The thoughts, sewing projects, and fabric oglings of a dedicated sewist.

Recommended Sewing Supplies

Sewist's Tool Kit

If you are just learning to sew, you know you need some tools but you probably don't know what to get. I compiled this list for students, and I hope it is useful to other folks as well. Please leave a comment if you think I should add something to one of the lists!

Where to Buy

Joann's Fabric (Chicago on Elston or Roosevelt, Countryside)
Hancock's Fabric (North Riverside) )
Sew It's For Sale - yahoo group of home sewists selling off fabric, tools, notions, patterns, and machines - you can sometimes find great deals here

Necessary tools

Scissors - This is one of your most important sewing tools. Make sure you get good quality scissors and use them only for cutting fabric (tie a ribbon around the handle or label them as fabric only in some way). Kai or Gingher scissors are the very best, but Fiskars are great for beginners (and much cheaper). If you need to get your scissors sharpened, Jerry at the North Riverside Hancocks will do it for $5. He is only there on Thursdays, but you can drop off the scissors any day of the week.

Pins - You will need thin sewing pins, not the thicker craft pins. Look for long pins (1.25" or longer), as the short ones are hard to use.I recommend getting something with  a glass bead head (glass won't melt into your garment if you accidentally touch it with your iron). Quilting pins (long with yellow ball head) also work well and they are a bit cheaper/harder to bend.

Seam ripper - You will use this a lot. There are many varieties available. Get one that feels comfortable in your hand. I buy mine by the dozen at (59 cents/each) as they do grow dull with use.

Iron and iron board - You will get the best results if you press as you sew. A iron that has good steam capability is most helpful. You can read about my journey to find a good iron here.

Seam gauge - This is useful for adding seam allowance to a pattern that doesn't have a seam allowance included, and for measuring hems. I recommend getting a metal seam gauge if available.

Fabric pencil or marker - There are many different options out there. I like clay Tailor's Chalk, and you can also use regular chalk. One of my friends strongly recommends the Clover Chaco Liner (see it here).

Clear quilting ruler - These are so helpful for marking and cutting. I like this Olfa quilting ruler (available on Amazon and at Hancock's)

Helpful but not necessary

Rotary cutter - The smaller sizes (28mm & 45mm) are best for cutting garments.

Self-healing mat - These are available in many sizes. I have found the best prices on, but they are also available at Hancocks (and they go on sale regularly). You will need this if you plan to use a rotary cutter.

Tracing paper - This can be used to draft pattern or trace a commercial pattern so that you keep the other sizes intact. I use Bienfang Canary Sketching and Tracing Paper (18" wide, 50 yards). I have also read that the paper doctors and hospitals use to cover patient tables is good for tracing and drafting patterns.

Extra bobbins - It is handy to have a dozen bobbins so that when you move from one project to another, you always have an empty bobbin to fill for your new thread.

General supplies - I like to keep zippers (variety of lengths & colors), thread (All Purpose thread in variety of colors, especially off-white, black, brown, navy and grey), and different widths of elastic on hand so that I am ready for new projects. You will need these items regularly in your projects, and you can buy them much cheaper online (  

"Snips" scissors - small scissors for snipping threads. I have one that I tied a ribbon to so that I can wear it like a necklace when I am sewing.

Things you'll want to get as you become an advanced sewist

Pressing tools - as you move into advanced projects, you will need additional pressing tools. I recommend getting a dressmaker's ham, seam roll, sleeve board, and a wooden clapper.

Drafting rulers - these are useful for drafting patterns and for altering commercial patterns. You will want a hip curve, variety of french curve rulers. I recommend buying metal ones whenever possible as the plastic ones break easily.

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