Do you get pins and needles just thinking of all of the different sewing tools? With so many different sewing supplies, it can be a bit overwhelming for a beginner. While some sewing tools are essential, others are fun, optional materials you can acquire later.
To help you navigate the world of sewing tools and understand what these items do, we’ve put together this beginner’s guide to check out before you head to your local craft store.
If you have ever been to a sewing or crafts store and wandered into the sewing notions aisle, you have seen a multitude of sewing tools, from rudimentary to sophisticated. That’s enough to give a beginner the jitters!
There’s no need to get overwhelmed by all these new things. Instead, let’s take a look at sewing tools and their uses. To make things easier, we’ll break the common sewing tools into categories.
Basic Sewing Tools
Before you spend all of your money on new, shiny sewing gadgets and accessories, make sure you have these basic sewing tools, and learn to use them correctly! These items will help you get started, get you through sewing lessons, and help you tackle beginner-friendly sewing projects.
You’ll rarely make a piece without using straight pins. In the garment industry, the experienced seamstresses just hold the pieces together and sew away, really fast! They’re fun to watch, but it’s best to pin pieces together before stitching.
You can use standard pins, but make a note that when sewing silk, use the finest pins to avoid making permanent holes in your fabric.
A seam ripper does exactly what it’s name implies. But why would one want to rip a seam? You might make occasional mistakes like stitching the fabric with the wrong sides facing each other, or stitching the left sleeve to the right sleeve opening, etc.
Trying to rip a seam with scissors could damage the fabric. The seam ripper is designed to slip between the fabric layers and snip the thread with precision.
Hand Sewing Tools
Whether you’re learning to sew to fix your own clothes or to eventually take on more elaborate projects, make sure to stock your sewing space with these sewing tools.
Don’t forget to review the basic sewing stitches!
When sewing by hand, you will need all of the above, plus (perhaps the most common sewing tool) the thimble. This nifty metal object (also found in plastic and leather) is shaped like a bucket and designed to protect your finger when pushing a needle through layers of fabric.
All you need is a basic thimble, but if you’re looking for something fancy, you can find thimbles decorated with stones that look like jewelry.
Machine Sewing Tools
This section includes essential sewing tools to make your sewing machine work, as well as accessories to help maintain your machine. So whether you have a shiny new sewing machine or a hand-me-down family heirloom, make sure you get the materials you need to keep your machine running strong!
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There a several different types of presser feet. For general use, use the multi-purpose presser foot. One of the most common feet that are used is zipper foot to install zippers by pressing only on one side of the needle. It can also be used to insert piping, or a beaded trim, or whenever there is more bulk on one side than the other.
A screwdriver is a useful tool for sewists! You can use it to change your needles, or to expose parts of your sewing machine that need to be cleaned or fixed.
Cutting Tools for Sewing
Now let’s get into the different types of scissors and cutting tools that will help you with your sewing projects. Again, depending on your skill level, your project, and the material you use, you may not need all of these sewing tools right away, but it’s still a good idea to be familiar with the different cutting tools and how they function.
A good pair of scissors is crucial. When scissors are dull, they will chew up your fabric, and it will be very time consuming to cut even the smallest piece of fabric. Plus, the edges will be jagged. There are scissors for general use, and some sewing shears with specific uses. Do not cut paper with your sewing scissors, ever, it will dull the blades. You can mark your fabric scissors with some colored tape on the handles.
A good pair of scissors is crucial. When scissors are dull, they will chew up your fabric, and it will be very time consuming to cut even the smallest piece of fabric. Plus, the edges will be jagged. There are scissors for general use, and some sewing shears with specific uses.
Do not cut paper with your sewing scissors, ever, it will dull the blades. You can mark your fabric scissors with some colored tape on the handles.
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These scissors have tapered, pointed blades.
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A rotary cutter is made with a circular blade affixed to the handle. If you wish to work with silk, a rotary cutter will give you superior results when cutting your pattern pieces.
Just lay your pattern piece on silk, use your fabric weights to keep the pattern in place, and cut the edges with the rotary cutter. Use a smaller blade to cut garment pieces. A larger blade is great for cutting straight edges and is useful for quilting.
You may be surprised by the number of sewing needles you will find in craft stores. Besides hand sewing needles and sewing machine needles, there are different needle types and sizes that work best with different types of fabric. In this section we’ll go over needle size and the different types of needles, so you will know which of these sewing tools you’ll need to complete your own sewing projects.
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The size of the needle is the first characteristic. When sewing fine fabrics like silk, use the finest needle, to avoid leaving unwanted holes in the fabric. If you sew small beads to your creation, the needle must be very fine. Just pass the needle through the bead to test it. The size of the eye depends on the thickness of your thread. If you finish your piece with an embroidery floss, make sure to choose a needle with a larger eye, or most of your time will be spent trying to thread the needle.
Sewing Needle Size
Needle size is generally determined by fabric weight. Lighter fabrics require smaller needles, and heavier fabrics require bigger needles.
You will find two numbers on the needles’ packaging. For example: 80/12. The first number indicates the European size, so “80” means that the needle is 0.80 mm in diameter. The number 12 is the American size.
The sizes vary from 60 to 120. The 60 needles are very fine and can be used to sew silks and delicate fabrics. The American sizes range from eight to 19. Depending on the manufacturer, both sizes can be displayed on the needles’ casing, or just the American size in the United States.
Another thing to consider is the size of thread you use for your project. The eye of the needle should be large enough to pass your thread through without too much friction on the thread.
Sewing Needle Types
Use Universal needles to sew woven fabrics and thicker knits. The point of the universal needle has a slight ballpoint.
Use needles marked as jeans and denim to sew denim and heavy woven fabrics. They have a medium ballpoint and their blade is reinforced. They’re made to go through thicker layers of fabric.
Using the wrong needle with heavy fabric may lead to your needle breaking.
There are many more types of needles and brands, such as Singer, Schmetz, Janome, and Dritz for home sewing machines. Check out the Schmetz website for more information on needle types, parts, and sizes.
Marking Tools for Sewing
Need to make marks that won’t damage your fabric? The following set of sewing tools are helpful for all types of projects!
You can use chalk to transfer stitch lines, darts, and other markings from your pattern to your fabric. Tailor’s chalk comes in various colors, and as a pencil or a chip with tapered edges. Test it on your fabric before marking your pieces. It should disappear when you rub it with your finger. If the mark remains, make sure to only mark the wrong side of the fabric or use tailor’s tacks.
Measuring Tools for Sewing
In addition to the indispensable tape measure, here are a few more sewing tools for measuring. If you need to modify patterns often, you may want to invest in a couple of these tools.
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A clear ruler comes in handy a lot when drafting a pattern and adding seam allowances.
Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of how sewing tools function. Remember, in the beginning less is more. Get the essential sewing tools you need to get started, and add to your collection as you learn and progress. If you need help with any of these sewing tools, make sure to ask a sewing teacher.
Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun! Happy sewing!