I learned how to sew by going to classes held in cafes and community centres. I was taken to my first class by a friend from work and that’s when I started to catch the bug. It’s very easy to get addicted to sewing, especially as there are so many projects that are easily achievable for a beginner.
I’ve written before about how I think the sewing revival is a way to cope with a stressful and increasingly digital age. Another benefit to sewing is that’s there is little waste and it’s a great way to create, upcycle and repair clothes.
I use every scrap of fabric that I buy and I’ve put this list together so you know exactly what you need instead of buying too much stuff. I made that mistake and while I’ve rehomed many things, to create a wide variety of projects you actually only really need these essential items.
I tried out this sewing machine before I bought it which I definitely recommend doing if you can. I’ve heard so many horror stories about cheap sewing machines so even for a beginner, it’s better to get a quality machine. Having a good machine makes sewing such a better experience and it will last longer. I recommend getting a second-hand machine if you don’t want to buy one brand new, as long as you know it is in good working condition.
2. Decent scissors
Using poor quality scissors is a nightmare as it can easily ruin your pattern pieces. The secret to keeping your scissors in shape is to only use them for cutting fabric! My partner has blunted many of my scissors as they are incredibly sharp and useful for many things – including the time he used them to cut up carpet! It’s useful to know someone who can sharpen your scissors as even the best ones eventually get blunt and it’s cheaper than buying a new pair.
3. Tailor’s chalks
There are many different chalks available for marking out your pattern pieces but I think the most traditional are the best. I’ve tried disappearing pens (they don’t always disappear) and triangular chalks (they tend to break) so these are a good compromise. You can get chalk ‘pens’ but they have a plastic tube which makes regular chalks a more environmentally sound decision.
4. Pins and pincushion
Pins are so quintessential to dressmaking, for both pattern pieces and adjustments. The only problem is that they go everywhere and get lost easily. You only find them later when one sticks in your foot! I think a jar with a pincushion attached in a good system to avoid that, at least until you make your own pincushion. Some come in a plastic case which isn’t great for the environment so I try to avoid those.
It goes without saying that it’s worth investing in a collection of thread. The standard size actually fits most machines so if you have a variety of colours, you can better match with your fabrics.
A good unpicker is a sound investment as if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend a lot of time unpicking! I used to have a small unpicker but it turned my hand into a stiff claw as I had to use it so much. This happened especially when making trousers and I sewed the crotch shut…twice!
7. Thread snips
Thread snips are the thing I love most out of my entire sewing kit! They’re just so useful and easier to use than scissors or the cutter on the machine. My partner loves them too and uses them to trim his beard. Cutting threads is my least favourite job but these cutters make it a breeze.
It goes without saying that metal bobbins are infinitely superior to plastic bobbins which are cheap but not great. It’s useful to get them in a box as they do have the tendency to get tangled up with your other threads.
A quilting square may seem like an indulgence but actually it’s a simple tool for making things square and measuring. I have many squiffy cushions as I didn’t square my corners. It’s also invaluable if you do want to make a simple quilt.
A measuring tape is essential for dressmaking and important for home furnishings also. I’m always getting them tangled or lost amongst my other belongings so it’s useful to get retractable version.
Now you have your kit, you’re ready to sew! Looking for sewing projects is one of my favourite things to do online and Pinterest has a wealth of free patterns including easy dressmaking, toys and things for the home. There’s also the fun of buying gorgeous fabrics before making them into something you really love.