20 Beginner Sewing Essentials

Vintage Sewing Box
Students often ask what they should have in their sewing kit. This post will share some essential items that I believe should be included in any beginner sewing kit. As your sewing skills develop and your projects become more complex, you may find it necessary to expand your sewing kit and to add specialty tools and other supplies. If you are still shopping for a sewing machine, check out our previous post on tips for buying a sewing machine. If you have a sewing machine, some of the items mentioned may be included with your machine. Your machine may also have an assortment of attachments that can be used for various sewing techniques.

Sewing Essentials
Left to Right: meter stick, pins, paper scissors, cotton thread, safety pins, hand sewing needles, water-soluble marker, gauge, sewing machine needles, dressmaker shears (fabric), measuring tape, plastic bobbin, seam ripper, pin cushion, polyester thread

1. Scissors – This is the first and perhaps the most important tool in any sewing kit. Invest in the best quality scissors you can afford, and dedicate their use to only cutting fabric. Your scissors should make cutting your fabric easy and provide a nice clean cut. I recommend holding the scissors (if possible) prior to purchasing to confirm how comfortable the grip is in your hand. You may have several different scissors in your collection, including a smaller pair of scissors for cutting loose thread from your projects. A good quality pair of scissors can be a bit of an investment, but can last you a lifetime.

2. Paper Scissors – Use separate paper or utility scissors for cutting your paper patterns. This will ensure that your quality fabric scissors are not used for this purpose. These scissors can also come in handy for other craft purposes.

3. Seam Ripper – We all have to use a seam ripper at some time or another. Have one handy to help make opening your seams easier and avoid damaging your fabric. It is also really handy for opening up the space in your buttonholes. Often, there is a small seam ripper included with your sewing machine. This will be fine for some time, but can be replaced by a larger seam ripper with a more comfortable grip. The most important thing in a seam ripper is that it is sharp.

4. Pins – Good quality pins that are well suited for your material is essential. There are different types of pins available to suite your fabric. I recommend glass head pins, which have the added benefit of not melting if you iron over them.

5. Pin Cushion(s) – Having a pincushion near by can be very handy and a safe way to collect your pins while you work. You can purchase a pincushion, but I always find it more fun to make one.

6. Bobbins – Sewing machine bobbins are available in different types. It is always best to use the type of bobbin that is suited to your sewing machine. You will find that there are plastic and metal bobbins available. I recommend referring to your sewing machine manual or take your bobbin with you when you shop for new ones. Here is our video on How to Fill Your Bobbin.

7. Sewing Machine Needles – Your sewing machine will likely come with a sample pack of needles. You can use a universal needle for many different projects; however, it generally works best if you purchase needles to suite the type of material you are working with. It is also recommended to change your needle with each project, for best results.

Tip: Test your needle on a sample of your fabric, before sewing your project. This is a great way to test your stitch quality and the appropriateness of the needle.

8. Hand Sewing Needles – Having an assortment of hand sewing needles can be very helpful for hemming, basting and other sewing jobs.

9. Needle Threader – Not everyone has perfect vision or a sewing machine with an automatic threader. These little guys can therefore come in very handy for both hand and machine sewing.

10. Safety Pins – Having an assortment of safety pins can be very helpful. I often use a safety pin to secure layers of fabric together or to help pass elastic through a casing.

11. Measuring Tape – A dressmaker or tailor’s tape is an important tool for taking body measurements, as well as for measuring other types of sewing projects. The measuring tape will generally measure to 60 inches and will often have increments in centimetres and inches. If you are sewing home decor projects, I recommend also getting a longer measuring tape that goes up to 120 inches.

12. Measuring Gauge – The 6 inch measuring gauge is a handy little measuring tool that is great for all sorts of sewing task. It can be used for measuring a seam or hem and can assist with an accurate placement of your buttonholes, buttons and zippers.

13. Meter Stick – You can find a meter stick at your sewing supply shop, art store, office supplies or hardware store. I have both a wooden and a metal meter stick, and have found that the metal meter stick is handy when using a rotary cutter.

14. Water Soluble Fabric Marker – Having a good marking tool is important for transferring pattern markings and other details onto your fabric. The water-soluble fabric markers are great on most fabrics and will easily wash away. You can also use other marking tools such as chalk or fabric pens as an alternative. I have found that tailors chalk works best on dark colours and the “Frixion” iron away pens are great for fine lines.

Tip: Test your marking tool on a sample of your fabric if possible.

15. Thread – Thread can be found in different fibres and varying size spools. Purchase good quality thread, which will be best for your sewing machine and provide a better stitch quality. Consider purchasing several spools when they are on sale. I recommend having cotton thread for your cotton or linen projects, silk thread for your silk and wool projects and quality all-purpose polyester thread that works well with many different fibres. Generally, you will match your thread colour to the dominant colour in your project; however, you can also use a contrasting colour thread for a decorative effect. This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but I recommend always having on hand a variety of threads for different types of projects.

Iron

16. Iron – An iron with a steam and a variable fabric setting can really enhance the finish of your projects. Press your seams as you go for best results. Use a pressing cloth when needed.

17. Ironing Surface – There are various products available to turn virtually any flat surface into an ironing surface. However, I have found that I get the best results from using an ironing board at the appropriate height.

18. Self-Healing Mat – Using a self-healing mat to cut your fabric can save your work surface from damage. Even if you have an old worktable or a dedicated cutting table, a self-healing cutting mat can be a helpful addition. They can be pricey depending on the type and where you purchase them. You can find rather large cutting mats at your local sewing supply shop, however, if you are looking for a more economical option, consider purchasing a self-healing mat from your local office or art supply shop.

19. Lint Roller – A lint roller may not be at the top of the list, but depending on your fabric, it can be handy to have one around. It is also a great way to cleanup loose thread on your projects.

20. Washi Tape – I have used washi tape as a seam guide and it does not leave a sticky residue on my sewing machine. As an alternative you can also use painter’s tape. I recommend removing the tape at the end of each use.

I hope that you have found this post helpful. This list is by no means everything you will ever need for sewing, but it is a great start to getting you on your way to enjoying sewing. If you have any recommendations on what you think should be included in this list, just comment below.

Happy stitching!

*This is an updated post. The original version of this post was originally published on our previous blog on January 31, 2017.
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