Because we have started expanding our collection of sewing projects and patterns over the last few months, I decided that it was time to post about my favorite sewing essentials for anyone who is curious about exploring the world of sewing. My list of sewing essentials includes tools for hand sewing and sewing machine projects. Feel free to also pick and choose the tools that stick out to you most!
Of course! Scissors are necessary for just about any crafting project, but I recommend that you have 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 have a nice pair of shears that I use only on fabric, and then another pair of mini scissors (usually called snips in the sewing world) for cutting threads. I like to keep these mini scissors handy by hanging them on a ribbon around my neck. There are lots of great sewing scissors brands, but I especially love the Amplify series by Fiskars.
Hand Sewing Needles:
Again, it is pretty obvious that this would be on my list of sewing essentials! Hand sewing needles are the most fundamental tool you can use for stitching projects. If you follow our collection of felt animal stuffies you know that you can make 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. A button, a snap, a hem, whatever it may be! These are my favorite because they come with a great case for easy storage.
Thread is certainly essential for sewing projects, but it can also open up a lot of stylish possibilities! You can find thread in any color that you can think up, and it is a great way to add vibrant accents to whatever you are sewing. Gutermann is my go-to thread brand.
A thimble is not necessary for handling a sewing machine, but it is definitely a good thing to have in your tool box 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 after hand sewing for a while you will definitely thank yourself for using one! Dritz has great basic thimbles.
Straight Pins and a Pincushion:
Pins are one of those sewing essentials that are necessary for any hand sewing and sewing machine projects. I only use glass-headed, extra fine sewing pins. The glass makes them durable and extra fine makes them easy to slide in and out of the fabric. As for my pincushion, I like using a little wristlet pincushion for the easiest access, but we also have the tutorial for our adorable cactus pincushion made out of felt!
Boy, does a sewing machine make your life easier when it comes to sewing projects! And it opens up so many more possibilities than hand sewing. There are lots of options out there but I have to say how much I love my Baby Lock Aria. The needle threading and thread cutting features are fabulously convenient. If you are just beginning your adventures into the sewing world, I would also suggest looking at Baby Lock’s Rachel machine. It is a simple and solid machine that is easy to use for anyone starting out.
Certain machine needles are good for certain materials when using your sewing machine. As far as brands go, I’ve been happily using the Schmetz needles for years. They have a nice all-purpose pack with the 10/70 needles for finer sewing and the 14/90 for heavier fabrics. For denim and leather there are also the 16/100 needles.
Iron and Ironing Board:
Pressing as you sew is an important part of making your project look finished. I like Black + Decker’s iron best because it is simple and classic, but there lots of great irons out there. Once you have an iron you will also need an ironing board. This Quilter’s Cut’n Press II is great for smaller projects and it happens to have a rotary cutting mat on the other side. You have to love that convenience!
Rotary Cutter, Mat and Ruler:
Speaking of rotary cutting…This may not seem as obvious as some of the other sewing essentials, but I actually use my rotary cutter all the time. It is definitely the easiest way to cut a straight line. Olfa first came out with rotary cutters in the early ’80s. They were designed for garment making and tailoring, but it soon became a must-have for quilters too. While I usually my shears for cutting out garment projects, anytime there’s straight cutting happening, I’ll go for my Olfa Deluxe rotary cutter. It also happens to be great for cutting multiple layers of crepe paper 😉 I pair the rotary with this quilter’s ruler and Olfa rotary mat.
A seam ripper is key for fixing any mistakes, big or small, that you might make while you are sewing. Because we all do! I recently came across the Seam-Fix and love it. The soft rubbery ends act as an eraser to wipe away any cut or loosened threads. Easy! And it doesn’t hurt that they come in such happy bright colors.
Another basic tool in my sewing essentials tool box. A flexible and retractable measuring tape is perfect for measuring around a waist, down an arm and the depth of the hem. The retractable feature keeps things neat and tidy, which is always a plus. Although the retractable feature is based on preference, 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 is a liquid that you can apply onto any fraying threads. Very handy for sewing projects! This is my go-to solution to keep ribbons, cords and stitches from fraying and unraveling. If only I had a solution like this for other things in my life!
Bodkin or Safety Pins:
If you’ve ever lost the string out of a drawstring sweatshirt or pants, you’ll understand why this tool is one of my sewing essentials. Bodkins are used to help turn a fabric tube inside out and to pull elastic or cord through a casing. Without a tool, it’s basically like trying to push a piece of cooked spaghetti through the fabric. No thanks! Clover has a nice bodkin, but to be honest, I usually use a safety pin for this. Simply stick the pin through the end of the cord/elastic and pull through and it works like a charm. A great example for when this would come in handy is with our drawstring shoe bags.
Chopstick or Knitting Needle:
Yes, the kind that you find at Asian restaurants! This is great for poking in and pushing out corners and points that you’ve just sewn. You only need one and you can usually grab a wooden one free of charge from a local restaurant. Knitting needles also work well if you have a set lying around. I love the Caspian, Majestic, Rainbow and Sunstruck needles from Knit Picks. I think a 10” #10 needle would be perfect for your sewing needs. And then later, you’ll be ready to give knitting a try!
The last of my sewing essentials is a big one. It might be considered optional, but it is rare that I make a sewing project without also using my Baby Lock Imagine serger. A serger trims, sews and overcasts your project’s seams all at once, leaving a neat, tidy and flat edge that has the finished, professional look. Sergers are a bit more complicated than a sewing machine, but the Baby Lock sergers have a special feature that makes threading a breeze. Magical! Check out our Wash Me Wear Me travel bags for an example of serging.
I hope you found this list to be helpful! For more instructional tips and tricks, be sure to check out my Craft School for video courses and tutorials covering all sorts of materials and projects. Enjoy! ~ Lia