Lesson 1: Basic Tools

Having the right tools is essential to success in sewing. Without them, the experience is often frustrating, and can take away from the simple joy of sewing. When first starting out, the amount of tools needed can seem overwhelming and expensive. Unfortunately, the items found in many affordable sewing kits are of very low quality.

I have definitely had to sew on a budget. Many of my tools I have acquired and upgraded slowly over time, but I will try to give my best recommendations for affordable options for the tools needed. If you have a limited budget, keep an eye out for sales at JoAnn. They often have coupons for 50% off their sewing notions or quilting notions. This is a great deal and makes purchasing quality tools much more economical.

That said, lets begin with the basics.

The Essentials: Tools every sewer needs


We will start from the bottom left of the above photo and work our way around clockwise.

Scissors: A good pair of scissors is key to success. After you have sewn for a while you will understand why many seamstresses will freak out when they see their precious sewing scissors being used for anything other than fabric and thread.

  • Paper Scissors: Have a pair of scissors reserved for strictly non-fabric items such as paper patterns, etc. I even write the word “PAPER” on mine, so they are never confused with my fabric scissors. Any pair of general household scissors should be fine.
  • Fabric Scissors: Have a pair of nice quality scissors reserved for SEWING ONLY. These scissors will be used to cut fabric and thread. Keep them safe! You will be grateful you did. Above are Fiskars Razor Edge scissors. I have also used their Designer Series, Titanium, and spring action Titanium scissors with great success. My favorite scissors are probably the spring action titanium scissors, but the clasp does tend to break.
  • On a budget? Wait for a 60% off coupon at JoAnn and grab the Fiskars Titanium set for about $8, which includes three pair of nice scissors. (In one purchase you can have scissors for threads, fabric, and paper.)

Pins: Pins help keep your fabric in place and prevent sliding while sewing.

Hand Sewing Needles: Even if you plan to sew on a machine, little situations always creep up that require hand sewing. I recommend a variety pack of assorted hand sewing needles.

  • I have been pleased by the quality Singer sets. I have also been able to find these at Wal-Mart.

Machine Needles: One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started sewing was never changing my machine needle. I assumed that was only something you did when your needle broke. How wrong I was! I probably sewed with the same needle for years. Don’t make the same mistake I did! Your machine usually comes with a few, but buy a pack of extras, and change them every 10 hours or so of sewing.

Pin Cushion: Don’t step on your pins and needles! Protect your feet, your family, and keep your pets safe. A pin cushion helps you to always know where your pins and needles are. Keep it handy and try to make it a habit to always place your pins and/or needles in the pin cushion when they are not in use.

Something to mark your fabric: A pen or pencil could work in a pinch, but it is nice to have something that isn’t permanent when marking fabric.

  • Tailor’s chalk is a good low cost option. Air erase markers also work well, which I will talk about in the next lesson.

Quality thread: It is SO tempting to stock up when you see a bin of colorful thread for 49 cents a spool! However, chances are this type of thread is of very low quality. When used in a machine it can break easily and you will definitely want your 49 cents back. Especially, after you have spent a few hours trying to work with it. Quality thread is a must for sewing. That said, it doesn’t have to break the bank.

  • Coats & Clark all purpose thread is great for most general sewing.
  • I also love Gutermann thread. Both of these options can be found at JoAnn.
  • This link shows larger Gutermann Mara 100 spools, which are very affordable, but in my experience work best on machines with horizontal spool pins.

Seam ripper: Mistakes happen. Don’t stress, but be prepared. A seam ripper has saved many of my projects.

  • I find I like seam rippers with a very narrow point best. There are a lot of options available, and many machines come with a seam ripper as well.
  • The tiny seam rippers are actually my favorite. The picture shows a Clover seam ripper. I am not sure if it is still available, but I have found it nice to work with.

Measuring Tool: Measuring occurs a lot in sewing. Tools to measure are very helpful. I would recommend rulers, gauges, and more.

  • If you are just starting out, grab a tape measure to begin with.


Iron: No sewing room is complete without an iron. Press. Press. Press. It makes everything better. Start with whatever you have, but an iron is a must!

  • The iron shown above is a cordless Panasonic iron. I am not sure if it is still available, if it is not, Panasonic does have other cordless options.

I hope this list was helpful to you! Good luck as you begin to sew! I hope you grow to love the art as I do.

Keep an eye out for my next tool lesson, which will include additional tools that I recommend and find very helpful, if you have the budget to add a bit more to your sewing collection!

P. S. Don’t forget to protect your fabric scissors! Keep them secret! Keep them safe!


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