Basic Sewing Supplies for Newbies

The shop owner asked me to put together supply lists for the class projects so she could assemble precut kits as a convenience to her customers (and hopefully, my students).  Oh man, what to include for a basic sewing kit?  I distinctly recall the old Dritz (or whatever brand it was) “start to sew” kit that had straight pins, a tomato pin cushion, a tape measure, thimble, wheel of assorted sewing needles, dull plastic handle scissors, a tracing wheel and carbon paper and a seam ripper.  I think it retailed for about $5.95 back in the day and you can still find a version of it today (minus tracing paper) at fabric, craft and mass merchandisers for about $10.00.   For a few bucks more and a little scrounging from sewing relatives/friends, you can assemble a quality sewing kit that will last you a long time.

Here’s what I think you really need:

  1. Fabric scissors (7″ or 8″ bent handle from Fiskars, Mundial or other reputable brand)
  2. Straight pins (skip the silk pins….use glass head and/or .45mm flower head pins)
  3. Pin cushion
  4. Assorted hand sewing needles
  5. All purpose thread in white, beige and black.
  6. Seam ripper
  7. Seam/hem gauge
  8. Tape measure
  9. Container to hold your supplies

Even if you decide sewing isn’t your thing, you’ll still have a basic kit that will cover your mending needs quite well.

HOWEVER, I’m going to assume you enjoy it and want the tools that make sewing a little easier.  To the above list add: thimble, beeswax/thead conditioner, needle threader, glue stick, point turner, 4″ scissors,  1-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ clear acrylic or regular 6″ ruler, washout graphite pencil, soapstone or white chalk pencil, pencil sharpener and fine point permanent marker.

If you quilt:  45mm rotary cutter, 4″x18″ or 6″x24″ acrylic ruler and self-healing mat.

If you scrounge:  ask if your donors can spare a few safety pins, snaps, and basic buttons.  These will come in handy.

A few words of wisdom…

  • Do not skimp on scissors.  Brand name sewing scissors are often discounted 50% at sewing and craft stores.  You will wind up frustrated by a cheap pair’s inability to cut fabric.
  • Long, thin pins are easier to see and pick up.  Glass head pins can be ironed over (plastic head will melt).  As an added bonus, they are less likely to break your sewing machine needle if you *accidentally* sew over a pin.
  • The majority of the supplies can often be had for less than $2.00 a piece or *gifted* from a friend or relative’s sewing basket.  Some could even come from the school/office supplies you have around the house.
If you get bitten by the sewing/quilting bug, there’s nothing wrong with upgrading your equipment later on.  What’s listed above is my “travel” kit.  It’s only a fraction of all the goodies in my sewing studio.

My most surprisingly useful notion has been my 2-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ clear acrylic ruler from Creative Grids.  I typically keep this in my travel sewing kit.  I keep reaching for it so much that I need to buy a second one to keep at my sewing machine.  Unfortunately, they no longer manufacturer this particular one.  I’ll call the shop I purchased this size ruler from to see if they have any more.