Sewing for Beginner's: Basic Sewing Essentials
Always wanted to give sewing a go but didn't know where to start? We've compiled an easy place to give you all the information you need to get started in this creative hobby!
In this blog post, we cover what basic equipment you really need to get started in sewing...
Sewing for Beginner's: Basic Sewing Essentials
Other than a sewing machine, there are a few other essential pieces of equipment we'd recommend investing in as you will need to use them for most projects.
If you want all your basics in one easy-to-purchase place, you can get yourself a beginner's box, which contains all the essential basics you'll need. If you'd rather pick your own, read on to see what we'd recommend...
Firstly, a good set of pins! It's really personal preference as to what type of pins you pick - there's everything from novelty button head ones to simple dressmaking pins. Personally, we prefer to use heatproof glass head pins as we don't have to worry about the pin heads melting if they get ironed over, and the heads make them easier to grip and get in and out of your fabric.
You'll obviously need some needles too, most likely both hand sewing and sewing machine needles, although your machine may come with a set of universal needles when you buy it. Hand sewing needles are usually needed to finish off delicate things like buttons, finely stitched hems and tacking stitches. A basic pack of household needles will do you for most things.
Types of machine needles
There are lots of different types of machine (and hand sewing) needles, and each are designed for sewing different types of fabrics. Make sure you're using the correct type of needle for the fabric you're sewing.
Universal - a great all round needles for most light to medium weight fabrics like cottons, linens, polyester types. Most have a slight ball point so can also be used for low stretch fabrics like stretch cord, stretch sateen, stretch denim.
Ball point/Stretch - for stretch and knit fabrics like jersey, ponte roma, sweatshirting, interlock, double knit etc, lycra types. For very stretchy fabrics, use a stretch needle.
Metalfil - for using with machine embroidery threads and metallic threads, they help stop the fibres shedding and reduce breakages.
Embroidery - for using with machine embroidery threads and embroidery machines, they help stop the threads from splitting or breaking by ensuring a smooth feed
Sharps - ideal for fabrics like silk, microfibre etc; their sharp point is ideal for tightly woven fibres.
Top Stitch - these have an extra large eye to accommodate thicker top stitching threads, and are ideal for stitching medium to heavy weight fabrics like denim and canvas
Quilting - these have a longer, sharper point that's great for piercing multiple layers of cotton and batting/wadding.
Leather - for leather and faux leather; they have a triangular shaped point to help penetrate the surface of tougher fabrics
Jeans - for heavy, tightly woven fabrics like denim, canvas; they have an extra sharp point for penetrating dense weaves.
Overlock - these are used for overlocker machines, but you can also use stretch needles if you can't get your hands on these.
Twin needles - these come in different fabric types again like universal or stretch, but they all contain two needles attached to one shaft; they create two lines of stitching and a zigzagging bobbin thread on the wrong side.
All needles come in different sizes/weights, starting from lower numbers like 70 right up to 100. The lower the number, the finer the fabric; the higher the number, the heavier the fabric. We'd always recommend using an 80 on something like quilting weight cotton and linens, 70 on lighter fabrics like poplin or crepe, and 90 or above on heavier fabrics like canvas and denim.
A seam ripper is another sewing box essential, because let's face it - you're going to make mistakes along the way (we do now, even after years of stitching!) and will need to unpick your stitches quickly and easily. These have a fine, sharp blade on them to quickly slide under your stitching and rip it. This basic soft grip version is a great long-lasting option, though if you want to invest in a super duper one that also removes threads, go for a Seam Fix!
A tape measure is also an essential, so you can measure yourself and your pattern pieces if you need to! Make sure you get a flexible one.
You'll need a marker of some description to help you mark out any pattern markings like notes and tailor tacks. Chalk is the classic marker of choice as it washes out or wipes away on most fabrics, and also comes in pencil versions for easier use. however you can also get more modern versions such as vanishing markers. Bear in mind how long you may want your marks to last - the vanishing ones can fade within hours!
One of the other essentials is a couple of good pairs of scissors. You'll want a larger pair with longer blades for cutting out your fabric, and a pair of smaller, finer scissors with a sharper point like embroidery scissors. These are great for finer work and snipping threads.
When buying scissors, you will have to weigh up quality vs cost - there are more expensive brands like Fiskars which can be up to twice the price of cheaper ones, however they stay sharp for years as long as you look after them. Cheaper pairs often blunt more easily and may need replacing in 6 months to a year. Only use your scissors on fabric to help give them the longest life! Have a separate pair designated to cutting paper/patterns.
We'd recommend this pair of Fiskars for a great all-round fabric cutting pair that will stay sharp for years:
For a good pair of embroidery scissors, look for something with a fine, sharp point for accurate cutting, like these:
A couple of other useful - but not essential - items to have that we'd recommend would be a magnetic seam guide and a sewing gauge. These will both help you achieve straighter, neater hems and seams, something a lot of beginners struggle with at first! The seam guide will attach to the plate on your machine and will help you guide the fabric to the right seam allowance easier while sewing; the gauge will help you measure your hems more accurately when you turn them up, and is especially useful for long hems like skirts and dresses. It also has a handy point turning for creating crisp corners!