30+ essential sewing tools you may need to start to sew

sewing tools

Sewing is a very cost effective hobby - It gets you beautiful clothes at the expense of very few basic tools and equipment.  There are some very essential tools you have to have when sewing and there are some tools you can do without. It is your call.

Decide which are the most essential tools you have to have when sewing after reading this article.

 

Sewing machine

Finding a suitable and affordable sewing machine is the first step in sewing your own dresses. A mistake made when choosing the Sewing Machine can make or break your desire to sew. Curses, frustrated sighs, trips to the repair shops, not going to the sewing corner  for a long time ( don’t ask me how I know) all will result if you purchase the wrong machine.

Check out this article before choosing a sewing machine if you are a beginner

Measuring tape

This is a staple and goes without saying that for accuracy in sewing a measuring tape is a must. They ensure perfection in sewing. The measuring tape measures 60 inches or 150 cms and has metal tips on both ends to prevent fraying. It can be easily folded up for storing.

Tape measure is an essential tool in your sewing kitty but do not despair if you end up without one. You can still sew with perfection- if you know the measure of any one of your finger. So go now and take the measure of a finger. In the knowledge of your finger lies your power. Anywhere you go you  now, you have the ruler with you.

When I started to sew I didn't know how to read a tape measure properly. Checkout the tutorial on accurate reading of the tape measure for more details 

Needles

Sewing machine needles. Always stitch with a sharp needle. A blunt needle will destroy your fabric. Different types of fabrics will require different types of needles.

Hand sewing needles: Most sewing projects will require a little bit of hand finishing, like sewing a button or a hem. Small and thin needles are used to sew on fine materials and to make small dainty work. Thin and long needles are used for tacking on thick materials.Checkout the 14 different types of hand sewing needles available

Be it machine or hand sewing needles always remember to keep the needles in a separate box wrapped in paper otherwise rust may set in destroying and blunting them. Checkout the post on selecting the best sewing needle for your sewing project.

Threads

There are  a variety of threads available for sewing line sewing machine threads, embroidery threads, quilting threads, top stitching threads, upholstery threads, metallic threads, invisible threads, tailor’s threads and so on. Check out the detailed post on selecting the appropriate thread

sewing tools

Tailor’s Chalk

This chalk rubs off clothes very easily and is hence the preferred means of marking on fabric for most. You should have chalk of different colours so that you can use on different coloured cloth.Checkout this post on transferring designs for other alternatives for marking on fabric 

Scissors

If your scissors are blunt it will take away all the joy of sewing. Inaccurate cutting will damage your fabric and you will end up abandoning sewing. Since a sharp and well-maintained scissors can give you sharp edges the final garment will end up looking finished.

My advice is to buy the best ones you can find. A bend handled sharp scissors for cutting fabric and a pinking scissors to keep the edges from fraying and a small all-purpose scissors are a necessity.Check out the post for more - 13 cutting tools you should have when sewing ( well, may want to have)

scissors

Presser Feet

When You buy your sewing machine you must have got the basic presser feet you need for your regular sewing. But do you know that there are so many different kinds you can buy and fit on your sewing machine to make your job more efficient and more perfect and more simple? Checkout the post on 35 different types of presser feet for more details on this

Paper

Buy brown paper for drafting patterns. Use the wrong side of brown paper. Newspapers glued together can also be used for a very cheap alternative.Craft papers work as well. 

Paper Scissors

Goes without saying that you need separate paper scissors when drafting paper patterns to cut it out.

Ruler

You get a variety of straight rulers in the market. You need this accurately marking edges, hems, checking grainlines etc for Transparent flexible rulers made of plastic are the best. Rulers with curves are also a nice addition to your tools like a French curve- It will help you in drafting the necklines and armholes . A side/ hip curve marking ruler is also nice to have.A tailors square is one such ruler with two sides. It is usually made of wood and will measure 20 inch on one side and 12 inch on the other. A very useful ruler when you are marking corners and to straighten fabric grain lines

Check out this site for downloadable french curves and hip curves which you can print out and use in your pattern drafting 

Pins and a pincushion

Pins  are used to hold the cloth in place and are also used in tacking. Select the sharpest and finest rust proof pins. If you find a single rusted pin in your pin collection throw them away immediately. You get dressmakers pins, glass head pins, and T shaped pins ( These are great for using on open weave fabrics) Keep a small pincushion with pins near your sewing machine and near your cutting table. This will prevent running around for pins every time you need them

You may need to buy extra fine pins for pinning delicate fabrics without damaging them
Click on the picture below for a very easy and useful tutorial for a pincushion which sharpens your pins as it rests.

Thimble

Use a thimble when hand sewing. You get metal as well as plastic thimble. Metal ones are better.

Select one that will fit your middle finger holding the needle.

Iron and ironing board

A good quality iron makes all the difference between professional looking sewing and shoddy sewing. During the process of construction, a good sewist will keep on ironing to get a good finish. Steam irons which steam the fabric are an advantage.  An ironing board with good padding and zero wrinkles are also necessary to make the ironing smooth. Checkout this post on the correct way to press for sewing

Thread snips

This is an essential tool to be kept near your sewing machine ; As you start sewing there will be lots of loose threads to be cut out ; taking out your big scissors is a pain; you can use the small snips as and when the threads are needed to be cut, conveniently kept near the sewing machine

Seam ripper

Another must have; most of the newly purchased  sewing machines have a kit with this tool given complimentary with a new purchase. This beautiful tool is a heaven send for me whenever I am sewing. Mistakes happen and these mistakes are forgiven due to this small tool the seam ripper.

Pinking shears 

These are scissors with a zig zag edge. They are basically handy to finish the seams; their cut prevent fabric edges from fraying

pinking shears

Tracing wheel

This is a very convenient tool if you have a pattern and you need to mark it on to fabric. It is used along with carbon paper. There are two kinds of tracing wheels – one suitable for heavy fabrics and one for light and medium type fabric. The one with smooth edged teeth will keep your pattern intact.

Sleeve board

A sleeve board can be of great use when you are making garments - especially when you have to press small areas like the inside of a sleeve, pressing open seam allowances etc

Bodkin

This is a tool  used for threading tape, ribbon or elastic through casings.It is usually a blunt needle with an eye or a pin in the end ; This is replaceable with a safety pin ofcourse but if you do garments with many elastic casings and gathers, very convenient if this is at hand . 

Fray check

This is used to stop fraying on fabric edges especially for sheer fabrics

Sewing guage

A sewing guage with a slider is a very useful tool with many purposes - pressing up hems at the ironing board, make accurate tucks and pleats, mark scallops and circles, mark evenly for placement of buttonholes and other fasteners

Hand sewing needles

Short beading needles and pins are needed for doing intricate beadwork . Beading pins keep the beads in place. Milliners needles are needed for sewing tacking stitches.

Pencils 

You will need regular pencils to mark your patterns, designs etc. You get to buy dress makers pencils, which can be brushed off afterward. 

Dress form

Though this is not an essential tool in sewing, a dress form or a dummy can be very helpful when sewing your own clothes. A dress form serves many purposes. It ensures a well fitted garment, simplifies your sewing, eliminates waste and errors, saves your time, helps in making necessary alterations. The best one to have is one which is made to your measurement. Or which can be adjusted in the bust, waist shoulder and hip measurements.

Carbon sheets

Tracing the pattern onto the fabric is done by stacking the fabric ( wrong side up so that the marks will show up only one the wrong side- though the marks are removable ), then carbon paper  colour side down  and then the pattern and then running the tracing wheel along the pattern piece. 

Carbon sheets are available in different colors; Choose one which is a contrasting colour to your fabric. Test on a swatch first. 

Loop turner

This is a very convenient tool for quickly and easily turning rouleau loops and narrow bands (spaghetti straps)  inside out. Checkout other easy ways of making thin fabric tubes

Beeswax

This is useful in hand sewing; If the thread is coated lightly with beeswax the inevitable knots and tangles can be avoided. If beeswax is applied on zipper teeth which is a bit rusty  it will work perfectly.

Needle Threader

This is a handy tool that helps in threading hand needles and sewing machine needles. It consists of  a very thin metal loop when inserted through the eye of the needle  will bring out the thread easily. No more squinting the eyes for hours trying to thread the needle. Check out the posts on threading a sewing machine and threading a hand sewing needle

Bias binding tape maker

This tool makes creating a bias binding very easy.You just need to guide the bias binding tape you have bought from the store precut or made it yourself, through this tool and the perfectly folded bias tape will come out of it. Checkout the post on making bias tape and the different ways of using the bias tape for binding

Scientific seamstress blog has a wonderful tutorial to make a diy printable bias binding maker.

Point Turner

This is useful in fixing the corners . Especially useful in straightening out the pointy shirt collars.

Tailer's Awl

This is used by professionals in making holes, and guiding eased or gathered fabric evenly when sewing.

Rotary cutter and self-healing mat

This is tool designed to cut multiple layers of fabrics in one go. It is used along with a self healing mat.This very useful cutting tool can make cutting fabric very easy. Especially useful when you have to cut similar pieces of cloth at the same time.

Button Hole cutter

This is used in cutting the buttonholes easily and perfectly. The image is one by bernina. Checkout the post on different types of buttonholes and the easy way to make a handsewn buttonhole

button hole cutter

Cutting table

When sewing regularly you need space to lay out the fabric and cut it accurately and be tall enough that you do not strain your back. A wide (ideally 6 feet long and 3 feet wide) and tall (3 feet) cutting table is a boon here. If you do not have one you can try your hand at making one yourself. Check out the DIY sewing table post for more details on some beautiful sewing furniture you can make by yourself. 

Some extra tools you may wish to have

Binder attachments - You can buy binding folders to make your binding easy - with these attachments you can easily stitch bias binding or tape along the edge of fabric

Tailors ham - This is a pressing tool which is shaped like an egg. It is great for pressing fabric to manipulate it to the shape you want

Needle Board - Another pressing tool used for pressing piled fabrics like velvet

Hem gauge - A very convenient tool when you make skirts. It will have a slider which will help you mark the hem accurately. The skirt marker hem gauge can help you mark the hem accurately from the floor

Bias Guage - This is an attachment with an indicator for your scissors to cut bias tape without any mistake.

Embroidery plate - A special needle plate attached for machine embroidery

Hand Embroidery supplies

Hand embroidery is sewing of course, but it requires a whole set of new tools. You can start to stitch with some embroidery thread and a hand sewing needle but as you progress you may need more. Check out this post on the 40 + tools you may need for your hand embroidery stitching