Sewing 101: Basic Sewing Tools and Supplies

After your replies to my sewing confessions, (which by the way, I loved reading them all) I decided to do a sewing bare basics for all of us who are just starting out. Really. Let’s just go over the simple stuff, the stuff people assume you all ready know. If you do all ready know, you might want a refresher. Or better yet, share with us what you know. Your trick of the trade.

When I visit the craft store, the sewing section can seem a bit overwhelming. Not only the cost of the sewing tools, notions and fabric, but also the amount of supplies and tools on display. Really. What do I need as a beginner? What are the basic stuff to get me started? What if I just want to test the waters of my sewing skills and not quite ready to invest a whole lot of money into this?

The Basic Necessities

  1. Sewing machine. Not pictured above. I think you know why you need a sewing machine to sew.
  2. Pins and pin cushion. You will ned lots of this. It’ll hold things in place while you sew. Some people sew right over the pins, but I don’t… anymore. You can and most of the time you will probably be fine. But if your sewing machine needle happen to hit a pin, it can break your needle and/or cause your sewing machine to be off rhythm.
  3. Seam ripper. Take out seams. Fixes mistakes, not all but enough.
  4. Sewing machine needles. Check your sewing machine manual to make sure you get the right kind. You will have moments when the needle will break, either from hitting a pin or sewing thick fabric or other reasons. It’s nice to have some backup so you don’t have to stop your whole project when a needle breaks. There are different types of needles for different types of fabric. And some people like to switch needles before or after a project so they have a sharp one per project. I don’t. I keep mine on for a few projects. I do change it if it breaks, or for specialty fabrics, or if I see it is messing up my project.
  5. Sewing needles. Some projects will require you to hand stitching parts of it. Also good for attaching buttons if you don’t have that setting on your machine.
  6. Fabric scissors. Don’t cut paper with them. In fact, don’t cut anything but fabric with them. And if you want nice clean cuts, invest in a more expensive one. Cheap ones will do, but you really do get what you paid for in this instance. Although, you probably don’t need to purchase the professional grade ones that are $40-50 if you are just starting out.
  7. Safety pins. These guys will come in handy, especially for getting elastic through casings.
  8. Measuring tape. It’s impossible to sew without this. So get a nice thick sturdy one.
  9. Bobbins. Have extra empty ones to make switching thread colors easier.
  10. All-purpose thread. White is also a nice color to have in stock. Once you get more advanced in sewing, you might find the need to get into specialty thread. But for now, all-purpose will work for your projects.
  11. Iron and ironing board. Not pictured above. To have a more professional look and to make sewing easier, you will want to press your fabric at the seams.

Marking Tools

  1. Disappearing ink marking pen. Not pictured. It costs a bit more than the marking tools pictured above, but it is awesome. You mark on fabric and it wipes off with water. This way you don’t have to worry about your markings showing. I don’t have one of these. So it’s possible to mark fabric with what you have around the house.
  2. Sharpie. It’s dark, permanent and will bleed. So be careful to which types of fabrics you are using. And only mark in seam so you don’t see the marks later.
  3. Pencil. It’s lighter, but not washable on most fabric. So you’ll have to do this on the in seam too.
  4. Color pencil. Works the same as a pencil.
  5. Chalk. This is washable. But only visible on dark color fabric. And not as precise in its markings since the tip is thicker.

Other Sewing Stuff That You May Need

  1. Elastic. For waistbands, armbands and anything else that needs a stretch.
  2. Needle threader. I don’t use this. But if you have a hard time getting thread through the eye of the needle, this can be helpful. Some machines come with a needle threader that helps you pull the thread through the eye on your machine.
  3. Thimble. I don’t use this either. It comes in handy when you are hand stitching and tend to poke your thumb.
  4. Buttons. I have jars of buttons by color and this jar of random buttons. I take off all the buttons on clothing that I am throwing away. Not the ones I donate to Goodwill, but the ones that are so trashed that no one would want. It’s great for projects.
  5. Ribbons. You may find it handy to make ties or bows on your sewing projects.

Don’t Really Need But Nice To Have

  1. Yard stick. Not pictured above. Makes measuring and marking easier.
  2. Cutting board. The one pictured above is a small one. I first got it for paper crafts. I would eventually like to get a large one, but will have to save up for that since it’s quite expensive.
  3. Pinking shear. It has a zig zag cut. You can use it for a decorative edge. Or also great for finishing seams to prevent raveling of fabric edges. But remember to only use it on fabric and nothing else.
  4. Clear sewing ruler. Really nice for measuring and marking fabric when you are using a cutting board. The visibility is a luxury here.
  5. Rotary cutter. An awesome tool to cut straight edges. You will need to use it with a cutting board and yard stick/clear sewing ruler. And like the fabric scissors, this is probably something you will want to pay extra to get a nice one. I got the cheap one (pictured above) and it is not good at cutting. So if you are going to get one, get a nicer one.

» Tell me… What are some of your essential sewing tools? What tips do you have for beginners for where to find good prices on tools?

45 Responses to “Sewing 101: Basic Sewing Tools and Supplies”

  • elena kourchenko

    Very helpful indeed! I lost all my equipment in a fire and this was a great way to “remember”. I did have more sewing equipment than I thought! I enjoyed your writing style as well.

  • Jeanette

    Hi! Loved the posting. The list is incredibly helpful, my husband got me my very first machine and I’m very excited to get started! Your list was perfect for me to get all the essentials needed. Thank you and kudos!!

  • notoes

    You forgot two very basic things, a space to sew in and something to keep all this in. I have limited room space so I’ve got to have a set place to sew and something to store everything in. I’ve also got a 6 inch long pair of tweezers with a rounded end on the hand side, don’t know where my Mom found them but they get used for more than you’d think.

  • Genie Thompson

    Thank you I just ordered a sewing machine for my Christmas present to me. I used to have a Brother Bougtique 431 but making a cape threw the tenstion out of wack on my machine. Got tired of ge tying the machine repaired at on east four times a year. My new machine is a brother and should be here in two weeks. I am very excited and want to thank you for posting the basic list. It is going to be very helpful.

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you so much, I would love to take sewing classes but wasn’t sure what materials were needed. You explained everything really well!!!! Now I can get them together when my budget will allow it. Wish me luck!!!! Thanks again!!!!

  • Adeboy

    Thanks for this,i am a teacher and it really help me a lot in teaching my student,i love u for posting this

  • Jody

    Thank you so much for this post. Two days ago I mentioned to my mom that I would like to learn to use a sewing machine but had no idea what I needed! She had a machine she wasn’t using, so after practicing stitches and straight stitches (not as easy as I thought lol) I think I’m ready to try a project and this list of supplies is a god sent! Thank you again, looks like I’m heading to the craft store 🙂

  • Shy. Wallace

    Thank you for this info. I really needed it. There is one more item you can add, ” a book, sewing for dummies, or sewing machine beginners 101.” I am 58 And learn how to sew in junior high school. But now I need a refresher course on everything. Thanks

  • j'nine

    My mom got a sewing machine but her excuse why she has not started sewing was she doesn’t not have the sewing essentials. So thanks for this post now i know exactly what to get her for mothers day to jump start her machine. A COMPLETE SEWING KIT!

  • Glenda Mann

    This is a great tool!…I’m thinking about starting a sewing class at my church, and this information is exactly what I need to get beginners started…thanks so much!

  • Scarllette Alexis Mae

    thanks for posting this…this really help me a lot….thanks again

  • Patt

    Thank you for your honesty about some tools. We all have inexpensive purchases that just didn’t work. The list you have is exactly what a beginner should start with. If they decide to go further with their sewing better tools will be worthwhile.


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