This week’s It’s Sew Easy is a little different from previous posts because we’re not going to be doing any sewing. As an experienced seamstress, I thought it would be helpful to you all if I shared the tools I use on a daily basis for my projects. Obviously, some people may have other necessary tools in their boxes, but these are the ones that I have found to be the most useful and all that I use in my tutorials.
There are tons of sewing tools out there, so this list should help shorten your sewing basics list. If you are thinking about picking up sewing, here are the 10 tools you need to have:
1. A decent sewing machine. Am I saying you need to go out and buy the nicest sewing machine out there? No. Do you need all of those crazy functions to do fancy stitches? No. Do you want to be purchasing a $75 machine to then need to buy a new one in a year? I don’t think so. Machines really range in price and quality quite a bit.
So what do I use? I have a Bernette 75 model from the 90’s which Bernina no longer makes. It has a power cord with a presser foot for running and does not include a fancy electronic screen, but it still runs well after about 10 years of heavy use (RIP lost years of sewing in my childhood and during college). All of the dials are included for manual adjustments. If you are a beginner, it can take time to learn how to adjust your machine the right way to get the tension and thread length right. I would suggest, now that they are commonplace and not very expensive, to get an electronic seam adjuster. They make all of the changes inside the mechanics of the machine for you so you do not have to worry about it, though once in a while you will find that some fabrics will require a different tension setting.
I cannot vouch for the quality of new machines, but I suggest reading user reviews of new machines on Amazon. People are always reviewing the newest models, and newer models are also getting better for a cheaper price. I’ve seen Singers for under $200 that are rated at 4.5 stars with over 2,000 reviews… safe to say you can probably bet that one will be decent!
If you really want to understand what machine works best for you, go into a sewing store and try one out! It also helps to get insight into the differences between certain machines depending on what kind of projects you want to be working on.
2. Sewing machine needles and regular needles. After every major sewing project you should be replacing the needle on your machine to make sure it is sharp enough to cut through the fabric. These are pretty cheap and you can buy whatever the generic brand is at the store. (Check your sewing machine manual for which needles you need to buy.) You should also have regular needles (I use the free ones you can get at hotels!) so that you can sew on buttons, snaps, or make small repairs.
3. Pins and a pin cushion. Behind every stitch is a ton of pins. You will need them to hold your fabric together when you are creating a hem, sewing two pieces of fabric together, etc. A pin cushion is handy for storing pins and also for being able to quickly take out pins while sewing through a seam.
4. Empty bobbins. Once you buy thread, you will need to make bobbins for each color you have. Sewing machines take thread from the spool of thread from the top and the bobbin spool on the bottom to complete a stitch. You can buy the generic plastic ones.
5. Fabric scissors. THESE ARE A MUST! Fabric scissors are made for fabric, so they glide through it like a knife through butter. Never use these scissors on anything but fabric, though, or they will become dull. These scissors in particular are KILLER.
6. Tape measure. Measure twice, cut once! When cutting your fabric pattern pieces you will need to measure them, and a tape measure works perfectly for this. It is also great for taking body measurements.
7. Fabric pencil or marker. This is used for marking out all of your pattern pieces. Though it might be argued that you could line all of your markings with pins or the pattern, I find that I use my pencil or pen all the time for simplicity.
8. Iron and ironing board. This is something I started using in the last year and it make a world of difference in my sewing. In order to get clean lines and near perfect seams, ironing seams and hems down before sewing them is incredibly important.
9. Sewing machine oil and a lint brush or q-tips for cleaning. Your sewing machine needs a lot of maintenance. Any sewing machine will become a bad one if you don’t take the time to give it some love. Though it’s annoying, you should really be oiling your machine per your manual before every project and cleaning out the dust and fabric particles from the nooks and crannies to avoid build up and possible damage to the machine. I find that q-tips or this brush are the best for getting into small spaces.
10. Seam ripper. We all make mistakes. I’ve made hundreds. This is where the seam ripper comes in.
Some items that are also nice to have include:
- Adjustable mannequin for sizing your garments, especially fitted bodices
- Basic colored thread in bulk – black, white, neutral – These are nice to have on hand since you will tend to use them the most. Do not skimp on low quality thread, you will be kicking yourself every time your thread rips!
- Bobbin and thread organizers to keep all of your thread together and from getting tangled
- Storage box for keeping all of your sewing items together – just make sure it is large enough for all of your tools
- Paper for making patterns – printer paper works just fine
Good luck new seamstresses! Let me know if y’all have any other questions on buying equipment and I will try my best to answer them.