wonder Clips locally, but no one seems to stock them. Looks like I’ll have to try online.

  13. Roxie says:

    I would add a magnet pin holder to the list. I can not imagine sewing without a pin or two and knowing where to put them after I remove them from the fabric is important. I also use a sharp tool to open seams etc. I am a quilter and work with 1/4 inch seams. Those clips are good for sewing clothing but for quilting they would not be very good.
    I also use a chop stick (from a takeout dinner) to turn tubes of fabric for making seam binding.

    • Deby Coles says:

      All very good ideas Roxie. Interesting to see how one tool suits one type of sewing and not another. But a chop stick is a useful pointy pokey tool for so many applications!

  14. Sarah Schultz says:

    This is a great list. I have not heard of the clips but will be looking for some.

  15. Dee says:

    I have those clips and love them! Godd,helpful and informative post!

  16. Paula says:

    I have the wonder clips on my ‘to get’ list. Funny you mention hinting at them for my birthday, since my birthday is this week! 🙂

  17. Susanne says:

    I love those wonder clips… now I will have to figure out where to get them, they don’t have them on German amazon.

  18. Great list! I’ve been thinking about giving those clips a try…

  19. Toni says:

    Great list! I love my pattern weights. They’re so much easier than fighting with pins all the time!

  20. realcoake says:

    Great list! I’m not familiar with the clips. I could see how they would be very handy.

  21. Ana Sullivan says:

    I am also loving the Wonder Clips and they are worth every penny. My other go to tool is the Point Turner and Seam Creaser. It works great to press seams slightly before you iron and great for turning out corners.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *