When I first started sewing, I didn’t quite know how to equip myself with the basic sewing paraphernalia. I knew the obvious ones like needles and threads but the absence of some of the most basic essentials has proven to cause quite a frustration. It can make you unwillingly stop mid project and potentially lead to PhDs in sewing – Project half done, or worse, ditching the whole thing. So if you have decided that you are going to embark on a sewing journey, make sure you have these items in your sewing box ready to use. Everyone has a their own opinion to what they regard as ‘necessary tools’, but I found these ones to be my ride or die. I will add to this list from time to time because i’m sure i’ll be discovering a few more wonders along my sewing journey.
So here are my necessary sewing essentials :
1. A large cutting mat, a rotary cutter and a long patchwork ruler – These are the holy trinity of cutting large pieces of materials accurately. It makes cutting straight lines a breeze and takes half the time compared to cutting by scissors. They are by no means essentials, but once you’ve used these, you will never go back. Alternatively, a tape measure and normal fabric scissors work just as well.
2. Sewing scissors – Invest in a good quality pair of fabric/sewing scissors and they will definitely not disappoint. When you need to tackle curves and small areas, sewing scissors will make working on your project a more pleasurable experience. Please don’t use any old pair of scissors to cut your fabric. Dedicate your pair of scissors for sewing and sewing alone. They blunt easily if multitasked to cut other materials but fabric, so if need be, hide them from your kids.
3. Unpicker (seam ripper) – Oh Lordy! I have a love and hate relationship with this one. Never be without one ( or two) when you are sewing, especially machine sewing. No matter how good you are, you WILL make mistakes. And that’s when this little beauty will comes in handy.
4. A sewing machine – Ok, from my experience, you don’t need one that could make you feel like you have a second mortgage. A mid range one will do. As long as it has enough power and foot lift of about 8mm, you’re good to go. And if your machine doesn’t have a built in light, get one for it. Sewing in good light is key to a lot of projects.
5. Special sewing foot – Anti clockwise : walking foot, zipper foot, teflon foot and roller foot. Especially in bag making, these sewing feet are crucial to making or breaking your projects. Some projects call for more hard wearing materials like interior weight cottons and oilcloths/vinyls. Normal sewing foot aren’t made to tackle those materials in bulk but these ones will make sure your sewing glides with ease on the machine. If you have to choose just one, I recommend the roller foot ; in my humble opinion, it’s the most fabulous invention in the history of sewing. The zipper foot is obviously for the purpose of zip insertion, if and when your projects call for it. Again, not absolutely essential, but a zipper foot will ensure perfect zip placements everytime, all the time.
6. A variety of sewing threads – I am quite sure that you will work with different types of materials for different projects that you choose. For example, when sewing heavier type materials like oilcloth, vinyl or leatherette, Top Stitch Thread is a good choice. This type of thread is strong and is usually polyester based. This will also hold your projects together a lot better than normal quilting thread. Nothing worse the your projects unfolding right before your eyes for failing to secure them with the right thread. Trust me, i’ve had a few of those mishaps!!
7. Sewing machine needles – When tackling sewing projects that constantly deal with a varying degree of bulk, you will need strong needles to be able to sew through the layers. I find Jeans (Denim) needles that come in sizes 70, 80 and 100 are the ‘go to’ needles for bigger and more robust projects that involves heavyweight cottons and oilcloths. If you do work with lighter materials, universal sewing machine needles that come in sizes 70, 80, 90 and 100 are the best ones to use.
9. Embroidery scissors – This magic little pair of scissors doesn’t only look wonderful in your sewing kit, it is also really handy when you need to snip that teeny weeny ends of thread at the end of your project. The big sewing scissors are sometimes just a bit too big and too clumsy for such task, and this is when the embroidery scissors are heaven sent.
10. Foldback paper clips – Yes, I know, how odd! But when you are putting different pattern pieces together and have run out of your 10 fingers and 10 toes to secure, these foldback clips will come to the rescue. They are good for holding pieces together without leaving marks and potentially damaging your projects.
11. Tailor’s chalk – You can get so many types of fabric markers available in any fabric stores. These are used to mark or outline your pieces, ready for cutting and sewing. My absolute favourite is the tailor’s chalk because these have been used for as long as I could remember. When I was a little girl, I used to see these inside my mum’s sewing machine drawer and it is quite nostalgic to me that way. These markers are best to avoid leaving permanent marks on your projects. All you do is wipe the marks clean with a damp cloth and you’re good to go. They also come in pink and white as a bundle.
12. Hand sewing needles – It is necessary to have a good selection of hand sewing needles because there is a small amount of hand sewing involved in most sewing projects. They are usually the little finishing touches that are too fiddly to complete with a sewing machine. As I took this picture, I realised that I needed to re-stock my kit. I was convinced that I have tons of these needles. Clearly not.
13. Sewing pins – Mostly useful when using cotton or interior weight cotton materials. You’ll be able to hold the pieces together better with these sewing pins. Not really suitable for oilcloths and vinyls because they’ll leave pin marks on the materials which could look unsightly to your finished projects. And please clean floor after using these. These can be as painful as lego bricks if you accidentally step on them.
So here you are. I hope this information is useful for you if you are starting a sewing box. If you could think of more useful items that you find necessary to have in your kit, please share in the comment box.