Decide which are the most essential sewing tools you have to have and the ones you can skip and buy later after reading this article.
Most essential sewing tools
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 these articles on sewing machines : All about sewing machines including the different types of sewing machines, how sewing machines work, Whether you should buy an industrial sewing machine, What you should do if you have to sew many thick layers, the different sewing machine stitches you will want in your sewing machine and the factors to consider before choosing a sewing machine if you are a beginner
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
Hand sewing needles
There are people who sew entirely by hand – if you are patient enough and you have the time you too can sew anything with easy hand stitches. Then there are the hand sewing involved in the Sewing machine stitched projects. For all this you need hand sewing needles. Here is the post explaining about all the 14 hand sewing needles you an buy. You need not buy all of them but some of them are handy.
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.
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.
Checkout the post on selecting the best sewing needle for your sewing project.
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
There are a variety of threads available for sewing – 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 for your sewing machine and the different types of hand embroidery thread
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 colors so that you can use on different colored cloth.
There are many other options to transfer designs other than these chalks – check out this post on the marking tools used in tailoring. Checkout this post on transferring designs for other alternatives for marking on fabric
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 details on scissors and other optional tools for cutting- 13 cutting tools you should have when sewing ( well, may want to have)
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
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.
Goes without saying that you need separate paper scissors when drafting paper patterns to cut it out.
You get a variety of straight rulers in the market. You need this accurately marking edges, hems, checking grain lines etc.
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. Check out this post on making a pin cushion in the shape of a strawberry.
Use a thimble when hand sewing to prevent stab injury to finger when you sew for a long time. 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 pressing 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.You can cover your ironing board easily following this tutorial.
Checkout this post on the correct way to press for sewing
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
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.
These are scissors with a zig zag edge. They are basically handy to finish the seams; their cut prevent fabric edges from fraying
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.
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
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 . More on the different types of Bodkin here.
This is used to stop fraying on fabric edges especially for sheer fabrics
A sewing gauge 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
You will need regular pencils to mark your patterns, designs etc. You get to buy dress makers pencils, which can be brushed off afterward.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
This is useful in fixing the corners . Especially useful in straightening out the pointy shirt collars.
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. Learn more on how to use the rotary cutter and self healing mat here.
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