Your Sewing Kit – The Essentials

30 Jun

So I have blogged about sewing machines and I have blogged about mannequins, what about all the other bits and bobs that you need to get sewing?

You can buy starter kits, with a rainbow of threads, fabric scissors, snips, pins, 2 white buttons(?!) etc but I would urge you to consider buying your kit in separate pieces. These start kits are not made with quality in mind and are a complete false economy. So buy everything individually instead. To become a sewing goddess you will need:

Good Fabric Scissors

Anyone who knows me, particularly anyone I have taught or worked with will know I am a madman when it comes to my fabric scissors. Your fabric scissors are for fabric only! Not paper, not bloody plastic box strapping, JUST FABRIC. Good scissors can be expensive but if you look after them they will last you years. I have two pairs of Mundial Shears that I bought in 2005 when I started University. They’ve lasted an absolute treat. I sharpen them every so often by folding over a piece of tin foil and cutting through it several times. This keeps them pretty sharp. I recently bought a pair of 12 inch Janome shears even though I had no need for them. I had a voucher for a Glasgow fabric shop called Mandors and the time limit was running out. So I freaked and ordered £42 scissors. Turns out my hands are too wee to even use them. I can’t open them up fully it’s a nightmare so they’ll be on Ebay soon no doubt!

If you are planning on taking your equipment to a sewing class, I would suggest putting an identifying mark on them somewhere. In uni we all had the same equipment so you can image the nightmare that caused. I use a tiny scrap of red gingham to identify my scissors.

Tip: You assume that people know how to cut with scissors. My experience is that about 50% of people don’t use scissors correctly and there are a few tips that can make the cutting experience a breeze. Firstly, and most condescendingly(sorry), the small hole is for your thumb and the larger oblong hole is for your fingers. I have witnessed so many people holding them the other way. Life is easier if you hold them the correct way as the blades are in line with the oblong hole for a reason. Which brings me to my second, less condescending point – Always keep the lower blade in contact with the surface your are cutting on. It helps if the surface is smooth as the bottom blade should glide along your cutting table. This allows you to keep a steady hand and cut a nice smooth line instead of a jaggy one! It also helps when cutting smooth curves and makes the whole experience a lot less traumatic. My students often talk about getting ‘the fear’ before they cut fabric. I know this is mostly because there’s no going back once you have cut it and fabric is expensive but the other part is that cutting, if done incorrectly, can be a nightmare.

Anyway, whilst having a look on Ebay I found these bad boys:

OH MY! Love them.

Paper Scissors

Paper scissors are not so important. I wouldn’t spend a fortune on them but use the tin foil trick to keep them sharp. You will use these to cut out paper patterns. My 8inch Mundial shears(above) became my paper scissors. I’ve dropped them so many times that they became too loose to cut fabric with. Apparently you can tighten them but I don’t personally know He-Man and I think he is the ONLY man for that job.

Snips/Small Thread Scissors

Again, snips and thread scissors are not so important. Cheap ones are fine, so are novelty ones like mine! These are actually very sharp embroidery snips and I do eff all embroidery but I’m a sucker for anything that is fashion over function so there!

Pins and a Pin Cushion

Good quality pins are worth their weight in gold. You also want to use appropriate pins for your project. If you are dealing with delicate fabric you need to get Bridal or Lace Pins. These tend to be thinner to avoid leaving marks or pulling the fabric. A pin cushion is also a useful accessory. I have pin cushions for the pins I am using immediately and little sweetie tins for all the pins I am not using. Below is my Kath Kidston pin cushion that my lovely London bessie mate sent me for my birthday(amongst other lovely L’Occitane goodies OBV. It’s not all sewing in this house!). Isn’t it cute?!

Good Quality Thread

Good quality thread is an absolute must!! If you buy your thread from the likes of IKEA then it will break under the tension from your machine and this will drive you mad! Go for a brand name like Coats or Gutermann. These threads will not break in your machine and more importantly will not break in your finished item, which is more important!

Good Quality Chalk

Chalk is used for marking pattern pieces onto fabric before cutting. Chalk pencils can be good as you can sharpen them to get a nice fine line of chalk but there are a lot of cheap ones out there that won’t mark your fabric. You can also get fabric markers which disappear with time and air. These are good for accuracy as they give you an excellent fine line. But if you mark something and come back to it those marks could be gone. Another option is the blocks of chalk. These will last you forever but they can get very blunt, chalking a 4mm line which isn’t great for accuracy. So here is my favourite chalk invention:

This is a chalk pencil with removable ‘lead’. These are excellent and you can sharpen them to stay accurate. I first used one of these when I worked in a Bespoke Bridal Boutique and I have never looked back! You can buy them here

The final element is a realistic approach to learning. If you are just starting you’re not going to start dressmaking in week one – despite what some’ beginner’ sewing classes may tell you! Take it one step at a time. If you can find a good sewing class in your area, go! Having someone else show you what to do and meeting like minded people will improve you enjoyment. My definition of a good sewing class is one that has a structure and one that start at the absolute basics. You can’t expect someone who has never seen a sewing machine before to jump right into constructing an item before they even know what stitches to use!! A structured class will teach you the basics and then move onto small projects every week that incorporate key sewing skills such as putting in a zip or creating a button hole. At the end of the course you should have an excellent understanding of the basic sewing elements and be able to move onto whichever garment/item you please. Too many sewing courses these days say, ” HEY bring along a pattern in week one and we’ll get your dressmaking!!”. This is unrealistic and believe me you will not be dressmaking in week one, or two, and you’ll go home and find you didn’t actually learn anything really. Without the tutor you won’t have the confidence to give things a go.

That’s my rant over. Obviously I am completely biased as I am a tutor who believes that a basic skill set combined with the confidence to go it alone makes for a happy and successful student. I know it works though, as I’ve been shocked on many occasions at the speed at which some people learn and pick up sewing!

INCIDENTLY I will be starting up my sewing classes in Glasgow again. Keep your eyes peeled here and here for updates!

So that is the essential kit(wait for updates as I wake up in the night in a cold sweat having suddenly remembered something else essential). Feel free to comment with other essentials that I have missed out!



One Response to “Your Sewing Kit – The Essentials”

  1. Konnie Kapow! July 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Good tips Jenny! Incidentally, I got my fabric scissors in ALDI. I have about 3 pairs and a pair of snips which cost me about £7 in total. They’re great but they only have them in every so often.

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