Sewing Tools & Equipment to Sew

  • 01 of 17

    Create A Sewing Kit

    sewing basket
    Create A Sewing Kit. Nanihta photography / Getty Images

    It can be difficult to shop for a tool when you are not even sure what it looks like. You may not even be aware of some tools that will make a sewing technique easier or give you better finished results. Follow the gallery to see sewing tools. Click the image of any tool for in-depth information about the tool.

    Most kits on the market leave something out or have an item that is inferior quality which will lead to more frustration then money you may have saved.

    A storage container is a great place...MORE to start.

    Items to include in a sewing kit:

    • 2 pair of scissors- an inexpensive pair of paper scissors and a good quality pair of fabric shears. By including both pair of scissors, you are insuring that the fabric scissors will last a long time.
    • Straight pins & Pin Cushion - many people, find the quilting pins with colored heads, easier to handle. Visit a notions department and see the vast assortment available on today's market. A magnetic pin holder is also available in most notions departments.
    • A tape measure
    • Tracing wheel - there are smooth wheels and wheels with spokes on the market. Each has it's place and are great notions for any sewer to have on hand. More on Marking Tools
    • Dressmakers carbon - this is a special carbon paper that is available in combination packs or for light fabric or for dark fabric. This is available in department stores that have a fabric department or at fabric stores. More on Marking Tools
    • A gauge - This is a great tool for making accurate measurements and for tracing straight lines such as darts.
    • A seam ripper- These are available in many sizes and some are glorified. All new seam rippers are sharp and precise.
    • Hand sewing needles - a nice assortment to fit various sewing needs
    • Thread - a variety of basic colors in a good quality thread. This is one place the skimping is not worth while. See Thread - Seeing Is Believing for more information.

    Optional Items

    • Rotary Cutter, cutting pad and Quilting rulers - These are fantastic to have on hand when cutting straight lines.
    • Thread Snips - These are a very handy devise to have next you your sewing machine. They are available in a variety of colors.
    • A Sewing Magazine Gift Subscription. I personally recommend Sew News and Threads
    • Sewing Books
    • A notebook with page protectors and print outs of the many, many free on line projects.
    • Hardware Bin organizer Boxes - available in most hardware stores. Some are able to be hung on the wall and make a great organizer for machine feet and tools.
    • Thread racks - make your own or explore the many available on the market at most fabric stores.
    • Light weight fusible interfacing - yards of it are great to have on hand. This makes a great backing for tissue patterns that become a favorite, to keep them strong and durable.
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  • 02 of 17

    Sewing Tape Measures

    Measure tape on jeans
    polarica / Getty Images

    A tape measure is a must-have tool for sewing. Having more than one and carrying one in your purse is not uncommon!

    Description: A sewing tape measure is a non-stretchable flexible strip usually marked with inches on one side and centimeters on the other.

    Use: Taking body measurements is the most common use of a tape measure but it can be used for any measuring task. Because it is flexible but firm, it can stand on its edge and measure the distance around an item, such as a circle.

    Care &...MORE Maintenance: Tape measures require very little maintenance. Simply keeping it clean and using it for measuring will preserve a tape measure for years. If the kids were to get a hold of it for a game of tug-of-war, be sure to check the accuracy of the markings just in case it did manage to stretch.

    Available Options: The size of the markings, the width of the tape measure and auto retractable are a few of the options available.

    Expense: Tape measures are a very inexpensive sewing tool. Sometimes they are even given away at store openings or other promotional opportunities. A retractable tape measure for your purse is not an expensive investment and you will find many uses for it when you are out and about.

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  • 03 of 17

    Sewing Gauges

    Metal ruler with a slider for marking hem on a piece of fabric marked with pins and an overlocked edge, close-up
    Sewing Gauges. Peter Anderson / Getty Images

    Sewing gauges are hand tools for measuring small areas as you are sewing.

    Description: Gauges are available in a variety of forms. The most common to have is a six inch aluminum ruler with a slider. More elaborate forms of this gauge are a bit longer allowing you to full utilize six inches while working with the gauge.

    Small, almost jigsaw puzzle shaped gauges have markings for the most common sewing measurements that are either seam allowances, turned under or hemmed.

    Use: Although gauges are not...MORE a necessary tool, they are inexpensive and compact. Gauges are handy to have for all hand sewing, marking alterations, hemming, checking the width of your seam allowances and more.

    The straight edge type of gauge is also useful as a straight edge when drawing alteration lines.

    Care & Maintenance: Do not allow your metal gauges to get bent. Just like a car fender, once it gets bent, it is not going to go back to the same size or shape it was before, causing the measuring aspect of the gauge to be distorted.

    Available Options: Some are small with commonly used seam allowances gauged around the tool. Some have a sliding marker to keep your measurements uniform. More elaborate gauges have marking chalk build into the tool.

    Expense: Most gauges can be found for less than $5. Watch for clearance sales to pick up bargains…some can be found for less than a dollar.

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  • 04 of 17

    Pincushions and Magnetic Pin Holders

    Pin cushion, thread and scissors
    Pincushions and Magnetic Pin Holders. Anouk de Maar / Getty Images

    A pincushion holds the straight pins and needles while you are working to prevent accidents.

    Description:

    Magnetic pincushions are extremely helpful if you tend to toss pins on your work surface. The magnet helps in keeping pins located or corralled and can pick up a spill in seconds. The drawback is that if the pins are left on the magnet for an extended period of time, they will become magnetized and eventually you are apt to find them on your scissor blades and other places that you do not want...MORE them. Because they will "collect" pins, if you like keeping all your types of pins separated, this may not be the tool for you.

    The standard tomato pincushion seems to have been around forever. A good pincushion is filled with sawdust and wool roving. The wool roving contains lanolin and prevents the pins from rusting.

    The strawberry that is attached to most pincushions (but also available separately) is filled with fine sand or emery. The abrasive action of these fillers, remove dirt and rust, keeping the pin or needle sharp and smooth.
    You must take the time to place the pins in the tomato type of pincushion for it to be useful but it does more to maintain your pins than a magnetic type of pin holder.

    Use: Pincushions may stay in your sewing area and just be handy by the sewing machine.

    Care & Maintenance: With magnetic pin holders you must be cautions around electronic equipment and data storage devices to prevent the magnet from damaging them.
    Prevent tomato type pincushions from getting holes. The spill out ic very messy to clean up.

    Available Options: There are pincushions that have been in sewing boxes for generations and many new options available. Some can be worn on a wrist to have handy when pinning alterations or hand sewing. Small decorative options are also available. There are also elaborate decorative pincushions available at many sewing stores (not pictured here).

    Expense: Prices vary widely depending on the quality of the filling and the novelty of the type of pincushion. Look for a tight weave on any fabric type of pincushion to prevent leaking of the contents.

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  • 05 of 17

    Hand Sewing Needles

    Assorted sewing needles and pins, close up.
    Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

    Make the correct choice when choosing a hand sewing needle to eliminate damaging fabric and make the task easier.

    Description: Hand sewing needles are available in varying sizes with varying points. They guide the thread through fabric when you are hand sewing.

    Use: Hand sewing needles are used in all types of hand sewing. The most commonly used hand sewing needles are called sharps. Sharps have a medium length (in comparison with all available needles), have a round eye for the thread and are...MORE suitable for almost any fabric.

    Specialty needles are rarely used. A curved needle is not for sewing circles. It would commonly be used for hand sewing upholstery, when a straight needle would not fit.

    Thick heavy needles would be used on fibers that are thick and difficult to sew through. The finer the fabric, the finer the needle you would choose.

    Care & Maintenance: The strawberry helps to keep needles sharp and smooth. Read more about the strawberry in pincushions.

    Available Options: Hand sewing needles come in a wide variety of shapes and forms. Test your choice of sewing needle on an inside seam to be sure it will not be making holes in the fabric.

    Expense: Hand Sewing needles are a very inexpensive sewing notion. They are widely available. When sewing expensive and delicate fabric, do not scrape-by with inexpensive needles that could lose their coating and snag the fabric, instead buy a brand name at a fabric store.

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  • 06 of 17

    Sewing Needle Threader

    Man threading a needle with a threader
    Diane Macdonald / Getty Images

    Failing eyesight or just being tired can make threading a sewing needle difficult. It doesn't have to be. A needle threader solves the problem.

    Description: A needle threader is usually a wire, bent into a diamond shape that is attached to a handle.

    Use: A needle threader is used to make threading a sewing needle fast and easy. The wire easily passes through the eye of a needle, opens allowing a large opening for the thread and is then pulled back through the eye of the needle.

    Care &...MORE Maintenance: Use your needle threader with a needle that has a large enough eye for the thread you are using so you are not forcing the thread and needle threader though the eye of the needle. Forcing the wire can cause it to break.

    Available Options: Needle threaders are available in the simplest form as a small piece of aluminum with a wire attached, to a higher quality notion that has a cover to protect the wire and a built in magnifying glass.

    Expense: Needle threaders come with some packages of hand sewing needles. You can purchase cards of needle threaders very inexpensively. You can go a step up, and purchase a needle threader that has a built in magnifying glass.

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  • 07 of 17

    Sewing Seam Rippers

    Unpicking stitches with a seam ripper, close-up
    Peter Anderson / Getty Images

    An oddly shaped, inexpensive, sharp device that makes removing stitches possible with less likelihood of ruining fabric.

    Description: A small sewing notion that usually has two points, one sharp and one that is protected so that it will not accidentally penetrate and rip fabric.

    Use: A seam ripper is used to remove unwanted stitches. The fine tip of a seam ripper allows you to pick out single threads, decreasing the likelihood of cutting the fabric that the stitches are attached too.

    Care &...MORE Maintenance: Keep your seam ripper clean and use it only for sewing tasks to keep it sharp. Keep it covered when you are not using it to prevent injuries and damage.

    Available Options: The seam ripper shown here is the most commonly used for sewing. Larger, heavier seam rippers are available for heavy removal jobs or cutting through heavy threads.

    Expense: Seam rippers are an inexpensive sewing notion. They are worth replacing as soon as they start to become dull.

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  • 08 of 17

    Bent-handle Dressmaker Shears

    Fabric and sewing supplies
    Comstock Images / Getty Images

    Accurate cutting for any given sewing task helps maintain accuracy as you precede... the key to having pieces fit together.

    Description: These shears have straight blades with a handle that is off-set at an angle allowing the lower blade to stay flat on a cutting surface.
    The design of the handle allows the bottom blade to rest on the flat surface below the fabric without your hand lifting the fabric off the flat surface. The fabric remaining flat and smooth increases the likelihood that your...MORE cutting will be accurate.

    Use: Bent-handle dressmaker shears are used for the cutting out of patterns and sewing projects. Sharp shears are the key to preventing hand fatigue and accurate cutting along pattern lines.

    Care & Maintenance:

    • Use them only for fabric! A sewing box or area secure from other family members is best.
    • Keep the blades clean and oil them occasionally.
    • Do not over extend the blades by trying to cut through too many layers at a time. Sharp shears will cut with no effort. If you cutting tool requires you toforce the shears consider cutting less layers at a time.
    • They should not be the scissors that are kept in the junk drawer or kitchen drawer. Using fabric scissors on anything other than fabric will dull them, causing uneven cutting, shredding of fabric and hand fatigue.


    Available Options: These shears are available in simple to deluxe versions. Simple versions have ordinary blades and handles. Cushion grips of varying forms are also available. Spring-loaded versions which help hands with problems such as carpal tunnel and arthritis are also available.

    Expense: The amount you spend is a matter of choice. I have seen this style shear for a dollar and for over fifty dollars. The more you spend, the more comfortable the handle is apt to be and the longer the blade will stay sharp, as long as it is used for only fabric.
     

     

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  • 09 of 17

    Pressing Tools for Professional Sewing Results

    Iron on ironing board with wallpaper pattern in background
    Steven Errico / Getty Images

    The correct tools to do any sewing job will help you achieve the best results possible.

    Description: The most basic sewing tools are an iron and ironing board.

    A press cloth is a piece of fabric used when applying more heat than you usually would when ironing a fabric. They provide a barrier to protect your fabric from direct contact with a hot iron.

    Hams and sleeve rolls are very firmly packed pillow type curved objects with two different types of fabric surfaces.

    Presser bars are sticks of wood...MORE with a flattened end. They work well to hand press small seams on craft objects or when an area is totally impossible to reach with an iron.
    Small ironing boards are miniature versions of the ironing board everyone has in their closet.

    Use: A press cloth is essential to prevent scorching your fabric when you are applying more heat than you would if you were just ironing out wrinkles. They are available in different weights. A see-through press cloth allows you to see the pressing task through the press cloth. If you do not have one, a piece of muslin will do but it is an item worth adding to your sewing tools.

    Hams and sleeve rolls are wonderful for pressing curves and seams that are in a tube area without creasing another area of the garment. Similar results can be achieved with a tightly rolled towel. It is worth saving up for a pressing ham and sleeve roll if you will be sewing clothing, baby clothes or doll clothes.

    A small ironing board can achieve pressing the inner seam of some tubes. Because it has a stand, it is not as flexible to use as a sleeve roll.

    Care & Maintenance: Always read the information that comes with any tool to prolong the life of the tool.

    Expense: I have found pressing tools in dollar stores. I have also found ironing systems for hundreds of dollars. They are items that can be added to your sewing tools one at a time, choosing the one you would use the most first.

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  • 10 of 17

    Pinking Shears

    Fabric and pinking scissors
    Ruth Hornby Photography / Getty Images

    Pinking shears allow you to cut a simple seam finish.

    Description: Pinking Shears have jagged blades that fit together to cut a saw-tooth type edge.

    Use: A pinked edge to many tightly woven or non-fraying fabrics is sufficient as a seam finish. This is especially handy when working with light-weight fabrics that a sewn seam finish will add to much thread or weight to the seam.
    On non-fraying fabric such as fleece using pinking shears helps reduce a blunt edge from showing through when pressing a...MORE seam and adds a finished look to the fabric.

    Care & Maintenance:

    • Use them only for fabric to prevent dulling the blades! A sewing box or area secure from other family members is best.
    • Keep the blades clean and oil them occasionally.
    • Do not over extend the blades by trying to cut through too many layers at a time. Sharp shears will cut with no effort. If you have to force the shears consider cutting fewer layers at a time.
    • They should not be the scissors that are kept in the junk drawer or kitchen drawer. Using fabric scissors on anything other than fabric will dull them, causing uneven cutting, shredding of fabric and hand fatigue.

     


    Available Options: Pinking scissors are available in five and a half inch to ten and a half inch lengths. The most common choice is seven and a half inch.

    Expense: The amount you spend is a matter of choice. Look for strong blades on this type of shear. When you are going to be using them on heavy fabric, it is best to invest in a good pair.

     

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  • 11 of 17

    Bodkin

    Bodkins (sewing tools)
    Peter Anderson / Getty Images

    A bodkin is a handy tool to have but not a "must-have" item. It is a tool that helps replace drawstrings and other items that are enclosed in a casing.

    Description: A bodkin looks like an over-sized sewing needle with a blunt point and a large eye.

    Use: A bodkin is designed to pull an item (such as elastic, ribbon, cording or drawstring) through a casing. The blunt point, sometimes a ball point, prevents the bodkin from piercing the fabric casing, while guiding the pulled through item, through...MORE the casing.
    If you do not have a bodkin a safety pin can be used to pull the item through a casing. It is just a bit more difficult to grasp and guide than a bodkin.

    Care & Maintenance: No special care is required.

    Available Options: As you can see in the photo, a bodkin can have various textures. The varying textures allow for choices when working with different fabric types. For example; when trying to place a drawstring through a slippery fabric, I would be more apt to grab the textured bodkin so that I could gain a better grip on the bodkin as it passed through the casing.
    A bodkin may also resemble large tweezers. You grip the item being pulled in the tweezers and slide a ring down over the tweezers to hold it in place, so it can be threaded through the casing. This is very helpful for an item that is too bulky to be doubled over itself when it is in the eye type of bodkin.

    Expense: A bodkin typically costs under two dollars. As new products are designed with more details, the prices will increase to meet new innovations.

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  • 12 of 17

    Sewing Machine Manuals

    Sewing machine manual
    pirhan/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    A sewing machine manual is THE most important accessory you can have for your sewing machine. It is an essential in order to get the most out of your machine.

    Description: The sewing machine manual for your sewing machine is not the same as the manual for your friends sewing machine... unless they happen to own the same make and model sewing machine as you. All sewing machines may be similar but to use everything your sewing machine is capable of doing, you will need the manual for your sewing...MORE machine.

    Sewing machines companies would prefer you love your sewing machine so that if you do look at buying a new sewing machine, you would want that brand again. Sewing machine manuals are considered a "part" when you are trying to locate one. Always have your machine make and model at hand when your trying to locate a manual. Contacting the company that manufactured your machine will get you started to obtaining a manual.

    Sewing Machine Company Websites

    Use: The manual for your sewing machine will guide you through every step of operating your model. It will give you the details you need to use any built in stitches or features your sewing machine has to offer. It will help when the machine malfunctions by offering troubleshooting details.

    Care & Maintenance: Always try to keep the machine manual with the sewing machine. I like to keep the manual in a zip type plastic bag that is taped to the machine case so that the manual is with the machine whether I am at home or at a class.Keeping the manual with the sewing machine also limits the possibility of loosing the manual or forgetting where I stashed it.

    Available Options: If the original manual is not available, most companies offer photocopies of the original manual.

    Expense: The cost of a replacement manual can range from free to around twenty-five dollars.

     

     

    Online Sources for Sewing Machine Manuals

    • If you're searching for a Singer Manual, Replacement Instruction Manuals for SINGER® products offers Singer manuals at various prices. Click on Consumer Products for home machine manuals.

       

    • Shoppers Rule sells instruction manuals for more than 15 sewing machine brands. If the manual is still in print, you'll receive an original. For out-of-print manuals, the company will make a copy; if the manual isn't readily available, they'll try to locate one.

       

    • This site has a Singer 15-30 Treadle Machine Manual. All of the pages are included, scanned and on line, waiting for your printer. Some of the pages, such as the threading guide and the descriptions of pressure feet will help you on most sewing machines.
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  • 13 of 17

    Sewing Machine Seam Guides

    Sewing machine seam guides
    Heidi Elliot/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    A sewing machine seam guide will help you sew consistent accurate seams. Not all seam guides are found in the sewing notion department.

    Description: When you are sewing with a machine it is imperative, that you train your eyes to watch a guide, NOT the sewing machine needle, to sew straight accurate seams. The seam guide gives you a focal point to concentrate on keeping the fabric an equal distance from the sewing machine needle as you are sewing.

    The most commonly used seam guide is the lines...MORE that are etched in the throat plate of the sewing machine.

    Sewing machine feet are also commonly used for narrow seam allowance guides.

    More intense guides offer a raised surface to prevent straying beyond the guide, thus preventing a larger seam than the intended seam allowances. This type of guide is best for long straight seams. They do not work well with curved seams.

    Use: A seam guide is the perfect sewing tool to be sure you have the correct seam allowance that is called for in the pattern directions.

    The answer to having pieces of a pattern fit together is accurate cutting and consistent seams. A seam guide is the focal point for you to obtain consistent and accurate seams.

    Available Options: Most sewing machines come with a seam guide that will attach to the sewing machine. Follow the directions in your sewing machine manual for how to use attachable seam guides.

    Sewing machine and fabric stores offer a variety of seam guide notions. Take a few minutes to browse the latest inventions the next time you are in those stores.

    Seam guides can also be items you have around the house. Painters Masking tape is a wonderful guide. It firmly attaches to the bed of the sewing machine but removes without leaving sticky residue. Sticky back notes can be used to provide a blockade and prevent larger than intended seam allowances. Be sure the machine bed is clean and the last page of the pad is new to obtain the best stick-in-place possible.

    Expense: The price of a seam guide can vary from something you have around the house to around twenty dollars.
    How to Set a Sewing Machine Seam Guide for Accurate Seam Allowances

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  • 14 of 17

    Sewing Rotary Cutting Mats

    Sewing rotary cutting mats
    iris/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

    Rotary cutting mats are a basic tool that you must have to use a rotary cutter.

    Description: A rotary cutting pad is available in a variety of sizes. It is a self-healing mat that is not damaged by a rotary cutter and it does not damage the rotary cutter.

    Use: A rotary cutting pad is is used as a flat surface to cut fabric with rotary tools. Cutting without a rotary cutting mat under the item being cut will result in damage to the surface and the cutter's blade.

    Care & Maintenance: They are...MORE self healing to any cuts made by the rotary cutting tool. Do not damage your mat by using it with a heavy cutting blade such as a knife or razor tool.

    Always use a cutting mat on a hard flat surface! A cut through the mat will not heal.

    Rotary cutting mats can be purchased at almost any store that sells fabric.

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  • 15 of 17

    Fabric Rotary Cutters

    Woman cutting fabric using ruler and rotary cutter, close-up
    Deepak Aggarwal / Getty Images

    A rotary cutter is a fast way to cut accurate straight lines when used in conjunction with a rotary pad and rotary rulers.

    Description: Rotary cutters are round blades with a handle and protective cover for the blade.

    Use: Rotary cutters are used in conjunction with rotary pads and rotary rulers.

    Care & Maintenance: The cover should ALWAYS cover the blade when the cutter is not being used. Just as you would not use fabric scissors on paper do not use a fabric rotary blade on paper, to prevent...MORE it from becoming dull.

    Available Options: Rotary cutters are available with different handles and protective devices. Always lock the blade cover when small children are in the area and the cutter is not in your hands.

    My favorite rotary cutter is Omnigrid Pressure Sensitive Rotary Cutter. The blade is always covered unless you are applying pressure in the process of cutting. There is a lock to hold the blade cover in place when the tool is not in use or being transported. The handle has ridges which are comfortable to hold and prevent your hand from sliding.

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  • 16 of 17

    Rotary Rulers

    Woman cutting fabric using ruler and rotary cutter, close-up
    Deepak Aggarwal / Getty Images

    Rotary rulers are a great tool to assure that you are getting squares and angles that are perfect.

    Description: Omnigrid rulers feature 1" through 1/8" markings as well as 30, 45 and 60 degree angle markings. The small black dots make aligning the ruler easy and accurate.

    Use: Rotary rulers can be used alone as a measuring devise or used in conjunction with rotary mats and rotary cutters.

    Care & Maintenance: Rotary rulers are clear plastic can can be broken.

    Available Options: They are...MORE available in a variety of sizes. The most commonly used size is 6" X 24".

    These rulers can be purchased at almost any fabric store.

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  • 17 of 17

    Pins & Pincushions

    Pin cushion, thread and scissors
    Anouk de Maar / Getty Images