Sunday, 14 February 2010

Inside the Sewing Toolbox

When I started out on my quest to learn about sewing, I was so excited buying my first sewing kit, but when I didn't really know what it should contain. My first sewing kit contained one pair of dressmaking scissors, a tape measure, a seam ripper, a small box of pins, some hand sewing needles, a pin cushion, a needle threader and a thimble. This kit saw me through my sewing classes with no problems at all. However, when my dressmaking course finished I wanted to carry on my own using the free resources on the Internet.  I gradually built up a collection of other useful sewing items, which I want to share to help you when deciding on your own sewing tools.

I have inserted useful links to explain in more detail about the item I am writing about.

Sewing Machine

I brought a Brother ES2020 computerised sewing machine online over a year ago. At the time of ordering, I wasn't exactly sure what I was looking for and this being my first sewing machine I wanted to make sure it did what I thought I wanted it to do. I gave myself a budget, researched the different specifications and then made my decision.The only feature I wished I would have had is a needle threader as sometimes threading needles is so time consuming and frustrating.


Overlockers, also known as Sergers, cut as they sew seams I brought mine when it was on special at Aldi’s, as I have never experienced using one before and didn’t want to spend a lot of money.


Scissor Collection

*Do not cut paper with your sewing scissors as it blunts the blade.*

  • Dress Making Scissors- I keep these only to use when cutting fabric.
  • Pinking Shearers- these have a zigzag edge to them used for decorative cutting and to stop fabrics fraying when cutting.
  • Everyday Scissors - for cutting paper, elastic etc
  • Small Hobby Scissors -  for cutting threads.
  • Threader Cutters – for cutting stray threads, which keeps from blunting your sewing scissors.

Rotary Cutter, Steel Edged Ruler & Cutting Mat

Recently I have invested in buying a 45mm Olfa rotary cutter, steel edged ruler and A1 size cutting mat. Sometimes when cutting fabric I can not get it as accurate as I would like. Using the rotary blade and mat should enable me to be quicker and more efficient with cutting fabric. I found some useful videos on Youtube for using a cutting mat and cutter.

Sewing Gauge

As you can see from the picture of a sewing gauge  it is a ruler with a moveable level in the middle, which you use to line up a seam and can check that it measures the same distance along the rest of the seam.

Chalk/ Markers

The dressmaking chalk  I bought came in a pack of 3, white, blue and orange for using on different colour fabrics. I find I am always using this when marking on the material to work out where I need to cut. Though check on scrap fabric to see if it comes off before applying on your best.

Tape Measures

  • Retractable dress making tape measure - This is great to fit in my bag when I'm out and about as I can measure things quickly. With it being a retractable one it doesn't take up much room.
  • Flexible Dress Making Tape Measure - Useful for measuring parts of the body and anything with a shape to it.
  • Sturdy Tape Measure - The type you see in a DIY shops, I got mine from a bargain shop for a £1.00. This is used for measuring out fabric pieces prior to cutting, as the tape measure is flat and rigid and will not bend.


A Steam iron is preferred for pressing out the creases in fabric prior to begining a project. When using an iron try not to get in the habit of ironing out the fabric, this can actually stretch and damage it. Add pressure to the crease and lift the iron, use this technique to carry on around the fabric. Recently, I have heard about Mini-Irons and hope I can buy one of these one day. With its smaller size, it gives more control when flattening seams and using bias tape.

Pressing Cloth

I use a scrap piece of cotton fabric for mine, though they are available to purchase from sewing shops. There is no difference between a homemade pressing cloth and a store-bought one, it may be more convenient to buy a pressing cloth if you do not have any spare cotton fabric lying around.


  • Plastic, colourful heads - Great for seeing in your fabric and when you drop on the floor. Not so great for when your pressing the fabric, they melt.
  • Steel head - Brilliant for when pressing fabric, though these are quite small pins to use and can be fiddly.


I have a variety of sewing machine needles and also hand sewing needles. They do blunt after time and its best to replace them regularly for both the machine and hand use. It is recommended to replace needles after each project or after 8 hours of continuous sewing. This has not been the case for me so far, as I have broken more needles than I should.


Protect your finger when hand sewing. When buying a thimble check the size. I have picked up a few and I am not completely comfortable in using them, so I end up not using them and say “ouch” a lot.

Seam Ripper

Very useful for undoing seams, it is a slow process taking the stitches out but worth it if you've gone wrong. Also can be used for opening up button holes.


I read once that if you can physically break the thread in your hands then its not worth buying it. Quality threads are needed for sewing, you don't want to spend hours sewing just to watch it unravel again later. I found an interesting article which explains the difference types of threads at All Free Crafts.


There are thousands of different styles of fabrics out there for numerous projects. I like to buy fabrics from Abakhan in North Wales, which has a great selection of cheap end-of-rolls, bargain-bags of fabrics which are brilliant for practising on. They have a wide selection of dress making and soft furnishing fabrics with all the latest trends. As well as all the trimmings and other sewing needs.

Dress Making Form

I decided to make my own dress making form out of duct tape, it was fun to do and saved a lot of money. There are plenty of dress making forms out on the market but making one to your own measurements will mean clothes will be made to your requirements and clothes should fit very well. I haven’t really made any clothes that have been successful, so it has not been used much yet. This will hopefully change in the near future as I want to experiment with making my own clothes.


Toolboxes are useful for storing all your sewing equipment in. Its best to shop around and look at the different varieties before making a decision. Mine I brought from Wilkinson’s for a couple of pounds and still really like it.


What do you keep in your sewing toolbox?  Are items you cannot live without? I would love to hear your comments.

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