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Hints & Tips

Sewing Starter Kit

As with any other new hobby, we can get carried away investing in and buying a load of tools and items without really knowing exactly if, or when, we will use them. Sewing has been a highly skill regarded decades ago, then we jumped on the fast fashion train and we hit the recession head on. As a result, crafts that had been close to obsolete have gradually come into vogue out of necessity at first and to fill a creative gap secondly; and sewing is one of them. We even have a televised competition that sends us all buzzing about with newfound inspiration!


So, what DO you need to start sewing?

Well, assuming you want to do more than mending by hand, you will need a sewing machine. You can find cheap simple machines from well-known brands to try your hand at, and once you have more experience, you can then invest is something flashier. You can also find great second hand sewing machines on the Preloved website.


  • The first thing you will need to do to before you start your project will be to measure and cut out your material. Therefore, you will require a tape measure; a clear, gridded ruler will also come in handy.
  • If you are able to sew in a straight line from day one, then you are a freak of nature. You will probably have the need to draw straight lines onto everything at first. You can use tailor’s chalk or heat-soluble pens that disappear when you iron the fabric.
  • You must never, ever, use the same scissors to cut fabric and paper. Don’t cut anything else but fabric with the specified scissors. Another must is a seam ripper; it’ll be your best friend. You might also want to invest in some smaller scissors to cut smaller pieces of fabric.
  • If you want your cut pieces of fabric to be spot on, you will need to press your fabric. We assume that, if you are an adult, you will have an iron and ironing board; if not, please tell us your secret for an effective ironing-free life. Just make sure the board has a cotton cover and that you have a pressing cloth – it’s just fancy talk for a piece of fabric made of  a natural fibre such as cotton or wool.
  • Never have only one sewing machine needle; needles can break through use, or because there is a lot of resistance on the fabric. Once you have done a couple of projects, you can look into getting different needles for different projects if you want to. You will also need some hand sewing needles of different sizes and widths. Depending on how bad your eyesight is, you might also want to invest in a needle threader.


  • Thread. As much as it is tempting to get a bag for cheap, good quality thread pays off; it is what keeps your project together after all. To begin with you can buy, black, white and neutral toned thread as they will most likely not be visible. Once you start with any top-stitching, then you can coordinate the thread with the fabric.
  • Pins. The standard are the ones with the plastic round top, those work just fine, but remember to take them out before your sewing machine needle reaches them, and you can’t iron over them. A pin cushion might also come in handy.
  • If your sewing machine doesn’t already come with some, you might want to invest in some extra bobbins. Three or four should do to begin with.
  • Bag or box – to store all this in. If sewing is something you are going to do every now and then (you will know when you stop putting the machine away in a cupboard and invest in a table) you might just want to have a sewing box or canvas bag to store everything.
  • Once you get serious about making clothes, we recommend you try making a practice piece for your first few tries out of cast-offs or sale material. Especially if you have bought some special fabric to do the real thing. There are plenty of people out there who give away unwanted fabric, especially sewing shops and schools with a Drama or Textiles Department.


Moving on:

  • A seam gauge will be useful to check small measurements.
  • A rotary cutter allows you to not disturb the fabric; but be warned, absolutely no fingers in the way as you might have to pay a trip to A&E. This cutter is useful for curves, and long lines. You should also invest in a cutting mat.
  • You will discover that there will likely be a pair of scissors for every craft you do. Do some research when you decide to try your hand at appliqué.
  • A pressing ham will come in handy when you start making some more complex garments.
  • A fabric folding pen is rather extraordinary to watch work. It helps when making a crease and straightening a seam.
  • There’s a whole world of sewing machine needles out there. A twin needle will blow-your-mind.
  • Similarly, there’s a wide variety of threads to choose from as well. It’s useful to have different colours and textures.
  • Pattern weights. You could, literally, use anything that is slightly heavy. Cans of baked beans, rocks from your latest hike, etc. The most common ones we have seen around are washers, or cute fabric pyramids filled with rice.
  • Extra feet – for your machine, not for you. Once you use the foot to sew on a button there’s no going back. A zip foot is also indispensable.
  • It is probable that at this point you are slowly taking over a room or area of the house and turning it into your Craft Corner. If so, you might want to start considering having your tools on display so they are within easy reach.

Show us your creations and alterations by tweeting us @Preloved

Zoe Allison

Zoe Allison

Writer and expert