Sewing Essentials For Beginners

Sewing can be a mystifying world, the language, the equipment and even the space required can feel like a barrier. Today I want to talk you through my essential sewing equipment and talk about starting.

Sewing is an interesting hobby as while most of us start with the same basic ingredients it is possible to create wildly different garments or create the same effect using entirely different techniques. The world of sewing is awash with hacks, tricks and tips for all levels of sewers. On top of that everyone’s sewing space looks different. Some people have a room to themselves some people make do with the Kitchen table. Even the language of sewing can be mystifying to a beginner so below I have unnumerated my basic essentials and what I work with on a daily basis. What is important is there is no one single formula for sewing.

If you are still look at me going, “yes but where do I start?”, I have listed what I consider to be my sewing box essentials that I can’t do anything without. Over the years I have built up my own equipment store purely based on things I actually like using and make me better rather than panic buying fancy equipment that I wont ever feel confident using.

  • Sewing Machine (Obviously)

This is my little red sewing machine, a John Lewis JL110SE, bought in 2015. Until then I used my mum’s Janome machine. I am currently saving up for a new one next year as this one won’t really do denim or thick fabrics such as wool. However this machine is an ideal starting place as it will do about 90% of the things you need it to do as an experienced sewer and 100% of the things you need to do as a beginner. Honestly I wouldn’t be thinking about getting a new machine but I used one of the Pfaff Quilting Machines on a sewing course and I fell in love and would now like a machine with some of the automatic features.

  • Quick Unpick

The dressmaker’s best friend! Apart from a needle and a sewing machine the quick unpick allows you to fix all of your mistake and re-do a technique again and again until you get it right. A quick unpick costs almost nothing but I don’t think I have gone a single day without using one since I started sewing, which may be an indictment of my sewing more than anything. Its one of the more wonderful things about sewing that you can fix your mistakes pretty easily in most cases.

  • Dressmaking Pins & Pin Cushion

Here is my gorgeous little pin cushion that my mum got me when i first started sewing. One of my favourite things about it is that has a band underneath so I can wear it on my wrist while I’m pinning. Especially good when working on something big or on mannequins. In terms of pins everyone is different. Some people use pins when cutting out patterns, some pattern people just use pattern weights but pins are nearly always used for seams, hems and fabric to fabric work. The only time I’ve not used pins was when making a bra because the fabrics are so fine, fiddly and sheer that you don’t want to make any holes.

  • Tailors Chalk / Pencils

Everyone transfers marks from patterns differently. Personally I favour dressmaking pencils, can you tell which one I use more? I transfer marks through with these on the wrong side of the fabric and then they wash off afterwards which is great. For fabrics that you don’t want to draw on you can use a pattern wheel which is a little spikey wheel, that looks a bit like a cowboy’s book spur, but allows you to imprint lines such as darts on to the fabric without drawing or marking it in any other way. The usefulness of this will depend on the fabric you are using but I found it helpful on lighter fabrics. The pencils have been with me for a lot longer and are definitely my favourite method.

  • Fabric Scissors

In the context of sewing, I really don’t think its possible to have too many pairs of scissors. I have a weird love for sewing scissors because they are just so sharp and effective and there are so many different types. Below is my current collection of scissors including pinking shears, fabric scissors, regular scissors and embroidery scissors and a small Stanley knife for button holes and very fiddly cutting out.

  • Steam Iron

I wont insult you with a picture of an iron because hopefully you all know what a steam iron looks like. I hate that this has to be on the list as I’m an extremely lazy ironer but ironing is absolutely central to sewing. Ironing at every single stage of the process is vital so you have to make sure you have a good iron to hand. My iron is slightly terrible so I will be purchasing a new one as soon as I can! (Any recommendations please put in the comments below)

These are the most basic but essential items that are central to sewing if you’re looking for a beginners list of equipment. What’s in your sewing essentials toolkit?

Welcome To… So What If I Sew

Welcome to the So What If I Sew blog, a place for me to learn new sewing techniques, explore different patterns and document my progress as I go.

The Blog Logo

As a human being my three main hobbies are reading, yoga and sewing. Yes I enjoy other things but those are the three that I am genuinely extremely passionate about. Sewing is also one of those hobbies that comes with an incredible community spirit which is lovely. I wanted to make this blog because I really love sewing and I feel like I have actually have something to share. I want to document my own progress as well. I inserted a sleeve perfectly yesterday for the first time and it made me realise how far I have come in just a year. This blog is all about progress, projects and developing new skills.

Sewing has always been a big part of my life; growing up I was surrounded by sewing. I was lucky enough to have an incredibly skilled mother who taught me the basics of sewing at a young age and did various sewing projects with me such as bunting and quilts. Once, on one memorable occasion, we saw an amazing pillow in a fabric shop that wasn’t for sale so mum decided we would get the exact same fabrics and we replicated it perfectly at home. I have always been quite headstrong and I just wanted to get on with it but sewing requires patience. Before I was event allowed thread and fabric, my mum taught me to machine sew by drawing lines on paper and getting me to sew along the paper until I could sew straight. She had endless patience with me and still does. Even now I ring her up even though I live hundreds of miles away to get her to talk me through facings, sleeve insertions and demystify sewing language for me. I started sewing in earnest in 2014 and now I am here in 2020. I have made multiple garments that I wear often and now I can do zips, sleeves, bust adjustments, bodices, dresses and even wired bra’s!

One of my favourite things about sewing is fit. The ability to create a garment perfectly crafted for your own body is so incredible to me. Fit is something I have always struggled with as I have what would best be described as a 1940’s build and its hard to find modern clothes that fit everywhere. Hence my particular interest in pattern hacks and pattern drafting. I am hoping one day to draft an entire dress pattern from scratch based on my own measurements.

What is the main focus of the blog?

  • Patter Adjustments & Pattern Drafting – Fit is so important to me and I can’t wait to document the tricks I am learning.
  • Dressmaking – I’m not really a “craft” sewing person, I don’t make things, occasionally I will make a quilt or similar but my main focus has always been clothes.
  • Improving my sewing – The main reason I am doing it is to document my sewing and see how much I’m improving.

I want to start a public blog to add my voice to the sewing community and contribute the little amount of experience I have. Sewing is a hobby you have for life, its a skills that never really leaves you and no matter what there is always something you can make. My big project for the next month is a Shirt Dress and for this year I want to make my own coat! I have a lot of sewing practice left to do and lots of garments to make along the way but that is my next big milestone. Hopefully you will all join me on my sewing journey!