Sewing Essentials

Whether you’re new to sewing or a seasoned pro, it’s important to have the right tools and supplies. This guide to sewing essentials will help you get started.

Sewing Supplies 101

A well-stocked sewing kit makes it easy to get crafty and create the things you need for your wardrobe and home. If you're new to sewing, you'll want to start with the basics like hand sewing needles, straight pins, thread, and sewing shears. Look for pre-assembled sewing kits that contain a variety of essentials in a single package. When you gain experience, you could advance to a sewing machine, which will increase your versatility and save you time. For trouble-free operation, be sure to maintain your sewing machine with proper cleaning and oiling. There's a lot to learn, but with a little practice you'll soon be sewing up a storm.

Hand Sewing Essentials


Straight Pins

Straight pins are essential for temporarily securing fabrics. They allow you to easily mark and cut out patterns, attach fabric or hem and sew seams. Straight pins feature round or flat heads and come in different lengths, thicknesses and materials. Dressmaker or seamstress pins are all-purpose straight pins appropriate for light- to medium-weight fabrics and most sewing projects. If you’re working with heavier fabrics, choose longer specialized pins, such as quilting and upholstery pins. Use a pincushion to organize and store your straight pins and reduce the chance of pin pricks.

Hand Sewing Needles

Most sewing projects, from stitching doll clothes to hemming drapes, require some hand finishing, so you’ll need a good selection of common sewing needles like bodkins, sharps and appliques. Be sure to use a needle that's comfortable for you and appropriate for your fabric. Thinner needles are best for stitching lightweight or delicate fabrics, while thicker needles are suited to hemming denim, tapestry and heavier materials. When shopping, look for a variety pack of needles containing an assortment of sewing needles in different sizes.

Fabric Shears & Pinking Shears

A sharp pair of fabric shears will let you cut through most materials with ease. Unlike scissors, which have same-size handles, shears feature asymmetrical handles that are bent upwards to provide better leverage for cutting thicker fabrics. Have your shears sharpened regularly for best cutting results, and avoid using them to cut paper, packaging and other materials because it dulls the blades. Pinking shears cut fabric in a zigzag pattern that reduces fraying and unravelling and is helpful for finishing seams.

Tape Measure

A good-quality fabric or fibreglass tape measure is a must-have for any sewing project, big or small. Look for a tape measure with both imperial and metric measurements to simplify conversions. For consistently precise measurements, replace your cloth tape measure every few years as it will stretch slightly over time. Keep a small notepad and pencil within reach to jot down measurements for accurate sizing.

Rotary Cutter

The fast and simple way to transfer patterns to fabric and cut them out is to use a rotary cutter, cutting mat and ruler. Remember to replace the blades of your cutter regularly to ensure they're always sharp. A self-healing cutting mat can protect your work surface and create a dedicated workspace for sewing projects. A clear gridded ruler can be placed right on your pattern or fabric, making it a cinch to mark off measurements, transfer patterns to fabric and straighten your fabric edges. 

Needle Threader

Threading needles manually requires plenty of patience and a steady hand. Whatever your skill level, a needle threader can save you time and frustration by allowing you to work more efficiently. This convenient metal gadget has a rigid wire loop that makes it easier to slip your thread through the eye of your needle. Some multi-tool needle threaders even come with a magnifying glass and LED lighting for better visibility.


The success of any sewing project depends ultimately on the quality of the thread. Look for high-quality thread with a smooth finish to prevent seams from coming undone. Better quality threads also reduce the chances of rippled seams and lint. It's best to choose thread with a similar fibre content to your fabric. A cotton-wrapped polyester thread works well for most sewing projects, but stronger threads are needed for more durable fabrics, like denim and chenille. Choose a thread colour that matches your fabric's dominant colour and is one or two shades darker. Keep several basic colours on hand for everyday sewing.

Fabric Marking Pens

Fabric marking pens and pencils are an easy way to transfer pattern markings and measurements onto fabric without the use of pins, which leave holes in delicate fabrics and can be time consuming. Be sure to use erasable marking pens and pencils designed for fabric so the markings come off cleanly. Tailor’s chalk is also handy to make markings on dark-coloured fabric more visible. From patching up clothes to making plushies, fabric marking pens or pencils can make your sewing projects go smoothly and help you avoid costly mistakes.

Seam Ripper

Whether you’re a needlework newbie or a domestic doyenne, a seam ripper can be an invaluable tool for taking out original or accidental seams. This pencil-thin tool has a tiny pronged blade on one end to remove stitches without cutting into the fabric. A seam ripper can be helpful for ripping out seams when hemming pants or skirts, upcycling fabric from vintage clothes, widening buttonholes, removing basting stitches or undoing sewing mistakes. Some models come with built-in threaders, lights and ergonomic handles. 

Seam Gauge

The secret to perfect seams is a seam gauge. This small plastic or metal ruler has a sliding gauge that runs the length of the instrument and permits you to set seam allowances specific to your pattern. This helps ensure seams and hems are even, keep seams from unravelling and creates a more professional, polished look in your finished garment.  

Machine Sewing Essentials


Sewing Machine

A sewing machine saves you time and money by letting you transform fabrics into practical pieces for your home and wardrobe. Consider the kinds of projects you’ll be working on and choose a sewing machine that’s tailored to your needs. A basic sewing machine works well for everyday craft projects and clothing repairs, such as mending and hemming. An industrial-quality or computerized sewing machine may be best for fashion and home decor projects that involve tapestry, upholstery and other heavy fabrics. Look for easy-to-use features, upgradable parts and a variety of stitch patterns and speeds.

Sewing Machine Needles

Sewing machine needles come in various sizes and fabric weights and are colour coded and numbered. Higher-number needles are better for denim, velvet and heavy fabrics, while lower-number needles work well for delicate, sheer and lightweight fabrics. If you’re unsure, a size 10 to 12 needle is ideal for most projects. You’ll want to keep extras on hand since they become dull with use. When shopping for sewing machine needles, it’s best to buy a variety pack in assorted sizes and fabric weights for any sewing project that comes your way.


Whether you’re crafting a Halloween costume for your toddler or designing a dress for date night, bobbins will help you bring your sewing project together. A bobbin is like a small spool of thread that sits inside the sewing machine to interlock threads and create an even, strong stitch. Most sewing machines come with two or three bobbins, but it’s best to keep extra bobbins handy to swap out thread colours easily and complete your sewing project on schedule. 

Small Screwdriver Set

Your sewing machine needs only a few simple tools to work its stitchery magic. A small screwdriver is a must for changing sewing needles, letting you loosen and tighten the screw that holds the needle in place. It’s also indispensable for getting to parts of the machine that need cleaning and oiling. Most sewing machines come with a screwdriver set, which includes two small flathead screwdrivers and one Phillips head screwdriver, for small repairs and regular maintenance.

Sewing Machine Oil

Regular oiling is also important to reduce friction on moving parts and prevent rust. A rule of thumb is to oil your sewing machine after every 20 hours of use. Be sure to unplug your sewing machine before cleaning and oiling the parts, and remove all fabrics to prevent spills. Follow the step-by-step directions in your manual to choose the right oil for your sewing machine and learn how to apply it properly.

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