Sewing Sewing Tips

12 Things Every New Sewist Needs

Originally published on 1/17/2019

Hi friends!! After writing my post about why I sew (which I will re-upload this week), I started thinking about those people who would often tell me they wish they could sew. I came to the realization that every day, in at least one of my sewing groups, I see people venturing out on their sewing journey. With that, the same question gets posted. That is “what supplies do I need to start sewing?” A good sewing machine that you understand how to work is a good starting point…perhaps the most obvious. But then what? I decided to sit down and think about what I reach for the most often during my projects. I’d love to share that list with y’all…

1 Wonder tape. This is an absolute necessity, in my book. I can’t even remember when I discovered it, but I know I always have a roll or two on hand. It’s amazing at helping you position curved hems and zipper tapes. I use it for pocket placement so that pockets don’t shift while sewing. With certain fabrics that won’t hold pressed edges, I’ve used it to force them into cooperation. I’ve even seen people use it for stripe matching. The possibilities are quite expansive! Get some!

My almost finished roll of wonder tape.

2 Acrylic ruler. This is one of the first sewing tools I purchased. My first sewing mat came in a set with a rotary cutter and acrylic ruler packaged together. I cannot cut a straight line for the life of me, so this little thing is super handy to have around. It’s not just for quilting. If you have a pattern that comes with measurements for skirts or neckbands, it’s awesome for measuring out and cutting your pieces precisely. Sometimes, even if a pattern has a neckband piece, I stick it underneath the ruler to cut. Guaranteed straight cuts that way. You do need a rotary cutter with the ruler though, which brings me to the next item…

Don’t mind the paint…I’ve used this ruler for everything haha.

3 Rotary cutter and mat. I stated before about the ruler and cutting straight lines. You butt the edge of the cutter up against the ruler and go. Smooth, straight lines for days. Be sure to place on top of a mat specifically for cutting. I have several (a 24″x36″, two 5″x17″, two 18″x24″). I use my large mat and rotary cutter to cut out almost all of my pattern pieces. To do that, I just use tons of pattern weights (really just marble tiles) to hold my patten pieces down on my mat on a hard surface. This process has made pattern cutting a breeze for me. I am too impatient to trace my pieces onto the fabric, then cut with scissors. I have learned, personally, that I am sooo much more efficient with a rotary cutter! I still do keep a nice pair of scissors for small detail work or certain angles that are difficult to cut with the rotary cutter, though.

4 Fabric scissors. As a beginning sewist, I just had scissors. They were used for any and everything. Paper, duck tape, cardboard, and fabric. Thats’s a NO-NO! When I would try to cut fabric, I’d have to go too many passes. Sometimes the fabric would snag in the scissors, not cut properly, get stuck. My edges were not coming out nice and smoothly cut at all. You don’t have to have expensive scissors (although I’m really wanting to own a pair of Ghingers), just make sure they are only used for fabric and all will be well.

5 Measuring tape. If you are sewing clothing for anyone, you can’t simply go by ready-to-wear/vanity sizes when choosing a pattern. Various designers have different base points for the “average” size. It’s very likely you could wear an XS from one designer, but a M from another. My daughter is a prime example. We buy 10 from stores, but she ranges anywhere between a 4 to a 14 from different pattern makers. I have to grade between specific sizes for most garments, but I only know this because I know her measurements!! Make sure to buy a quality tape and check it from time to time against your acrylic ruler. Old measuring tapes (or ones that your toddlers think are toys) can become stretched out and give inaccurate measurements. Check out this resource on measuring from Ellie and Mac if you need help.

This one doesn’t retract anymore, thanks to said toddler.

6 Multiple bobbins. I promise you, the few that came with your machine are NOT enough. In the beginning of my sewing adventures, I only used white or black in my bobbin. As I began to sew more and more, I started wanting the bobbin thread to match the underside of my clothing, so I started winding more and more. I actually own two bobbin storage cases. One holds various colors I’ve wound for projects. The other is just for spare black and white. Nothing like running out in the middle of a project, having to wind a new one, then rethread your machine. Been there, done that too many times.

I absolutely love these cases for bobbin storage!

7 Marking pens and chalk. Some patterns require certain markings like buttonholes, notches, raglans, right vs left side, etc. I use the blue or purple marker, just whichever side I open, on light colored fabrics. For my specific marker, the blue is water soluble and the purple disappears after a few hours. I use the white pencil or even just regular white chalk on dark fabrics. Both wipe off with a dry cloth or the little brush on the end of the pencil. Marking has saved me ton of confusion when putting projects together. The few times I have skipped it out of laziness, I surely made things take longer than they should have.

8 Hem gauges. These are perfect for measuring out hems and even seam allowances if you’re sewing with one that’s slightly out of the ordinary for you. I use the small one most often for shirt and sleeve hems. I use the larger one on curved bodices and sometimes when I’m trying to create a really nice press line. The best part about it is that I can just iron directly on it. It does get very hot, though, so be careful!

9 Wonder clips or pins (preferably ballpoint). No matter what you’re making, you will have to pin or clip things together before moving to your machine. I own clips and pins, and use whichever feels the most convenient for a particular project. My general rule of thumb is that edges get clipped, if something is placed on top of other fabric, I use a combo of wonder tape and pins to hold it in place. I’ve had this super cute tin from Amazon for over a year, and they’ve held up well, considering how cheap they are. “Real” wonder clips are super expensive, and my little guy likes to run off with them, anyway. I’d rather save with the knockoffs. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

10 Twin needle. These little things are absolutely splendid. My machine came with one and I never did use it until over 4 years later. WHY???! Twin needles provide an evenly spaced parallel line of stitches on the outside and create a zigzag with the bobbin thread underneath. They make hems look nice, as well as provide stretch (important for knit fabrics) & they are a decent alternative to a coverstitch machine! I will provide the disclaimer that twin needles require a bit of troubleshooting to get the settings perfect. Certain materials tunnel if the thread or bobbin tension is too high, or even if the stitch length is off. Certain machines have to be threaded in specific manners to get the needle to work properly. Just be sure to use one according to your machine’s manual, but make sure you have a couple handy. I prefer the 4mm width, personally.

11 Seam ripper. No matter how long you’ve been sewing, you will inevitably make mistakes that will require disassembling parts of your project. A seam ripper, when properly used, will be your best friend in that event! I have a few (each of my machines has come with one), but my favorite one, I actually bought from JoAnn. I also nowadays buy them in bulk from Wawak because they do get dull over time. If you’re doing a lot of seam ripping, make sure you’re tossing em every so often. I’ve also seen some really nice custom ones in sewing groups. Maybe one day…

12 Dedicated sewing notebook. This is where to keep ALL of your notes as they relate to sewing. There are many trial and error activities in sewing (as mentioned previously), so once you’ve mastered it, write it! I keep my serger settings for various materials, favorite zigzag settings for different uses, tension settings for using my twin needle with different fabrics, my family’s measurements (I try to update monthly or before making a new pattern). You name it, I’ve got it in there! It definitely saves me tons of time in having to troubleshoot problems I’ve already solved in the past!

That’s it, y’all! I truly, truly believe these are some must haves. Over time, I may come back and expand upon this list, as I remember things or learn of new ones. I hope this helps with anyone wondering what you may need and with some of the “why” you need it! Happy sewing!!

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