Take a quick glance across the internet, and there’s no shortage of lists with dozen of suggestions to help you get started on the path to sewing expertise. I have a plethora of sewing gizmos in my own sewing room, but I wouldn’t call them all essential. So I have narrowed the sometimes astounding lists to the top dozen any serious-minded beginner will need.
Keep in mind that methods vary, even between experts. This means that a sewing tool that’s essential to one may be considered antiquated or unnecessary to another. As you experiment for yourself, you’ll add or discard from your own essential sewing tools as best suits your own style.
Sewing Essentials For Beginners| Tools You Need To Get Started
1. A Dependable Sewing Machine
I started sewing at a fairly young age, using my Mom’s Singer machine. She had that same machine for decades, even after I had long left home. As a newlywed, my first machine was a Kenmore from our local Sears store. That machine lasted for around 20 years of home sewing.
Since then, I’ve owned several machines, some more expensive than others. If there’s one thing I’ve learned–a dependable machine is the one absolutely essential tool for sewing success.
That said, don’t expect the cheapest machine on the market to function as you’d like it to. A sewing machine is a precision tool and a major purchase. You want to invest in one that will give you years of dependable service.
I’m not going to try to list all the best sewing machines here. I will recommend that you not consider a machine under $100 (unless it’s a good sale). Preferably, around the $200 range makes me personally breathe easier for your sake. Here are a few sewing machines for beginners on a budget that come with good reviews:
These are fairly inexpensive machines that have good reviews as dependable and easy to operate. I have known more than one novice who gave up on learning because they were unable to make their sewing machine work right. Unfortunately, the problem was not necessarily the person, but a low-quality sewing machine. Please don’t make that mistake. In this case, be ruled by quality, not economics.
You will also need several sizes of needles that will fit your machine and extra bobbins. Many basic machines come with several pressure feet. If not, you’ll need at least a zipper foot for making many garments.
2. Scissors and Snippers
Next to my sewing machine, I guard my sewing scissors like a rabid bear. First my spouse, then my kids, learned early on that sewing scissors are absolutely off-limits for any other household use.
Once you’ve used them on paper or other media, don’t expect your sewing scissors to smoothly cut fabric, no matter how much you’ve paid for them.
You’ll need several sizes and types of sewing scissors. Here’s a short list to start with.
- Basic large fabric cutters, such as Gingher Dressmaker’s Shears
- Small thread cutters or snippers
- Electric scissors for large projects or a person with some disabilities
You can start off with spools of black and white thread for making basic repairs. Your thread supply will quickly grow, so you’ll want to consider how and where to store it. As you begin specific projects, you’ll certainly want to purchase thread to match your fabric. Buy quality thread for endurance. You can research to learn the best type of thread to use for specific projects.
4. Hand sewing needles, etc
You’ll want to buy a pack of various sized needles. You may also need a threader, just to make life easier. And don’t forget the thimble, for the safety of your fingers.
5. Measuring Tools
You’ll need several basic measuring tools, such as a measuring tape, measuring gauge, and a simple ruler. Other types of rulers can be added for specific projects. Simple measuring tools can be purchased individually or in packs.
6. Straight Pins
Straight pins are certainly essential for sewing. I recommend quality pins with colorful ball tops that are easier to grab and hold onto. The colorful tops also make the pins easier to see for removal, so no one gets an unpleasant surprise the first time they wear a handmade garment.
You’ll also want a pin cushion. This makes it easy to grab pins without contacting the pointy end. I know there are magnetic pin holders out there. I personally am not coordinated enough to use them quickly without getting stabbed. That will be your call. Just make sure you have some way of containing pins so they don’t end up buried in the carpet.
7. Seam Ripper
One of the favorite rules I like to tell beginning sewers is, “Whatever you sew, you shall also rip.” Even the most experienced seamstress or tailor must sometimes remove errant stitching. Seam rippers are also requisite for basic alterations. There are several sizes, and they can be purchased in packs if you like. Seam rippers do become dull after a while, so owning several is a good idea.
8. Iron and Ironing Board
Even if you hate to iron clothes, you’ll still need a good steam iron and ironing board for quality sewing projects. Pressing seams can help make projects easier, and pressing hems gives them a more professional look. There are many uses for an iron while sewing. Just believe me. You’ll need one.
9. Cutting Board
If you have a table large enough, you may not need a cutting board. But if, like me, you need a bit of room or sometimes time for cutting, a portable cardboard or plastic cutting surface is a convenient accessory to have. I tend to cut out several projects at a time. So I spread my cutting board over the bed in the guest room, where it’s out of the public eye and can stay till I’m done.
A portable cutting board protects whatever surface you may place it on from accidental cuts and pokes. Most cutting boards also have a grid drawn on them that can help you make straighter, more accurate cuts.
10. Tracing Wheel and Pattern Weights
When I was learning to sew, patterns were pinned to the fabric and then cut out. The problem was, after a few uses of the same pattern, those pinholes became gapping tears in the fragile pattern paper. I was thrilled when someone introduced me to pattern weights. I highly recommend them if you plan to reuse a favorite pattern for yourself or others.
11. Marking Tools
Tailor’s chalk, fabric marking pencils, or fabric markers/pens are useful for many projects. Make sure you use marking tools made specifically for fabric. Chalk or pencil marks will rub off fairly quickly. One of my favorites is the heat erasable pen, which marks clearly but disappears when ironed.
12. Reference Books
Yes, I know everything can be googled these days. But having a few handy reference books is still a good idea. Books about basic sewing or specific projects or skills can become beloved friends to a dedicated seamstress.
Online courses, especially if you’re just beginning and have no one to personally teach you, can be a great starting place. YouTube is full of experts willing to show you how with many practical tips and illustrations. If you’re confused, help is out there. Build your knowledge along with your experience by making use of both printed and online resources.