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TOP 10 Essential Sewing Tools

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

So, you are interested in getting started in sewing or maybe you are returning back to the sewing arts after an extended absence from the sewing scene. Either way you may be wondering what tools you need to find or purchase (in addition to a sewing machine) to help you create your next project with the most ease and success. The following is a list of the top 10 tools we recommend you employ to enjoy the experience, save the most time, and produce the best results

A good iron makes sewing look polished

1. A good Iron

Almost 50% of the construction process involves sewing and steaming, so it is important you employ an iron to ensure the best finished result. The word “good” is highly subjective because your needs may vary from project to project but in general a good iron should heat quickly, evenly, and dependably. It should have accurate temperature controls and be easy to hold in your hand. Cost is not the true indicator of quality so don’t invest in anything over $30-$50 until you get a feel for what you need. Irons no matter how much they cost will generally give out after 2-3 years of regular use; even a high end model will fade after 3-5 years of consistent use.

2. Fabric Scissors

Good scissors are essential for proper cutting

If you want to know where to invest your sewing dollars, this would be the item I would point too. A great pair of Sewing scissors can last virtually…forever. They will from time to time require professional sharpening of course; but even that’s a small price to pay for this essential sewing tool. A great pair of fabric scissors can cut through denim like butter if they are heavy and sharp enough. Which brings me to a little piece of advice, don’t use your scissors for anything but fabric, as paper and plastic can all dull the blades considerably and even irreversibly damage the shears.

If at first you don't succeed, a seam ripper is all you need

3. Seam Ripper

So, no matter how good you are and how long you have been sewing, mistakes are just a part of the process and that is why a seam ripper is essential. If you go a little too far with your stitching or just want to change something, it’s not a problem because a seam ripper helps you quickly take it all apart and try again. This is one of those tools you will keep all over the sewing room: at the sewing machine, at the cutting table, at the ironing board, and so on.

4. Retractable Tape Measure

This is more about convenience than need. It is true, a tape measure is definitely a key part of the traditional sewing kit. You will find yourself pulling it out often to measure all sorts of things for your projects. However, a simple tape measure requires that you roll up it yourself once you are done. More often than not it ends up in the bottom of your sewing basket in a tangled mess. With a retractable model you just push a button and the tape is rolled back up with quick spring action and ready to be pulled out the next time you need it.

5. Sewing Basket

Staying organized is key to a successful sewing project. It can be hard to keep things in their place while you are sewing but once you are done it is a good idea to have a central spot for all of your essential sewing tools and that means putting them in your “sewing basket”. It doesn’t have to be a basket. It can be anything that will securely store your supplies in one place like an organizer, a tool box, or a small storage container. Also it helps if that “basket” is easily portable as well.

6. Seam Gauge

This is one of the weirdest tools I never knew I needed until I started doing alterations and hemming pants. Now that I know how to use it for that technique, I find cool ways to use it in other sewing applications. It is essentially a small metal ruler that has a movable tab on it and you can set that tab for any length between 0.5 and 6 inches. It is great for evenly turning up hems, spacing button holes, marking seam allowance, and more.

7. Magnetic Pincushion

This is like the retractable tape measure: more about convenience than need. You can hold your pins in the box they came in, store them in a traditional pin cushion, and then there is the stereotype image of the focused seamstress even holding a few pins in her mouth. However, a magnetic pin cushion is my personal suggestion because it’s great at holding the pins but also great for picking them up when you drop an errant pin on the floor. Anyone who has ever bent over and tried to pinch a sewing pin off the floor knows it can be harder than it sounds, but one swipe with the magnetic pincushion and it’s like the pin jumps off the floor into the cushion. So cool, so easy.

8. Thread Scissors or Nippers

Use small scissors or nippers like these to cut threads

You need big scissors for cutting out patterns, but you need a small pair

of scissors to cut threads and detailed elements. Thread scissors are a small pair of scissors that can cut stray threads. If they are sharp enough to notch seam allowance they are often referred to as nippers. While a big pair of scissors can be used for these purposes it can be a clumsy and inaccurate choice when dealing with smaller spaces that require shallower cuts.

9. Large Cutting Board

Before I had a sewing room, my bedroom was my sewing room and my bed became my cutting table. Putting a large cutting board down on the bed gave me a smooth, sturdy surface and ensured I didn’t accidentally pin or cut through the bed spread and sheets beneath. It also helped me clean up the aftermath of a sewing project with more ease, as all the thread and needles that became strewn about were easily brushed off the board and stored or thrown away. Relatively inexpensive, I recommend a sturdy 36x72 inch board that be folded into a smaller dimension for storage and is usually found in Fabric and Craft Stores.

10. Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing

This is the very first sewing book I was ever prescribed. I quickly came to rely on it for my self-guided forays into sewing and it is the one I still pull out even after 30+ years of sewing when I need a refresher. It is a simply written, yet fully comprehensive sewing guide with clear detailed, step by step instructions on everything a sewer needs to get started and keep going in their sewing adventures. Filled with drawing and photographs, this book is basically an encyclopedia of all the tried and true approaches to sewing.

While I can’t be certain, with inflation acting on prices the way it does, I am pretty sure this entire list can be had for under $100, maybe under $150 if you really splurge on the scissors and a mid-priced iron. With either amount it all adds up to money well spent because when you imagine all that can be accomplished with just these 10 tools + your sewing machine, the value they bring to your sewing experience becomes endless.

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