Essential Sewing Supplies
Alison Smith MBE shares with us how to build the essential sewing toolkit
Do you wonder how often you should revise your sewing kit and replace and renew items? The more sewing you do, the more you need to have all the correct equipment at your fingertips. Here are my favourite tools which I think every sewist needs!
Shears: When choosing, make sure your hand span can open the whole blade. For most women this is an 8½ or 9" blade. Choose comfortable handles too, hard plastic handles can dig in and cause wheals if cutting out chunky fabric.
Trimming scissors: A smaller pair of scissors is also required to trim and clip seams, maybe a 6" pair.
Thread snips: These are also a great addition to your sewing kit and they do just as they say – snip thread!
Pinking shears: A new pair of pinking shears is heaven. I use mine to trim corners, layer seams and of course neaten seams when using some couture techniques.
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Machine needles: A good selection of these needles is essential. You should buy a new needle for each new project and ensure you buy good-quality needles. There are many needles on the market now and each needle is designed for a different job, so buy yourself a selection to keep on hand.
Hand sewing needles: Again there are many on the market but for accurate hand-stitching
try a Milliners size 9 – these needles have a tiny eye that does not leave a hole.
How should you store your needles? Try needle twisters! They come in lovely bright colours and needles cannot fall out as they are held in place by a magnet.
Pins: Like needles, come in many sizes and types. For my couture sewing I use the long, fine pins that have red heads. They bend easily but are just lovely to use. I also love the pearl-headed pins for thicker fabric.
Keep your pins in a pincushion to protect the points and keep them sharp. I have different pincushions for different pins.
Thread: As well as sewing machine thread try basting thread. This thread is great for tailor's tacks and holding layers in place. It’s a little thicker and coarser than the all-purpose
thread so it doesn't fall out as quickly!
Tweezers: A pair of tweezers is essential, especially to aid threading the overlocker and of course to remove any stray tacking threads from tailor's tacks. There are some lovely
decorative tweezers you can use these days but make sure they meet at the points and will grip a thread.
Cutting board: I rarely use a rotary cutter but I do like a cutting board next to my sewing machine to keep my work on. The fabric tends not to move around so much on a cutting board when you may be manipulating it.
Tape measure: This is an essential! Make sure you regularly take accurate body measurements to make sure your garments fit you as they should.
Seam guauge: There are many types on the market. You need at least one, whether it be an adjustable type or non adjustable or maybe both.
Pattern master: Whilst I am talking about measuring tools I could not be without my pattern master. This strange-shaped plastic measuring tool is invaluable for drafting and altering patterns due to its curved and straight edges.
Iron: A good iron is a must have. You can now get a one temperature iron. These are amazing – they will go from pressing silk to denim and never scorch or catch. The secret is in the sole plate.
Pressing aids: I advise keeping hams and seam rolls on hand. I would also recommend point pressers, a wooden clapper and, of course, a silk organza pressing cloth. Cut a piece of silk organza around 80cm-square and overlock the raw edges. Voila!
About Alison Smith MBE
Awarded an MBE for her services to dressmaking, Alison is an industry expert in classic couture and a published author. Alison has her own shop and line of patterns, and you can also learn with her at one of her exclusive workshops. Find out more on her website www.schoolofsewing.co.uk