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If you’re a beginner looking to set up your sewing corner, it’s important to know the basic sewing supplies you may need (or want) to get started.
To help, this sewing supplies list for beginners will teach 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 notions will make your life easier.
I’ve listed these sewing items below, but don’t be overwhelmed by the length of this list. You absolutely don’t need everything, or even most things, if you’re only planning basic sewing!
1. Cutting Tools
First, let’s talk about sewing supplies to cut fabric, threads, 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 scissors work for most sewing projects. These come in a wide variety of sizes and brands.
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 help with buttonholes and getting very close to fabric and small, tight spaces while trimming threads.
Pinking shears are used for finishing the edges of the fabric so they don’t fray. 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.
B. Rotary Cutter and Cutting Mat
A rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat help you cut precise pieces of fabric. I use mine most when quilting.
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. A 45-mm diameter blade rotary cutter is my most frequently used size. However, smaller 28 mm cutters are great for cutting curves or intricate pattern pieces, and a 60 mm cutter works with multiple layers or thick fabrics.
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 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, and pattern measurements. Below are some of the most common types to have in your sewing kit.
A. Tape measure
A flexible tape measure allows you to measure items with volume and curves, such as the human form or around curvy areas.
Make sure your tape measure has both inches and cm to save you having to convert units of measurement!
A metal retractable tape measure is less flexible but is longer and can be used to measure big items like windows.
B. Transparent Ruler
Transparent rulers help measure fabric and check grainlines through the transparent surface.
These rulers have measurements in inches, 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 cutting mat, keeping the mat secure and perpendicular to the edge.
There are also transparent quilt rulers, which come in a variety of sizes and shapes to make perfect quilt blocks. I have a set of Omnigrid square rulers.
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.
These help measure long lengths of fabric and even vertical items since they will not bend when stood 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 tools to mark fabric in your sewing supplies.
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 makes quick work of transferring long, continuous lines, pleats, darts, tuck, and more to solid-colored 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 a wide variety of styles and sizes, and each type of sewing pin serves a different purpose.
In general, choose a fine, shorter pin for delicate fabrics and a wider, longer pin for heavy fabrics 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, pincushion, 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 both thick and thin, delicate fabric layers together 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 get started on 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 prefer to wind my sewing bobbins with my machine. I use the same thread in both the upper thread and the bobbin thread.
(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 sewing machine needles, but you will need to purchase more types along with 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 both woven and knit fabrics.
There are also specialty needles for specific tasks, including embroidery needles, top-stitch needles, leather needles, and twin needles.
Needles also come in different sizes and are described by an American and European size.
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
There are millions of fabrics available, and you need a small stash to get started with new projects.
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, and the inner layer of collars.
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 and for fusing pieces of fabric that are difficult to pin prior to sewing. All you do is place the fusible tape between two pieces of fabric and press with an iron for permanent fusion!
There’s also Heat n’ Bond 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 fusible fleece or cotton batting, 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 is a soft fiber that 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 an iron or other type of pressing tool to de-wrinkle fabric, attach interfacing, and press seams.
I have a steam 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.
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. Wire 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.
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 a blind hem foot. There are also 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
19. Sewing Machine Cleaning Tools
If you having problems with your sewing machine, one of the rule-outs 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 a while.
While you should read rhe user manual to figure out how exactly to clean your sewing machine, I like to use compressed air to blow away the fuzz after I’ve brushed away all the big particles of dust. (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 items together but need to find a method to store your fabrics and other sewing supplies.
Sewing Supplies for Beginners – Conclusion
I hope this has helped you learn the names and pictures of basic sewing supplies for beginners as well as some more advanced ones too.
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 supplies!)