If you’re just beginning your adventures in sewing, you may be overwhelmed by all the sewing tools and equipment that are available. What do you really need? What would be nice to have? What can you do without? We’ll try to answer these question for you, so you can start with the essentials and build from there.
From cutting a length of fabric off the bolt to turning up the hem on a finished garment, sewing involves a lot of measuring. There are two measuring tools that you’ll want to keep with you as you sew.
- Measuring tape. A 60-inch, flexible measuring tape is essential. It may have inches marked on both sides, or one side may be metric. It’s used for measuring your body and making sure grain lines are straight when you lay out your pattern, among many other tasks. Measuring tapes come in lots of colors, so have some fun and pick out your favorite.
- Sewing gauge. This looks like a tiny metal ruler with a plastic sliding attachment. It will be one of your best friends as you sew. A sewing gauge is 6 inches long, and it may be marked with both inches and centimeters. The slider lets you clearly mark a particular measurement, so you can reposition the gauge without having to re-measure.
The one cutting tool that’s absolutely essential is a good pair of sewing shears. Unless you’re perfect, you’ll also want a seam ripper. Beyond that, there are other tools that are in the “nice to have” category.
- Sewing shears. Buy the best sewing shears you can afford. If you take care of them, they’ll last a lifetime. Quality shears cut cleanly and smoothly without snagging or chewing up the fabric. Cheap scissors that are made for paper or general crafting really won’t do if you’re serious about sewing.
- Seam ripper. As its name suggests, a seam ripper is made to cut through sewn thread. Whether you need to rip out an entire seam or just remove a few errant stitches, it’s an essential tool.
- Snips. A small pair of snips can really come in handy. They’re more convenient than shears for cutting thread and opening buttonholes.
- Pinking shears. You’ll probably eventually want pinking shears, but you may not need them right away. They’re used to create a zigzag edge that won’t ravel. This is useful if you’re working with fabrics that are too fine to support a serged or turned-back edge. The jagged edge produced by pinking shears also helps keep the seams of thick fabrics from showing through to the right side when they’re pressed.
- Rotary cutter and mat. Rotary cutters are great for cutting straight edges. They make short work of quilt pieces and patterns with long lines and wide curves. They aren’t as good with tight curves and intricate pieces. If you want a rotary cutter, you’ll need to get a cutting mat to go with it.
Pins are essential for sewing, so you might want to know a bit about your choices.
- Size. Most sewing pins that you see are either one-quarter or one-half inch long. If the package has no specific labeling, the pins are for general purposes. If they’re labeled dressmaker pins, they’re a bit finer and are good for lighter weight fabrics. If you sew with very fine fabrics, you may want silk pins.
- Heads. Most silk and dressmaker pins just have small, metal heads. Most all-purpose pins have colorful ball heads that are made out of glass or plastic. Ball heads are easier to grasp, and the colors make them much easier to find if you drop one on the carpet.
- Points. Pins may have sharp or ball-point tips. Sharps are appropriate for woven fabrics. Ball-points are best for knits. You can either buy the type that matches the fabric you sew with most, or you can buy both and keep them separate.
A pack of assorted needles is probably the best choice if you’re just starting out. When you discover which needles work best for the work you do, you can buy packages of just that type.
- Size. Sewing needles come in various lengths and thicknesses. Smaller, sharper needles will pierce the fabric more easily, but thicker fabrics require heavier needles.
- Points. Like pins, needles can have sharp or ball-point tips.
- Eyes. Some needles have very short, small eyes. Others have larger, longer eyes. The short eyes are stronger, but the long eyes are easier to thread.
Once you have measuring tools, cutting tools, pins and needles, you have all the makings of a starter tool kit. Your biggest purchase is going to be a sewing machine. There are many styles at many price points that are suitable for different purposes. If you need some advice, stop by our shop or contact us online. We’re always happy to help new sewists make wise decisions on their first machines.