Let me show you my 20 Favorite Sewing Tools and Notions, all that you need to start sewing as an absolute beginner!
Did you already know them all? Have some unusual tool not listed here below? Teach us in comments!
You’ll see that some of the sewing tools/notions I’m showing you aren’t exactly sewing related… but if you are able to think outside the box, you can always save some Bucks and use what you already have under your eyes!
You might want to read the other episodes from this Sew Basic Series:
It’s a long post, I would suggest you to Pin It for future reference, you won’t regret, promise! (it’s easy – just hover your mouse over the first pic, you’ll be redirected to your Pinterest account!)
Let’s talk about Sewing Tools and Notions
(both Usual and Unusual!)
I’m listing in order of importance and urgency (for me) all the sewing tools and notions you should get to start sewing comfortably.
In fact, from number 10 and below, I’m listing some of the sewing tools you can do without with no problem at all, but I think some of you already have them in their house and maybe don’t know they can be used this way!
Dimensions matter! To cut fabrics, the longer the better. You should have a little scissor to, just to cut thread tails and avoid to cut fabric too, in the meantime!
A Warning: never use your scissors for anything different from fabric (or thread): never with paper (i.e. cutting patterns), plastic nor other materials, or they will lose their sharpening soon! Warn Your Relatives Too…. (ask me why I’m telling you this!) … or: you can use a Scissors Lock like this:
Meaningful, don’t you think?
2. Measure Tape
Depending on your preferences, you can use a measuring tape with centimeters or inches (or both, like my pink one, featuring cm on one side and inches on the other, while the yellow/white has cm on both sides).
As you might guess, they’re used to take measurements, mostly on curvy lines (like circumferences and any other body measurement).
You’ll need needles for sewing by hand (the one with the pink and blue package) and for the domestic sewing machine (the Schmetz ones are my absolute favorite brand: I just love them!).
You can recognize the sewing machine ones because the eye is near the tip of the needle and the hand sewing kind has it on the other end of the shaft.
Tip.1: you need to change your sewing machine needle most often than you can think (or actually do), at least every time you start a new project!
Tip.2: use a specific kind of sewing machine needle for every type of fabric: there are denim needles, ballpoint needles for knits/stretch, twin or even triple needles and many more; choose a proper size too, basing on your fabric thickness.
4. Pins and Pincushion(s)
Pins are meant to keep the fabric in place while cutting or sewing; you can buy the all metal kind or the ones with the colored head: just pay attention to choose the glass head ones versus the plastic head (that will melt into your fabric the first time you’ll press above or just next to them with your iron!)
There are different sized pins both in length and thickness, to start just choose the regular ones: you can get the ballpoint (for knits) or the thinner ones (for sheers) once you will master a yellow belt in sewing.
To collect your pins, you can use a repurposed box/can/jar, get a fancy magnetic pin bowl, create a nice pincushion (better if it has a built-in sharpening feature) or refashion your daughter’s wool tights and some DIY boiled wool into a one-of-a-kind wrist pincushion!
5. Iron and Water Sprayer
Pressing while sewing makes the difference between homemade and handmade! Check my How-To Press list of tips, if you are still thinking that you can skip this step!
I would add to this point: a press cloth (a simple white cotton fabric scrap to put between iron and fabric), a regular iron board and, as soon as you can, add some Fancy Pressing Tool DIY: Tailor’s Ham, Sausage Roll and Pressing Glove: easy to do, lifesaver and money saver!
6. Thimble and Threader
While they’re designed for hand sewing, these sewing tools are needful for sewing by machine too! The thimble goes on your middle fingertip to protect it while you push your needle. I use it while I am fixing thread tails left from sewing machine/serger.
The needle threader is useful for threading any kind of needle (for sewing by hand or by machine): you put it in the eye of the needle, then thread it and pull it back, so it threads your needle.
I found it useless on the serger, where tweezers are way better, due to the reduced space!
You can’t sew without threads! The most used are cotton (for woven fabrics) or polyester (better for knits) threads, but you can find also nylon and wooly nylon (used in sergers), metallic, silk, rayon… The other things to look at is the thickness of the thread; the most used are weight n°50, that means that 50 km of this thread weighs 1 Kg!
Tip: Use the same thread kind on both spoon and bobbin, except when using embroidery thread or denim hem thread; this will minimize hazard of thread breaking!
You can use any rulers you like, they’re perfect for taking straight measurements (like while adjusting your patterns). I have them from when I went school, they’re transparent so you can look through and see what’s below.
I have a metallic one too (this is really long and it’s good to measure fabric from the bolt), this is newer – no need to have one if you’re not a sewing gadget hoarder like me 🙂
Other measuring tools you might want to add to your wish list are quilters’ rulers, which are extremely helpful when you need to add or subtract a consistent amount, let’s say, from the hem. I have a 6×24″ bigger one and a tiny 1×6″ one.
9. Pattern weights
Pattern weights are a huge timesaver when you have to cut your pattern shape, mostly on knits, sheer or any fabrics you can’t pin (like leather or PUL).
The ones in the pic are clearly handmade (from hubby – thanks, Mr.P!), you can use also: canned food, sandbags, heavyweight mugs… anything you have in hand!
I had fun putting together this list fo So Sew Easy: 11 ways to make your own pattern weights: I hope you can find something interesting, there 🙂
10. Seam Ripper and Tweezers
A Seam Ripper is your best friend, believe me or not! His primary purpose is to cut seams, both wrong seams (think when you sew together wrong sides instead Right Sides Facing… how many times!!) or existing seams on garments to be refashioned; you’ll find it useful to open your buttonholes if you’ve made them with a sewing machine!
Tweezers come with your Serger for a reason: you’ll find them essential to thread your needles and loopers unless you have really tiny fingers!!!
11. Frixion (affiliate link) Pens
They’re one of my favorite marking tools, useful to transfer pattern notches onto light colored fabrics. Maybe you can find these ballpoint gel pens on your children’s pencil-case: they’re erasable pens that have a side feature: they disappear with heat!
Tip: always check on scraps before using them on a place that you can see from the outside of your garment… someone noticed that they tend to reappear with extreme cold (put the test-scrap in your freezer after pressing it with hot iron… just to stay on safe side!)
This is one other marking tool I use a lot. There’s a specific tailor’s chalk you can use but I often run out of it (or break it into one hundred tiny pieces… I hate it), so I always keep a couple of boxes of plain chalk, the one you can use on regular chalkboard: it’s cheap, comes in many colours and is good for most situations! The only fact against it is that his markings won’t last long, so use it when you expect to finish your sewing project within the day, just to be sure!
Remember: Check if it leaves traces, trying to brush it out before marking all your fabric.
13. Lint Roller
I love this (unusual) sewing tool! You can use it to keep your project clean from bits of thread wandering after using your seam ripper… or if you don’t have a thread catcher (or you own it but still have to get in the habit of using it, like me – so your project acts as a thread catcher itself!).
This one on the pic is from Ikea and is built to catch pet’s hair so it has really strong adhesive power!
14. Sewing Gauge and Binder Clips
This Sewing Gauge is a new entry in my sewing tools stash: it is a multipurpose gadget that helps you: a. measure and mark hem depth b. draw scallops and circles c. evenly space buttonholes, tucks, and pleats d. add seam allowances Little binder clips are useful instead of pins for sewing leather/PUL and for keeping together pattern pieces while already cut out.
15. Mask Tape
Yes, the one you use when wall painting… You can place it on your sewing machine needle plate to mark the distance from the needle: you’ll only have to align your edge to the masking tape… et voilà: a straight hem is done! ù Plus: it leaves no traces when you pull it off!
16. “Professional” Tools to Add Seam Allowances (LOL)
Depending on where you live, you can expect to find patterns drawn with or without seam allowances (in Europe we have to add them, while in the rest of the world you mostly find patterns with included seam allowances).
You can use this Pinterest Wise-Tip: tape together two pencils (or pens) and you’ll have a perfect 1.5 cm Seam Allowance, just follow the edges of the pattern without seam allowances to add them!
And it works the other way too, to find sewing lines: just follow cutting lines to trace a seam line toward inside, when your pattern s.a. are 1.5 cm!
If you’re more a gadget hoarder, you can always check the Seam Allowance Guide!
17. Glue Stick and Ponytail Holders
I know that there are glues specific for fabrics, someone says that they don’t stick to your needle and don’t goes inside your sewing machine gears… and I do not question it… but I always use a glue stick from my LilPotato’s school pencil-case to stick zippers or appliques to main fabric, by using the caution of a thin layer of it!
You can use ponytail holders when your project asks for round elastic, as for a button closure on wallet or sunglasses cases… It’s cheaper than the store-bought by-the-metre round elastic and comes in more colors!
They’re perfect sewing tools (as well as eating tools!), used for turning inside-out corners. You can also press fabric while they’re inside, to give shape without burning your fingers!
More Sewing Tools (I do not own)
Rotary Cutter and Cutting Mat: Mostly used from quilters, but also useful for cutting sheer fabrics – they’re costly, I’m not planning to buy the soon! Tracing Wheel: It’s used to transfer pattern markings to the fabric by leaving a fine imprint on smooth fabrics that can be pressed away after sewing. This is one of those sewing tools I love to collect, will be mine soon! UPDATE January 2014: I have it! Here it is…
Any suggestions about how do I have to use it? I have no idea 🙁 And that’s all for today! I hope you liked this (long) post about sewing tools, perfect for beginners.