Essentials sewing start up tool kit
It's a brand new year and you've decided that 2018 is the year you're going to sew! Hooray and welcome to this mad, mad world inhabited by lovely, crazy, artistic, creative, introverted, extroverted, mums, dads, singles, the youngs and the olds!
You've made a great decision. Sewing is fantastic, and it's for everyone :) I've found it to be a really supportive industry, even in the competitive small business arena, and there are some great groups to join on Facebook and follow on Instagram.
Want to know my thoughts on what you need in your your tool kit to get you going?
Here are my top 10 items every home sewer needs to get started:
1. Sewing machine
This is an entire topic on its own but predominantly comes down to your budget and what type of sewing you want to do. Will you be doing embroidery? Will you need overlocker functions? Machines range from <$100 to literally thousands of dollars!
The best 2 retail stores in Australia (in my opinion) are Spotlight and Hobbysew. They each have a great range of machines and offer affordable and more expensive options. Spotlight are ALWAYS having a sale so if you see a machine you like and it isn't on sale and you can wait a bit, sit tight, a sale will be just around the corner. They're great like that!
I went for a fairly basic machine but with enough functionality to get a little bit fancy if I needed to and picked up my first sewing machine (the ELNA 2000) at less than half price in a Spotlight sale and only spent $99 for a $249 machine, yes that's right, bargain!!!!!!
My husband treated me for my birthday and bought me an overlocker from Hobbysew in their recent Janome sale and paid $299 for a $599 machine. Bide your time, the sales will come!
My only other tip here would be that if you have a local seller, franchiser, sewing shop, go and see them and get to know them. They LOVE talking anything sewing and will be a good friend to make as you learn to navigate your way through this crazy new world. They'll help you with fabrics, needles, threads, may offer courses and a whole heap more benefits such as social sewing clubs etc.
You'll most likely only need two basic types of thread to get started (there are MANY more!), being cotton and polyester.
A general rule of thumb when selecting which thread to use is that cotton thread should be used on cotton fabric and polyester thread on almost everything else (there is also silk thread but I won't cover that off here as I don't think it's a must-have to get you started).
Polyester is my go-to every day thread. It's stronger, tends to tangle with the bobbin thread less and is stiffer, so it's a bit easier to thread through the needle. Some of my products are microwaveable so I can only use cotton thread on those as it's not flammable (polyester could catch flames). Polyester also has a much larger colour range than cotton.
Thread comes in many different lengths from 100m to 1000m. I sew A LOT so only buy the 1000m threads, they're also cheaper per meter for the larger spools.
For a greater in depth break down on threads and uses, check out this article from Made To Sew.
3. Unpicker / Seam Ripper
If you don't have one of these already, put your phone, tablet or laptop down step away from your desktop and GO AND BUY ONE NOW. This little beauty is about to become your best friend.
I was a little nervous when I first started sewing, about the whole sewing bit. I'd spent my hard earned cash on some beautiful fabrics and I didn't want to waste my money and ruin the fabric with wobbly lines, missed hems and the like. THEN my mum introduced me to the seam ripper and all my Christmases came at once. Sew, sew, sew like the wind my friends and if it goes awry, you sew something on upside down, inside out, back to front (because IT WILL HAPPEN), whip your little friend out, unpick it, and start again.
You'll find different techniques work better for you as you use this little ripper as you undo different types of stitches to get the job done faster. It's trial and error but you'll work it out. Let me know if you have any top tips!
I recommend getting the best Fabric scissors you can afford. Go to a store and try them in your hand if you can. They need to feel comfortable and not too heavy. And for heaven's sake do not use them on paper! There are good affordable scissors by Fiskars and Semco and I'm sure a lot more expensive ones by others. Again, it mostly comes down to your budget.
Don't they sound cute! Cute sounding they may be but DO NOT GET YOUR FINGER CAUGHT in these bad boys! The blades are sawtooth (instead of straight like normal scissors), they hurt as much as that sounds.
These aren't necessarily in the must-have list but they are really handy if you don't have an overlocker. Cutting your fabric with sheers can help stop fabrics from fraying too easily.
5. Pin Cushion (if using pins)
Ok, ok, I admit it, I made these two as one of my very first "sewing" projects (no sewing required). One for me, one for mum. Aren't they just the cutest! And yes, I do think my 12-year old nephew has better gluing skills than I, alas, they do the trick and my mum's happy :) These jar versions are also handy for storing safety pins or you could put buttons in the jar as well. If you Google Pin Cushions you will see there are many different versions to choose from. Do you want a jar? A wrist version? Something subtle or a little more fun like a lady beetle?
Here's a short YouTube on how to make one:
6. Pins / Wonder Clips
I started off using pins and soon got sick of stabbing my finger so searched for an alternative solution and found these Wonder Clips. These will save you sew much time and will handle 90% of your pinning requirements. As long as you're pinning an edge, I'd highly recommend using these. If you need to pin something further away from an edge then use pins or even pattern weights might do the job.
Pins can leave holes in your fabrics (and fingers). I've found the Wonder Clips to be much quicker to use, have less potential for tearing holes in your fabric and don't leave blood trails as pin pricks can do!
I also use my Wonder Clips to hand up my products after they've been completed when I fabric spray them, they fit perfectly on a small foldable hanging rack (they don't fit our larger rack as the rails are a little bit thicker).
I found my Wonder Clips on Ebay and got 100 for a few dollars from our friends in China.
7. Cutting Mat, Rotary Cutter & Ruler
Because of the sewing I do, which is mainly homewares and non-clothing items, I cut a lot of straight lines. A self-healing cutting mat is another must-have in my opinion. A good large mat to use with your rotary cutters will save you sew much time both cutting fabric lengths and also for your patterns, you'll be much more assured of getting those beautiful straight lines we all pine for and the mat protects your surface from being damaged by your cutter.
Cutting mats come in various shapes and sizes and colours, choose one a bit bigger than you think you'll need, big mats are wonderful!
Yes I know, this is really three products but if you buy them together it counts as just one right? :)
I bought this ruler from Spotlight, it's a good length for the mat I bought and I have no complaints so far. How much can you say about a ruler?
I'd never heard of a Rotary Cutter before I started sewing and once I came across them I just thought, wow, what an amazing underworld the sewing realm is with their kooky little products for this and that! I have since found all of the items on my list are just the VERY BEGINNING of this crazy world called 'SEWING'.
Anyway, back to the cutter, this is one of those products that you cannot live without if you cut a lot of fabrics, just go and get one and get yourself some spare blades while you're at it. I know I'm not supposed to (I can be a bit of a rebel at times) but I use my rotary cutter to make my cardboard product templates as well (more about that in a blog to come!). It dulls them a bit over time, however I need my templates to be as sharp and straight as possible and these do the job perfectly.
There is so much to be said about passion. You can Google it and you'll get millions of hits on inspirational quotes, definitions, images. I think we all have a basic understanding at the very least as to what passion means. My very simple take on passion is that it's a feeling that drives you towards a pleasurable action, it's something worth getting out of bed for, a need that requires fulfilling.
For me and sewing, it's when I found myself annoyed by interruptions, thinking there weren't enough hours in the day to get my sewing done, when I wanted to spend money on improving the lighting in my sewing space because I couldn't see quite as well at midnight as I could at midday (rather than going to bed "We need more lights!" I proclaimed).
My passion for sewing took me by surprise, and my family too! My mum helped me thread my first machine and from then I've barely turned it off and gone on to set up this new business. It's a drive deep within me that has meant that sewing has never been a chore, it's always a pleasure. Be it for personal projects or work, I thrive on what I'm going to design and create next. Spending time shopping for fabric, creating new products and templates, washing, cutting, sewing, ironing and seeing the final product that I have made.
The moment that feeling goes will be the moment I re-evaluate where I'm at and whether I'm still on the right path. For me right now, sewing is a like my favourite vodka, I won't stray from my favourite brand (Vodka O by the way, it's organic and originally made in Sydney so that's 3 huge benefits in one bottle. They're slogan is "Passion for Purity", I love that) and cheat on it by starting knitting or crochet. I must sew. And I must sew EVERY DAY!
You will need buckets of this and a good supporting husband (blatant shout out for my brilliant landscape photographer husband Stuart (www.stuarttownsend.com.au) for without him and his trust, encouragement and support I wouldn't be able to do this!!!!) or partner will be even handier to make and deliver hot cups throughout the long days and nights when you're head down in your sewing, forgetting to eat and drink, busy creating, designing, working on custom orders or even blogging away like I am now :)
If I've been sewing for a good while Stu will often make me a large coffee from our coffee machine in a large takeaway cup rather than our small coffee cups, I have loads of these as I use them for display when I have a market stall. And yes, of course we use our Cup Cozies!!
10. A project
There are some great starter projects for beginners available for free on the internet. I kept my costs low and bought a few Fat Quarters (fat quarters are quarter yards of fabric, generally around 45-50cm square but sizes do vary - oh and if you're used to doing everything in centimetres and metres, get used to inches and yards in the sewing world!) and looked for 'Fat Quarter Projects for Beginners free patterns' on Google. Some of my first projects included:
- Baby burp cloths (I'd just had my second child)
- Baby bibs
- Cup Cozies
- Table runners
- Grocery bag holders
- Heat packs
- Anything else anyone asked me to make for them :)
You'll see I still make these and now sell them (they were so popular with my friends and family!).
Try and start with something square, or straight lined, and build up to arcs and circles. Arcs and circles take a bit of skill to do well as you need to be able to handle corners smoothly, slowly and with a bit of skill (if you're anything like me, a bit of a perfectionist, you will want your arcs and circles to be smooth and not jagged).
Oops, I said Top 10 right? Oh well, it's my blog, I'll do 11 if I want to :)
It's also handy to have a small-medium sewing basket or box to put your most used accessories and thread in. I keep mine on the sewing table but it can easily be packed away when needed. Alternatively (or also!) I originally started with a set of 4 drawers on wheels for just $29 from Kmart. The sewing machine stores nicely away on top of it and I store the sewing machine manual, threads, scissors, patters, ribbons, trims, craft boxes (for buttons and fasteners), glue....you name it! It all stores very neatly away and is a great starting point plus the wheels make it easy to move around.
So, there you have it, my top 10 (or 11).
Have I missed anything?
Needles! I'll cover off needles next week :)
Sew-long for now,
PS. I am not being paid for any of these links, I just think they’re awesome :)