One of the most overwhelming things for any new sewist is the vast array of different sewing notions available these days. Which of these items do you need? What will you use the most? Do you have to have 50 million different rulers?
I am here today to help you answer those questions and more! I have been sewing for over a decade now and have been able to build up my arsenal of sewing tools. Now, I started my collection when I was a broke college kid on a broke college kid budget. I have since been able to beef up my toolbox with higher quality items, so I can really share with you the difference. Let’s get to the list, shall we? We’re ranking this from absolutely must have to really handy, but you can get by without it.
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- Sharp Scissors -The number one item that you absolutely must have in your sewing toolbox is a good pair of scissors. My favorite sewing scissors are these Gingher Shears. I got mine just about the time I started sewing, and they are still nice and sharp, ready to cut whatever I throw at them. I also really like these spring-action scissors by Fiskars, which are great for people who might have some hand problems like arthritis or carpal tunnel. Fiskars are a less expensive brand, but they make some really great scissors! Perfect for the sewist on a budget.
- Seam Rippers – Yes, you read that right, I said “seam rippers” plural. There are a couple of reasons for this. For one, if you’re like me you’ll inevitably misplace them when you need them most. Have a few small ones that you keep next to your sewing machine, at your cutting station, by your ironing board, in your pockets… Wherever you think you will need them most. Here’s a set of 16 so you never have to be without again. That’s not all though, did you know there are different kinds of seam rippers?? I have one that is double-sided with a larger ripper for heavier thread on one side and a finer ripper on the other for standard/finer work. It’s called an Undo, which makes it even better. AND THEN I have one more seam ripper and it is my favorite of them all. It is called a “seam remover” and it almost looks like an eyebrow grooming tool. To use this ripper, you get the unpicking started with scissors or a traditional seam ripper, and then you pull this one down in between your layers of fabric and like magic, your threads are ripped out. It is possible to cut your fabric with it, but it is difficult to do that and it is so worth the time saved. I could not find this style of ripper on Amazon, so you may have to contact your local quilt or fabric store to see if they can get it for you!
- Quality Thread – The thread you use can be the difference between a frustrating sewing experience and a pleasant one. Some sewing machines are pickier than others when it comes to thread, but even if your machine is okay with whatever thread you throw at it, for the sake of the longevity of your projects, you should use nice thread. Also, if you don’t know how old your thread is, maybe don’t use it on that super important project you have in the works. Give your thread a test and see if it pulls apart easily in your hands. If it does? Don’t use it, get rid of it. All those pretty wooden spools you got from your grandmother’s sewing stash? Yeah, use those for decoration, not for sewing. Thread on Styrofoam spools? Throw it out, they haven’t made that in years. Now, what kind of thread should you use? I personally like Gütterman, Mettler, and Madeira Aerofil for all-purpose sewing. These are all polyester threads, which is what I like to use for general-purpose sewing. We’ll talk about different thread types more later!
- Good, Sharp Pins – When you’re sewing, you’re probably pinning. There are a number of different kinds of pins for different applications, but I recommend everyone have a nice set of quality glass-head pins. You can buy the cheapest set of pins you can find, of course, but as soon as you need to iron something that has pins in it, you’re going to be disappointed when they melt into your iron, ironing board, and precious fabric. The glass heads on these pins won’t melt when you iron over them, which is just necessary sometimes! Get a pin that can do it all to begin with and save yourself some heartache. Again, there are a ton of different kinds of pins, all with different purposes. Start with one kind for now and build up as you grow. I also recommend Wonderclips for any situation where you can’t use pins– i.e. with vinyl, leather, cork, etc. These are absolutely not necessary if you are just starting out, but they are really nice to have on hand, and I often use mine for regular fabric as well when I just don’t feel like pinning.
- Rotary Cutter/Mat/Ruler – Alright, I said this list was ranked from must have to handy but not crucial. This is firmly in the handy but not crucial section of the list. Rotary cutters, if you’re not familiar, are kind of like a pizza cutter for fabric. They are very handy, especially for cutting straight lines in quilting patterns. While you can get several different blade sizes, the most common by far is a 45mm. For your first rotary cutter, I really like this one by Fiskars. It has an easy-release blade, it’s sturdy, and not too pricey. My absolute favorite rotary cutter, however, is this one. You cannot buy it online, you have to get it through an authorized Quilter’s Select dealer, but it is so worth it. I could write a whole post about this thing by itself! With a rotary cutter, you do need a cutting mat so that you don’t ruin any tables or your blade. Finally, they can be used “freehand”, but most commonly you’ll use your rotary cutter with a quilting ruler. If this all seems a little overwhelming, here’s a really nice starter kit with all 3 pieces!
I really believe if you have these 5 things to get started with, you’ll have a much easier time getting into sewing and find it that much more enjoyable. Quality tools make all the difference in this hobby! Yes, there are a million and one other cool notions out there. But you don’t need them, at least not right away. Get the hang of sewing, get a few projects under your belt first. Learn some lessons through trial and error and figure out why those other notions might be handy. You’ll appreciate them that much more!
Until next time,