• Kaine

Sewing 101 - What tools do I need?

Updated: Sep 1

Hello sewing enthusiast and welcome. Now that you have decided to learn how to sew, what do you need to start? Here we will assemble a basic sewing kit that should fit neatly into any small storage bin or space. Note that there is a difference between what you actually need and what you want. I tend to skate that line quite a bit, but that is a story for another day.


1. A Sewing Machine (hand stitching is nice, but this is much more fun). This is for all your machine aided sewing, so it is your main tool. If you do not already have a sewing machine, This will be covered in the next lesson, Sewing 102 - what type of sewing machine should I get?

2. Scissors - From left to right, Fabric scissors, Pinking Shears, Paper Scissors.

  • Fabric Shears - This is for cutting your fabric. Get one that is heavy and stainless steel; 8 to 10 inches is a good length and it can be sharpened if necessary. The general rule is not to use your fabric shears to cut paper or other foreign materials as it will dull the blade.

  • Pinking Shears - These are zigzag scissors and they make zig-zag cuts. Which is why they are useful for finishing seams so that the fabric does not fray when cut on the diagonal (bias)

  • Paper Scissors - any basic scissors will do for paper cutting and other things.

3. Pins - These are for pinning fabric together in preparation for sewing and for pinning pattern paper to fabric for cutting amongst other various uses. Buy a pack of straight pins. If you can get the ones with plastic or glass heads, buy those too. Over time you will end up with a variety of them because not all pins are made equal.

4. Threads - These are for sewing your fabric together and they can come in cotton, polyester, silk, and even metal. What you need are generic all-purpose polyester threads for everyday sewing. They all come in various thicknesses, the lower the number the thicker the thread, the higher the number the thinner the thread.

For basic sewing, you should get size 40/s or simply 40 weight. Buy a pack with mixed colors and black and white. Even if you are buying low-cost ones, try to avoid those that look very frayed, they will cut often while sewing. (NOTE : thread sizing systems differ per country, so just aim for all-purpose sewing thread when in doubt)

5. Measuring Tape - This is for all your measuring needs and it is also useful for measuring curves while drafting. It usually has both inches (imperial system) and centimetres (metric system) on both sides. The standard measuring tape is 60 inches or 150 cm long. I personally like the ones with large numbers that are easy to read.

6. Chalk / Marking tools - Tailor's chalk and other marking tools are for marking seams, patterns, stitching lines, darts and many other notations on your fabric. It is important that whatever you decide to use, that is not permanent, and should not stain your fabric. Buy one light and one dark shade of chalk. You can also get chalk pencils and washable markers

7. Needles

• Sewing machine needles (On the Left) - Buy as recommended by your sewing machine manufacturer. Try to get a sizes 11/75 and 14/90 at least. Size 14/90 is usually the default and size 11/75 is thinner for lighter fabrics.

Hand sewing needles (on the right) - Needles come in various sizes and the higher the number, the smaller the needle. Size 10 is just fine for everyday sewing.


8. Other Small tools

from left to right; Seam reaper, Seam Gauge, Tracing Wheel, Awl, Snippers

Seam ripper - This is your new best friend, do get one. Safer than using a razor blade to pick out stitches.

Seam gauge - A little ruler for checking seam and hem allowances

Tracing wheel - for copying patterns from paper to paper or from paper to fabric and vice versa

Awl - It makes holes in your fabric without damaging it. Used to mark dots on your pattern paper and fabric, e.g. dart points

Snippers - These come in handy for snipping threads while sewing and much easier than carrying around your big shears

9. A container or bag - If you can get a danish cookie tin, that will be great. Well, any good container will do to keep your equipment safely tucked away and protected. But I will leave your mode of storage to you.


Drafting tools

For starters, try to get the most inexpensive of these. As you get into it, you can decide to invest in higher quality equipment. All these can be found in the bookshops in the local markets.

1. Pencils - any regular HB or 2B pencil will do

2. Permanent marker/ or Drafting Pen - 0.4 to 0.7 for drafting pens is okay, as long as it's visible to you

3. Sharpener and Eraser - Self-explanatory.

4. A set of Set squares / Triangles (Any ruler with a 90 degrees angle) and straight rulers - These will be used for drawing straight lines and making right angles

5. A set of french curves - These will be used for drawing curved lines like armholes and necklines. These can be bought really cheaply at any bookstore in the market.

6. A yardstick / metre rule - This is a long ruler used for measuring yards and metres and also for drawing long lines when drafting. This should measure 36 inches or 100 cm, depending on which type you can get. They are most commonly wooden.

7. Sheets of Drawing/Cardboard/Brown Paper - These will be used for flat pattern drafting. I get large sheets of 28 by 40 inches brown paper. You can buy sheets of this from N20 to N100 per sheet at any stationery shop in the market.


Right, so get your tools and join me in the next lesson.


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