For the true beginner, sewing as a hobby can be a bit intimidating. What machine do you purchase? How do you follow a pattern? What tools do you need?
Thankfully, I grew up watching my mom make some of the best Halloween costumes on the block, and while she has only given me one official lesson in sewing, watching her work familiarized me with some of the essential tools and their functions. But even with that bit of knowledge, getting started was a little daunting.
I have compiled a list, in no particular order, of tools I feel are essential to getting started. In total these should run you about $75 USD.
Number 1 — Cutting tools
Cutting tools! Fabric sheers and thread scissors for now. Fabric sheers are not the same as your typical home or crafting scissors. Fabric sheers are sent to us from a higher being and are to be protected with your life. At least that’s how my mom acted. They are used on fabric only, no paper or whatever else you might use regular scissors for. Thread scissors are just that, tiny sheers that allow you to snip threads as close to the fabric as possible. As you grow you can move up to a rotary cutter and a self healing mat, however, the mat can be a bit pricey so I would suggest first having a go with plain old sheers.
Number 2 — Pins
You will not be able to do without pins. As you are most likely aware, these you will use to secure two pieces of fabric before stitching them together. You can also use them to pin a pattern to fabric before cutting out the pieces (another option is to use pattern weights). Pins come in various lengths and gages to suit different projects, but in the beginning you will most likely get by with these 1/4 inch dressmaker’s pins. I use both pearl headed and dressmaker’s pins, but I have been slowly moving away from the pearl headed, as I have heard they are often to blame for damaging machines. Pearl headed pins are easier to grasp because of the pronounced head so if you feel that suits you better, go for it. Just be sure to avoid the head moving close to the pressure foot.
Bonus item – a pin case with multiple compartments (as seen below). This allows you to neatly organize different sized pins.
Number 3 — Needles
You’ll need an assortment of needles for hand sewing/finishing. I’ve most often used these for hand basting, Tailor’s Tacks, buttons, and hooks and eyes. These too come in an array of lengths and gages to suit different types of fabrics and/or projects. Get them here on Amazon or here at Joann.
Number 4 — Thimbles
Thimbles are a tiny but mighty little tool. These are used to protect your fingers when hand stitching. Place them on the hand behind the fabric so you don’t poke yourself in the process of hand sewing. You can also use them on the top hand while pushing a needle through thick or multiple layers of fabric. Don’t skip these! You may not use them as often as everything else, but they really do help. Get them here on Amazon.
Numbers 5-7 — Tracing Tools
You are going to need to trace or mark certain aspects of your pattern onto the fabric. Depending on your fabric, you have a few options. Washable fabrics allow for the use of the fabric safe pen, markers, chalk, or transfer paper. The more delicate your fabric, the more limited you are. This is when I turn to hand stitching in Tailor’s Tacks. However, when using washable fabric, I stick to the tracing wheel and transfer paper. Once you’ve cut the pattern piece out, before removing all pins, only remove enough pins to slip a piece of the transfer paper under your pattern. With the tracing wheel roll over things like darts, center lines, and waist lines. You can also use this method to mark notches or circles that indicate things like button placement but I would suggest poking a hole through the pattern and marking with fabric markers, pens or pencils. I am still in the market for fabric markers that actually work, so I have not linked any here. I have noticed most pens, markers and transfer paper sold today are pretty mediocre, if not useless — some of the products hardly make an imprint — so test a few out and see what works.
Numbers 8-10 — Seam ripper, wonder tape and loop turner
You will absolutely need a seem ripper, as you are bound to make mistakes or will require adjustments. A stitch doesn’t have to be permanent, so if you need to rip it out, go ahead. Some fabrics will hold up better than others, so with the more delicate fabrics, know that and try to be as accurate as possible to cut down on the ripping and restitching. You may also be required to baste a sleeve or near the bust to add ease, allowing you to slightly gather a curved edge — this stitch will eventually be removed. You can purchase a seam ripper here on Amazon.
While not entirely essential, wonder tape can come in handy for a beginner, as it is placed on the seam line between two pieces of fabric and stitched over top. It helps secure slick or stretchy fabrics from moving about under the pressure foot. It’s water soluble so it will disappear after the first wash. Find it here on Amazon.
A loop turner will help you turn spaghetti straps, ties, and belts. Find it here on Amazon.
Number 11 — Extra bobbins
Newer machines may come with a few plastic bobbins, but it is always nice to have a few extra. When most of your bobbins are already threaded from previous projects, you will have a few extra available. Find them here.
Number 12 — Measuring Tape
A soft measuring tape allows you to take your own measurements for sizing and to measure things like seam allowance. Get one here.
And that is it! With these tools you will be ready to begin your first project. Your kit will grow over time with other useful items but these things are the basics you will return with every project.
Feel free to post in the comments with any other items you feel helped get you up and running. Hit the subscribe button for real time updates and follow the links to my Instagram for daily posts.