When it comes to sewing gear, I am all about minimalism. The most stressful thing to me is too much information, especially when I am trying to create. I find that when I have only the basic accessories, I get all of my sewing accomplished.
That said, you can’t just sew with nothing! You must have some BARE MINIMALS, which I have listed below. Included below this list is another list (yay) of additional items that will make your sewing experience a breeze. Can you tell that I love lists?
A list of items that should be in every sewer’s studio
Read my page on Sewing Machines if you are interested in purchasing a new one. If you can’t, that’s ok. I teach sewing lessons and one thing I know for sure: everyone has a grandma or an aunt or a mom who has a sewing machine in the attic. Ask them to loan it to you. It will be one of the best tools you could ever own, I guarantee it. When word gets out, you’ll be the talk of the neighborhood. Everyone needs something hemmed, altered or repaired. Trust me. I know.
Get high quality, all purpose thread. Please. Cheap thread is cheap thread. You wouldn’t want that on your garment, would you?
To end the stress of too much information, you can’t go wrong with an all purpose, polyester thread. If you have that, you’re good to go. Move on to the next tool!
(If you’re the type that needs all the information first, here is a cheat sheet of common thread types. Pick the one that works for your project!):
- Cotton thread: has very little “give” and tends to break easily, but it’s a good choice when sewing delicate fabrics.
- Polyester thread: is a true all-purpose thread, and it’s a good choice for most sewing projects. The thread has some give to it, so it won’t break when you are working with stretchy knits.
- Heavy-duty thread: (which is also a polyester thread, btw) is thicker than all purpose thread, and not suitable for most garment sewing projects. It’s perfect when sewing upholstery and canvas though!
- Silk thread: is good for (you guessed it!), silk. I also like to use it for embroidery, and other very fine fabrics.
- Wool thread: probably won’t get a lot of love. It will be a rare occasion that you’ll use this thick, extremely strong stuff! But it’s a good choice for sewing heavy duty fabrics and top stitching on denim.
I didn’t name my blog Put a Pin in it for nothing! As long as your sewing, you’ll be doing a lot of pinning.
Pins are used to hold fabric together temporarily when attaching and cutting patterns, or while sewing.
If you walk into any fabric store, there will be a lot of options. Pins and needles are everywhere!
If you’re a beginning sewer, stick to a tried and true: I use straight pins, the extra long and extra strong kind I use for most of my dressmaking projects; the medium/shorter length pins I use for appliqué work and smaller projects. Buy a packet of each (medium/shorter ones and extra long ones). It helps to get a magnet to hold them all on. Pin cushions = time wasted. No one feels like re-pinning the pins into a cushion. They’ll end up all over the floor!
Safety pins are also used in sewing to bring elastic/rope/ribbon/etc. through a casing, or flipping narrow objects right sides out. Grab a few of these in various sizes.
You’ll need 4 types of scissors:
- Dressmaking shears: for cutting fabric of all types.
- Paper scissors: for cutting out patterns.
- Small scissors: for snipping threads.
- Pinking shears: if you don’t have a serger, you can finish off your seams with pinking shears. The zig zag pattern prevents seams from fraying.
I’m one of those people who forgets which scissors are my “paper only” scissors, and which are my “fabric only” ones. The struggle. If you’re like me, you’ll need to label which is which!
I teach a lot of younger kids lessons, and those big metal dressmaking shears are not convenient for little hands. I buy a packet of Fiskar’s brand scissors. They’ve been selling them in packets of three sizes (large, medium and small), and I love these scissors. The medium ones are perfect for the kiddos, and the small ones are great for snipping threads. (The large pair could be an extra. Someone is always looking for the scissors, am I right?!)
NOTE: Fiskars has not been selling scissors in these convenient packets anymore, 🙁 however, I found these scissors on amazon which would be great if you aren’t ready to pay for dressmaking shears yet. They also come with the thread snipper scissors. All you’d have to find are some old paper scissors (which are always floating around the house somewhere!) and pick up those pinking sheers.
5. Iron and ironing board
I have recently purchased Shark’s iron and I love it! I am not a huge fan of the fact that it automatically turns off when it’s been like 15 minutes (that is a pain when you’re in the middle of a sewing project!), but it does really well with not burning fabric and I love the X-tended steam burst!
Set the iron to the temperature you’ll need for the fabric you’re using. Always test a scrap piece of fabric, and make sure it won’t burn at the temperature you’ve set it to!
If your fabric burns, lower temperature and grab a pressing cloth (Most stores sell these next to the irons, or you could use cheesecloth, too.). Place the cloth over sensitive fabric, and then test iron.
Some fabric will not be able to be ironed, and you’ll have to finger press (like origami- fold and press with your fingers repeatedly to make a crease).
A list of items that would benefit every sewer!
1.Extra machine needles
The thicker the fabric, the higher the number of the machine needle. That’s a good rule to follow.
I love Schmetz brand as they won’t ruin your sewing machine! Singer’s machine needles are horrible. Schmetz also has an adorable app where you can see the needle’s color code-there’s a specific color given for type of needle and size.
- Universal needles in sizes 90/14: for sewing all cotton fabrics, and basic sewing needs. (Aprons, simple bags, pillows, etc.) I always have tons of these on hand!
- Denim needles in sizes 100/16: for sewing thick layers and heavy fabrics.
- Ball point or stretch needles in various sizes: for sewing knit.
If you have these three types of machine needles, you will be good to go with most sewing projects.
If you don’t already have these tools, you’ll be ecstatic when you make this investment. Some tips:
- Make sure you take good care of the blades, and replace them when they are dull.
- Get the biggest cutting mat you can afford! 18″ x 24″ is a good size, but 24″ x 36″ is even better.
- Practice, practice, practice. It will get easier- and before you know it, you’ll be saving so much time using this every time you need to cut something instead of scissors!
3. Presser feet
- Standard Presser Foot: Your machine should come with this foot, and it can be used for both straight and zig zag stitching. You will honestly use this foot to death.
- Zipper foot: If you are going to install a zipper, this little guy is a must. Most machines already come with one (read your manual to see which foot is used for what, if you’re confused). Some machines come with a pile of different presser feet, and it can be a little overwhelming, so it helps to remember that you’ll be using these two the MOST, and the others are just bonus tools.
Even the best seamstresses make mistakes! You will be in a pickle if you don’t have one of these on hand.
Honestly, I use everything from sharpie pens to chalk to mark on my projects. If you are going to be marking on the fabric’s right side, make sure you use a water soluble (aka can be washed off with water) fabric marking pen. If you are making a mark and you won’t be able to see it on the finished project (Like, if the marking is going to be placed on the wrong side of the fabric), then it doesn’t matter what type of pen you use. As long as you can see it!