Sewing has always been one of my favorite activities and something I watched my mom do a lot of as a kid. When I was just six years old, my mom was making a dress for me. Eager to get it done faster, I talked her into letting me cut the pattern out. I kept going, asking her to do one more thing after another until I finally had finished the dress on my own! While it wasn’t amazing, I wore the dress proudly and will always remember the satisfaction of making something for myself. I continued making my own clothes or altering them through high school. And not too long ago, I actually took sewing classes at the Portland Fashion Institute. This is where I honed my skills and learned about some new sewing essentials I hadn’t used before, like bodkins.
I always say it’s never too late to learn something new or improve a skill. And that’s exactly why I created this site in the first place. This post was first published in 2016 with just 15 sewing essentials. But it is now 2022 and time for an update! Today I am sharing my top 20 sewing essentials and why they’re important for every sewer to have on hand.
Oh Sew Crafty
For anyone curious about exploring the world of sewing, we have created a list of our favorite sewing tools. This list of sewing essentials includes tools for hand sewing and sewing machine projects.
- Point Turner
- Seam Ripper
- Measuring Tape
- Fray Check
- Basting Tape
- Iron + Ironing Board or Easy Press + Pressing Mat (for small projects)
- Sewing Machine
Fabric Scissors: Scissors are necessary for just about any crafting project. But I recommend having a pair of scissors specifically for your sewing projects. Using scissors on paper can dull the blades, so it is nice to have a pair of sewing scissors that you can rely on for cutting fabric smoothly. I will either mark this pair of scissors with the word “fabric” or tie a pretty ribbon on the handle to instantly see which pair I need to grab. There are many great sewing scissors brands, so pick those with sharp blades that fit your hands comfortably.
Detail Scissors: Having a pair of small, sharp scissors in your sewing kit is important for cutting tiny details and to snip your threads. Though I like to use my small scissors for both tasks, you can also find a pair of tiny thread scissors for clipping threads. I keep these on a ribbon around my neck for quick, little snips when sewing on a machine.
Pinking Shears: These scissors are ideal for cutting a zigzag pattern along a fabric edge to limit the length of frayed threads, preventing unraveling, and keeping projects crisp and clean. I always have a sharp pair handy while sewing woven fabrics.
Rotary Cutter, Mat & Ruler: Using a rotary cutter is the easiest way to cut a straight line and strips of fabric. Olfa first came out with rotary cutters in the early ’80s designed for garment making and tailoring, but it soon became a must-have for quilters too. When using a rotary cutter, you will want to pair it with a self-healing mat and quilter’s ruler to keep the blade moving in a straight line. Both have markings for measurement, making it easy to align your fabric and cut specific widths and lengths. This set also happens to be great for cutting multiple layers of crepe paper when making crepe paper flowers.
Sewing Pins & Pincushion: Pins are one of those sewing essentials that are necessary for any hand sewing and sewing machine projects. Though there are many sewing pin choices, we have found the glass-headed, extra-fine sewing pins are durable and easy to slide in and out of the fabric. When choosing a pincushion, you can get creative. There is a simple wristlet pincushion for easy access. Or you can make one from roving felt, stuffed felt, or fabric.
Hand Sewing Needles: Hand sewing needles are the most fundamental tool for stitching projects. If you follow our collection of felt animal stuffies, you know that you can craft some pretty amazing projects with hand sewing techniques. Even if you are using a sewing machine for your particular project, there is always some point where you will need to hand sew something, like a button, a snap, or a hem. So have a selection of needles handy, stored in a small container, or perched in the center of your pincushion.
Needle Threader: I like to keep this tool handy to quickly prepare my needle for hand stitching. The needle threader is also very helpful when using multiple strands of floss for embroidery projects. Here is a quick video on how to use the needle threader.
Thimble: A thimble is good to have in your toolbox for hand sewing projects. A thimble is worn on the middle finger of your dominant hand to help you push your needle through the fabric. Some people may say that using a thimble is optional. But you will thank yourself for using one after hand sewing for a while!
Seam Ripper: A seam ripper is a pointed tool that removes unwanted stitches and opens a buttonhole. They come in a variety of styles and sizes. A seam ripper is vital for fixing any mistakes, big or small, that you might make while you are sewing.
Tape Measure: A flexible and retractable measuring tape is perfect for measuring around a waist, down an arm, and the hem’s depth. The retractable feature keeps things tidy, which is always a plus. Although you might prefer the one you fold up by hand, I would say that getting a flexible tape measure is necessary. Bodies are curvy, and you want to make sure that you can wrap your tape measure around anything and anyone!
Fray Check: This liquid seam sealant stops moving threads when applied to the fabric. Fray Check is a great go-to solution to keep ribbons, cords, and stitches from fraying and unraveling.
Bodkins: If you’ve ever lost the string out of a drawstring sweatshirt or pants, you’ll understand why this tool is a sewing essential. Bodkins help you turn a fabric tube inside and pull elastic or cord through a casing. If you need a quick solution, you can substitute the bodkin with a safety pin. A great example of using a bodkin or safety pin is making a drawstring shoe bag.
Point Turner: Turn every point perfectly with this tool. I love the Clover Point 2 Point version as it features two turner tips, a finger presser, and two curved edges to push out long seams. This version is ideal for point turning, detail work, pressing seams, or marking fabric.
Basting Tape: Double-sided basting tape will temporarily hold two layers of fabric together without pinning. After stitching the seam or edges, it is not necessary to remove the basting tape. This tape is an excellent option for hemming light fabrics like silk or satin as it will keep the material from slipping as you sew.
Iron & Ironing Board: Pressing as you sew is essential for making your sewing project look crisp and finished. There are many great irons to choose from in all price ranges. Once you have an iron, you will also need an ironing board with a clean, smooth cover. An excellent option for tabletop ironing and small sewing projects is to use a wool ironing mat which pairs well with a mini travel iron or the smallest Easy Press.
Sewing Machine: A dependable sewing machine opens up many more possibilities than hand sewing. There are many options to choose from in all price ranges. Whichever machine you choose, it is good to keep it in good condition by cleaning and having it serviced when needed. When choosing needles, know that some are good for certain materials when using your sewing machine. For example, you can pick the all-purpose pack with the 10/70 needles for more delicate sewing and the 14/90 for heavier fabrics. There are also 16/100 needles for denim and leather, but be sure your machine is strong enough to sew these types of materials.
I hope you found this list of sewing essentials to be helpful! Be sure to check out our library of sewing projects with patterns and tutorials. We look forward to sharing more video courses and tutorials covering all sorts of sewing projects.
Feel free to comment below and let us know what you think about these sewing essentials, too. You can also explore all of our favorite sewing tools in our shop (plus we will be adding more!). Enjoy! ~ Lia