How to Sew for a Beginner: Basic Supplies

    by Ronna Pennington

    About the Author

    Ronna Pennington, an experienced newspaper writer and editor, began writing full-time in 1989. Her professional crafting experience includes machine embroidery and applique. When she's not repainting her den or making new holiday decorations, Ronna researches and writes community histories. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and an Master of liberal arts in history.


    When you decide to learn to sew, you will need to decide whether you will sew by hand or machine. You can benefit from learning to sew with both methods. If you want to make apparel, you will want to sew by machine. Hand sewing is useful for craft projects and for quilting. Getting started does not cost much, even if you have to buy a sewing machine. Whether you choose to learn to sew by hand or by machine, all you need are a few basic supplies.

    Things You'll Need

    • Sewing machine
    • Hand sewing needles
    • Thread
    • Scissors
    • Ruler
    • Tape Measure
    • Straight pins
    • Box or small plastic tote
    • Fabric pencil or pen

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    Basic Supplies for Hand Sewing

    Clean your box or small plastic tote. Keeping all your supplies in one location saves you time and ensure that your supplies are clean and dry, free of dirt and dust.

    Choose hand-sewing needles labeled as "sharps." Leave them in their package for safe storage. Choose an assortment of sizes, some short, some long and some thicker for heavier sewing. Purchase a thimble that fits the second finger of your dominant hand.

    Select basic sewing scissors that fit your hand comfortably. Add a small pair of sharp-tipped snips for clipping threads, and a pair of pinking shears. Long scissors are best for cutting garment fabric, shorter scissors are better for cutting thick fabric. Select a pair of inexpensive scissors as your paper scissors. Never use your fabric scissors to cut paper, it dulls them very quickly.

    Purchase a spool of the basic thread colors of white, beige, black, gray and denim blue. Polyester thread is suitable for most sewing projects and cotton thread is easiest for beginners hand-sewing projects. Store your thread in a separate box to prevent tangles.

    Purchase a box of straight pins with glass heads. Glass-headed pins are easy to see if you drop one, won't melt if you iron over one, and are typically strong and don't bend easily.

    Add a self-erasing fabric pencil and a chalk liner. You also need a 6-inch ruler, a yard stick, a 60-inch fabric tape measure and a 16-foot metal tape measure.

    Basic Supplies for Machine Sewing

    Select a sewing machine. Basic portable machines are available with as few as eight stitch options. More advanced models are available with hundreds of stitch options. Typically, the more stitches you choose, the more your machine will cost.

    Add machine-sewing specific items to your sewing box. These include sewing machine needles in various sizes, extra bobbins and any specialty feet such as a zipper foot.

    Ensure you read your machine manual, and store it either in your sewing box or where you can easily find it.

    • Books with sewing terms and general sewing instructions are valuable resources to have as references. Ask your local fabric retailer for recommendations.