BASIC TOOLS AND SUPPLIES FOR SEWING & QUILTING
I have been sewing for years and have learned the right tools can make all the difference in the quality of my finished projects. There are a few basic tools that will make your sewing easier and more enjoyable. Here's a list of what I suggest as the essentials for any sewing enthusiast.
Of course most anything can be sewn by hand but here are some benefits of having a sewing machine:
- Saving time and effort compared to sewing by hand Allowing for more precise and consistent stitching
- Enabling the creation of more complex quilt designs and patterns
- Making it easier to work with thicker or tougher fabrics
- Providing the opportunity to sew your own clothes, accessories, and home décor items
- Potentially saving money by being able to repair or alter clothing instead of buying new items.
There are many machines on the market with a wide range of capabilities and price points. For a beginner I do not suggest you go all out and buy a machine with all the bells and whistles, but don't go cheap either. Inexpensive machines can be temperamental and have few features. If possible shop for a machine from a local dealer. They are knowledgeable and can help you decide on the best option for your needs, and provide service to keep your machine running smooth.
Rotary Cutter and Mat
To achieve the best results, you will need something that can cut your fabric pieces accurately. For quilting, rotary cutters provide greater precision and control over scissors.
These tools have circular blades that glide along a ruler or straight edge. However, it's important to replace the blades regularly to ensure clean cuts to the fabric and your safety.
Quilters typically use a standard 45 mm size for their projects. Along with your rotary cutter you will need a mat, this is not an option rotary cutters cannot be used on an unprotected surface.
Please Note: Rotary cutting blades are extremely sharp! Use care and go slow, it is suggested to use a protective glove especially while learning to use your cutter. Always cut away from yourself and keep free hand and fingers clear while holding your ruler.
For cutting out projects where a straight edge isn't utilized a good pair of scissors, dedicated to fabric, will be essential. As you are sewing together your projects a small pair of scissors next to your machine for cutting threads will be very beneficial, especially if your machine is not equipped with an automatic thread cutter.
Sewing Machine Needles
Sewing machine needles are available in various sizes and for different purposes. I suggest you have 80/12 size universal needles for standard weight fabrics and general sewing. There are needles for light weight and heavy weight fabrics and also for knits.
Specialized needles for topstitching, machine quilting, and for specialty threads are also available. When starting a project always select the right needle for what you are working on. Larger needle size will also be best if you are using a heavier thread that needs a larger eye.
Hand Sewing Needles
At some point you will need to hand sew a hem, a button on a shirt, or close up a pillow opening. Hand sewing needles come in different types and sizes, each suited for a specific purpose. Whether you're cross-stitching, embroidering or hemming your pants, a needle is an essential tool that you can not do without. You won't go wrong with a variety pack, ensuring you have a size or type for most projects.
Measuring Tape & Ruler
It is crucial to have a tape measure in your sewing kit. This flexible tape is vital for taking body measurements and measuring quilts for binding. You will be lost without a good measuring tape.
6" metal sewing ruler. Everyone has probably seen one of these if your mother or grandmother sewed. They have a handy slider for keeping your measuring even and are great to have by the machine.
Clear, hard, and long-lasting, acrylic rulers are an essential tool for many quilting tasks, such as fabric preparation, cutting, and block squaring. Once you start quilting you will discover an almost endless array of quilting rulers and you can add on sizes or specific shapes as your hobby progresses but to start I suggest these:
- 6" x 24". This will be a ruler you use most it allows for cutting across the width of fabric (WOF)
- 12 1/2" square ruler is a great size as it can accommodate smaller blocks and finished quilt blocks measuring 12 inches. This is a good option for those just starting out.
Straight pins are necessary for any sewing project, no matter what you're making. To ensure their versatility, opt for pins that are 1½ to 2 inches long. For easy visibility, select pins with multi-colored glass heads that stand out against your fabric and will not melt under the heat of your iron.
Safety Pins in a variety of sizes will always be needed at some point. Use larger safety pins for basting a quilt together for stitching.
It's inevitable there will be mistakes or stitches that aren't quite right. Your seam ripper will be your best friend helping you fix those little blunders. Treat yourself to a style with a comfortable grip that is easy to hold, ripping isn't anyone's favorite but you might as well have a good tool for the job.
Sewing wouldn't be sewing without thread. Here again there are too many types to mention here but a few to have at the ready in your sewing kit are:
- All-purpose thread. This type is used for general sewing. For the most part they are polyester and I typically use this variety for garment sewing.
- 50wt cotton or poly-cotton blend is best for piecing and machine quilting. My personal favorite is Aurifil.
I highly recommend spending the little extra to get quality fabric. You do not want to spend a lot of time and have your hard work diminished by poor quality fabrics. Look for specialty stores that offer the designer quilt brands.
Cotton is a great material for garments and the quality brands come out of the dryer relatively wrinkle free. To be very honest the only time my cotton garments get pressed is as I am making them and pressing the seams.
If you are new to sewing I wouldn't recommend starting off using any stretchy or sheer fabrics. These can be tricky to work with and will be something you can explore as you build your sewing skills.
I hope you found this list of basic sewing tools and supplies helpful.