Believe it or not, two simple sets of tools are all you need to create anything from a basic pillow to a ball gown. Here they will be separated into two categories: the Hand Sewing Kit and the Machine Sewing Kit. Bear in mind that you need both kits to do any job, as they work together for the best possible results.
- Sewing machine – it doesn’t need to be fancy, you’ll just want it to be able to sew a straight stitch, zigzag stitch and either a 4-step or 1-step buttonhole stitch
- Sewing machine needles
- A regular presser foot and a zipper foot
- Dressmakers pins
- Hand sewing needles
- Dressmakers shears
- A seam ripper
- Tape Measure
- Fabric Marking Pens/Tailors Chalk/Fabric Pencils
- Spools of thread
All-purpose or dressmaker pins are made of rust-proof stainless steel, and are good for pinning most fabrics. Pins come with flat heads or with round plastic or glass heads. Many sewers prefer the round-headed pins, since they are easy to see and handle.
Hand Sewing Needles
There are several types of needles on the market, ideal for different purposes. Don’t spend too much time worrying about what size or type to get; make it easy on yourself by buying an assortment, with several different needle types and sizes in one convenient package. Most people find that regardless of what might be recommended, they use the needle that is most comfortable for them. Just use common sense – don’t try to hand-sew a lightweight or delicate fabric with a thick needle, and don’t sew denim with a super-skinny one.
Trying to thread the tiny eye of a needle with a piece of thread can be quite a task, whether you’re a beginner, novice or expert sewer. Even sewers who normally don’t use one have those days when the thread just won’t go through, so it’s a good idea to have one on hand. This little metal gadget has a tiny wire loop that goes through the eye of a needle; you then slip the thread end through the wire loop, pull the wire back through the needle’s eye, bringing the thread right along with it. The wire loop is rigid, so it’s much easier to get through the eye than a soft piece of thread that keeps bending and drooping, which is why it always works.
There are many cutting tools to choose from, but a simple pair of shears is the best way to go. Shears are different from scissors in that they have differently-sized handles instead of same-sized handles, offering better leverage when in use. These asymmetrical handles are also bent upwards, so fabric stays flat on the table during cutting. You may want to invest in two pairs: one for fabric and one for paper – paper cutting dulls shears, making it difficult to cut fabric, which needs sharper blades to get a smooth, clean cut.
Nobody’s perfect, and accidents happen – in this case, the seam ripper is your best friend! This is a pencil-thin tool that has what looks like a tiny pronged blade at the end, with a protective cover that comes on and off as needed. Slide the long prong into the offending seam, and tug gently – the blade cuts the stitches, but not the fabric.
One of the most important measuring tools you can own – this is a flexible fabric or fiberglass tape, measuring a total of 60″. Most tape measures have imperial measurements on one side, and metric equivalents on the other. Just be aware: over time, fabric tape measures stretch slightly, so you’ll need to replace it every couple of years or so.
Fabric Marking Pens/Pencils
There are as many ways to transfer pattern markings onto fabric as there are sewers, and everyone has their favorite method. Fabric marking pens and pencils are a foolproof way to do it; there’s little chance in missing markings, or mistaking one for the other. Don’t just substitute with any old pen or pencil, as the ink may not wash out – fabric marking pens and pencils are designed to come clean.
The most important thing to remember when buying thread is this: go for quality! Cotton-wrapped polyester is the most common type of thread available, and good for pretty much any sewing project. When you pick up a spool of thread, check for a smooth finish; fuzzy thread equals thread that has weak spots and annoying lint issues. Don’t be tempted by bargain prices – if it’s not quality, it’s no bargain!
You can invest in a brand new machine, find one second hand or borrow one from a friend or relative: There’s no wrong way to start sewing. If shopping it can help to visit a shop and read the details displayed with each machine, and test as many as it takes to find the one that’s right for you. Most modern machines are very similar but the position of the buttons and dials will be slightly different so you want something you’ll feel comfortable with. For example when you need to reverse stitch would you prefer to press a button or press a lever to go backwards, it’s entirely personal choice.
Sewing Machine Needles
Like hand sewing needles, the best thing to do is get the variety pack – in fact, most packages of machine needles come with an assortment; two each of three different sizes. You’ll find that sewing machine needles are color-coded and numbered; the basic rule of thumb is that the lower the number, the smaller the needle. A size 10 to 12 needle covers most projects, while higher-numbered needles are better for heavier fabrics and lower-numbered needles are best for very lightweight and sheer fabrics. Once again, let common sense be your guide: look at what you’re planning to sew and pick the most logical needle. .
The principle of the sewing machine is that two threads are involved: an upper thread and a lower thread interlock to create an even, strong stitch. The upper thread is fed from the spool that sits on the spindle on top of the machine, but where does the lower thread come from? The bobbin is like a small spool of thread that sits inside the machine, and this is the lower thread that completes the link. Most machines come with two or three bobbins, but it’s good to keep extras handy; this keeps you from having to unwind a bobbin every time you need a new color!
Your new machine will come with a basic presser foot, which holds the fabric down while the needle goes in and out of the fabric. Why is this important? It keeps the fabric being sewn stable, allowing you to maintain even and straight stitching. The standard presser foot comes with two prongs, each sitting flat on either side of the needle.
Even if you’re not putting in a zipper right away, a zipper foot is good to have. What makes it work is that instead of having two prongs like the basic presser foot, it has only one. This allows the needle to get extra-close to the teeth of a zipper, but the single prong still holds the fabric firmly in place as you sew. Why is it good to have even if you’re not planning on putting in a zipper? A zipper foot is also essential for inserting piping and cording used in home décor.