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.
This is a small plastic or metal ruler, 6" long, with a sliding gauge that runs the length of the ruler. This makes is incredibly easy to keep a constant measurement to seam allowances, hems and even to mark top stitching.
Clear Gridded Ruler
This is exactly what its name implies: a clear plastic ruler that is usually 18" long and 2" wide, with inches, half inches, quarter inches and eighth inches marked as a grid. The great thing about this ruler is that you can lay it right on your pattern or fabric, and see clear through to what's underneath.
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!
Chances are your mother and grandmother had one of these: a little metal cup that fits perfectly on a fingertip. The main job of a thimble is to protect the fingertip that pushes the needle through the fabric when hand-sewing, as even the blunt side of a needle can stick you. Many people don't feel the need to use one unless they're working with heavy fabric, but try one out for yourself and decide when to use it and when not to bother.
Practice Hand Sewing
Now that you have your hand sewing kit together, it's a good time to practice some simple hand sewing stitches. Some hand stitches are used during the sewing and construction process, others are for finishing hems and seams. Once you get comfortable with these stitches, it will be easy to incorporate them when you're ready to sew up an actual garment from a pattern.
The Machine Sewing Kit
First and foremost, you will need a sewing machine. Most machines come with a few of the basics listed below, but it's doesn't hurt to check!
The Machine Sewing Kit Checklist:
- Sewing Machine
- Sewing Machine Needles
- Presser Foot
- Zipper Foot
- Small Screwdriver
- Sewing Machine Oil
- Small Brush
Sewing Machine The most basic type out there is the best way to go for a beginner, so don't be persuaded by a salesperson to get the fancy machine with 1,000 stitch types and all of the bells and whistles. While in the store, read the details on the cards and booklets that are displayed with each machine, and test as many as it takes to find the one that's right for you. Remember, even if you're not paying top-dollar for the most advanced machine on the market, it's still an investment; you have to feel comfortable with it.
Think about what you plan to do with your machine. Do you want to do simple sewing and mending? Are fashion garments in your future? Quilting? Home Décor? Chances are a simple mechanical machine that runs straight and zig zag stitching is all you'll need. There are more complex, computerized machines on the market, but these can be more difficult to deal with if you've never used a machine before. Remember, you can always upgrade later!