8 Starter Sewing Kit Essentials

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Learning to use a sewing machine can be quite a daunting business with all of the new terms and the plethora of sewing paraphernalia available. Let Moonbow Fabrics guide you through the basic tools needed to start your sewing journey.

1. Fabric Scissors

Sewing scissors on fabric
A good pair of fabric scissors can last a lifetime - the pair in the middle have been used for 20 years
A sharp pair of scissors reserved just for fabric is a must for any sewing kit. Dressmaking or tailor’s scissors are specially made for this purpose as they’re lightweight but sturdy enough to cope with different kinds of fabrics. If you save your scissors just for using on fabric, they’ll stay sharper for longer and won’t mark your precious fabric from being used for things like sellotape, etc.

2. Tape Measure

Measuring tape on a blue footed boobies bird jersey fabric
Top: Spring-loaded retractable dressmaking measure. Bottom: Large fibre glass tape measure

If you’re making for growing children or even for yourself, you’ll need to measure to get the correct sizing. Some measures only have centimetres or inches printed on them, so it’s a good idea to choose one with both. That way you’re covered whatever measurements your pattern uses. Most UK sewing patterns tend to use inches and centimetres, European ones use centimetres and American ones tend to use inches.

3. Pins

Dressmaking pins in purple corduroy fabric
L-R: Neon head pins for better visibility, glass head pins, plastic head pins, flat-headed dressmaking pins - great for using with a hemming ruler

Pins are designed for holding your cut out fabrics together so they’re ready to sew. There are actually lots of variations of pins – large headed ones for easy gripping, glass head ones for using with an iron, blunt ones specifically for jersey – but whichever kind you develop a preference for, you’ll always need more than you think.

4. Pin Cushion

Pin cushion on a elephant and leopard jersey fabric
Wrist pin cushions offer easy access to pins

A pin cushion is the easiest place to keep all those pins – it’s surprisingly easy to loose pins and considering how small and sharp they are, it’s hard to spot them once they escape. Some people love an old fashioned pin cushion, some prefer a magnetic pin dish or a magnetic pad to attach to the side of a sewing machine, while some want their pins close at hand with either a wrist or hand pin cushion.   

5. Fabric Marker

Fabric marking tools
L-R: Tailor's chalk, dressmaking pencil, fabric marking pen
Whether you’re drawing around sewing pattern pieces or marking pattern notches or centre points, you’ll need something to make those marks with. Fabric markers come in all shapes and sizes from traditional tailor’s chalks, to marking pencils and pens with inks that either wash or iron away. Marking pens or pencils are probably easiest to start with because the shape is most familiar and they’re less messy to use.

6. Thread Snips

Thread snips and embroidery scissors
L-R: Basic metal thread snips, stork thread scissors, plastic thread cutter
These do exactly what they say on the tin – snip threads. Although they might also be called sewing scissors, embroidery scissors or thread cutters, they’re all basically used for the same job. Having a small pair of scissors with sharp blades handy when sewing is great for cutting thread when using the sewing machine. They’re also handy for trimming loose threads when tidying up projects.

7. Seam Ripper

Seam rippers with jersey fabric
L-R: Small seam ripper with the cap used to lengthen the handle, soft grip seam ripper
A stitch or seam ripper or unpicker is essential because, unfortunately, sometimes stitching needs to be redone and a ripper is the fastest and neatest way to do it without damaging the fabric. It’s ideal to have two of these because you don’t want to be stuck without one when one inevitably wanders off.

8. Thread

Yellow, purple, pink and blue sewing threads
A rainbow of COATS Moon thread

To get started with your sewing machine you’ll need thread. Polyester thread is the strongest and most used particularly when sewing with stretch fabric. Most people use a thread that matches to the colour of fabric they’re using to hide the stitches. Or you could cut down on the number of colours you need by using white, cream or natural thread on light coloured fabrics; grey, black or navy thread on dark fabrics or rainbow thread if you sew with bright fabrics. Some sewing machines can be picky when it comes to brands of thread they’ll be happy using, but the most popular choices are COATS Moon thread which is a good all-round budget thread or Gütermann which is a high-quality but slightly more expensive alternative.

Click for details on our new Starter Sewing Kit and our new Children's Sewing Kit

Find out more:

Sewing Kits and Essentials for Beginners: Everything You Need To Start https://www.gathered.how/sewing-and-quilting/sewing/what-sewing-supplies-do-i-need-a-beginners-guide/

Sewing for Beginners: Where to Start with Your First Sewing Kit https://www.contrado.co.uk/blog/sewing-for-beginners-sewing-kit/

Essential Sewing Kits for Beginners https://theseamanmom.com/sewing-kits-for-beginners/

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