Beginner Sewing: Essential Tools

So you just got your first sewing machine, EXCITING! 


Before you get started sewing there are some other tools and accessories that you will need.


Below we will go through each of the items that we think should be in any beginners sewing kit, why you need them and what they are used for.


Essential Tools:


  • Fabric Scissors
  • Pins
  • Tape Measure
  • Threads
  • Quick Un-Pick (Seam Ripper)
  • Thread Snips or Embroidery Scissors
  • Range of Machine Needles
  • Hand Sewing Needles

Other helpful tools:


  • Pin Cushion
  • Fabric Chalk or Marker
  • Paper/Craft Scissors
  • Needle Threader
  • Thimble
  • Iron and Ironing Board

Essential Tools:


Fabric Scissors:


A good quality pair of fabric scissors are a must! When sewing, cutting out fabrics is much easier when you have a good pair of sharp scissors. 


Make sure you ONLY use them for fabrics, do not cut paper, and other things with them as they will blunt and munch fabric instead of cutting them nicely. 


When purchasing, look for a pair that feels comfortable in your hand, and if you can test them out on fabrics before you buy, make sure they cut nice and smoothly. It is a good idea to buy the best pair that your budget allows.

Size wise, a pair that is 8” or there abouts is pretty standard and you can go for drop forged steel or ones like are pictured above (which are lighter but just as good) again it depends on what feels comfortable in your hand. If you have larger hands, you may want to go up to a 9” or 10” size scissor, or look for ones that have larger handles. 


Pins:


You need pins to hold patterns to fabrics when cutting out and for holding your fabric together when sewing. 


Try and get thin, good quality steel pins that are nice and sharp!
Cheaper pins are often made of weaker steel and they can bend more easily when pinning which also isn’t ideal. They also blunt faster, blunt pins can ruin your fabrics when using them.


Some people prefer the plain all steel pins and others like the ones with the slightly larger, colorful balls on the top. If you are buying the second type, we recommend ones with glass tops over plastic tops as the glass ones don’t melt when you are pressing with an iron and forget to take them out first!


Tape Measure: 


A Flexible tape measure is needed for sewing, not a builders tape measure! These are used for taking body measurements and measuring around curves on patterns and more. Sewing tape measures are usually 150cm/60” long, but you can get extra long ones as well.


Usually made from non-stretching fiberglass, these come in several different styles and colours, the best ones have both metric and imperial on one side and just imperial on the other (called Anilogical) and are easier to use when converting measurements (you will need to do this when following some garment patterns as a lot of patterns have the english measurements in inches)


When storing your tape measure it is best to fold it (following the folds that it has from when new) and not roll it, as rolling tends to stretch the tape meaning your measurements may become inaccurate.


Threads: 


There are lots of different threads available and for a beginner it can be a little confusing. 

Making sure you use a good quality all purpose thread like Gütermann Sew All Thread


This thread is a high quality polyester thread that has a smooth finish. It is perfect for all fabric types and for seams, hems, buttonholes, hand sewing and more!
Match your thread to your fabric as closely as possible, if you can’t find an exact match, it is better to go slightly darker or go for a neutral shade like grey, beige or off white. 


We don't recommend using lower quality or overlocking threads for general sewing as they are often quite fluffy and can cause lint build up in your machine, they also tend to abrade more when running through the machine and have a tendency to break while sewing.

Threads can also degrade over time, so it is also not recommended to use those threads you inherited from your grandmother's sewing box.


Quick Un-Pick:


A Quick Un-Pick, also called a Seam Ripper, is one of the most essential items for any sewing kit. 

As the name suggests, it is used for unpicking seams/stitching when things go terribly wrong!


It is best to get a quick unpick with a smaller head, as this fits better into tiny stitches. You can get fancier ones that have ergonomic handles and even ones with rubber bits on them that help get all the bits of thread off. But a basic one does just the same job. 








Thread Snips or Embroidery Scissors:


You will need a pair of thread snips or little embroidery scissors for trimming threads. 


You could use your fabric scissors but these are usually too big and you can’t trim the threads closely to the fabric with larger scissors. 


Threads snips or Embroidery Scissors, are nice and small and have fine sharp tips, making them perfect for having beside your sewing machine to trim threads as you sew. 





Sewing Machine Needles:


A new sewing machine will come with some needles but there are lots of different types and sizes of needles depending on what you are sewing. 


You will want to match the needle size and type with the type of fabric you are sewing. 

General rule of thumb is to use universal needles for woven fabrics and ballpoint needles for knit fabrics (we will discuss fabric types here). 


As for size, if your fabric is quite thin you will use a finer needle and if your fabric is thick you will want to use a thicker needle. This is because a fine needle with thick fabric is more likely to break on you and a thick needle on thin fabrics will punch too big of a hole when sewing. 


SIZE RECOMMENDATIONS:

70/10 – Sheer and light weight fabrics

80/12 – Light-medium weight fabrics (like Tshirt weight or quilting cotton)

90/14 – Medium-heavy weight fabrics (like heavier cottons, drills or jersey knit)

100/16 – Heavy weight fabrics (like Denim and canvas)


It is also recommended to change your needle every 8-10 sewing hours or for every project, as they blunt over time and can cause issues like skipped stitches.


Hand Sewing Needles:


Yes, unfortunately, even with a sewing machine there will still be times that you need to do a little bit of hand sewing! 


Whether it is sewing on buttons, hooks and eyes, or for tacking down facings and sewing up hems. You will need a range of hand needles for when these times arise. 


We recommend a pack of assorted sharps needles, as these are a nice sharp needle for woven fabrics and there should be a size appropriate for the task at hand. 




Other Helpful Tools:


Pin Cushion:


Pins usually come in some sort of container, which they can be stored in. 


However if you would like a pin cushion there are a few different types you can choose from. 


Magnetic pin dishes, like their name suggests, are magnetic. These are great for if you accidentally drop pins on the floor and can’t find them! Some styles also come with a lid which is quite handy for if you are taking your sewing supplies to classes.  


Wrist pin cushions, are smaller and have a strap or elastic of some kind that attach it to your wrist. Meaning you always have your pin cushion on you whether you are sitting at the sewing machine or not! 


Traditional style pin cushions, these are a fabric shape and stuffed. You can buy these but you can easily make one! (Check out our simple pin cushion tutorial here)



Fabric Chalk or Marking Pens:


Fabric Chalk or marking pens are great for tracing out patterns or transferring pattern markings and there will be times when you will need to put temporary marking directly onto the fabric.


There are lots of types of chalks and pens to choose from but just a basic chalk (like pictured) is good to start with and then you can experiment with what works best for you as you grow your skills.




Paper/Craft Scissors:


Like we said above, your fabric scissors are to be used for FABRICS ONLY! So you will also need a pair of scissors for things like cutting out patterns. However most people already have a pair of household scissors around the house and as long as they don’t have big chunks out of the blades, they will be fine.






Needle Threader: 


Some sewing machines come with needle threaders on them these days but if yours doesn’t and you have trouble threading the needle then you can get a special one that is designed for threading the sewing machine needle. 


Also handy to have if you have issue threading needles is one for threading hand sewing needles. These can save a lot of time and frustration and make hand sewing more enjoyable.



Thimble:


If you are going to be doing a bit of hand sewing, they can be handy. 


Thimbles help to push the needle through fabric, and save your fingers from being stabbed over and over.
Thimbles come in all different shapes and sizes, so it is best to find one that fits your finger well. 







Iron and Ironing Board:


When making clothes and doing other types of sewing, often you will be asked to press your seams, darts and a lot of patterns call for iron on interfacing or fusing, this is where having an iron becomes important. 


Pressing is an important step of sewing which shouldn’t be overlooked. 

If you don’t have a full ironing board this is fine, a small pressing board or even a towel folded up on the kitchen bench will suffice. 




Draft ending: 


All the products mentioned above (excluding irons, ironing boards and paper scissors) and more can be found in the Sewing Supplies for Beginners category on our website. 


Happy Sewing!


Ana and Laura

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