In today’s post: Learn what you actually need (and what you don’t need) to start sewing with this short list of sewing essentials.
Anytime you begin a new hobby, it’s hard to know what supplies or accessories you actually need. You never want to invest too much money into something you might not end up enjoying. At the same time, there are a few things you really do need to be successful with sewing. Today I’m sharing what I consider the essentials you need to have a good experience learning to sew.
Click here for 20 easy beginner sewing projects.
Please note I’m linking to some of these items on Amazon, because that’s where I purchase many of my sewing supplies. These are affiliate links.
Sewing Machine: This will be your biggest upfront investment in learning to sew, and the good news is that you can get a great machine for a very reasonable price. I sew a lot, and I still use this Brother machine that I purchased for less than $150. There are much fancier (and much more expensive) sewing machines, but you don’t need one! A machine like this one does everything you need it to and does it well.
NOTE: If you have inherited a machine from someone, do yourself a favor and get it tuned up at a sewing machine repair shop before you start. A good tune up might cost close to as much as purchasing a newer model, so you may want to consider doing that instead. Either way, DO NOT try to learn to sew on an old machine that’s sat unused for years – there is NOTHING more frustrating than trying to learn to sew on a machine that isn’t working quite right.
Fabric Scissors: Maybe you remember your mom threatening you with injury to life and limb if you used her fabric scissors to cut anything but fabric. The truth is, normal scissors will get you absolutely nowhere when it comes to cutting fabric, so don’t even try. If you plan to do any sewing at all, it’s worth owning at least one pair of dedicated fabric scissors. I have this pair, and I love them.
The Right Needle for your project: One of my early sewing projects was trying to hem jeans, and it was a disaster. I snapped needle after needle on my sewing machine trying to sew through that thick denim. Turns out that’s because I needed a denim needle! It sounds ridiculously simple, but I didn’t realize that sewing machine needles come in different weights for different types of fabric.
The needle that came on your machine will be a needle meant for sewing medium weight fabrics, like quilting cottons. If you’re planning to hem jeans, get a denim needle. If you want to make t-shirts and sew with stretchy fabrics, get a ball point or stretch needle. Sewing machine needles are readily available at craft stores and only cost a few dollars.
Pins + Pincushion. This is kind of a no-brainer, but you’ll want a large pack of pins and either a pincushion (like the old fashioned tomato) or a pin magnet to keep track of them. I like to use long pins with balls on the head – it makes them much easier to handle.
Seam Ripper. Definitely get one of these before your first project. Or two, or three, because you’ll need to keep them handy! When you sew a sleeve on backward (which you will) a seam ripper is like your eraser, helping you rip that seam out so you can do it right the next time. When you first start sewing you’ll probably use your seam ripper pretty often.
New Thread: As a beginner, you’ll probably need to buy a new spool of thread to match each of your sewing projects. I prefer Gutermann polyester thread (this set is a way to start building up your supply of colors). You’ll know you’ve arrived when you can match nearly anything with the thread you have on hand. NOTE: If your machine isn’t sewing properly and the thread is getting all bunched up underneath the seam, try swapping it out for a new spool – sometimes old thread doesn’t cooperate well in machines.
Measuring tape: I like to have four of five measuring tapes on hand so there’s always one handy.
Steam iron + ironing board: Your sewing projects will turn out so much better if you press seams as you go. Not only does it help things look tidy, pressing is vital when sewing on knit (stretchy) fabric. The steam helps fabric that has gotten stretched out spring back into shape. If you don’t want to leave a full size ironing board set up all the time, consider using a mini iron and ironing mat.
Other Handy Sewing Tools
Those eight tools are what I’d called “sewing essentials” for a beginner. As you sew more, there are a few other things that are really nice to have:
Serger: A serger is hardly ever necessary, but they are so nice to have! Sergers sew a seam and finish off the seam allowance all at the same time, making them very handy when sewing fabrics that tend too fray a lot. They’re also wonderful for sewing knits because a serged seam will stretch. Most of there sewing I do is on knits and I think I’d find it much less enjoyable without a serger. Again, sergers vary widely in price range, but I use this one, which cost under $200.
Rotary cutter/large cutting board/large ruler: If you want to do any quilting or other projects that require precise squares or strips of fabric, using a rotary cutter and large cutting board is very convenient. It’s also helpful for making sure hems are cut exactly straight. This is a great set.
Extra Sewing Feet: Your sewing machine will likely come with a few extra sewing feet, and as you get into more complicated projects they are really nice to have. Depending on what you are sewing you’ll likely want a zipper foot, a buttonhole foot, and a walking foot, among others.
Pinking Shears and Fray Check: If you sew mostly knit fabrics, the edges don’t fray very much. But when you begin to sew with cottons and other more delicate fabrics, the edges can fray so much that your seam pull open! Trimming your seam allowance with pinking shears will help prevent this, and fray check can be used to prevent fraying in especially vulnerable areas.
Thanks for reading, and let us all know in the comments what other tools you think should be on a sewing essentials list.