Sewing kits and essentials for beginners: everything you need to start
Sewing kits and essentials for beginners: everything you need to start
Want to start sewing but you're not sure where to start? Get ready to top up your tool kit and find out which basic equipment you need to start making your own clothes or homewares. From sewing kits for beginners to the basic tools explained, get to know your essential sewing stash below.
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If you’re all brand new to sewing, we’re here to show you what you need to get going! We’ll talk you through a few sewing kit essentials that you’ll need to build your basic sewing kit, and show you the best places to find starter sewing kits for beginners too. Whatever project you decide to tackle, these are the few essential bits and bobs you should always have to hand. With the following items in your kit you’ll be ready for anything!
Sewing kit essentials
Small embroidery scissors
Transfer pencil or chalk
Iron & ironing board
What sewing supplies do I need?
A pair of dedicated dressmakers’ scissors will help you snip through any fabric with ease. Look for some that are about 20cm (8in) long and have a curved handle to enable accurate cutting on flat surfaces, with pointed tips for precision. Avoid using your scissors on anything other than fabric or you will blunt the blades.
If you’re asking yourself “What sewing supplies do I need?” then get started with a needle, thread and pair scissors. Plus some fabric of course!
Small embroidery scissors
A small pair of embroidery scissors is one of the most reached-for items you’ll ever add to your stash. From tidying loose threads ends to unpicking rogue stitches, they’ll be your trusty friend for many a project in the years to come.
You’ll usually purchase fabric by the yard or metre, but if you just want a small amount of material, opt for a ‘fat quarter’, which is a yard that’s been cut into four sections, making a piece of fabric that measures about 46x56cm (18x22in). You can buy these individually or in bundles.
The needle you use is dependent on what you’re sewing. You’ll find all sorts of specialist needles are available for embroidery, quilting and cross stitch, but a pack of assorted sewing needles is a good place to start. When you choose your needle, make sure the eye is just large enough for your thread to go through but not too large that it’s constantly slipping out. Use a sharp pointed needle for all sewing – the blunt ones are used for cross stitch and needlepoint.
There’s a thread for almost every occasion and your local fabric shop will be able to help you find the right one for your project. Cotton is a fabulous all-purpose thread, but polyester (or a mix) is handy if you need extra strength. Cheap thread is more likely to break easily, so it’s worth spending a little more for
a great finish.
Ah our trusty sewing machines. For many sewists of all abilities, our relationship with our sewing machine is one of life’s certainties (until we snap the needle!). There are so many machines on the markets for all budgets and abilities. You don’t need any previous experience to use one. We’ve got some great beginner guides for things like How to use a sewing machine here on Gathered. In recent years, there’s been an explosion of computerised machines on to the market. These make light work of some of the machine’s basic tasks but if you’re brand new, a manual machine will do the job for you just as easily. We’ve had friends make quilts on old vintage sewing machines with a needle hat’s turned by hand. So don’t be daunted by all the different feet and stitches or the wizardry of new machines. You’ll learn how to use them as you go but at its basic level, a machine will allow you to sew more sturdily, accurately and quickly – even if you just stick to the basic stitch and foot for the first few projects.
Measuring fabric correctly is crucial to a perfect finished project (measure twice, cut once!), so a tape measure is one of your most important tools. Find one that measures around 150cm (59in) and has both metric and imperial units for quick conversions.
When you’re asking “what sewing supplies do I need?” it’s always a good idea to include pins in your beginner kit. You’ll use these to hold your pieces of fabric in place. You might find traditional dressmakers’ pins fiddly to work with – if so, try pins with larger glass or ‘flower’ heads. Most are between 2.5-5cm (1-2in) long, so you could always collect a variety to use on different projects. Don’t forget to buy a tin or make a pincushion to keep them safe!
Ah pins – the handiest of stash items but they get everywhere! Many a sewist has found escapee pins on their carpet or on the sofa. Keep a pin cushion in your kit to keep your pins-in-progress safe and sound.
Before you start stitching you’ll need something to transfer guidelines on to your fabric. Tailor’s chalk is ideal for this because it goes on and comes off easily – so easily, in fact, that you may need to be careful you don’t brush it off by accident. Choose basic white or go for a coloured chalk if you’re working
with pale fabrics.
Fabric pencils are ideal for marking finer lines on to your fabric. They come in different types – iron-on, air erasable, water erasable and chalk (which will brush off). They also come in different shades, so you can find the colour that stands out best on your material. Soapstone pencils rub off easily and show up on darker fabrics.
If we’ve learnt one thing from The Great British Sewing Bee, it’s that you can never press your projects enough. Not only is pressing your work essential if you’re making a quilt, it will change your life if you’re making clothes too! No, literally… it will change your sewing life. Regularly pressing your sewing project neatens up the finished look and feel of your garment or project, and if you press regularly as you move through the stages of making a garment or quilt, you’ll help smooth the fabric and prepare it for the next stage. You don’t need a specialist professional iron and board though – your regular home iron will get you started.
Everyone makes mistakes now and then, and this clever gadget takes some of the frustration out of unpicking your stitches. Simply slip the pointed end under your stitch (taking care not to catch the fabric as you go) and cut through it by gently pulling upwards. Look out for non-slip handles as these make the seam ripper easier to use.
If you’re shopping for sewing kits for beginners, look out for starter sets that include threads, needles, a small pair of scissors, marking tools and (our most used item!) an unpicker!
Other useful sewing supplies
We all find sewing kits for beginners useful when we start out sewing, but as your skills develop, so will your toolbox. Buy good quality items and they’ll last you for years. Here are a few more tools and notions you’ll find handy as you start to tackle more complex projects.
Whether you’re using them for practical fastenings or just for decoration, you can never have enough buttons! They’re usually sold by size (diameter in millimetres inches), either individually or in packs. Most are flat, but ‘shanked’ buttons have a loop on their underside that helps thicker fabrics to sit beneath them when the garment is buttoned up.
Snap fasteners (also known as press studs) are used to hold two pieces of fabric together and can’t be seen from the front.
Hooks and eyes hold fabric edges flush together or you can buy magnetic fastenings, which are ideal for bag and purse closures.
Safety pins are great for securing thicker fabrics or for threading cord through casings.
It’s a good idea to save yourself from pricked or calloused fingers with a thimble. They are usually worn on your middle finger to help you push your needle through thicker fabrics.
Essential for the travelling stitcher, this nifty device enables you to snip your threads even when you don’t have the space for (or are not permitted to carry) scissors.
Keep a ruler in your sewing kit to make sure you get perfect measurements every time. Your ruler should have both metric and imperial units – a 15cm (6in) ruler is enough for smaller projects. Go for durable metal rather than plastic and you’ll also be able to use it as a guide for creating straight lines with a rotary cutter.
Used to cut fabric, rotary cutters are extremely sharp and should be kept away from children. They’re popular with quilters because they can cut several layers of material at once and give more even results than scissors. Decide what size blade you need before you buy – small diameters tend to be better at cutting curves.
A cutting mat protects your work surface while you’re using a rotary cutter. Most are ‘self-healing’ (meaning that any scratches magically disappear after use) and are printed with grid lines to help you line up your fabrics. Cutting mats are about 2mm thick, come in a range of sizes and should be stored flat so they don’t bend and warp.
It’s a good idea to keep a few larger needles in your sewing box, so you always have the right one available for your project. Tapestry needles, for example, are great for tasks such as threading elastic through a hem to create a drawstring, while chenille needles are perfect for embroidery as they have
a larger eye.
Some woven fabrics can fray easily, but you can help prevent this by cutting them with a pair of pinking shears. These leave a zigzag edge that’s great for storing fabrics and also makes a pretty decorative effect. Choose a pair with steel blades and a contoured handle that’s comfortable to work with.
For extra precision, and lines that are easier to see on pale cloth, use a soluble fabric pen to mark out your design. Always test the pen on a scrap of fabric before you begin to ensure that it comes off easily with water, and avoid ironing over any of the marks because this can make the line permanent. Fabric pens are good to use for embroidery.
As the name suggests, these are most commonly used for embroidery, cross stitch and other forms of needlework. They’re usually made from six strands of cotton, which you can separate into individual strands. If you’re following a chart then you’ll see a key with numbers that correspond to the required colours of thread.
Sewing machine needles
You’ll find there are many types of sewing machine needle to choose from – including specialist varieties just for leather – and different sizes are suitable for different fabrics and stitches. To ensure compatibility with your machine, check the manual for recommended brands and weights.
John Lewis & Partners Floral Dove Print Zipped Sewing Kit
John Lewis, £12.50
Ideal for sewing on the go, this handy sewing kit has everything you’ll need to make basic sewing alterations. Crafted from cotton, this zipped kit includes 12 thread reels, embroidery scissors, tape measure, safety pins, seam ripper, buttons and needles.
John Lewis, £19.50
Fancy a relaxing craft project? This modern embroidery kit from Hawthorne Handmade includes a 7inch embroidery hoop, an embroidery needle, an array of floral coloured DMC stranded cottons and full instructions to make stitching a breeze!
Milward Premium Dressmaking/Embroidery Scissors
This beautiful rose gold scissor kit by Milward is as Instagram-able as it is practical. The set includes a pair of sharp dressmaking scissors and a cute pair of stork embroidery scissors. Add some chic to your sewing room or present them to a crafty friend as a gift.
Cleggs Kits Mouse Pin Cushion Kit
Support handmade with this mouse pin cushion set by Etsy seller CleggsKits. The kits includes all of the fabric, filling and notions you neede to make the pin cushion. A welcome addition to any sewing table!
A fantastic beginners knicker making kit from Etsy seller Elmrocks, the kit contains everything you need to stitch a pair of frilly knickers. A quick make that will leave you excited to make more!
Owl and Sewing Cat Masie Bag Sewing Kit
Create and Craft, £32.99
Run up this simple tote for your weekly shop, a trip to the library or a day at the beach! The kit contains everything you need to make the bag including cotton outer and lining fabric, a clasp and webbing for the straps as well as full instructions.
Crafty Kit Company Pretty Flamingo Sewing Kit
Practice your hand sewing with this playful flamingo from the Crafty Kit Company on Etsy. Ideal for ages 7+ so children will love getting involved too! A fun project for a sunny afternoon.
Make your very own hanging advent calendar with this really easy kit for beginners. We know Christmas is still a while away but trust us, if you leave this to start until November, it will only lead to midnight sewing sessions!
Kluts Sew Mini Animals Kit
Kids will love stitching a variety of animals – from an octopus to a sloth! The kit contains everything you need to make up to 14 mini plushies with fun accessories like glasses, bows and hats to give each one a different character.
This bright unicorn cushion kit is perfect for children interested in crafts, the felt fabric comes pre-punched with needle holes so it’s simply a matter of threading the needle through the holes. It’s like a dot-to-dot for sewing. Bonus points for being able to make two cushions from the supplies included!