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If you’re a beginner looking to set up your sewing corner, you’re probably wondering about the basic sewing supplies that every sewer needs to get started.
I’ve collected too many unnecessary sewing accessories over the years, but I’ve also found a few things that I don’t know if I could live without.
So, check out this sewing supplies list for beginners to find what you do and do not need!
I’ll teach you the names and uses of common sewing tools and help you decide if they’re necessary for your DIY aspirations.
Must-Have Sewing Supplies List for Beginners
You need a basic sewing kit equipped with a few must-have sewing supplies to start sewing by hand or with a sewing machine.
Depending on your project, other neat sewing accessories will make your life easier.
I’ve listed many notions below, but don’t be overwhelmed by the length of this sewing materials list.
You absolutely don’t need everything, or even most things, if you’re only planning basic sewing!
1. Cutting Tools
First, let’s discuss sewing supplies to cut fabric, threads, sewing patterns, and more.
A. Sewing Scissors or Shears
Picking good-quality scissors is important for the quality of cutting and how comfortable your hand is after a long day of cutting.
If you try cutting fabric with household scissors, you’ll notice how poorly they cut compared to sewing scissors!
Now, there are LOTS of different types of sewing scissors to choose from.
First, everyday fabric-cutting shears or fabric scissors work for most sewing projects.
I personally prefer 8″ scissors and use a pair of Fiskars sewing scissors most often to cut fabric.
I also have bent-handle shears where the lower blade lies flat on the table underneath the fabric, and while they are arguably “better,” I cut for so many years with scissors without a bend that I can’t get used to the others!
Now, embroidery scissors are used to clip threads, appliques, and cut into curves and tight corners.
These are smaller than all-purpose sewing scissors and aren’t intended for cutting large yardages of fabric. (You can read more about some of the best machine embroidery scissors if you’re interested!)
Thread snips can be used for embroidery tasks, but they also help with buttonholes and getting very close to fabric and into small, tight spaces while trimming threads.
Pinking shears are used for finishing the edges of the fabric so they don’t fray. (Most charm packs have their edges cut by pinking shears.)
They also snip into or around curves and provide decorative edges to non-woven fabrics like felt.
You can usually find either scallop or zigzag edge pinking shears, although zigzag is MUCH more popular.
And lastly, you do need regular household scissors to cut paper patterns. \Using sewing scissors for this task will dull the blades!
B. Rotary Cutter and Cutting Mat
A rotary cutter is essentially a circular metal blade attached to a plastic arm. The wheel rotates and cuts fabric as you press it down.
Rotary cutters come in several sizes to fit all project needs.
However, smaller 28 mm cutters are great for cutting curves or intricate pattern pieces.
Unless I’m using my AccuQuilt or another one of my fabric cutters, I only cut quilt pieces with rotary cutters, as straight edges and precise pieces are so important.
Some rotary cutters like my Martelli rotary cutter above are even made to be ergonomically friendly for sewists that hurt when they cut.
To use a rotary cutter, you need a self-healing cutting mat so you don’t ruin your sewing table or the rotary cutter.
The larger the mat, the better.
It’s also good to look for a mat that grips fabric well and features marked gridlines and multiple angle lines.
For safety, use a long, flat surface that’s at least 1/8″ thick as a straightedge for the rotary cutter. I use a transparent acrylic ruler, which I’ll explain more about later.
C. Seam Ripper
We all make mistakes and need to pull out stitches, so a seam ripper is a must-have sewing supply.
Seam rippers also help open buttonholes and remove basting stitches.
2. Measuring Tools
Measuring tools in sewing are crucial for accurate fabric, seam, pattern, and body measurements.
Below are some of the most common types to have in your sewing kit.
A. Tape measure
A tape measure allows you to measure items with volume and curves, such as the human form and other curvy areas.
There are various tape measures, but my pink flexible tape measure is my go-to. A metal retractable tape measure is less flexible but is longer and can be used to measure big items like windows.
Just make sure your tape measure has both inches and cm to save you from having to convert units of measurement!
B. Transparent Ruler
Transparent rulers help measure fabric and check grainlines through the transparent surface.
These clear rulers have measurements in inches and centimeters, and some also have 30, 45, and 60-degree markings, which help measure the bias or when quilting.
Rulers with lip edges rest on the edge of a self-healing mat, keeping the mat secure and perpendicular to the edge.
There are also transparent quilt rulers, which come in various sizes and shapes to make perfect quilt blocks. I have a set of Omnigrid square rulers.
There are also rulers or cutting aids that are not transparent, like the Martelli strip ruler and the Martelli fussy cut windows and blocks.
C. Adjustable, or folding, ruler
Adjustable rulers fold out to a long length but store easily, unlike a yardstick.
A wooden, metal, or plastic yardstick is one yard, or 36” inches, in length.
This helps measure long lengths of fabric and even vertical items since they will not bend when standing upright.
E. Cardboard Cutting Board
A cardboard cutting board folds up and lays out flat when needed.
With inch and angle measurements, it can be used as a work surface and to measure larger pieces of fabric.
F. Sewing Gauge or Seam Gauge
A seam gauge is used for small measurements like seam allowances, buttonhole diameters, and hem depths.
Seam gauges are usually metal with a sliding plastic marker (for variable measurements) and are 6” long.
3. Marking Tools
When sewing with patterns, design details like buttonholes and button placement, seam lines, folds, pleats, darts, and more need to be transferred temporarily to your fabric.
Thus, you also need sewing tools to mark fabric in your sewing supplies. I most often use tailor’s chalk, a tracing wheel, or washable fabric marking pens for this, but I’ll also give you a couple of other options below.
A. Marking Chalk
You can buy a flat wedge of chalk, pencil chalk, or chalk powder that goes in a rolling wheel or a pen.
Chalk brushes away easily, comes in different colors, and is easy to use.
B. Fabric Marking Pens or Pencils
Fabric marking pens are either water-soluble, air-soluble, or heat-soluble.
Mark your fabric with these temporary pens, and later erase with water, air, or an iron.
You can also use marking pencils. White pencils are particularly helpful for dark fabrics.
C. Tracing Wheel and Dressmaker’s Tracing Paper
Used in conjunction with dressmaker’s carbon paper, a serrated tracing wheel rolls over patterns, transferring a dotted outline to fabric.
This quickly transfers long, continuous lines, pleats, darts, tucks, and more to fabric.
4. Pins, Clips, and Pin Cushions
A. 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 various styles and sizes, and each type of sewing pin serves a different purpose. Choose a fine, shorter pin for delicate fabrics and a wider, longer pin for heavy or thick layers.
If you’re unsure what pins to use, the pin packaging tells 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.
While most pins come with a small plastic case, you might also want to invest in a magnetic pin tray, pin cushion, or another pin-holding device.
B. Sewing Clips: A Pin Alternative
I LOVE sewing clips. As a Mom of two tiny toddlers who touch EVERYTHING, it’s nice to leave projects out and not worry they will stab themselves.
Sewing clips hold thick and thin, delicate fabric layers with no wrinkling or permanent holes. Of course, you still need pins for certain tasks, but I’ve been able to substitute sewing clips for pins in many instances.
Thimbles protect the finger ends from needle points and help push needles through multiple layers of fabric when hand sewing.
Don’t forget to pick up spools of different colored threads to start your sewing projects!
You will need a thread for both the upper thread and bobbin thread. (Check your manual to ensure any thread you use will be compatible with your sewing machine in weight and material.)
While I use pre-wound bobbins with my embroidery machine, I wind my own sewing bobbins with my machine using the same thread in both the upper and bobbin threads.
While regular polyester, cotton, or cotton-wrapped polyester threads are the “vanilla” of sewing threads, you can actually sew with embroidery threads, too, which is fun for creating decorative stitches.
(Check out my thread storage organization ideas to see how things are arranged in my sewing room!)
6. Sewing Needles
Your sewing machine will include starter needles, but you will need to purchase more types and some hand sewing needles. (I have an in-depth sewing machine needle tutorial with a free printable to help you learn more about the types.)
Here’s a quick overview of how to choose sewing machine needles.
First, needles come in different shapes.
- Sewing machine needles with sharp points pierce woven fabrics like cotton.
- Needles with ballpoints slip between loops of stretchy fabrics like knits.
- Universal point needles are in between these two and perform adequately for woven and knit fabrics. Use universal needles when in doubt.
There are also specialty needles for specific tasks, including embroidery, topstitch, leather, and twin needles.
Needles also come in different sizes and are described by American and European sizes.
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.
7. Fabric, Interfacing, and Batting
Millions of fabrics are available, and you need a small stash to start new projects.
I like to buy my fabric from Hobby Lobby, JOANN, or local sewing stores because I just like touching fabric before buying.
However, if I just can’t find something in person, I’ve gotten pretty good at shopping online; here are my favorite affordable online fabric stores and sites!
Interfacing is the material that attaches to the back of your fabric to give it added stiffness and stability.
You can find it in cuffs, waistbands, the inner layer of collars, and more.
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 various weights for most projects.
I also recommend fusible tape.
It comes in various widths and is great to have around for invisible hemlines, for fusing pieces of fabric that are difficult to pin before sewing, and for making no-sew projects.
All you do is place the fusible tape between two pieces of fabric and press with an iron for permanent fusion!
There’s also HeatnBond iron-on adhesive, which helps stabilize appliques.
You first fuse one side to the applique fabric, remove the paper backing, and then stick the stabilized applique to your base fabric.
Reposition as many times as needed, and iron to adhere permanently.
C. Batting and Fiberfill
Batting is the padded layer between the two layers of a quilt (or another project) that gives it volume and keeps you comfy.
I most commonly use 80/20 cotton batting or low-loft polyester (for baby quilts), but there are lots of options!
Also, if you create a project, like a teddy bear or a pillow, you stuff it with polyester fiberfill.
This soft fiber holds its shape and the shape of your project. I use Polyfil stuffing for my stuffed projects.
8. Iron, Ironing Board, and Other Pressing Tools
You have to own a steam iron or other type of pressing tool to de-wrinkle fabric, attach interfacing, and press seams.
I have a cordless iron and a small ironing board 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.
9. Dress Form
I like having a dress form when sewing clothes.
I don’t have to keep trying clothes on myself when putting on the final touches or when doing a quick tissue fitting with the pattern with a custom dress form.
You can purchase an adjustable dress form or even make your own!
10. Elastic and a Bodkin or Safety Pins
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 colors, and not all types are created equal. (Thus, check out this post on the different types of elastic and when to use them.)
11. Needle Threader
If you want to see my needle threaders in action, check out this post on easily threading a sewing machine needle.
12. 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.
I much prefer my plastic straw-like turner, though, and use it more often if the fabric channel is big enough.
13. Point Turner and Seam Creaser
A point turner has two sides that help when turning fabric pieces back right side out.
The pointed tip pushes out the corners while the rounded end pushes out rounded areas and also crease seams.
14. Specialty Presser Feet
Presser feet hold the fabric down while you are sewing.
All sewing machines include an all-purpose foot used for zigzag and straight stitches. However, since most modern sewing machines have detachable presser feet, you can also purchase specialized presser feet to make certain tasks easier.
Common presser feet are a zipper foot, buttonhole foot, button sewing foot, and an invisible hem foot.
There are also different types of presser feet for cording, beads, pintucks, satin stitching, invisible zippers, narrow hems, ribbons, bias tape binding, and so much more. If you plan to quilt, consider adding a walking foot, spring-action quilting foot, and 1/4″ presser foot to your sewing supplies.
15. Liquid Fray Preventor
Fray Check is a colorless liquid that stiffens fabric to prevent fraying of fabric edges and cut ribbon.
It can also be used to permanently reinforce a buttonhole or fix sewing errors.
In sewing, temporary spray can also be used to hold quilt sections together for basting without worrying about gummed needles.
There’s also temporary fabric glue as well as permanent fabric glue, which I use for adding bling and other notions to projects.
17. Additional Assorted Sewing Supplies and Notions
It’s nice to have a stock of hook and loop fastener, 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 used where you would normally find lacing, like on tie-on sleeves or corsets. (I used eyelets in my men’s shirt refashion to a drawstring backpack also!)
18. Splurge Sewing Accessories
They keep the ends of threads from unlooping a making a mess in my thread storage.
19. Sewing Machine Cleaning Tools
If you have problems with your sewing machine, one rule out is whether the workspace is clean.
You’d be surprised how many dust bunnies will live in the space underneath your bobbin and throat plate after you’ve been sewing for a while.
While you should read the user manual to figure out how to clean your sewing machine, I like to use compressed air and a small keyboard vacuum after I’ve brushed away all the big dust particles. I saw that Nancy Zeiman did it to her machines, so I’m cool using it on mine! (Don’t blow dust into your sewing machine motor, though.)
20. Sewing Books
I have a huge supply of sewing books on my shelf. If you’re a beginner, I’ve written a post on the best sewing books for beginners to help you learn to sew.
My favorite book, which assumes you know how to use a sewing machine already, is The Sewing Book. It teaches so much about garment construction!
21. Sewing Supplies Storage Options
Once you’ve accumulated all your sewing tools, you need to find a place to store them.
You can use a sewing box to keep your most-used sewing items together but need to find a method to store your fabrics and other sewing supplies.
I hope this has helped you learn the names and pictures of the best sewing supplies for beginners! If I forgot anything essential, 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 materials!)