As I mentioned in my guide on how to get started sewing (and actually enjoy it), you need very few tools besides fabric and a sewing machine to get started sewing. In fact, I bet most of you have many of these tools lying around your house right now, even if you don’t own a sewing machine.
Here is my list of seven essential sewing tools you need in your sewing kit if you want to get started sewing today. If you end up making your way to the bottom, you’ll see the number one tool you should be using NOW to improve your sewing once you get started.
I’ve dropped a few affiliate links in with my summary so if those make you feel icky, feel free to sidestep those and look up the aforementioned products in the search engine of your choice.
- Sewing Pins
Sewing pins are one of the real workhorses in your sewing arsenal and for good reason. You can use them to hold two pieces of fabric together, affix patterns to fabric before cutting them out and even mark notches. There are several types of pins out there to use but my favorites to use are the type with colored plastic balls on the top and glass head pins.
The type with plastic balls on the end are easy to keep track of (read: they don’t fall on the floor to get stepped on). Glass head pins are very sharp and great to use for more delicate fabrics or when I need to use steam while holding two pieces together.
- Tape measure
I have three tape measures and use them whenever I need to measure something which won’t lay flat on a table.
- Sewing machine
A good condition basic sewing machine is all you need in the beginning. It can be used, new or borrowed but a basic – meaning it can sew a straight stich and a zig zag stich – is all you need to get started. I currently use a Singer Quantum 9960 but started sewing using a Singer 1304 that I bought at a local grocery store for about $60. I used that machine until I felt like sewing was a hobby I wanted to invest in and upgraded.
- Good quality thread (trust me on this. . .)
Always buy the best thread you can afford – the cheap stuff is fuzzy and will clog up your machine. It also will drag through your garment and start to shred your clothes after a few washes – if it hasn’t snapped or popped your seams first. I use Madeira or Gutermann on both my serger and sewing machine. I buy both brands online in Norway. I also tend to buy Gutermann thread when we travel in Europe or bring back a few rolls of Maderia when we travel in the U.S.
- Acrylic rulers and straight rulers (meter sticks or yard sticks)
I have several clear acrylic rulers and I tend to use these with a rotary cutter and a cutting mat. They make measuring and cutting fabric very easy but also drafting pattern pieces. I use an expandable meter stick when I need to measure anything flat over 60 cm.
- Materials for pattern drafting
Grab a few pencils for patterns drafting, Swedish tracing paper (aka Norwegian matpapir), freezer paper or newspaper to make patterns, clear tape to hold it all together and tailor’s chalk or washable fabric markers to mark your fabric.
- Two pairs of scissors (one for fabric and one for paper)
You’ll need two pairs of scissors because cutting paper will make your fabric scissor’s blades dull over time. I bought my fabric scissors at IKEA and the paper ones at a local discount store. Later you can invest in a scissor blade sharpener to keep both pairs honed and sharp. You can also upgrade your scissor collection in time or ask for fancy scissors as gifts.
So what is the number one tool you should be using NOW to improve your sewing? Ready for it? It’s a steam iron. Yup, a steam iron will improve your sewing more than you might think. Ironing with and without steam will help you ease in sleeves, mold bias binding to hems, more easily sew darts and cut straighter pattern pieces from your fabric. We’ve all seen those online sewing gurus who consistently skip pressing or ironing fabric during the sewing process but trust me – for the best garments use your iron during the sewing process.
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