If you are just learning how to sew, there are some basic tools that you will need. These are the 15 essential sewing supplies that I would recommend to get you started, and I can assure you that you will be using most of them each time you sew. Some of the tools pictured are ones that I have been using since I started sewing at age 11!
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The 15 Essential Sewing Supplies Every Seamstress Needs:
1. Sewing Needles for Hand-stitching – the needles pictured come in assorted lengths and thicknesses, and have different size eyes to accommodate variations in thread. The container has a small opening to release the selected needle when the dial is turned. I like this type of container because I can easily see the size of the eye and thickness and length of each needle, and the dial part keeps all the needles from spilling out. You can find them here: Singer Assorted Self Threading Hand Needles, 15-Count
2. Seam Ripper – This is probably my best AND worst friend. Inevitably, something goes wrong and a seam needs to be ripped out. It happens to all of us. A seam ripper makes picking out the stitches easier, and it’s also used to open up buttonholes. TIP: When you make those, be sure to put two pins across the end of the buttonhole. That way the seam ripper will not go “out of control” and rip past the end stitches of the buttonhole and tear the garment. Usually, the buttonholes are the last thing you put into a garment, and you only have to rip right through the last one and ruin what you just made ONCE and you will remember to put a few pins at the end. Trust me on this one.
3. Tailor’s Chalk – I like this style with a different colour at each end. I have another one that is white and yellow, and the colour I use depends on the colour of the fabric – you want to be able to see the markings, so it’s good to have options. Tailor’s chalk is used to transfer markings from the pattern onto the fabric, and can be brushed off and/or comes out in the wash. Sometimes, these are difficult to find in stores, so I would try Amazon: Dressmaker’s Fabric Markers Chalk Pencils
4. Brush – this is for cleaning out the working parts of the sewing machine. I clean out the bobbin case and under the feed dog every time I use the machine. This one is pretty cool! It’s a brush on one end, and the other end is used to help when you need to change the needle on the sewing machine. Sure beats using the tip of your finger! Needle Inserter With Brush
5. Point Turner – when you make a dress, shirt, coat or top with a collar, this tool helps make the points of the collar perfect. It’s also good for popping out the corners of pillows, or anything that has a sharp point. I have several, but the one I always grab is the bamboo one like this Dritz Quilting Bamboo Point and Creaser
6. Thread Snips – I find using these to be so much easier than scissors when snipping thread at the machine. I love my Fiskars Shortcut Snip!
7. Scissors – for cutting small things like trim, binding or small bits of fabric. Sometimes, your regular-size fabric shears are a little too big and cumbersome for these tasks.
8. Tweezers – another handy tool to have when something goes wrong. They are great for picking thread out of the bobbin case when the machine decides to make a bird’s nest out of the bobbin thread. I also use these tweezers to thread the two needles on the overlock machine. You want to get tweezers that have a fairly long handle and a curved, pointed end – those are the most versatile, and I’ve found that they do the job better than regular, short handle tweezers. Dritz Serger Tweezers
9. Gauge – a small ruler with a sliding marker so you can remember the measurement. This is a MUST HAVE sewing tool. I’ve had this one since my 7th grade Home Economics class! Dritz Classic 6″ Sewing Gauge with Inch & Metric Markings
10. Dressmaking Shears – for cutting fabric. Never ever ever ever cut anything else with these! Paper will dull the blades. I knew someone whose husband and kids used to take hers all the time. So she padlocked the handles together. Hey, some of us are really serious about our sewing supplies. Shears are available in all sorts of price ranges, but my go-to shears are Fiskars 9 Inch Dressmaker Shears
11. Tape Measure – flexible, so you can take your measurements and determine what size to make your garment. I keep one draped around the neck of my dress form so I can find it.
12. Bobbins – be sure to check your sewing machine manual to determine the correct bobbin size. (Yes, there are several different sizes: Class 15, Class 15-J and Class 66.) If the bobbin is the wrong size, you can ruin your machine. Before I start a large project, I’ll wind about 6 or more bobbins in the matching thread. That way I don’t have to stop and re-thread the machine when the bobbin runs out. Also note that a bobbin will most likely run out of thread somewhere in the last few inches of a really long seam. And of course you won’t know that until you finish the seam. Another one to trust me on.
13. Sewing Machine Needles – these come in different sizes depending on the fabric you are using. They also come in regular and ballpoint. Always use ballpoint when sewing with a knit fabric. When I was about 13, I made a pretty dress out of knit fabric for my mom. And I used a regular needle. As soon as I finished putting in the zipper, large holes appeared in just about every stitch. oops.
14 & 15. Wrist Pincushions – I have one for satin pins and another for ballpoint pins. (see above for the difference.) I bought ballpoint pins with coloured plastic heads to really point out (no pun intended) the difference. I like keeping the pins on my wrist rather than on a regular pincushion because it’s easier and quicker when I am at the machine. Sometimes I forget that I have taken the pincushion off my wrist, and if I am not paying attention, I end up stabbing pins into my skin. Don’t do that! This style, with a plastic wristband is the most comfortable one that I have found Dritz Wrist Pin Cushion
There are a lot more tools that come in handy once you get further along with sewing. Some of the ones I have need a post all to themselves, but these 15 will give you a great start. And if you are giving these sewing tools as a gift, why not put them all in an adorable sewing basket? Prym Dritz St. Jane Sewing Baskets: Rectangles, Squares & Ovals
And if you need to buy a sewing machine, read this article: A Guide to Buying Your First Sewing Machine