I’m going to give you the absolute bare minimum and basic sewing tools needed to begin sewing garments and accessories. This is good for people who are on a small-tight budget or do not have a lot of space for a separate sewing area, these things can be stored easily and are very compact so no need to worry about space. This article will also include price gauges.
Hand sewing items
Hand sewing is great for repairing ripped clothing, so it is a great basic skill to have even if you don’t plan on sewing full garments but want to repair your already existing wardrobe. Also, some garments require hand stitching either to lay a seam down without it showing on the outside of the garment, or to close an opening once turned inside out.
Needles and thread
The basic of all basics, a needle is needed to help guide the thread through the fabric. the most commonly used sizes are a small 3.25cm needle (UK size 10) and a long 4.5cm needle (UK size 7) you can get a pack for £1.50+ with a range of sizes included.
For thread, first start with white and black spools of thread only getting different colours when a garment requires it. You can save money by getting a large spool for £2-£5, this will last you longer but may take up more space in your sewing kit.
Steel head pins
These will help with keeping fabric pieces aligned and won’t move, it also helps to keep pleats, folds and hems down too. These go for £4 for 300 pins.
Some might not know, but when hand sewing you need to strengthen your thread using beeswax, it also helps it to glide through the fabric easier, this causes less tension and harsh pulling on the thread making it less likely to break. It also helps it stay in place once you’ve finished sewing and the thread won’t move around or separate as easily, making your stitches stronger and more likely to withstand harsher wear and tear. This is a must for hand sewing and should NOT be skipped. I personally recommend Livemoor on Amazon as they do 4 blocks for £4.
We need to protect our fingers as much as we can especially when sewing, and a thimble does just that, you can get them in a multitude of materials ranging from plastic, metal, rubber and my favourite, leather. Not only do thimbles protect your fingers, but they also help anchor the needle and push it through fabric and make your hand sewing faster. This is also an item you mustn’t skip. A singular thimble goes for around £2-£10 depending on the material of your choice.
Say you’ve accidentally sewn two wrong pieces together and don’t have the leeway to waste fabric, you need to separate those two pieces without damaging the fabric, this is where the seam ripper comes in. Its small pointed head slots into the seam and the middle is very sharp so when you move it down the seam the threads are cut and not the fabric, saving you the painstaking task of using your snips and cutting each thread individually. Seam rippers are about £2.
Sewing box or Pencil case
Well, where else would you keep everything? You want to make sure next time you plan a sewing project or one of your clothes rip you know exactly where everything is. It just makes sense really, sewing boxes are very pretty and very sturdy but are more expensive at around £20 on average whereas a pencil case can hold all these essentials and more for just £2+.
Ruler and Measuring tape
How else will you know if your fabric is the right size or if the pattern matches your measurements? A straight ruler, whether it be 45cm to a yard (90cm), it will work wonders for pattern drafting. This will cost you about £6-10, and a small wind-up measuring tape for measuring your body is needed too, depending on whether you want a wind up one or general measuring tape it will cost you about £2-£8.
Fabric scissors and snips
No, regular scissors won’t cut it (pun intended). You need a pair of fabric scissors, these are sharper and are specifically designed with cutting fabric in mind, be sure not to use them on anything other than fabric as you can damage and dull the blade. Smaller fabric scissors, often referred to as snips/snippers, are used for the cutting of small loose threads, cutting notches into curves and even taking away small pieces of excess fabric, especially around the seams. These both range from £3-£15.
The most basic but also most expensive part when starting to sew is the sewing machine itself, it will help complete a garment a lot faster and neater. There are many techniques you will have to learn but this will all be worth it when your garment comes out looking like it came straight from the high street.
I recommend the Brother LS14s which ranges between £80-£120 depending on where you buy it from, it is what I use and has all the basics a sewing machine itself needs and a few more advanced features, as well as extra accessories.
When sewing you want your fabric to glide through the machine and not get stuck or fold, it’s also nicer if the fabric is smooth and flat for wearing/using, and so next on the list is an Iron. A little self-explanatory but it will help get creases out of fabric that may have been in storage for quite a while, it also helps you to fold over seams and hems keeping them in place without the need for pins (this depends on the fabric) making it easier to sew so that you aren’t trying to fold the hem whilst sewing, which takes a lot of effort and a little skill. I recommend the Duronic Mini Steam Iron Si2 (£25), it’s lightweight, portable and small/compact making it easy to store.
For the absolute beginner, or those of us who are too scared to draw up a pattern without messing it up, there is a website that can help. Tailornova is a website where you can design hundreds of clothes, input your measurements (it comes with guides) and it will give you a printable – custom to your measurements – pattern! This will take hours away from production time and you’ll have a finished garment sooner than you realised. Did I mention it’s FREE!
If you’d rather make your own patterns getting a roll of pattern paper will help, it is cheaper than buying a stack of A4 paper and sellotaping it together. You can get around 10 meters for about £10-15.
Tailors’ chalk or markers
In order to see where your patterns fit on the fabric and where to cut once they are removed, you will need to outline your pattern pieces, either with chalk or marker. Now, keep in mind these can’t just be any chalk or markers you have in your home, these have to be tailors’ chalk/markers. Tailors’ chalk is harder and less brittle and leaves a more vibrant line on the fabric, these are great for darker and heavier fabrics such as wool, and tailor markers are either heat removeable or wash out, these are better suited for lightweight and light-coloured fabrics such as cotton and linen. Chalk is cheaper, ranging from £3-5 but can rub off accidentally whereas markers won’t but range in price from £5-10.
You can’t sew clothing, or anything for that fact, without fabric. As a beginner it’s quite daunting going to a fabric shop and seeing all the different types, colours, textures and prices that are way beyond what you can afford. To work around this, first go to charity shops, find old clothes that you can freshen up or make something new from, ask friends and family if they have old bedsheets or curtains, if they don’t mind you turning them into fashion statements. And if you’re brave, you can go to a discount fabric store or a deadstock fabric shop, these places sell no longer produced and excess fabric from other retailers and are a good place to get great quality fabric for a more manageable price.
Cheap doesn’t always mean low quality as I’ve curated my own sewing kit very cheaply, all my tools are of great quality despite being on the cheaper end. And so to round everything up, If you just want the hand sewing kit essentials it would cost you around £25-£30. But, if you do decide to get all these items it would cost you a grand total of £170+. This is a very decent price to pay for a hobby/essential life skill where things do not need to be replaced often.
Hello, I'm Megan Dowthwaite, a graphic designer and content creator. I'm fascinated by the world and its various cultures main ones being Korea, the Philippines and other Asian countries, I specifically focus on fashion, art, history and the ecosystem. I love to learn and share my new found knowledge with others.