Space to Sew UpdateBlog

14 September 2014

Sewing Kit Essentials

We often get asked what items beginners should buy to form part of a basic sewing kit. For those of you thinking of coming to one of our classes we suggest you bring the items at the end of this post with you, though you might slowly want to gather up a few extra items to have at home.

I am however conscious while writing this that budgetary constraints might well mean you are only able to invest in a few items at a time, especially if you are not 100% sure that sewing will be 'your thing' longer term. There are of course a few items you can include in any household emergency sewing or mending box, e.g. needles, a basic selection of thread and pins and, perhaps, an unpicker/seam ripper. However for more regular sewing there are inevitably other essentials you will need such as a good tape measure, a marking tool of some kind and a small pair of scissors for cutting threads and getting into tight corners. I love the fact that many sewing items act as perfect stocking fillers (yes, I still have a stocking at the grand old age of 48!). The price of threads and sewing machine needles soon adds up so I always ask for a top up of both and include some machine embroidery threads in my list - I don't feel I can justify spending on all the colours I'd like to collect for 'just in case' moments.

While thinking about basic sewing kit items, I started pondering which items I really wouldn't want to be without now I've sewn for a few years . So here are my favourites: the ones I now consider so essential that I would replace them straight away if they got lost or damaged.

First up the best pair of dressmaking scissors I can possibly find. If I'm honest I would now ideally want to have at least a two pairs with blades of differing sizes, one of which at least 200-250cms long (8.5-9 inches for those of you not brought up in the Mediterranean like me). If I could stretch to three I'd get a general pair, a long-bladed pair and a pair that is particularly suited to sheer and fine fabrics. However I would recommend not spending less than £16-£20 (they can cost a lot more!) and buying the best scissors you can afford so that they last you as long as possible (especially if you can only stretch to one!). And, whatever you do, don't cut paper with them or let anyone else pinch them or use for anything but fabric. They just won't like it: dressmaking scissors for fabric and paper scissors for paper is the quintessential rule on this one.

While not particularly wedded to one brand over another, not least because I think Dressmaking Scissors are one of those very personal things, I am really quite fond of the purple Janome ones I bought for Space to Sew use ((I admit to buying the first few pairs because they fit with our brand colours - and addiction of mine that is well noted by our regular sewists and tutors alike!). If you try those at ours and enjoy using them and want to buy Janome scissors locally to Shrewsbury, you can find them at the Sewing & Knitting Shop in Wyle Cop. But do try a few brands and/or different types and weights first if you can because they really do need to suit you. And although a ball park of £20 may not sound too horrendous at first glance, once you start paying for fabric, other notions, a machine and classes, it does all add up pretty quickly...

If I were to choose a very favourite sewing item it would have to be my 6" sewing gauge. I love the fact that it's light to carry around and very good value for money (it retails at around the £3.00 mark). I always make sure I have at least two seam gauges, one at home and one to carry with me to class. I am sure many folk use them for different things. Personally I find them so much easier to use than a tape measure when it comes to turning hems, pressing seam lines and even cutting bias binding strips. I also find that they make the job so much quicker even when precision is the order of the day. I have however recently read that it's important to protect them from getting bent as that will irrevocably distort their accuracy (hmm - time for a new pair?). That might be why they're comparatively inexpensive to buy...

Next up is an item I had never come across before coming to Shrewsbury, though I would classify it as a gadget rather than a sewing tool and it is, strictly speaking, a mending gadget. However, in my hands it does cross the sewing/mending divide as my pins always seem to snag the wool crepe fabrics I sew with regularly. Never fear: Snag Wizard to the rescue! Another inexpensive device also retailing near the £3 mark and I would never be without one again. If you can't find one locally to you and are not a Salopian, get in touch with Watson & Thornton in Shrewsbury and I'm sure they will get one to you.

My last two 'must-haves' are a little pricier (£6-£8 or so) and, technically, are probably nice-to-haves really, though I wouldn't want to be without them now I've used them:

Do you have a favourite sewing tool or gadget you'd love to share with others? Do write and tell us via And if you include the reason why you love it and a photo and we'll put it in a future post...

Useful Sewing Kit for Bringing to Class (in a Suitable Container!):

You might also want to make or buy a pin cushion and needle case (for home use at least!).

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