When we’re just starting to learn about a new hobby, it can be so tempting to jump right in. But as we discover more about the activity we’ve chosen, we may come to find that there’s actually more to it than we ever imagined. That’s exactly why we’ve decided to put together a comprehensive list of sewing supplies for beginners.
Aside from the 20 items you might need for hand and machine sewing, we’ve also made sure to include about 8 basic sewing supplies for working with leather. So if you were scouring the internet for the most complete sewing supplies list — you’ve found it!
The most important thing to consider when you’re making a list of essential sewing supplies for beginners is the process of a sewing project. So we’ve listed these items in the order in which you might need them. So what’s the first tool you’re going to reach for?
Of course, before you do anything else, you’ll need to take some measurements. Whether you’re making clothes for yourself or someone else, the process will be about the same. If you’re working on a pattern piece, measuring around the chest, the waist, the hips, and along the torso and the inner leg is the first step toward determining what size you should copy from the pattern.
Once you know your own measurements, you won’t have to take them before every project. However, don’t be afraid to let your body change — so measure yourself every once in a while to make sure your new clothes will fit.
Even if you aren’t making clothes at all, a measuring tape will still come in handy. For example, making a pillowcase also requires a flexible measuring tool. However, most seamstresses know that a measuring tape isn’t the tool you’ll need for fabric measurements.
Instead of going for the measuring tape when you’re taking fabric measurements, you’ll want to pick something sturdy, like a ruler or a seam gauge. Any type of tool will do when you’re gathering your beginner sewing supplies.
However, if you want to make everything a bit easier for yourself, you can go for a long, clear plastic ruler. A yard long ruler should be more than enough, although seam gauges are typically about 6 inches long. The main thing you’ll be doing with a hard ruler anyway is drawing sharp lines on the fabric. So you might use whatever works for you.
In fact, there are also hip curve rulers that have a slight bend to them. Still, those aren’t absolutely necessary sewing supplies for beginners. Just stick to finding something that will help you draw a straight line.
Once you’ve taken your measurements, you’ll need tracing paper to transfer your pattern onto the fabric. Typically, tracing paper is pretty thin and disposable, so you’ll need to buy more from time to time.
Most tracing papers are brown and opaque, but we wouldn’t recommend those types of paper for beginners. More experienced seamstresses can use that type of paper for original designs.
However, if you’re getting your patterns from a fashion magazine, we recommend using a semi-sheer paper. Sewing magazines often come with an insert that contains all of the patterns from the clothing showcased within the issue. However, the patterns are all jumbled up, distinguishable only by the color and type of the lines.
When you locate the pattern belonging to the model you want to make in your own size, having a transparent paper will be an enormous help because you’ll be able to see the pattern you’re transferring. In fact, no matter its color or opacity, tracing paper is absolutely one of the essential sewing supplies for beginners.
After you transfer the pattern to your tracing paper, you can cut out the shape and place it onto your fabric. Then, you’ll need something to draw around the paper with. Traditionally, seamstresses used soapstone, a talc rock, to draw around sheets of fabric.
Tailor’s chalk is one of the basic sewing supplies you’ll need for this. The waxy residue will wash away easily, but it’ll stick around long enough for you to cut panels out of the fabric. However, there’s another alternative to tailor’s chalk.
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting that you use just any marker on your material. Your local craft store is sure to carry plenty of water-soluble markers. Those should certainly be on any beginner’s sewing supplies list.
The great thing about using markers to draw on your fabric is that they’re very easy to control. Our hands are already used to holding them, so they may be the better sewing tools for beginners. They may be easier to use with a ruler, for example. Still, it’s always nice to have some options, and this time, our choice is between tailor’s chalks and fabric markers.
Once you have drawn the pattern onto the fabric, you get to cut the pieces out! Typically, fabric scissors are somewhat sturdier than crafting scissors. After all, they need to be able to cut through materials of varying thicknesses. However, a truly accomplished seamstress may want to keep another type of scissors in her essential sewing supplies box.
While we wouldn’t say that pinking scissors are a must-buy for people who are just starting out, they can make everything just a bit easier. The zigzag blades cut fabric in a way that prevents it from fraying. So when we fold it and hem it, the zigzag edge is hidden from view where it will add to the durability of your final product!
Finally, the last cutting tool you may want to put on your shopping list of sewing supplies for beginners is a rotary cutter. This is arguably the best tool to cut along a ruler with. Essentially, a rotary cutter is the same thing your favorite pizza place uses to cut the slices. However, the tool has been adapted for sewing.
The best thing about rotary cutters is that they’ll give you crisp straight or curved lines, depending on the ruler you use them with. However, a box cutter will do just as well if you need a blade to follow along with a ruler.
If you’re going to be using a rotary cutter, you need to make sure that the surface you’re cutting on is protected. That’s where a self-healing cutting mat comes in. Although we wouldn’t call this item a staple, especially one beginner seamstresses should have, it’s certainly useful.
The way it works is by padding the table you’re cutting your fabric on top of. It not only protects your tables from your cutting knives but also protects your knives from your tables by not letting them become dull too quickly. Some cutting mats also have measurements drawn on them so you’ll be able to maneuver them more easily.
When you’ve sufficiently cut up your cutting mat, you’ll notice all sorts of cuts and scrapes on its surface. However, those completely disappear after you soak the mat in cool water. Adding some vinegar into the mix will even clean the mat as well.
Believe it or not, the needles you use for hand sewing and machine sewing are completely different. While machine needles have thread holes near the point of the needle, hand sewing needles have eyes that are closer to the butt of the needle.
Even if you’re just learning how to sew, we recommend getting needles of varying sizes right off the bat. After all, needles are most certainly essential sewing supplies for beginners. Fortunately, there are numerous sewing kits online that come with needles of various sizes and threads in different colors.
Since most needles are too thick to temporarily hold our fabric panels before we sew them together, we’re also going to need a ton of pins. Pins are even thinner than needles, and they often have some kind of decorative heads to help you keep track of them. Believe us, you will inevitably lose all of your pins, so make sure to stock up if you’re already writing up beginner sewing supplies.
In order to keep your pins for as long as possible, you should also get a pincushion, or even make one. It’s a really easy project for a sewing beginner too. Just take two pieces of felt and close them on three sides and partially on the fourth. Then, flip the material inside out and stuff the cushion with sawdust or fabric scraps.
You can even add a bit of lavender, just for the fun of it. And if you’re up to the challenge, you can also attempt to make a more complicated pincushion.
Clearly, we couldn’t write about sewing supplies for beginners without mentioning thread. There are so many types to choose from! Naturally, it’s always good to have different types and colors of thread on hand.
Generally, the types of thread you’ll see most often are cotton and nylon or rayon threads. However, there’s also silk, wool, metallic, and even designer threads that are a combination of various materials. Moreover, each of these general categories of thread have subcategories, but a beginner really shouldn’t worry about those. Size 50 all-purpose cotton thread will do just fine for most projects.
Furthermore, you’ll also have a sea of colors to choose from, including transparent ones. Just remember to also get the same colors of bobbin thread. That’s a lightweight type of thread you’ll have to wind around a bobbin which will end up on the bottom side of your stitches.
Of course, no list of sewing supplies for beginners is complete without a seam ripper. This simple tool is what comes in if you ever mess up a line of stitches. Actually, you’ll also use it when you’re making alterations, since you’ll want to unravel a seam before making a new one. This truly is one of the most basic sewing supplies every seamstress needs.
Essentially, thread snips are the gentler alternative to seam rippers. These thin and sharp shears can slide under the thread and snip it off without pulling at the fabric. On the other hand, seam rippers are physical tools, so you’d have to use some force to rip the thread.
Although a point turner isn’t exactly one of the essential sewing supplies, it’s certainly a useful tool. It can be a wooden or a plastic wide stick with a pointed tip. If you see a lot of pillowcases or blouses in your sewing repertoire, you’ll definitely want to get a point turner, if only to avoid using various sticks and utensils to turn your points.
And yes, the tool does exactly what it says it does. When you’re working on a sewing project, you’re going to do your seams inside-out. So when you’re done, you need to flip your creation inside out. A point turner lets you get into the sharp points of a collar or a pillowcase. That’s all.
Shopping for fabric is an intuitive activity for most of us. You see something you like, and you take it. However, we also tend to shop for fabric before specific projects. So you’ve found a great dress pattern and bought the perfect length of fabric for it. Well, you can’t just start sewing. You’ll need to iron the material out first.
Trust us, you don’t want to transfer your pattern onto a wrinkly fabric. Nothing will look right, and you’ll just end up with a misshapen dress. That’s why you should wash and iron most types of fabrics before you work on them.
Finally, the last thing to put on our sewing supplies list is a sewing machine. Clearly, this is optional as well. However, using a machine has a great advantage over sewing by hand. For one, the process is much quicker with a machine. Still, if you don’t consider it one of the essential sewing supplies for beginners, you can skip it.
If you end up getting a sewing machine, you should know that it requires you to add two more items to your sewing supplies list.
As we’ve previously mentioned, hand sewing needles and machine needles are very different products. Like hand sewing needles, machine needles come in various sizes. However, they differ in design.
While hand sewing needles have simple designs, with an eye on one side and the point on the other, machine needles are a bit more complicated. For one, the eye of a machine needle is near the point because the other side of the needle has a shank that attaches to the machine.
Even within the category of machine needles, there are various types. The universal one has a sharp point, the ballpoint needle is more rounded, and there’s an even sharper one for denim. And these are just a few of the types of needles that are out there. When in doubt, we suggest buying a machine needle kit that has several varieties and educating yourselves on what each is for.
Finally, any seamstress worth her salt is going to have machine oil on hand, for maintenance. The manufacturer has most likely specified what type of oil you need for lubricating various parts of the machine. You’ll most likely use synthetic silicone oils or mineral oils on your threads, blades, and other machine components.
Firstly, we ought to say that we wouldn’t recommend trying to sew leather to beginners. However, if you’ve already got your heart set on it, we certainly won’t stand in your way. So here are some additional sewing supplies for beginners who plan on working with leather.
While you could technically sew leather on your regular sewing machine, it would need some adjustments. An easier alternative is getting a leather machine that has the sewing foot that can handle leather instead of sliding against it and stretching it.
A leather sewing machine also comes with special needles, although you can get leather sewing needles for your home machine as well.
Leather sewing machine needles are meant to make our lives a bit easier when we’re working on leather purses and the like. Typically, leather needles are a bit wider near the point, and they may have a scarf or a dent near the point as well.
However, just like with regular sewing, you could also sew leather by hand. In fact, we believe that it’s the simpler way for beginners to go about doing it. If you decide to do so, you may need a few of the other beginning sewing supplies we’ve listed below.
When you’re working with leather, you should stick to the most durable thread. That means that you should get your hands on thicker polyester or nylon threads. Leather also requires wider stitches, so if you’re working on your home machine, you should adjust accordingly.
Although it may not seem like it, paper clips are the unsung heroes of sewing supplies for beginners working with leather. In lieu of pins that can hold two panels of leather while you sew them together, you can use fold back clips or binder clips. The most important thing is to secure the pieces of leather without damaging them. So you can try to find clips that won’t hurt the surface of the material or use a scrap of leather to cushion the space between the leather you’re working on and the clip.
Whether you’re sewing leather manually or with a machine, you may want to add stitching awls to your sewing supplies list. These pointed tools can help you pierce leather to make your stitches or widen an existing hole. They can be straight or curved too — but you likely won’t be able to pierce leather with just an awl.
The real secret of using an awl is in how you apply the force it takes to break leather. If you’re working with really thick leather, you may need a maul, mallet, or a hammer. These tools can help you make the holes in the material you need to push the thread through.
Of course, instead of an awl and a mallet, you could just add a leather punch to your list of sewing supplies for beginners. In fact, you might already have one of these in your home already. If you’ve ever had to expand your belts by adding a few extra holes, you would’ve used a leather punch.
Well, in the case of sewing leather, the tool works just as well. There are some that even come with a wheel full of punches of various sizes. If you find one of those, we recommend getting it, even if you’re not working with leather right now.
Lastly, if you want to start working with leather, you’ll need a way to cut out your pieces. Typically, leather tailors use a rounded, half-moon shaped knife to cut through leather. However, leather knives also come in various other shapes. Ultimately, the knife you need depends on the kind of work you’ll be doing and how well you can handle it. The rounded knives may not be the best tools for beginners who’ve never even worked with leather.
Once you’ve collected all of the essential sewing supplies on this list, you’d be good to go. Best of all, some of these tools and supplies are going to last you for years with proper maintenance. Now, if you know someone else who needs a handy shopping list of the basic sewing supplies for beginners, share this post with them! And if you feel like we’ve missed a crucial tool you can use for every sewing project, leave it in the comments down below.