Hey there, and welcome to another edition of the Beginner Sewing Series! Today I’d like to chat about some of our much-used tools. To ensure that I didn’t go overboard (baby registry, anyone??), I went straight to my sewing table and picked up the items that I use each day as I sit down to sew.
Let’s get started!!…
- Cutting Tools
For a seamstress, a good pair of fabric scissors is a must. I don’t have any fancy pairs, but I make sure that mine are sharp and are only used for fabric. I grabbed all three of these with big (50-60% off) coupons from Jo-Anns. So, what are the differences?
- The orange pair is my main pair for cutting out my garment pieces.
- The circular blade is a rotary cutter. It is extremely sharp and can be used to also cut out patterns; it curves and produces a nice straight edge. I like how close to my pattern pieces the rotary cutter can get. But since I don’t always keep my cutting mat handy (eep–I forgot a tool–you’ll need that too!), I generally grab my orange Fiskars.
- The small pink pair is what I use for detail like cutting threads and make precise cuts. When I first started sewing, I wasn’t happy that I could still see threads hanging off of garments a bit. It was hard for me to snip them close to the last stitch; this little guy was the key!
Because I go through so much thread, I generally just buy cones; but whether you grab spools or cones, you’ll need thread! 100% Polyester thread is suitable for most sewing projects, especially knit garments. It’s durable, and you can find thread both in most craft stores and online.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “There’s something here that doesn’t belong.” But I assure you–I went to my sewing space, and there it was! And I actually use it for loads of projects (not eating-related). Chopsticks are excellent for poking corners of lined garments and other projects (blankets etc.).
4. Basic Needles
Where would we be without our needles? When sewing your project, you’ll want to first consider your fabric. Woven is typically a non-stretch fabric, and Knit typically has stretch. Each fabric, though, will differ in both weight (i.e. how thick the fabric is or how much it weighs) and how stretchy the fabric is. If you are sewing a non-stretch woven fabric, you can use regular universal needles, and you’ll have to find what “size” of needle based on the thickness of your fabric. We’d use a larger needle for leather, for example, and a smaller needle for lightweight curtains.
In general, the blue size (90/14) works for most of my projects. The pack of needles shown here are called ball-point needles. Unlike universal needles, these are made for knits (stretch) and have a more rounded/ball tip. If you are sewing knits, you will need ball-point needles.
Although you can get these at most shops, my go-to place to order needles is Singer Online. The employees are great to work with, and the shipping is FREE on all orders (umm…yes please!).
5. Double Needle
If you don’t have a coverstitch machine, a double needle is a great tool. If you look at the bottom hem (or sleeve hem) of the clothes you have on, you will likely see two rows of stitches). These rows are intertwined on the backside of the garment, allowing it to stretch. Double needles are inexpensive and help hemlines look professional while being quite sturdy.
I bought a few named-brand double needles from the face-to-face large craft stores, and I had several break quickly after the first use. So I ventured out and found these ones, and I’ve had very good luck with them. My stitches don’t skip (unless my machine needs a little coconut oil), and I have consistent hemlines. Many complain about hemming brushed poly with a double needle, and I use these ones daily on brushed poly. They do, though, ship from overseas–so you have to be willing to wait.
There are several online videos about how to use a double needle. You really just thread it like your regular needle, using one extra spool of thread. Or in my case, I use a bobbin of thread along with my cone to thread my needle. This brings me to the next tool…
I should probably buy stock in bobbins I started with a few…and then bought 20 thinking that I was stocked for life…and then 20 more… I love bobbins because it makes stitching the double-needle hem very easy. I take my spool color, fill a bobbin with it, and voila!–I have my thread ready for my hem or topstitching (bobbin + spool). I usually use the same color for my bobbin that creates the stitches beneath, as well but if it’s different and a neutral, sometimes I leave it. But I’ll advise you to be consistent with all three colors
I also order my bobbins through Singer Online (linked in #4). Their crew was extremely helpful when I was trying to figure out a bobbin issue. Many of the clear bobbins, sold a Singer in the main craft stores had square openings on the bobbin rather than circular. My thread started becoming a crazy, tangled mess, and I couldn’t figure out why. I ordered the “real Singer” (imprinted with Singer) with circular openings, and the issue was resolved immediately. Oh…and they were the same cost as the others–phew!
7. Seam Ripper
The avid seamstresses reading this will be breathing a big sigh of relief… “Thank God she didn’t forget the seam ripper!!” It’s true…this baby will become your friend. If you accidentally stitch where you shouldn’t, you use this tool to “erase” the dreaded error.
You’ll use your seam ripper with the ball part up, and you’ll guide your stitch to the center curve, which is the sharpest part of the seam ripper.
8. Glue Stick
I should have included regular scissors in my scissor photo…but never should paper scissors and fabric scissors be together. Paper scissors and glue sticks (or tape) will come in handy when assembling your PDF patterns. This is part of the sewing process that I wish would magically just do itself, but glue sticks does make the job much easier!
Another way I use glue sticks often is for pocket placement or other item that is hard to pin to my fabric accurately. There are actual glue sticks that are fabric safe, but I haven’t had any issues using my regular ole glue sticks. I simply swipe a small amount on the corners of my pocket, press to my garment where it should be, and stitching is much easier!
9. Pins and Clips
Many seamstresses have strong opinions about whether they like clips or pins better for their projects; although I like them both for different projects, pins are my go-to. Either way, these tools help assure accuracy when we’re sewing. We first pin the shoulder seams of our garment or pin down the sides of a dress or the sides of a legging, making sure that they evenly meet at both top and bottom. We pin our neckbands to the neck opening. We use these beloved tools daily! In fact, maybe I should print the picture above and frame it near my sewing space; those little guys deserve it!
10. Iron (preferably with steam)
You’ll of course need your ironing board too, but keep an iron right next to your sewing machine. This will become your best friend after each row of stitches. It might seem like a hassle to jump up and press everything nicely before continuing to the next step–but take it from me (who learned the hard way)–it’s a must!…and so worth it!
- Have a bunched or wavy neckband? Steam and press that baby!
- Have a bottom band of a sweatshirt that went on tight and created some puckers? Steam and press that baby!
- Have a sleeve opening (armscye) that isn’t lying flat? Steam and press that baby!
An iron is a magical tool.
That wraps up our 10 must-have tools! Thanks so much for hanging out with me today to learn about some of these great tools. Happy shopping as you gather your supplies, and be sure to reach out to the New Horizons team with your tool questions; we have a great crowd that can surely help.
Happy tool hunting!