Sewing School: Get Your Gear

Welcome back to Sewing School!

Today, it’s all about the gadgetry and gear that goes into the Making of a Cute New Item of Clothing.  First, though, let’s look at how the sewing cycle usually goes:

  1. Fall in love with a fabric and with a pattern for it.
  2. Cut out the pattern and fabric; sew it.
  3. Realize something’s wrong with the fit; pick seam apart.
  4. Fit it, pin it, sew it.
  5. Check for fit again; curse a bit; pin, pick seam apart, re-sew.
  6. Continue, cursing as needed, until you have a finished garment (most times) or until you never want to see the damn object again (a few other times).

Now, unless you plan on stapling your pieces together and pulling seams apart with your teeth or sharp knives, you’re gonna need you some gear. After all, what would a hobby be to me if it didn’t involve STUFF?  Stuff to know and love?

So, my dear soon-to-be-converted sewista, here is the magical stuff that you will need to get your stitch on.  There’s tons more stuff that you can pick up, and much prettier (read:  more expensive) stuff than what I own, but you won’t go wrong with these basics, which I’d say are absolute must-haves.

First of all, you need to snag yourself a sewing machine.  If you have never sewn before, it might be a good idea to try using someone else’s machine for a bit, not just to get an idea of whether you like to sew, but also to see what you might like in a machine.  If you can find an aunt/grandma/neighbor with a machine, you can bribe them with baked goods, but chances are they’ll just be happy for some company–and a hopeful sewing enthusiast to talk sewing with.

I could tell you about machine features, but I know that I just want a machine with a top-loading bobbin, a good stretch stitch, and simple stitch layouts.  I’ve bought two, both under $200 US, and I’ve been very happy with them, especially with my current partner in crime, the Brother XL 3750–it’s more than adequately sufficient for my needs and doesn’t have stuff that I can press by mistake, so I can recommend it heartily.  However, you can find out a lot more about machines by checking out Erin’s how to pick a sewing machine post on her blog, Dress A Day.

Next up, you need some needles–nothing fancy required here:

You’ll also need pins (and the ubiquitous tomato pincushion):

There are a few different kinds of pins out there.  I use Dritz all-metal silk pins and extra-long satin pins because they stay sharp and don’t leave obvious holes in my clothes.  I don’t like pins with plastic ball tops because I’ve been known to iron over them and create a plastic disaster on my clothes and ironing board, but if you are a careful sort, they are very nice too.

You will definitely need scissors:

I should have a purpose-made pair, but I’ve been slumming it with this standard-issue office pair quite nicely.  However, I’d advise getting purpose-made scissors for sewing and crafting in the larger size for cutting patterns and fabric, plus a small sharp pair for snipping threads, etc.  You’ll want to use these ONLY for sewing (no dog haircuts with your sewing scissors, please).

Next up are the tracing wheel and paper, which you’ll need to trace out pattern markings onto your fabric:

And my best friend, the trusty seam ripper without which I couldn’t live (or be dressed):

You’ll also need chalk for marking fabric and the occasional hopscotch sewing break:

And measuring tape, for measuring yourself and your fabrics:

Plus this nifty ruler thingie–I haven’t a clue what it’s called, but I do know you’ll need for marking hems and taking folds of fabric in evenly:

And, finally, you’ll want a makeshift garbage for spare fabric bits and threads–I use an empty butter container for this.  Not sexy, but very utilitarian.

There are, of course, a whole lot of optional goodies that you might want, and that might make sewing life more fun–stuff like  pinking shears (you know, those badass-looking scissors that cut in zigzags), a rotary cutter and surface (like a pizza wheel cutter and cutting board, but for fabric!), a french curve (for marking curves, as it says)… The list goes on and on.  However, you can’t go wrong with the basics I’ve given here.

Now go forth and shop for your sewing goodies!


I’ll be back tomorrow with our regularly scheduled programming–I ate, I wore clothes, and I had a great 30-lap swim, but you’re just going to have to take my word for it….

One Response

  1. Oh, I need to go to sewing school. Have I missed any other blogs on it. I need to start with something simple like a skirt. I would love to make one for summer. I think I’ll go buy some fabric next week. 🙂

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