As a beginner seamstress (or beginner tailor), getting all the accessories you need to learn how to sew requires money and method. Making a “shopping list” to buy the necessary accessories for your sewing box is not easy when you have just taken your first sewing lesson.

All the new information can be overwhelming, especially since you will need to optimise your haberdashery purchases if you want to save money. Whether for sewing, embroidery or mending, to make men’s or women’s clothing - all of these activities require different sewing accessories.

Before learning to sew and taking sewing lessons, you will need to:

  • Choose your sewing machine
  • Buy the fabric your need
  • Choose the right type of thread
  • Draw or buy sewing patterns
  • Have the right sewing supplies in you sewing box: a measuring tape, French curves, a small ruler, a square, a rotary cutter, sewing scissors, safety pins, tailor’s chalk…
  • Acquire all the necessary equipment for your new sewing machine (bobbins, sewing machine needles….)

Some like to get a craft kit for their first project, as they have everything you need to finish the project: fabric, sewing pattern, cutting tools, assorted threads - everything you need to make learning how to sew as simple as possible.

How To Choose Your Sewing Machine

Trying to learn to sew without taking sewing courses inevitably involves asking yourself how to choose a sewing machine.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that hand sewing is a significant time-eater, especially if you want to do home dec - sewing your own drapes, pillowcases or throws - or if you want to make your own clothes (jeans, trousers, skirts, child’s dress, bib…) and that a sewing machine is a good investment. Or you might even want to venture into machine embroidery for exciting, colourful motifs to liven up a bag or pouch.

Find the right sewing machine for your needs.
The right sewing machine will make your life so much easier. Photo by normanack on Visualhunt

So what sewing machine should you choose? What type of machine is right for you, and what brand should you buy: Singer, Pfaff, Husqvarna, Brother?

Here are some of the criteria they should consider when buying a sewing machine:

  • What sort of sewing you want to do (plain sewing or embroidery)
  • The type of stitches you need
  • Your sewing skills
  • The type of sewing machine (mechanical or computerised sewing machine)
  • Your budget
  • The brand and options on the sewing machine

On the one hand, you need to reflect on what you will be using your new Bernina sewing machine for - no need for an overlock sewing machine with 150 different stitches and costing over £1,000 if you just want to learn how to stitch cute totes.

Indeed, you will need a different sort of stitch or presser foot depending on whether you are sewing zips, a silk dress, making a bear-claw quilt or to simply hemming a trouser leg. A computerised sewing machine will be more expensive, but easy to use for beginners since all the adjustments are done automatically.

However, a mechanical sewing machine is better for smaller budgets but generally requires certain basic sewing skills, since all the adjustments need to be done manually. This also gives you a lot more possibilities for your sewing projects.

Finally, you should look at the different options offered by the different sewing machine brands: number of stitches, automatic buttonhole stitch, length and width adjustment, threader, different presser feet.

 SilverCrest SNM 33Singer StarletHusqvarna Viking E10Singer Simple 3232Pfaff Smarter 160 SJanome Skyline S3Pfaff Expression 3.5
Number of stitches3316204023120200
Buttonhole stitchAutomatic, 4 steps4 step4 step1 step1 step7 steps16 steps
Length adjustmentyesyesyesyesnoyesyes
Width adjustmentyesnonoyesyesyesyes
Speed adjustmentnoyesnoyesyesyesyes
Presser feet5454578
Weight6 kg7.5kg6.3 kg7.5 kg6.3 kg10 kg10.6 kg

For a beginner, a fairly inexpensive sewing machine is enough to have fun and see if you want to continue sewing as a hobby.

You can start taking sewing classes Glasgow here.

A Guide to Beginner Sewing Kits

When starting out, finding the right beginner sewing project kit could be a good alternative to sewing classes and buying out your local haberdasher’s. As a beginner sewer, you know as much about sewing as you do about quantum physics or evolutionary biologist (unless, of course, they are a quantum physicist), but if you want to sew a dress or make your own purse rather than buy it, a beginner sewing kit might be just the thing.

There are basic sewing supply kits that contain everything you need to start sewing and are optimised for all the basics: tacking, cutting, basting, small sewing craft projects, hemming, mending…

Or you can try sewing craft kits. There are many reasons for deciding on a sewing kit:

  • You don’t know how to sew
  • You only want to do one project (and why spend a lot on sewing supplies for one project?)
  • You want to make a personalised gift without risking too much

There are a lot of haberdasheries offering beginner sewing creative kits, such as:

Thanks to various beginner sewing kits, children as young as 7 can learn to sew - just the right age to start sewing, when their neural plasticity is at its highest. Craft kits include felt monsters, stuffed animals, pencil cases, headbands…

Craft sewing kits are perfect for children.
Craft kits offer chamring sewing projects for children as young as 7. Photo by Growing a Green Family on Visual hunt

Rather than buying things in the supermarket, children will learn to make their own clothes and work their imagination. Even for adults, there are creative sewing kits exist for different levels of skill, from complete beginner to advanced - letting you progressively add more sewing skills without feeling discouraged.

How To Find Cheap Sewing Materials

The most expensive thing about sewing is very probably the fabricsEvery sewing shop and online haberdashery offer a wide selection of fabrics of all colours and sizes. But bolts of new fabric cost dear. So turn instead to thrift stores and flea markets!

Here are some tips for finding bargain fabrics:

  • Measure your pattern before you go out to buy fabric so you know exactly how much you’ll need.
  • Keep up-to-date on sales and bargains at your local haberdasher’s or favourite online fabric store
  • Wait for summer or winter sales
  • Upcycle your fabrics: gather up sheets and old clothes in fun prints from among friends and family, visit thrift stores and flea markets, etc.
  • Browse the remnants tables at department stores to find imitation leather, silk, organic fabrics left over from larger bolts for bargain prices
  • Recycle your fabric scraps from other projects: use them for small craft projects or sew them together for crazy quilt fabrics.
Use small fabric pieces to save money.
Look for fat quarter and scrap projects to save money on fabrics. Photo by sweetjessie on Visual Hunt

Everything depends on what you are trying to make.

A nice bag with sequins, an evening gown, a blouse with little white buttons - it’s probably best to buy new fabrics to get exactly the look you want. Fabric off the bolt is generally sold by the metre (or yard in some places). It comes in many variations: gabardine, linen, velvet, patchwork fabrics, polka-dots, japanese prints, imitation leather, wools, jersey, muslin…

Here’s a little list of some online fabric shops:

  • Cheap Fabrics offer just that, including a whole array of fabrics for under £2.50/m.
  • Rijs Textiles have a wide selection for fabrics and prices, including fabrics for dance dresses, children’s prints and home dec fabrics.
  • Fabric UK has pages dedicated to fabrics costing less than £ 2/m and less than £1 per metre.
  • Croft Mill was Britain’s first mail order fabric shop. It stocks many bargain fabrics at under £10/m
  • Remnant House is a jobber site that buys mill ends from fabric mills - excess production that the client ended up declining. For that special thrill, try out their bargain bundles , including the ever-exciting mystery bundles.
  • Abakhan Fabrics has a large clearance section as well as a remnants section for smaller lengths.
  • White Tree Fabrics’ main attraction - apart from its huge selection - is a price slide to help define your search, with options at under £2/m!
  • Patchfabrics specialise in patchwork, selling cotton prints by the half-metre - but for very affordable prices.
  • The Fabric Godmother has, apart from a great selection that lets you search by print motif, a selection of designer fabrics used by designers such as Prada and Burberry. Be sure to look in regularly as these are mill ends and only available for a limited time.

So now you have your sewing machine and your fabric - what else do you need to get started?

Must-Have Sewing Accessories

A sewing box is made up of many different sewing tools indispensable to any dressmaker or seamstress - a little like a plumber’s toolbox.

For his sewing projects, a good tailor should have:

  • Measuring tools
  • Marking tools
  • Cutting tools
  • Pins
  • Sewing tools.

A sewing machine, a bobbin of thread and a cut of fabric do not yet a purse make. You need marking accessories, tools for cutting and pinning, something for ripping seams when you make a mistake and some hand-sewing tools for basting and finishing.

The right sewing supplies will help you.
When learning how to sew, basic sewing accessories will make your life easier. Photo by Hegemony77 - 1/6th scale clothes on Visual hunt

Let’s start with the most basic of sewing supplies: the measuring tape, a fundamental tool for taking measurements and finding out the length of cloth you will need.

Other useful measuring accessories are:

  • A small ruler for small distances on a straight seam
  • A quilting rule for tracing parallel lines (for gathers or smocking)
  • A gauge for measuring small distances that stay the same (seam allowances, hems, the distance between buttonholes)

To know exactly where to cut and sew, it’s important to mark your fabric. A marking pencil or pen and some dressmaker’s chalk are perfect for tracing a pattern on cotton or wool. A white pencil is best for dark fabrics; dressmaker’s chalk better for light ones. Pencils and pens are also better than chalk for precision markings. Once you have transferred your sewing pattern and marked your pleats and gathers, it’s time to cut out your piece. This is where tailor’s shears come in.

Your scissors are going to be your new best friend for years to come. We recommend always using new scissors (buy new ones frequently or have them re-sharpened by a professional). Use your dressmaker’s scissors only to cut fabric - avoid using the same pair of scissors as garden shears, paper scissors or craft scissors as this dulls the blade.

Pinking shears are used whenever the fabric unravels easily. Is this it? Well, no. Here are some other useful tools:

  • Thread snippers and seam rippers to undo a wrongly-sewn seam
  • Safety pins to pin two pieces of fabric together before cutting or sewing
  • Sewing needles and sewing machine needles
  • A thimble: ideal for pushing needles through dense fabrics without hurting your fingers or pricking your thumb
  • Top and bottom thread bobbins
  • Trimmings: ribbons, bias tape, lace, piping…
  • Fasteners: fabric buttons, wooden buttons, snaps, zips, hooks and eyes, velcro…

If you are in the capital check some of the many sewing courses London.


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Sonia is an Egyptologist turned writer and translator. She speaks 3 and a half languages, can translate hieroglyphs and enjoys yoga, singing, embroidery and travelling through all of time and space.