For a sewer who is just getting into this fun and rewarding hobby, there may be a lot of sewing essentials and accessories that you’re unaware of that are necessary before you can really get going on most projects. Before you decide that you are ready to start sewing, you must have the essentials in your sewing room to get started.
By ensuring that you have all of the objects and supplies in this list, you won’t be discouraged once you start working on a particular project only to notice that you are missing an item that you need to complete it. No one wants to have to make countless trips back and forth to the sewing supply store or to wait longer for supplies to be delivered that you ordered online, creating delays in finishing your sewing project.
Use this list to make sure that you have all the sewing essentials you need, ready to go in your sewing space or sewing room.
Table of Contents
- Sewing Machine
- Thread and Bobbins
- Rotary Cutter
- Gridded Cutting Mat
- Transparent Quilting Ruler
- Pin Cushion and Pins
- Seam Ripper
- Fabric Marking Tool
- Measuring Tape
- Seam Gauge
- Start Sewing With Your New Equipment
The first thing you need as a beginner sewer is, of course, a sewing machine! While you may not want to spend a lot of money on a new sewing machine as a beginner, there are still some essential features that you want to make sure the sewing machine you do end purchasing has, so that you will be able to do all of the things you want to with your machine without getting frustrated with learning to sew.
There are two main types of sewing machines that you have to choose from: mechanical sewing machines and computerized sewing machines. Neither is inherently better than the other. Mechanical sewing machines just require manually changing settings, whereas computerized sewing machines can change with the press of a button.
You should try to ask yourself what kind of sewing projects you plan to work on (clothing, napkins, home furnishings, accessories, stuffed dolls, etc.) and figure out which type of machine will be best for the projects you intend to sew. If you want to start quilting, you’ll want to get a sewing machine for quilting. But if you want to make things from thick materials like leather or upholstery, you’ll want to get a heavy-duty sewing machine.
Thread and Bobbins
Thread is essential to sewing any material, and you also need bobbins, small metal, or plastic wheels, to hold your thread.
You probably won’t know all the colors of thread that you will end up using, but starting with at least black, white, and a neutral or two is a good way to start your collection. If you know some of the projects you plan on starting, make sure you have thread to match for those projects first.
While a bobbin holds your thread, that is not its only purpose. A bobbin is actually very important to your sewing machine. The thread from the bobbin threads through your sewing machine, as the bobbin holds the thread through the needle. It goes up through the plate and connects with the top thread to create a sturdy stitch when you are using your machine.
Most likely, your sewing machine will come with a bobbin, as it is placed under the sewing needle in a special compartment. Still, it can be a pain to wind a new bobbin every time you’re using new thread, so you will want to keep at least a few bobbins on hand. Also make sure that you buy the correct bobbin size for your sewing machine. It’s always a pain to come home from the store only to discover your new bobbins don’t fit into the bobbin holder.
Now you may be thinking, “I already have scissors at my house, so I don’t need to get any more.” But those scissors are probably not the best scissors for cutting fabric properly. Sewing requires different types of scissors that can quickly and easily cut through a variety of materials without damaging them. Here are the three types of scissors you should have.
Fabric scissors are specially made to be stronger and sharper to cut through fabric rather than just made for paper. Regular scissors will have a tougher time cutting through fabric, especially thicker fabric. Also, when you make sure to only use these scissors for cutting through fabric, they will stay sharper and be easier to use to cut your many fabrics. If you use fabric scissors on paper, the minerals in the paper will wear down the blade, leaving your expensive sewing scissors dull. It is important to be able to get straight, clean lines on your fabric for your projects—especially when trimming excess parts to clean it up.
Embroidery scissors don’t only differ from regular fabric scissors in their look and shape, but in function, too. These scissors are smaller than regular scissors, as they are made for delicate work and cutting smaller pieces.
Embroidery scissors are usually about 3 to 4 inches long, but there are also mini versions which can be as small as 2 inches. Their blades are short and narrow, allowing you to get as close as possible for details that you cannot reach with regular scissors. They not only keep your work neater, but most embroidery scissors also look pretty neat, too. They come in a lot of fun and funky designs that you’ll probably want to collect, though you don’t need to purchase a lot just for your beginner sewing essentials. If you’ve ever seen the famous design that make the scissors look like a bird opening its beak, those are embroidery scissors.
Pinking scissors, also called pinking shears, have sawtooth blades instead of simple straight blades that leave a zigzag pattern instead of a straight edge. These scissors are used to help keep your fabric from fraying. Though it does not always stop fraying fully, the blades help to limit the length of the frayed thread and thus minimizes damage.
For projects with less stable fabric, pinking scissors are great to work with. They are also useful when cutting up a lot of fabric you’ll be handling before a project, such as in a charm pack.
Scissors are the only sharp objects used to cut that you’ll want to add to your sewing equipment, though. A rotary cutter is an essential piece often used by quilters to cut fabric. Using this tool makes it easy to cut fabric as it is laid out flat, as you won’t have to try to hold your fabric and cut with scissors at the same time, which is especially important as you cut larger chunks of fabric for your project.
A great rotary cutter should be able to cut through multiple layers of fabric and hold the fabric flat for accurate, straight cuts without any jagged or rough edges.
Gridded Cutting Mat
You won’t want to use your rotary cutter without accompanying it with a gridded cutting mat. Since you lay your fabric flat to cut it with a rotary cutter, the cutting mat not only provides a soft, safe space to cut onto. After all, no one wants to get a bunch of blade marks in their dining room table or sewing cabinet. It also helps to cut evenly and straight, as well as to measure properly, with the gridlines on the mat.
Some cutting mats are “self-healing,” which means that they can withstand the force of the rotary cutter on its surface. They may be double-sided so that one side does not get used more than the other and therefore need to be replaced sooner.
Transparent Quilting Ruler
Similarly to a gridded cutting mat, a transparent quilting ruler will help you if you plan to sew quilts. Being clear, these rulers make it easy to line up and see where you want to cut on your fabric. Many transparent quilting rulers also may have small circle grips to help them stay in place once you put the ruler on top of the fabric. This is important so it does not slip as you are marking or, even worse, cutting your fabric.
A standard, clear, 6″ x 24″ plastic ruler will be the basic quilting ruler that you’ll want to add to your collection, but there are some other options as well that you may want, depending on what type of sewing and quilting your plan on doing.
A square-up ruler will be a great ruler for a beginner quilter, as it allows you to easily measure squares for more simple quilt designs. This ruler also typically has a diagonal line through the middle, which can help with patchwork pieces and helps you get a more “true” square. You may also want a longer ruler, wider ruler, and a smaller rule for trimming.
Pin Cushion and Pins
Your pin cushion and pins are other accessions that you can have a bit of fun with, showing your style and choosing something different than the norm if you so wish. Pins are a very basic sewing supply, but something that are definitely a necessity to have a lot of! You may be using dozens of pins just for one project, so you don’t want to run out of them. This is especially apparent if you’re making a quilt where every pin matters for keeping your layers even.
They make pins in different styles with smaller or larger heads, so you can choose which type are easiest for you based on your preference. For example, a pin with a larger head may be better for you since they are easier to grab, or they may not be what you want for certain projects if the bigger head may get in the way of intricate details. You can have a variety of pins available in different sizes depending on your needs.
A pin cushion, as its name suggests, somewhere that you will place your pins for safekeeping. Traditional pin cushions are soft and have space for you to stick your pins into, but they also make magnetic pin cushions that you can use for a different type that you may prefer. You can find a large variety of cute and creative pin cushions at your favorite sewing supply store. And of course, you can also keep your hand sewing needles stuck in the cushion with the rest of yoru pins.
A seam ripper may not be something that you hope to have to use, but it is still an item that you’ll want on hand for correcting mistakes that are bound to happen while sewing, especially as a beginner. Even more experienced sewers swear by having a seam ripper, and have probably used it a lot more often that you would think.
A seam ripper helps you to undo a seam when you sewed somewhere that you shouldn’t have, or messed up your sewing line and need to start over. They can remove unwanted stitches and threads, or open up a buttonhole. A good seam ripper will protect the fabric, while allowing you to easily get and pull the thread from your project. Seam rippers can come in different shapes and sizes, and it may take a bit of practice or trial and error to find the seam ripper that you’ll want for your sewing supplies.
Fabric Marking Tools
As you sew, you’ll sometimes have to mark places on your fabric to help you with the next steps. Whether you need to write for placement of design elements, or even other marks for folds or places to switch patterns, a piece of equipment like a fabric marking tool will be helpful. Below are some of the fabric marking tools that you can choose from.
Fabric chalk works well for marking thick or textured fabrics and provides a smooth line that you can brush away easily or allow to simply fade. If you won’t be handling the fabric that you mark with fabric chalk a lot so that it may get accidentally rubbed off, this is a great way to mark your fabric. Remember that you’ll probably have to sharpen your fabric chalk more often than other fabric marking tools, so be prepared for that if you choose this option.
Many fabric pens are made with ink that can disappear with water or heat, so that the marks you make will not show on your final, finished project. They work well for creating precise lines and small dots and circles for simple markings.
Similarly to fabric chalk or a fabric pen, the fabric pencil can be easily removed from the fabric so that it doesn’t stay on the finished piece. Unlike fabric chalk or regular pencils, these pencils do not have to be sharpened; you simply pull a string down the row of paper to expose more of the pencil.
Measuring tape is an easy addition to the rest of your sewing equipment that’ll definitely come in handy. Though you may have other tools that help with measuring, nothing matches up to when you just need a simple, flexible measuring tape on hand. This is of the less expensive accessories to add to the collection, and you may already have some measuring tape at home. Make sure to add it to your sewing kit as you’ll want to use it on your next project.
Last but not least, a seam gauge is yet another measuring tool that you will need to use in many sewing projects. It is typically six inches long and used for measuring short spaces. This basic tool is perfect for measuring hems. It also has an adjustable slider on the ruler to help for more precise measurements and, like a typical ruler, has measurements in inches on one side and centimeters on the other.
Some of the most common seam and hem allowances are also marked along the seam gauge. You can check hem depth as well as make crisp corners when sewing or quilting. A sewing gauge also comes in handy when you are sewing curved hems, trying to evenly mark spaces for pleats or tucks, and ensuring any hanging trim that you are attaching hangs evenly.
Start Sewing With Your New Equipment
Not that you have all the essential sewing equipment, you are ready to get going with your first project. You will learn a lot along the way as a beginner, and these tools will come in handy to help you get through your projects and learn about what other equipment you may want or need once you get more experience. Pick up some sewing books for beginners and start creating!