Building a small but effective arsenal of sewing tools will help make your first couple of sewing projects a lot easier. In this video, I’ll cover some sewing toolbox essentials.
When you sew, you will be cutting a lot of things, like fabric, paper, and thread, so I am going to start with some must-have cutting tools.
Fabric shears are one of your most important sewing tools. There are many different types of fabric shears, but if you want a starter pair, get some high-quality 8” knife edge shears. They’re big enough to be efficient, but small enough to cut around tight curves. Fabric shears are for fabric only, and you should never use them on paper.
Speaking of paper, you will also need a pair of standard household scissors for cutting paper patterns.
To save time while sewing, get an efficient pair of thread snips. This can just be a small pair of scissors or you can go all out for a nice ergonomic pair. Keep them next to your machine and snip as you go!
A rotary cutter can make cutting go twice as fast, and it is quite precise. It does require a cutting mat, which is the expensive part. Buy the biggest mat you can afford, and you won’t regret it.
Pattern weights are particularly helpful if you choose to cut using a rotary cutter. You can buy small weights specifically for sewing, or use a small, heavy objects like metal washers from your favorite hardware store.
Making clothing for yourself means becoming intimately acquainted with your body measurements. Taking accurate measurements is essential to getting a good fit, so keep a measuring tape handy when you start a project.
You’ll also often need to measure while working with a pattern, so you should have at least one clear ruler. They make it easy to mark your hems and work with the grainline on your fabric.
A seam gauge is a small metal ruler that has a sliding gauge. This tool allows you to easily mark small repeated measurements like buttons, pleats, and hem allowances.
Pins act as an extra set of hands when cutting and sewing. During the cutting process, pins are used to secure your sewing pattern to your fabric, helping to keep everything stable as you cut. When sewing, pins are used to temporarily hold two fabric edges together as you sew.
Spare your sewing machine’s needle by avoiding sewing over pins. Sewing over pins can break needles and disturb the timing of your sewing machine.
You will also need a pin cushion for storing all of your pins, like the iconic tomato cushion. We also have a fun tutorial for making your own magnetic pin holder, so don’t miss that on our YouTube channel.
You’ll often need to make pattern markings on your fabric, and there are a bunch of marking tools you can choose. I love to use a classic triangle of chalk, but they also make chalk pens and water-soluble markers and pencils. There’s some really cute stuff out there, so have fun.
Sewing machine needles come in a variety of sizes and types. The larger the needle, the heavier the fabric it was intended for. Universal needles are great all-purpose needles that can be used for a variety of fabrics. Size 70/11 needles are considered medium weight; they are ideal for something the approximate weight of a bed sheet. A higher number denotes a larger needle, while a lower number indicates a smaller needle. Remember to replace your needle after 8 hours of sewing.
We’ve made a downloadable needle guide just for Seamwork members that you can find in the Classroom. Print it out and post near your sewing machine for at-a-glance reference.
Finally, there’s one tool you can’t sew without. The seam ripper. Mistakes are a natural part of sewing, and you’ll have to rip out some seams. Maybe a lot of seams. It happens to the best of us, so a nice, sharp seam ripper is worth every penny.
And those are some of the essentials you’ll need to get sewing. What else might you need? Don’t worry, you’ll soon be collecting tons of other notions and tools as you learn new techniques. Next we’re going to dive into choosing a project and fabric.