The Most Helpful Sewing Supplies for Beginner Sewists
When I finally got around to taking my sewing machine out of the box (six months after I got it!) and decided I was going to sew something, I quickly realized I needed a lot more than a machine.
Getting the right tools for the right job will set you up to succeed on your sewing endeavors. While you don’t need to rush out and buy everything on this list, don’t be like me and realize DURING a project that you need a particular tool.
Below is list of items I learned (mostly the hard way) I needed when I started to sew. To make your sewing journey a tad bit easier, I share this list with you!
Means to prep fabric (e.g. washer, iron and ironing surface)
This is going to sound dumb, but I had no idea I should be pre-washing and ironing my fabric. I just assumed it came ready from the store.
To sum up very quickly, some fabrics shrink, so pre-washing is a must. You don’t want you beautifully and painstakingly sewn item to shrink in the wash. Washing will also help clean off any potential skin irritants on the fabric. As with anything you will throw in your washing machine, make sure you read the fabric care label and treat your fabric accordingly!
Since learning how to sew, I have slowly grown to love my iron. Not only is it used to keep fabric crease free, but it can help set seams, and help make bias tape (which was VERY helpful during the elastic shortage of 2020).
For my first couple of projects, a simple fabric measuring tape sufficed, but I have found my collection of measuring tools increasing, all of which have I couldn’t do without. So far I have:
- Measuring tapes – Available widely, came with my first sewing kit. A must for sewing clothes.
- A sewing gauge – A nifty little tool that helps you get a straight hem. Check out this article by Sew Hayley Jane for other things you can use your sewing gauge for!
- A clear ruler and ruled self-healing mat – in my personal experience, it made cutting masks a lot easier. These are also a must if you are interested in quilting!
Needles and Threads
Technically don’t need a sewing machine to sew. It is entirely possible to sew whole by hand (but I admittedly do not enjoy it because my hand sewing is not very neat).
Not all needles are created equal, and no matter how you choose to sew (hand or machine), make sure you have the right type of needle. The type of needle you need will depend on the the type of fabric you have.
I usually find the sewing machine needles in a multi-pack, so they are not terribly difficult to get a hold of. Just make sure you have enough!
Regularly changing the needle on your machine (I believe it should be changed after 8 hours of sewing) will ensure smooth sewing. My machine would always start having problems if I left a needle in too long (weird noises, not sewing smoothly, fabric and thread snagging… your needle could also break, but I’ve thankfully not experienced that… yet), which magically disappeared with re-threading and a change of the needle.
The type of thread you will use in your project is also dependent on your fabric and what your project is. Brother have this handy chart published which can help you determine the thread and needle combo needed for your fabric (sewing machine based):
Ah, the seam ripper. After my sewing machine, it’s my favorite tool, but also the one I hate using the most.
No matter your sewing experience, you’ll make mistakes. As you can guess by its name, the seam ripper will help you rip out any seams so you can re-sew them.
If you are interested in up-cycling old clothes, a seam ripper is a MUST. It’s the quickest way to rip those seams apart without any damage to the fabric (if used right!).
When I have had bad sewing days, I get thread everywhere. A Lint roller has helped pick all those suckers up.
Depending on the type of fabric you end up working with, it may help pick up lots of little fuzzies.
Marking tools are necessary so that you can essentially map out your fabric (e.g. where you are going to cut it, or sew it etc).
It is important to use a tool that is appropriate for your fabric. Please don’t be like me, and think you can get away with using any old pen and pencil. You’ll be sad when the ink doesn’t wash out easily and the mark isn’t easy to hide.
For that reason, I only use chalk now, but there are a wide variety of pens and pencils available nowadays.
Prior to sewing, your fabric needs to be held together. Pins and clips are both popular tools to do this.
Clips are definitely easier to use, and are useful to use when working with fabric you don’t want holes in (e.g. leather), or when you need to hold a lot of layers together.
Having said that, I mostly used pins. Mostly because I bought a ‘my first sewing kit’ set and they came with pins. The were quite fiddly to get used to, but the more you sew, the more you will get used to it!
Word of warning, don’t ever sew over the needle! You’ll be at risk of causing an injury to yourself and your machine!
Talking about pins, you will need somewhere to store them!
Pin cushions are handy as they are easily accessible as you are pinning /de-pinning your project. Any container will work well if you are using clips.
I have the traditional little tomato, but there are heaps of different types available with different types of fillings. Depending on the filling, your pins can be kept looking shiny, or sharpened.
I have the traditional little tomato (which I believe is filled with sawdust), and it has worked well so far.
Confession time… when I didn’t know any better, I used to use my everyday scissors to cut fabric (please don’t judge me!!).
Paper dulls scissors very quickly. If used on fabric, it could spoil your fabric, so it is essential to not use paper scissors on fabric. I believe fabric scissors can be sharpened professionally, so it really is worth investing in the best you can afford.
Make sure at a minimum, you have one set of scissors for fabric, and one set of scissors to cut paper (for patterns). I know some people who use embroidery scissors to snip threads, so this may also be something to consider.
Pinking shears are also super helpful for finishing edges on certain fabrics (I’ve only ever tried it on cotton and linen), as it prevents the edges from fraying.
Sewing Machine (including accessories and manual)
I personally am not a fan of hand sewing, and I’m not sure that I would enjoy sewing as much if I didn’t have a machine. While it is entirely possible to sew without a machine, having one makes my life a lot easier!
Sewing machines can be expensive, so it worth shopping around. I have read stories of people being able to obtain amazing secondhand machines via eBay or Facebook Market. If you live in the USA, I feel like Joann’s Fabric either has a sale or an amazing coupon available every other week, so it might be worth checking them out.
If you do buy a second hand machine, be sure to get hold of the manual (many are available online), and try to get a hold of any accessories that came with the machine. My sewing manual is AMAZING. It will help you troubleshoot any issues, and show you how to use all the functions.
Talking about sewing machines, you need bobbins!
A bobbin is a mini spool which holds the lower thread, and helps create a stitch. Not all size fits all, and your machine will use a specific one. My machine included a couple, but make sure you consult your manual to ensure you get the right one for your machine.
Printer, Paper and Tape
With the plethora of patterns available online, it is helpful to have a printer so you can print out your patterns. Sometimes online patterns go over multiple pages, so you may need tape/glue to fix the various pieces together.
Having access to medical grade paper also means you can trace out patterns if you don’t want to buy multiple copies of them.
Paper is also generally ideal for sketching out your ideas on!
Again, feels a little obvious, but I included this for good reason!
For my first project, I decided to try and upcycle a t-shirt I had, and it went terribly (t-shirt ended up being used for cleaning rags). My t-shirt had a lot of stretch in it, and I found it very difficult to handle.
As a beginner, it might be worth trying projects with stiffer fabrics/no stretch or elasticity while you learn how to manage maneuvering fabric under a sewing machine. I know it helped for me.
Like I have mentioned before, the more you sew, the easier it will get. You will be using all types of fabrics in no time!
Because of the type of person I am, I have found planning my sewing invaluable.
It started off as a few scribbles, but is now developing into an organizer of sorts, where I have my to-do list, and items needed etc all listed off. It isn’t necessary, but I have found it very helpful for myself.
I also like keeping a record of the details of my projects. I always end up learning from every project, and it’s nice to have a reference if I want to revisit a project.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but above is all the things I found helpful, or wish I had looked into when I planned my first project. I hope you have found it helpful!
Do you think I left anything off the list? What would you include? Let me know below!