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Learning to sew is so much fun! It gets my creative juices flowing, keeps my mind active, and helps me lower stress. I wholeheartedly recommend anyone looking to start sewing to give it a try! If you’re a beginner looking to set up your sewing corner, I also want to introduce you to some basic sewing supplies you may need (or want) to get started.
This sewing supplies list for beginners will help you learn the names and uses of common sewing tools and decide if they’re necessary for your DIY aspirations. As an aside, I’ve already written a post about beginner machine embroidery supplies, so if you’re planning to start machine embroidery also, you will need a few additional sewing supplies like stabilizer.
To start sewing by hand or with a sewing machine, you will need a basic sewing kit equipped with a few necessary items such as scissors, needles, and threads. However, depending on your project, there are other neat sewing notions that will make your life easier. I’ve listed a lot of these sewing items below, but don’t be overwhelmed by the length of this list. You absolutely don’t need everything, or even most things, on this list if you’re planning basic sewing.
Must-Have Sewing Tools, Accessories, and Notions
I’ve included pictures, descriptions, and links if you want to purchase the items I use. I’ve noticed while writing this sewing supplies list that I have way more than I thought and need to cut myself off from collecting any more sewing accessories.
Now, let’s get started!
You’ll first need to have supplies to cut fabric, threads, patterns, and more. There’s a wide variety of scissors and other cutting options, which I’ll walk you through below.
Sewing Scissors or Shears
Picking good quality scissors is both important for the quality of cutting you will get with your fabric as well as how comfortable your hand is after a long day of cutting. If you’ve ever tried to cut fabric with household scissors, you’ll notice a HUGE difference between how they cut vs how a pair of sewing scissors cuts.
There are LOTS of different types of sewing scissors. Everyday fabric cutting shears or cutting scissors will work for most projects. Now technically, shears have one handle that’s larger than the other while scissors have equal-sized handles. The asymmetry of shears gives you a little better grip for efficient cutting; bent-handled shears especially work great because the lower blade lies flat on the table underneath the fabric.
I like 8″ sewing scissors and use a pair of Fiskars most often to cut my fabric. I also have a smaller pair of detail scissors by Gingher that I use regularly. Those are the big orange and silver scissors in the picture above, respectively.
One other cutting option is embroidery scissors, which are used to clip threads, appliques, and cut into curves and tight corners. These are smaller than cutting cissors and don’t work great for cutting large yardages of fabric.
There are also thread snips, which help with buttonholes and getting very close to the fabric while trimming threads. You can also get into small, tight spaces with them.
Then there are pinking shears, which are used for finishing the edges of the fabric so they won’t fray. Pinking shears also “snip around” curves and provide decorative edges to non-woven fabrics such as felt. Depending on your shears, you can get either a scallop or zigzag edge.
And lastly, you need regular household scissors to cut paper patterns. You don’t want to use your sewing scissors for this since it will dull the blades.
Rotary Cutter and Cutting Mat
While not necessary, a rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat are helpful when cutting precise pieces of fabric and interfacing. I use mine most when I am quilting.
A rotary cutter is a circular metal blade attached to a long plastic arm. The wheel rotates and you move it along the fabric, cutting fabric in a neat line. A 45-mm blade rotary cutter is arguably the most useful size. A smaller 28 mm cutter is useful for cutting curves or following templates, and a 60 mm cutter allows you to cut multiple layers. I love my Fiskars 60 mm cutter and my Olfa 45 mm cutter.
If you buy a rotary cutter, you also need what’s called a self-healing mat to cut on so you won’t ruin your sewing table or the rotary cutter itself when cutting. The larger the mat, the better. This type of mat will also grip the fabric a bit so there’s less chance of a blade slipping compared to other surfaces. I use a 24” x 36” Olfa mat that’s probably older than I am. It has grid lines marked in inches and a 45-degree angle. It also has a nice crayon mark where my toddler got to it. Turns out, it couldn’t self heal from that.
To assist with cutting straight lines with your rotary cutter, you will want a long, hard, flat surface to cut against and use as a straight guide. You want this ruler or surface to be at least 1/8” thick or more to keep the rotary blade from slipping on top when cutting. Ouch! I use a transparent ruler or a square ruler. More about these later!
We all make mistakes and need to pull out stitches, unfortunately. Enter the handy seam ripper! Just be careful to not rip your fabric along with the stitches. All of my sewing machines have included a seam ripper with their accessories, but if yours doesn’t, this is a must-have sewing accessory! I also use it to sometimes open buttonholes.
Some sort of measuring device is also absolutely crucial to making sure your fabric and seam measurements are accurate. As with all sewing supplies, there are several options. Here are some of the most common.
I already discussed this within the cutting tools, but in addition to providing a cutting border, a transparent ruler helps you check fabric grainline and allows you to see through to the fabric you are measuring.
Mine is an O’Lipfa 5” x 24” ruler with a lip edge. It also has measurements in cm and 30, 45, and 60-degree markings, which are good for measuring on the bias or marking grids for quilting. The cool thing about the lip edge is you can set it over the edge of your mat to keep it secure and to measure perpendicularly. There are lots of different sizes and shapes of transparent rulers available.
There are also transparent quilt rulers, which are square-shaped and come in a variety of sizes. You use them to make perfect quilt blocks. I have a set of Omnigrid square rulers currently on loan to my Mom, who is working on a baby quilt.
A flexible tape measure allows you to measure items with volume such as a human form or around curves. Make sure it has inches and cm to save you having to convert units of measurement. A metal tape is less flexible but usually longer than a flexible tape measure and can be used to measure up long items such as windows for curtains or drapes. I use my husband’s metal tape measure from his toolset the few times a year I need it and otherwise rely on my trusty pink, soft tape measure. Or my retractable tape measure.
Adjustable, or folding, ruler
This folding ruler what I use a lot of the time for measurements of flat objects, and I really like it. I don’t have a huge sewing space any more thanks to my sweet younger daughter usurping my sewing sanctuary as her bedroom, so the fact that this plastic ruler folds out to a long length but only takes up a small storage space is huge for me.
Just like the type from elementary school! A wooden, metal, or plastic yardstick is one yard, or 36” in length. It is helpful to measure long lengths of fabric and can be used to measure items above your head, since it will not bend when stood against gravity.
Cardboard Cutting Board
A cardboard cutting board folds up and lays out when needed. It is huge and has inch measurements on it. It is super helpful in measuring large areas of fabric. I like to lay mine down on the floor and use it to measure several yards of fabric. I also use it as a work surface at times, too.
Sewing Gauge or Seam Gauge
A seam gauge is used for small measurements, for example: buttonhole diameters, border widths, and hem depths. It allows you to mark seam allowance widths precisely and is useful when instructions call for turning and pressing raw fabric edges toward the wrong side. Seam gauges are usually metal with a sliding plastic marker and measure 6” long.
At some point in your sewing adventure, you will need to mark your fabric. Especially if you’re sewing from a pattern! In this case, design details like buttonholes and button placement, seam lines, folds, pleats, darts, and such will need to be transferred from the pattern to your fabric.
And when making measurements on fabric, you need a nonpermanent way to mark. I mostly use tailor’s chalk, a tracing wheel, and washable fabric marking pens for this, but I’ll give you a couple of other options. And, ok, I’ll confess, I also use the occasional #2 pencil (and my daughters’ Crayola washable markers and chalk from her chalkboard) if I’m marking the back of fabrics and I’m feeling a little lazy. Sometimes convenience is worth it, you know?
You can buy a flat wedge or slice of chalk, pencil chalk, or chalk powder in a rolling wheel dispenser. I use a slice of blue tailor’s chalk, which easily brushes away.
Fabric Marking Pens or Pencils
Fabric marking pens are either water-soluble, air-soluble, or heat-soluble. You can mark your fabric with these temporary pens, and then the mark will be erased by water, in air, or with an iron. Right now, I’m using a Dritz blue water-soluble fabric pen, especially when doing embroidery. When marking dark fabrics, I use white marking pencils.
Tracing Wheel and Dressmaker’s Tracing Paper
Used in conjunction with dressmaker’s carbon paper, this serrated tracing wheel runs over a pattern and the paper to transfer a dotted outline to your fabric. This method of transferring is very quick for long, continuous lines and works best on solid-colored fabrics. It also works great to transfer pattern markings for pleats, darts, tucks, and more to your fabric.
Pins, Clips, and Pincushions
Pins and Pinholders
Sewing pins hold pieces of fabric while you sew a seam or hold a pattern in place while you cut.
Pins come in a wide variety of styles and sizes, and each type of pin serves a different purpose. In general, choose a fine pin for delicate fabrics and a longer pin for heavy fabrics or thick layers. If you’re not sure what pins to use, check the pin packaging as it will tell you its intended fabric uses.
As a beginner, you really only need normal straight pins in your collection. You can add more types as your sewing skills expand. Purchasing pins with a ball head make them easier to find in garments or projects.
And if you purchase pins, you will need a way to hold them. Many pins will come with a small plastic case, but you may find yourself wanting a different type of pin holder. Options include magnetic pin trays, pincushions, and so many more.
Sewing Clips: A Pin Alternative
I LOVE sewing clips. As a Mom of two tiny toddlers who touch EVERYTHING, it’s so nice to leave projects out and not worry they will stab themselves. If you have to pick a splurge sewing notion, here it is!
Sewing clips are a pin alternative that holds even very thick layers of fabric together with no wrinkling. They’re perfect for delicate fabrics and people who don’t want to worry about keeping up with hundreds of tiny straight pins. Of course, you will still need pins for certain tasks, but I’ve been able to substitute sewing clips for pins in many instances.
Some people rely on thimbles and others don’t feel them necessary. The purpose of a thimble is to protect the end of your finger from getting poked while pushing the needle when you are hand-sewing. I’m a lazy sewist (and prefer to use my sewing machine) and as such rarely get out my thimble.
Most basic sewing machines do not come with much thread. As such, you’ll want to pick up several spools of different colored threads to get started. You will need thread for both the upper thread and bobbin thread. Check your manual to make sure any thread you use will be compatible with your sewing machine in weight and material. I use polyester Brothread, which works great with my combination sewing and embroidery machine.
I prefer to use white pre-wound bobbins when embroidering, but I also have a ton of extra bobbins for my sewing machine that are wound with every color thread I think I’ll ever use!
Your sewing machine will likely include several starter needles, but you will need to purchase more if you have specific needs or plan to sew regularly. Here’s a brief tutorial for how to pick a needle. I have a very in-depth sewing machine needle tutorial with a free printable if you want to learn more!
First of all, needles come in different shapes. There are needles with sharp points for piercing woven fabric like cotton and needles with ballpoints for slipping between loops of stretchy fabrics like knits. There are also universal point needles that will perform adequately for both woven and knit fabrics. Furthermore, there are also specialty needles for specific tasks, some of which include embroidery needles, top-stitch needles, leather needles, and twin needles.
Needles also come in different sizes and are described by an American and European size. The smaller the needle number, the finer the needle, and the lighter the fabric it’s designed for. And the finer the thread it can accommodate. When in doubt, start with a 90/14 needle size. Increase the size for heavyweight fabrics like denim, and decrease the size for thin fabrics like silk.
Fabric, Interfacing, and Batting
Now, let’s get to what your projects will be made from.
There are millions of types of fabrics available. You’ll need a small stash of fabric if you’re wanting to get started with new projects. I like to buy my fabric from Hobby Lobby, JoAnn, or local sewing stores. If there’s something I just can’t find in person, I also like to shop on Fabric.com. They have a wide selection, and I’ve been very pleased with the quality of fabric thus far.
Interfacing is the material that attaches to the back of your fabric to give it added stiffness and stability. For instance, you can find it in garment pieces such as cuffs, waistbands, and the inner layer of collars.
I’ve written a whole post on how to choose interfacing for your sewing project. I like to use nonwoven, fusible Pellon interfacing, which comes in a variety of weights, for most projects.
I also recommend fusible tape! It comes in various widths and is SO great to have around as a substitute for sewing and for adhering fabrics when it is difficult to use pins or clips. I especially like to use it for invisible hemlines. All you do is place the fusible tape between two pieces of fabric and press with an iron. The two pieces of fabric are then permanently fused!
There’s also Heat n’ Bond iron-on adhesive, which is super helpful for stabilizing appliques and adhering pieces of fabric together. Your first fuse one side to the applique fabric, next remove the paper backing, and then stick the stabilized applique to your base fabric. Reposition it as many times as you need! Then you can iron it all to adhere it permanently.
Batting and Fiberfill
Batting is the padded layer in between the two layers of a quilt (or another project) that gives it volume and keeps you comfy. I most commonly use fusible fleece or cotton batting, but there are lots of options!
Also, if you create a project, like a teddy bear or a pillow, you stuff if with polyester fiberfill. This is a soft fiber that holds its shape and the shape of your project. I use Polyfil stuffing for my stuffed projects.
Iron, Ironing Board, and Other Pressing Tools
“If you don’t have time to press, you don’t have time to sew.” That’s what my Mom always told me when I was a novice sewist in a hurry to complete my projects. A sewist who often tried to cut corners by not ironing. Well, turns out you have to own an iron or other type of pressing tool to be able to unwrinkle fabric, attach fusible interfacing, press seams, and so much more!
I have an iron and a small ironing board stashed in my sewing corner. I get out my big ironing board only if I have to. My iron has a wide temperature range and a steam function, which is great.
If you’re sewing garments, you may also benefit from a seam roll (cylindrical cushion good for pressing seams shown on the left), tailor’s ham (pressing curved areas like darts or hips and shown on the right), or a sleeve board. A sleeve board is a small narrow ironing board that is great for pressing small items like sleeves. My grandfather made my sleeve ironing board over 60 years ago! It desperately needs a new cover, but I just can’t part with this one yet.
Elastic and a Bodkin or Safety Pins
This one’s pretty easy to understand. If you want to make a project that needs more stretch than the fabric will give, you need elastic! Elastic comes in different widths and even different colors! (Here’s a huge post on the different types of elastic and when to use them!)
And if you plan to pass your elastic through a casing (that’s the tunnel you make to hold it), you need a way to do so. You can use a small safety pin on the end of the elastic, or you can use a bodkin. It’s a little bit longer than a safety pin, but it works great also.
If you’re unable to thread a needle for hand sewing or you don’t have an automatic needle threader on your sewing machine, you can use this needle threader tool to help pull the thread through the needle. These needle threaders are pretty flimsy, so make sure you have a handful if you’re going to be threading regularly. There are probably 10 different types of needle threaders, but this is the one that I keep handy. It works best for threading a needle for hand sewing rather than a sewing machine needle.
Wire Loop Turner
A wire loop turner has a small hook on the end and is useful for turning small pieces of cylindrical fabric from inside out to right side out. For example, spaghetti straps, belts, and other fabric tubes.
A point and tube turner is a slightly differently-oriented apparatus, but it works in the same way. When my grandmother cleaned out her sewing collection, I added it to mine. I rarely use it and prefer my handy wire loop turner. But, here’s a picture of it above!
Point Turner and Seam Creaser
A point turner allows you to easily turn a sewn item right side out and push out the corners. The pointed end pushes out the corners while the rounded end can be used to crease seams open.
If you use the eyelet stitch on your sewing machine, or if you need to make a small hole in your fabric for something like a belt hole, you can use an eyelet punch. This came standard with my Brother SE625 embroidery machine and is rarely used in my crafting fancies!
Specialty Presser Feet
Presser feet hold your fabric down while you are sewing. All sewing machines will include an all-purpose zigzag foot used for zigzag and straight stitches. Most modern sewing machines also have detachable presser feet, meaning you can switch out for more specialized presser feet, making certain tasks easier.
Other common presser feet are a zipper foot, buttonhole foot, button sewing foot, and a blind hem foot. If you plan to quilt, a walking foot, spring-action quilting foot, or 1/4″ presser foot may be useful also. There are also feet for cording, beads, pintucks, satin stitching, invisible zippers, narrow hems, ribbons, bias tape binding, and so much more.
I have a TON of presser feet. Some of them I’ve never even used, although I’m dreaming up projects for how to! I’ve written tutorials for how to use a side cutter presser foot and how to use an overcasting foot, which are two of my favorite presser feet. Just think of what you want to sew and see if there are any presser feet to make your job easier! Usually, these sewing feet are pretty inexpensive to add to your collection and well worth the investment.
Liquid Fray Preventor
Fray Check is a colorless liquid that stiffens fabric to prevent fraying. It can be used to reinforce a buttonhole or to fix sewing errors as well. It is permanent, so you can wash projects that you have used it on. I like to also use it to keep the ends of cut ribbon from fraying.
Occasionally, it’s helpful to have temporary adhesive to hold projects together. When I’m embroidering, I use quilt basting spray to hold the stabilizer to my fabric. In sewing, this can be used to hold quilt pieces together also! With temporary adhesive, you can reposition fabric items. You also don’t have to worry about it gumming up your sewing machine needle if you sew over it.
There’s also temporary fabric glue as well as permanent fabric glue. Examples of things you can do with permanent glue are affixing small jewels and other notions.
Other Sewing Notions
It’s also nice to have a stock of hook and loop fastener as well as ribbon, buttons, zippers, and other small sewing accessories. Snaps, fasteners, and other types of clasps are also handy if you’ll be sewing clothes. Double fold bias-binding tape is useful for binding edges of fabrics together, too.
I also have a set of pliers that help me insert eyelets into fabric. Eyelets are often used where you would find lacing, like on tie-on sleeves or corsets. I used eyelets in my men’s shirt refashion to a drawstring backpack also!
Splurge Sewing Accessories
Ok, so these are in no way necessary sewing accessories, but I LOVE having these spool huggers and bobbin holders. They keep the ends of the threads from unlooping a making a mess in my thread storage.
Sewing Machine Cleaning Accessories
If you’re having problems with your sewing machine, one of your rule-outs is whether the workspace is clean. You’d be surprised how many dust bunnies will live in the space with your bobbin or around your needle base after you’ve been sewing a while. You’ll want to read your user manual to figure out how exactly to clean your sewing machine, but I like to use compressed air to blow away the fuzzies after I’ve brushed away all the big particles of dust. Just make sure not to blow dust into your sewing machine motor.
I have a huge supply of sewing books on my self. They’re nice to reach for when I need to remember how to do something complicated! If you’re a beginner, I’ve written a post on the best sewing books for beginners to help you learn how to sew. My favorite book, which assumes you know how to use a sewing machine already, is The Sewing Book. It is INCREDIBLE and teaches so much about garment construction!
Sewing Supplies Storage Options
Once you’ve accumulated all your sewing tools, you’ll need to find a place to store them. You can use a sewing box to keep your most-used items together but will need to find a method to store your fabrics and other sewing supplies. I use the KALLAX cubes from IKEA and have many, many pull-out drawers filled to the brim with goodies.
Sewing Supplies for Beginners – Conclusion
I hope this post has helped show you names and pictures of basic sewing supplies as well as some more advanced ones too. I tried to cover everything I could think of. If I forgot anything essential, though, please let me know, and I’ll add it! (Or buy it if I don’t have it, because who are we kidding, I LOVE collecting sewing notions! I also own a lot of embroidery and serger supplies, too!)
Drop me a note in the comments if I can help in any way!