Start here if you just started sewing | Beginner Sewing Kit Essentials

With our Basic Sewing Skills class starting this weekend, I realized these new sewers were going to be looking for a supply list. Not just the "stuff" they need to make their projects, but "stuff" they need for every project. To help them and you out, I made a Wish List on Amazon to give you one-stop-shopping or something to print off and take with you to Joann's.  Don't forget your coupon!
 For a more in-depth look at the beginner's sewing basket, read on...

1. Fabric Scissors

Good, no... Great fabric scissors! Bad scissors can lead to cramped up hands and frayed looking fabric edges.  There are lots of options out there, I have these Fiskars 9" Dressmaker Shears (purchased from Walmart) and they work great...

Cutting paper will dull your fabric scissors quickly - so remember, FABRIC only!  I tied a little ribbon to mine me and I have warned my family off using them - with penalty of no cookies ever again!

2. Seam Gauge

Great for when your project calls for you to press under a quarter inch.  You can also use it to double check your seam width.  I recently splurged on a Dritz Hem Gauge so I could press and measure all at the same time.

3. Marking tools

If you are working with a pattern, you are going to need something to transfer the pattern markings to your fabric.  If you are sewing an applique, you may want to trace the shape right on your fabric.  I am a big fan of the heat-away type markers - but they are hard to use on knit fabrics.  For knits, I like something that will glide along a little nicer like this marker.  I also use tailor's chalk when I am hemming pants.

4. Seam Ripper

A seam ripper is a necessary evil.  Your machine probably came with a little dinky one, but I feel that such a painful task requires a nicer tool.  I say painful, because it breaks my heart to have to undo my work and a teeny tiny seam ripper only adds insult to injury. I also have more than one because these tend to hide when you need them most.

5. Spare bobbins

There's nothing worse than getting a beautiful thread out to sew with and discovering you have no empty bobbins.  You might be tempted to use a bobbin in another color because it's already wound. But don't do it!  If your tension isn't just right, some of that wrong color bobbin will show through on the right side of your project.  So keep a handful of extras around and only wind the bobbin half full if you'll only be doing a little sewing. Make sure you get the right bobbin for your machine please!

6. A Good Iron and an Ironing Board

You want an iron that will get hot enough and will not leave hard water droppings on your project.  I use my regular household Black and Decker, but I covet a nicer one (see the Amazon Wish List). Until that iron is in my budget, I turn the steam off and use a spray bottle whenever I need steam (think hard to press wrinkles or moistening a fusible interfacing).

7. Pressing Cloth

Most fusible interfacing directions will tell you to use a press cloth. This is to keep that sticky stuff from mucking up your iron's sole plate.  You need them when you are working with delicate fabrics as well.  I use an 18" square piece of muslin I cut myself (with pinking shears), but there are many fancy and fabric-specific options out there.

8. Pins and Pin Storage

You will eventually need to pin your project together and like machine needles (see below), there is a right pin for the job. Use sharp pins for cottons, and ballpoints for stretch knits.  The ballpoint pushes between the fabric threads, rather than piercing them like a sharp pin- if you have a stretchy knit fabric the last thing you want to do is put holes in the elastic fibers.  Also, a finer pin will make a smaller hole in your fabric - something you will want when you sew your first satin superhero cape.

I am a huge fan of magnetic pin cushions.  They are great for swiping over the carpet to lift up all of your dropped pins.  However, there are many cute pin cushion tutorials out there too. (That link will ask you to create a Pinterest account if you don't have one.  If you are crafting, Pinterest is another must have!).
Pin cushion with thread catcher and snips storage  from Sew Mama Sew blog

 9. Snips

A small pair of scissors to snip threads as you are sewing.  It can be unwieldy to cut small threads with your big Dressmaker shears.  I have some cute Janome snips that hang around my neck on a lanyard which is so handy because I always (mostly) know where they are. These Havels' will do the trick too!

Wow!  This list is kind of long!  Let's lump some together...


10. Bodkin, Measuring Tape and Hand Sewing Needles

If you are making anything with a strap or elastic, think purses and pajama pants, you will want a bodkin to feed the elastic or turn that strap tube. It way beats stabbing yourself with a safety pin.  (Where's the safety in that?).  A measuring tape, because you will be measuring (and cutting) a lot! And, *sigh* hand sewing needles, because eventually, someday, you will be forced to sew something by hand.  I can't say when specifically, but it will happen and you should be ready for it.

Last, but not least, and probably not really last but I had to stop somewhere....

I consider Machine Needles, Thread and Specialty Presser Feet part of your project's supply list.  This is because your project, more specifically, the fabric and techniques called for by your project, will determine what you need in regards to needles, thread and presser feet.  A whole post can be dedicated to each of these three topics.  But here is a brief summary:

  • Machine Needles - the tip, hole size and shaft determine the variability between needle types.  Generally, you will be good with a 75/11 Universal needle for projects using Quilting Cottons.  For thicker fabrics, you will want 90/14 (canvas, duck, home dec) or 100/16 (denim) needle.  For knits, you will want a stretch needle. And for finer fabrics, like satin/silk, you will want a narrow 65/9 needle.    This is just a guideline.  For best results, always use your project/pattern instructions to determine which is the right needle for your project!  For the nitty gritty on machine needles, check out this great resource from Schmetz.

  • Thread - Thread is much less confusing than needles.  Generally, you want to match (roughly) the fiber content of your thread to that of your project fabric.  For quilting cottons, use a 100% cotton thread.  For a poly-cotton blend or synthetic fabric, go with a poly-cotton blend thread.  Again, following the supply list for your pattern or project will always bring you the best results.  Here is a great resource from the magazine Threads on thread!

  • Specialty Presser Feet - Does your project have a zipper? You need a zipper foot!  Applique? You will want an open toe, zig-zag or similar foot to allow all of that thread to pass under your foot smoothly.  Sewing knits or quilting through layers of fabric and batting? - Make sure you have a walking foot.  Your machine will come with several feet which will get you through most jobs. But, having the right foot can make some jobs got much more smoothly.  I have to admit, I am a bit of a presser foot junkie, possibly a mature transition from my youthful shoe junkie days.  Craftsy has a great *free* video on some handy specialty presser feet.
Also, I highly recommend getting a small clear tackle box to store your presser feet in.
Presser foot box from Judy Nolan's blog This Creative Journey

Wait!  Wait!  Are you still here?

You are going to need a book for when I am sleeping and can't respond to your email quickly enough.  Here is my absolute favorite, although there are many good ones out there.  The Sewing Bible by Ruth Singer walks you through the essential techniques with great color images.  It also includes many projects where you can test out your new skills!

Maybe a Sewing Library Essentials list should be next?  What do you think?
Did I miss anything?

You can find all of these {and maybe more} on my Beginner Sewing Kit Pinterest board
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