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A Complete Guide to Building a Basic Sewing Kit

by Rachel Gregg
craft & maker

basic sewing kit

Turns out the sewing kit you invested in for your ninth grade Home Economics class is not only substandard, it is also incomplete.

While those cheap basics were good enough to get you through your first few pillows, more advanced sewing projects require an investment in some nicer stuff.

To help you put together your grown-up sewing kit, we talked with Shaerie Mead of Sew L.A. about which sewing tools belong in a basic sewing kit.

Shaerie is a serious sewing maven. She has run a sewing and fabric studio for eight years and taught countless students how to create awesome handmade projects. Here’s her list of essential items for a basic sewing kit:

1. 8” Dressmaker’s Shears. “These are pretty expensive, they are probably going to be the most expensive part of your sewing kit, but they are worth the money.”

When you sew, your fabric needs a nice clean edge and high quality sewing-designated scissors will give you the results you are after. You can get away with a cheaper pair, just be sure to heed Shaerie’s advice, “don’t use them for anything other than fabric”

2. Scissors for paper. A cheap pair of office supply scissors will do the trick here. You’ll need these scissors for cutting out patterns and the like.

3. Glass head pins. These straight pins are the advanced alternative to the plastic-topped pins that come in generic kits. Shaerie explains why; “we use the pins to hold fabric in place and we press right over them with an iron and if you did that with plastic-headed pins, you’d get melted plastic all over everything.”

Additionally, the glass head pins are made of a strong metal so they don’t bend too much and they are very fine so they won’t damage your fabric.

4. Pin cushion. Shaerie prefers a magnetic pin cushion above the classic fabric cushion for a couple of reasons. Not only do they make it easy to pick up any pins you drop, the magnetic cushion help you work faster, “when you are sewing you have to pull your pins out and stop what you are doing to stick the pin in the tomato, that small action takes up enough time that I am willing to spend a little more money and get a magnetic pin cushion.Then I can just throw my pin at it and I don’t have to worry about it.”

basic sewing kit magnetic pin cushion

image courtesy of Sew L.A.

5. Seam ripper. Not every stitch you make will last forever. From time to time you’ll have to undo some of the work you’ve done and for that, you’ll need a seam ripper with a really small and pointy head.

Pro tip: “You should replace these every couple of years because they tend to get dull. When you get a new one you’ll be amazed by how easily it’ll cut through your stitches.”

6. Tape measure. Shaerie favors fiberglass tape measures because they won’t stretch out. You’ll use the tape measure to take body measurements to pick out your pattern size and you want this to be accurate so your project actually works for you.

7. Tailor’s chalk. “It is a soft chalk and you can use it in conjunction with your ruler to make nice straight lines on your fabric if you are making a hem.”

You can use water-soluble pencils for the times you need to mark on the right-side of your fabric, just be careful while using dark color chalks so you don’t stain your fabric.

basic sewing kit pencils

image courtesy of Sew L.A.

8. A clear, flexible ruler. A 2” by 18” ruler with a little give will help you when it is time to measure around curves and the grid helps with keeping things straight.

9. A seam gauge. The seam gauge is that little ruler with a slidey bit. “It is used to do repeat measurements,” and comes in handy when you have a curved hem.

10. A point turner. Shaerie uses this tool to get nice sharp points on a pillow or a collar. She recommends the style with a curved end for smoothing out round edges as well.

Pro Tip: “Don’t use the tips of your scissors because you will poke right through the end of your fabric.”

11. 5” sewing scissors. Shaerie calls these little scissors “snips” and they are used for everything from cutting out notches to taking care of loose threads.

12. Bodkin. “This is a tool that allows you to pull elastic or drawstring through a casing.” And the bodkin comes in handy even if you don’t sew. This bodkin was originally used during the era when people were sewn into their clothes but it continues to be indispensable for fishing loose drawstrings through yoga pants and hoodies.

basic sewing kit bodkin

image courtesy of Sew L.A.

If you are new to sewing, be sure to check out our complete line-up of sewing classes on CreativeLive. You can find classes from Shaerie on making an easy skirt, sewing a vintage-inspired skirt, and assembling a box zip bag.

Are you ready to start selling your handmade craft projects?

Download our free PDF: Etsy 101: A Guide to Getting Started! This comprehensive collection of notes, worksheets, and slides from Marlo Miyashiro’s class, Etsy 101: Launch Your Handmade Shop gives you the tips and insights you need to launch a successful Etsy shop!

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Rachel Gregg

Rachel is the content marketing lead for the CreativeLive Craft Channel. Her side hustle is floral design and her day job is awesome. @ms_gregarious.