Sewing Kit

A short introduction the contents of a kit useful for most hand-sewing projects.

 

Introduction

This webpage is intended to give people an introduction the tools I keep in my hand-sewing workbox. The contents of a workbox vary wildly from person to person based on their preferences and the kind of work they do. I use this box for all of my hand sewing and often when I an working with my sewing machine. If you are new to sewing I hope this page will give you some idea of what your first kit should look like, otherwise I hope you can take away some good ideas of additions to your own kit.

Needles

I generally buy the cheap "Assorted" packs you can find for less than $2 almost anywhere (Walmart, some grocery stores, sewing and craft stores, etc). I loose needles fairly often (although my husband finds them with his feet occasionally) so I buy lots of cheep needles. I also like the multipacks so I have a variety. For most sewing I use the sharps and embroidery needles but that's a personal preference. Most of these packs come with a cardboard disk on the back labeling the needles with size and type. If you find you only use one type in a pack, just start buying those needles.

 

Threaders

Needles come with a needle threader most of the time. Only use mind when I'm sewing late at night and getting tired. Be gentle with these because they are easy to snap if you are rough. They are fairly easy to operate, push wire loop though eye of needle, thread thread though wire loop, pull on metal tab to pull the end of the thread though the needle.  I've always been fascinated with the faces on these, if anyone knows who's face they are, let me know.


Needle Accessories

I have two thimbles, one leather thimble for everyday stuff and one metal for real tough sewing. In most cases I don't use either but on large seams of tough fabrics they are indispensable. Likewise with the needle pullers. They look like jar-openers for barbie but they grip the needle as you try to pull it though a tough spot. If you find yourself needing these for every stitch though consider changing needles.



Thread

I use 100% polyester or cotton wrapped polyester threads. I like Guterman and Coats and Clark Dual Duty. Since I like to have a sewing box I can carry I generally have only a few colors on hand unless I'm doing something special. I always have white and black and then a selection from my current pallet. In this case, blue and green. I also like to have denim-gold thread, khaki and grey on hand just because I find they are the ones I have emergency need for most often.

 

 

Thread Conditioner

While many of use were taught to use beeswax to smooth our thread the 21st century is upon us. I use Thread Heaven (affectionately called "fairy snot" for it's slightly rubbery texture and the bits of glitter mixed into the top layer.) At $3 it maybe one of the most expensive bits in my work-box but I wouldn't be without it. This stuff smooths the thread, gives it a slight static charge and a little lubrication with means less tangles and rough-housing with your fabric. It's also acid-free and won't stain, run or fade your fabric or thread. It's fantastic stuff!


Pins and Pincushion

While I always hoped I would outgrow the need for pinning, the more I sew the more I need them. I use these big flower-headed quilting pins in all my sewing for several reason. They are -long-, more than 2" long in fact. They are easy to find in most fabrics and since they are flat they tend to lay on top of the carpet to be picked up instead of sticking in point up to be stepped on. Since these are relatively expensive I also have some plastic pearl headed pins. Do not buy these at the sewing store. get them in the 2 or 3 packs in the sewing part of the dollar store and never worry about loosing them again.
 In pincushions I like a mix. I store pins for putting in things in a boring tomato pincushion (yes, a tomato, mine is blue) but as I take them out I just drop them on a magnetic in-holder. (Sorry for the lack of picture, my magnetic holder got lost this last week and I haven't replaced it yet.) Once in a while you spend half and hour moving pins off the magnet and back into the tomato but the system seems to work for me. It only takes one hand to put the pin down but I never get poked picking one up..



Thread Scissors

You can use any pair of sharp scissors to cut thread as you sew 9not the ones of cutting cloth for patterns, those should be much larger.) These are stainless steel surgical scissors I picked up at a random tool booth at a computer fair last year. I have about 9 sewing scissors but these are my favorites because of the curved blades and how they fit my hand. Regardless of the scissors you pick, find ones that you can use effortlessly, your attention should be on getting back to the sewing, not on handling the scissors.


Ruler

I'd been sewing for years before I discovered the usefulness on this tool. Mostly I use it for pinning hems up, I cut the them an inch below where it should fall and then use this rules to turn it up evenly all the way around. The sliding plastic marker makes button and buttonhole measurements and breeze too.


Seam Ripper

Absolutely necessary. Get one you like and a second or perhaps third for emergencies. There is nothing more frustrating than not having one of these when you need it and nothing more dangerous to your project then trying to take out seams any other way.


Folder/Poker

Honestly, I don't know what this thing was labeled as when I bought it. I use it for poking out corners in this I've just turned inside out, making creases in fabric (poor-woman's ironing) and for smoothing loose threads into hems before going over them. Not necessary, but very handy.

Marking Tools

I have a whole mess of marking pencils and chalks. I have pencils in 4 colors (while, blue, green and red) all well as white tailors chalk. These things are great for pattern transfer as well as making pieces ("left side", "this way up", "snaps here"). The toothbrush is used for getting marking off fabric in case of a mistake. You can also use the rubber handle rubber across the fabric to remove stray threads after ripping out a seam.



Small Craft Knife

While I cannot recommend taking seams out with this, sometimes it's very satisfying.

Safety Pins

After  my first 20 minutes working on a costuming crew I discovered that and endless supply of 1" steel safely pins would never do me wrong. Once again I get the variety cheap packs and never pay more than $1. I use these to put ribbons and elastic though casings, re-fit clothes temporarily, hold together stray jewelry (instant clasp) and any other random task that duct-tape seems inappropriate for.



Measuring Tape

Essential for fittings all all sorts. If you are making clothes you need one of these.


A Box to Put It All In

This box is the "Sewing Module" from CraftStor I got it on super sale and after a little personal modification (I removed about half the thread spindles in the top tray) it suits me well. Small things and stuff I use all the time go in the top and less essential bits in the bottom. Any basket or box will do for holding your notions but being able to find the thing you want while on the phone with 3 pins in your mouth and one hand holding a seam together is nothing short of priceless. Look around at the various kinds of storage options and pick something that suits your style. Don't shell out $40 on your first box, get a shoe-box or plastic tub and work up to what you need. There is something so frustrating about looking at an expensive pretty sewing basket and thinking how irritating it is to use.
 


A Guide

While ideally we all have a native guide on our sewing journeys, in most cases we are but stumbling in the dark, lighting our way with luck and mistakes. Since my first sewing teachers are now far away from me I decided it was time to purchase that one thing which I swore I would not buy, a how-to-sew book. After making the ladies at my sewing supply store nervous by sitting on the floor by the book rack for 3 hours I chose this plastic-bound volume.

It has been studied and approved by myself and my friends as one of the best ready-reference works on the subject of sewing. Although it seems to be tilted towards pattern sewing (being published by a pattern company and all) it is full of useful information and I have been grateful for it's presence more than once already. At the time of this writing it was $13.50 on Amazon.com  (Clicking this link will take you away from this page but not earn me any money, I have no stake in this book or Amazon.com)

I hope you enjoyed this tour of my workbox. If you have questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

 

-R