So, to begin my “How to sew for people who have no clue” series, let’s talk about what you are going to need. The first thing that comes to mind usually, other than a sewing machine, is material and patterns. Because, come on, there’s nothing more enticing than a pattern for a gorgeous dress or some yummy fabric. But we’re not going to cover material and patterns in this post because those are such big subjects they really need their own posts.
So, what do you need other than material and patterns?
A sewing machine. Natch. This is probably the hardest decision you will make when starting to sew. What kind of sewing machine should you buy? A Dress A Day has a good answer for this one. But let me add a bit about getting a vintage machine, since that’s what I’m using. Often, you can find a good used machine for half nothing at a thrift store, and sometimes you’ll get really lucky and someone will give you a vintage sewing machine. If the machine has sat unused for several years, or you don’t know if it has been unused for several years, take it into a local repair shop and have it tuned up. If you go to the website for the manufacturer of your machine, you can find where they have authorized repair shops. These are generally good places to go. I had an excellent experience with my local authorized Singer repair shop.
The sewing machine’s manual and accessories. If you don’t buy your machine new and instead get your machine from a thrift shop, it may not come with things you really need like a zipper foot, and in the case of the above picture, a buttonhole foot. It may not come with a manual. You can purchase a manual from eBay, the manufacturer’s website, or you can Google your machine’s name, model number, and the word “manual” and sometimes you can download a PDF of your manual for free.
Once you have a manual, read it from cover to cover. Seriously. Read it twice. This will teach you all about how to use your machine, and it’ll also teach you a bit about sewing. I’ll do a tutorial later on about how to thread your machine, but all sewing machines thread a little bit differently, so it’s important to read your own manual. Read the manual. Read the manual. READ THE MANUAL!
Whoo, got a bit excited there. You’re also going to need bobbins. Lots and lots of bobbins. You can buy bobbins at any fabric store for most models of sewing machines. Just take your bobbin in there or know your model number and brand, and you can buy them fairly cheaply.
Pins and a pincushion. Or something to put your pins in, it doesn’t have to be a tomato like mine. I’m thinking about making myself something I can stick on my wrist, since I seem to leave my tomato across the room whenever I need it to be next to me. This is where having kids comes in handy, though. “Nate, can you bring mommy’s tomato over here?” When my kids grow up, I’m either going to have to train my dog to bring my tomato or else I’m going to have to make that wrist pincushion. Or I could always get up off my lazy tush and get my own tomato. Hmmm, a quandary.
Good, sharp scissors. Ideally, you should have a pair of scissors for cutting fabric, a pair of pinking shears, and a pair to give the kids when they want to cut stuff out because you are cutting stuff out. Never use your good fabric-cutting scissors to cut paper. Ever. Nobody is really sure why, but my mom told me that, her mom told her that, and her mom’s mom told her that. I think it’s a big conspiracy by the scissors companies to sell more scissors.
(Just kidding, cutting paper with scissors dulls them and eventually, they won’t be able to cut fabric. Or so I hear. I’m still thinking conspiracy.)
A steam iron, and an ironing board. Remember yesterday I said you were going to have to become one with the iron? I wasn’t joking. So, if you don’t own a steam iron, get one. If you don’t own an ironing board, get one. You are going to use these a LOT. There’s just no way around it.
A seam ripper. Preferably a good one. Take it from me, either buy a good seam ripper or else never seam rip while angry. Otherwise you’ll end up with the handle of your seam ripper in one hand and the point in your cat’s eye.
Something to mark your patterns with. The cheap way is to use chalk. The not-very expensive but might make you have a coronary from being totally irritated way is to use tracing paper and a tracing wheel. Or you can do a combination of both. Or you can use specially designed markers. Or whatever. Just make sure you mark your patterns. No worries, we’ll get to this in its very own tutorial. But if you start without me, mark your patterns.
A nice, floppy measuring tape. Sure, you could always use a string and a carpenter’s measuring tape, but accuracy is key. Not to mention I have six measuring tapes. Six RETRO measuring tapes. Let me know if you need one. Centimeters not included.
More measuring implements. I have no idea what the blue thing is called, but it sure is handy to have. The only problem with these blue things is that they tend to just vanish, so get two. You also need a ruler and a yardstick. Well, you technically don’t have to have a yardstick, but it’s handy to have to help you cut things out straight and draw straight lines, etc. I don’t have a yardstick yet, but I’m going to steal acquire one from my mother very soon.
Something to put all your junk in. Or else you’ll lose something you need and then you’ll go stomping around grumbling about how the kids moved the very item you need, and then you’ll find it under your seat cushion just where you left it. Well, maybe that’s just me. But definitely get a place to keep your stuff.
And that’s all I’ve got for you, except a link to another “basic stuff you need to start sewing with” for your perusing pleasure. Our lists are pretty similar because, well, there’s only so much stuff you need to start sewing. But hers and mine are a bit different, so go check out Life With Monkey’s list while you’re at it.