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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Sewing 101: Supplies You Really Need

Are you ready to learn to sew and you don't know where to start?  Our Sewing 101 blog posts are here to help you out!  Today we will talk about the supplies that you really need to get started. At the end of this blog post you will be ready to go shopping, without getting overwhelmed as you walk into the store! 

The first thing you need is a sewing machine. Any functional sewing machine will do. You can find one for under a hundred dollars that does the basics or you can spend hundreds or thousands if you want a lot more features and durability. There are definitely differences in quality and ease of sewing that depend on how much you spend, but don't be afraid to get started with a lesser machine if that is what your budget allows. Renting is also an option. 

Also please note that you do NOT need a serger to begin sewing. (A serger is a separate machine that gives a professional finish to seams and hems, etc.)  None of our CKC patterns require a serger. You can finish seams and hems on your sewing machine.  I do love my serger and you may want to consider getting one later on, but for now you can definitely make quality clothing using a sewing machine only. 

The second supply you will need are extra needles for your machine. There are different types of needles for different fabrics and you can learn more about the different types of needles by clicking here.  But for most projects, you will be fine with a universal needle. You will want extra needles on hand for when one breaks, and it is also recommended to replace your needles often. A dull or slightly bent needle can cause a lot of problems and they are pretty inexpensive. 

You will also need some extra bobbins that work in your machine. The bobbin is the tiny spool that goes in the bottom of your machine, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble by having extra bobbins for each new thread color you choose to use.  Later on you can get a handy case like the one in the photo, to store them in so they don't get tangled, but for right now you're fine just buying some extra bobbins. There are different shapes and styles of bobbins, so be sure that the kind you buy works in your machine! 

And while we're talking about bobbins, we also need to mention thread! You will definitely need thread before you begin to sew.  You can get by with just black and white spools to start out.  Then every time I buy new fabric for a specific project, I try to buy a matching spool of thread as well. After awhile your stash will accumulate a good variety. Not all threads are the same though.  There different types so I usually look for the ones labeled "All Purpose".  You can buy the regular size spools that fit right on your machine, or you can get a larger cone to sit on a separate spool holder. I've heard that some people even keep their thread cone in a mug on the shelf and the thread comes out evenly. But if you don't plan on using a particular color very often, you are fine getting a regular sized spool.

This little device is called a seam ripper and you definitely need one!! Some call it their best friend/worst enemy, because it is used to undo mistakes that are made while sewing. The little metal tip slides under stitches and there's a blade inside the curve that cuts the threads. It's never fun to find that you made a mistake sewing, but a seam ripper is the best tool to help you fix it.  Some machines come with a small one (like my white one in the photo) but you can also find them in a variety of shapes and sizes at the store. 

Next you will need cutting supplies! You definitely need a pair of sharp fabric scissors. Paper scissors will not work.  Keep your fabric scissors separate and be sure not to use them for anything but fabric because the blades will become dull. You will also need a ruler if you are using a pattern with a cutting chart.  For example, the chart may tell you to cut a 10" x 18" rectangle so a ruler becomes very helpful.  A clear ruler like the one above works great to make sure the fabric is lined up. 

Then, if at all possible, we also highly recommend getting a cutting mat and rotary cutter, as shown above. When I first started using mine, I couldn't believe the amount of time and trouble it saved me! Rotary cutters aren't just for square projects - I use mine to cut clothing patterns every day. You can learn how to use the rotary cutter here.


Along with a ruler, you will want a sewing measuring tape like this.  It's the only way to get accurate measurements of yourself or your model. When my kids see me holding my measuring tape they come close, raise their arms, and stand still. They know the drill.  I also use it for double checking seam allowances and hems as I work.

As you're shopping for supplies, keep your eye out for marking pencils, tailor's chalk, or a marking pen. You are fine getting just one of the options. These are used to make marks directly on the fabric, such as when you need to mark for buttonholes or stitching lines on certain patterns.  There are lots of fancy tools available for marking and I personally just have a white fabric pencil and a red fabric pencil, for different colors of fabric. The most important feature to consider is that your marking tool will wash out afterward! You do not want to use a regular pencil or pen that will leave permanent marks on the clothing. 

The next supply you need are pins and a holder/cushion to keep them in. There are many types of pins and you are good starting out with all purpose pins. I like the ones with balls on the end because they're easier to grab.  If you notice a big difference in the price of pins, it's because some are much sharper and stronger than others. You can decide how important the quality is to you. I like to have a LOT of pins in my stash, especially when I am sewing ruffles. 

As far as storing your pins, you can use the box they come in, or get a traditional pincushion like the tomato above.  My daughter loves her rose pincushion that stands up like a little stool. My favorite is my purple magnetic pin holder because I can throw my pins in the general direction and it grabs them for me. (It usually grabs my seam ripper too.) If you're feeling crafty, you could also make yourself a fun picture frame pincushion using the free tutorial we shared last month, to match your sewing area.  

We're almost done shopping!  Next, you will need a tool for turning and creasing things such as sashes and collars. If you already have a dowel or chopstick on hand, or possibly a knitting needle, those may work just fine for you. I also really like my white creasing tool. I didn't find it until after I had been sewing for quite awhile, and I found that it was a big time saver!  

Last but not least, you need an iron!  You will use this to smooth the fabric, set seams, make crisp collars and edges, etc.  And of course it will help you create a beautiful finished project.  You do not need an expensive iron but it is good to have one that allows you to adjust the heat to low so you don't scorch delicate fabrics. A great iron is a useful investment but if you already have an iron, it should work just fine as you start out.  You will also need an ironing board or ironing surface of some kind.

I saved my favorite for last.  You also need fabric!  Lots and lots of fabric. (Wink, wink.) You can't make something beautiful out of nothing, right?  There are SO many different types of fabric available and you can usually find the care instructions right on the bolt. If you are shopping for fabric for a particular project, it's a good idea to know how much you need before you go. You can find that information right inside your CKC pattern on the Fabric Requirements Chart.  If you need to buy any other supplies such as elastic or zippers, the pattern will tell you that as well. 

And that's it!  We are confident that this is all you need to get started!  Don't be overwhelmed. It's not all that much when you compare it to a whole store full of STUFF that you will see when you walk in. To make it easy, go ahead and jot down this list of items we discussed, and you're ready to go:

Sewing Supplies

Sewing machine
Seam ripper
Rotary cutter (optional)
Cutting mat (optional)
Measuring tape
Marking pencil/pen/chalk

Be sure to join us in the next episodes of our Sewing 101 Series, as we teach you how to Thread Your Machine and then how to Get Started Sewing!  

Let's Create! ~ Kristen

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