There are so many things you can buy to help you sew, so many different accessories and tools, how do you know which are actually useful and which are more ‘nice to have’ than necessary? I’ve been sewing for almost 20 years at this point, so I’ve put together a nice, short list of absolute essentials to help keep things simple.
Here’s my top 10 – can’t sew without ’em- essentials!
- Paper scissors- any cheap kitchen scissors will do- make sure they look and feel different to your fabric scissors so there is no excuse for confusion!
- small embroidery scissors with a sharp point
- And most importantly Fabric scissors- exclusively used for FABRIC!
Freya is Left handed so she swears by her Prym Left handed scissors! Try a few pairs to see if you like the size and weight and the feel of the handles.
2. Pins and 3. Magnetic pin “cushion”
I like long pins! They are easy to grab and wiggle through lots of layers of thick or thin fabric. I use the cute heart shaped pins for craft projects and heavier weight fabrics and the glass headed pons for more delicate fabrics and for dressmaking. As they have glass heads they can be used with an iron without fear of them melting! The nice bright yellow is easy to spot if one escape onto the floor!
Another great thing about these pins is that they are magnetic, so when one does escape they can be easily rounded up with this handy magnetic pin cushion. This is brilliant when you’re working on a pin-heavy project as you can just fling the pins at the magnetic tray as you pop them out while sewing!
4. 505 temporary spray adhesive
We get through cans and cans of this in our workshops! We use this temporary spray glue to stick our quilt sandwiches together, apply wadding to fabrics and temporarily hold appliqué details in place before sewing. It’s virtually odourless, non toxic and doesn’t gum up needles or pins. Another “how did I sew without it” product!
5. Fabric Marking tools
There are lots of marking tools I use but the Frixion pens tend to be my go-to two for marking most fabrics. I discovered Frixion pens when learning quilting and I’m amazed how I got on with out them before! They are brilliant for marking darts, 1/4 inch seams and fit adjustments too. They mark most fabrics and then simply iron right out- but do test on a scrap of your fabric first as they can leave trace marks on satins and some other fabrics.
Chalk wheels mark textured and darker coloured fabrics clearly and precisely. normal tailors chalk can pull and stretch fabrics. You can buy refills so they really are a very efficient marking tool. I do still use coloured chalk pencils for marking dots and small marks but i find these chalk wheels really useful for larger markings.
It’s useful to have a selection of marking tools to choose between, depending on the project and fabric. Here is a selection of the ones I use all the time.
Ever tried to pull elastic through a casing with a safety pin and the pin has pinged open and you’re left in a jam with the pin stuck in the casing and the elastic pulling straight out where it had gone in?! Gaaaaahhhh!
Bodkins are large eyed blunt ended ‘needles’ used to thread tapes or elastic through even the most awkward of gaps! Another absolute must-have in your sewing kit.
7. Imperial and metric tape measure
Many of the new sewing patterns I’ve started using recently are from the USA and the measurements are all in inches! Most quilting patterns and instructions are imperial too. My brain just about works in inches now after some practice but it’s nice to have an easy way to convert measurements with a double sided tape measure! A pretty pink one with a butterfly at the end!
8. Sewing machine needles
Having the right needle for your fabric can make or break a sewing project- use the wrong needle and you could end up with skipped stitches, breaking threads and a whole lot of unpicking. I love the handy packs of mixed needles to cover 3 different fabric types- wovens, knits and leather/pu. I also use microtex needles which have a very fine sharp point, for viscose, satins and delicate, tightly woven fabrics.
9. Finger guards – your finger tip saviours!
Use these silicon finger gaurds when pressing hard to fix fabrics and precise details like box pleats or narrow hems to save your fingertips from getting burnt.
10. Pattern and fabric weights
I am still searching for more glass paperweights like these which were very kindly given to me by a friend. I glued fabric on the underside to create pretty and practical fabric weights. You can use tin cans or jars, smooth pebbles or anything heavy and non-slip to hold your pattern pieces in place on your fabric while you pin them on or trace around them.
So here’s the round up…
Clockwise from left-
Prym chalk wheel – £5; Paper Scissors – available from all good homewares stores; Prym glass headed pins – £5.50; Heart shaped pins – £2.50; Prym Magnetic pincushion – £4.50; Prym Sewing machine needles- mixed pack – £5.50; Prym finger guards – ; Pilot Frixion pens – £3.50; Prym dressmaking sheers – £16; Metric/imperial tape measure – 75p; Also available in our store- 505 temporary spray adhesive – £8.50; Glass fabric weights – hopefully coming soon!!!