Are you one of those people who pulled the old dusty sewing machine out of your closet for the first time once this pandemic hit? You figured you’d just sew up a quick little batch of masks for yourself and your family, and soon you realized that this could be something you’re interested in!?
Or maybe you’ve been thinking about sewing for awhile now and you’re inspired by all of the beautiful quilt, wall hangings and table runners that you see on Pinterest? Where do you even get started?
There are so many gadgets, so I’ll tell you where you can save some money, where you should splurge and how you can grow your tools over time.
So let’s begin, shall we.?
Keep in mind that for me and purposes of this post, when I say “sewing”, I actually mean quilting, so I should be a bit clear on that.
I am a quilter and general sewist (curtains, pillows, aprons and things of that nature). I could not make a pair of pants right now to save my life, so I am not sure what specific tools you would need if you’re hoping to sew your own evening gown (or pants).
But if you’re interested in general quilting and sewing, here we go! I’m breaking it down into what is necessary and where to spend your investment dollars!
The Top 10 Notions you need:
Notions? What are they?
Notions are the small tools used in sewing, such as needles, thread, pins, marking pens, and seam rippers. Quilters collect notions like a kid gathers candy on Halloween. For some, finding a new and unique notion is pure sport!
Notions are usually inexpensive and run the gammit of absolutely necessary and critical to your success to completely un-essential but very very fun, but if you’re just beginning, here’s a necessary list.
Necessary Sewing Notions:
- Fabric Scissors – The kind that you will throw yourself down in the road for in order to stop anyone from using them on paper. Invest in a good pair. I love these, but I do realize they are the ‘Cadillac’ of fabric scissors. There are less expensive options too! Just do. not. use. on. paper.
- Thread – When piecing your quilt top together, you can use a standard sew-all thread. My favorite thread is Aurafil brand and it will last you forever! I typically sew with a white / cream thread unless my project is very dark. Use the rainbow of other options for quilting your project together or top stitching.
- Pins & Magnetic Pin Cushion – Accuracy in your project is going to depend on your pinning skills, and I don’t mean Pinterest. Pick up a pack. Use them!
- Seam Ripper – Unfortunately, this little guy is a reality. You won’t be best friends and you’ll likely call him naughty names.
- Needles – A sharp needle for your sewing machine is a must. Shop for some according to the manufacturer’s suggestion for your machine.
- Rotary Cutter – Ever wonder what that “pizza cutter” looking gadget is? It’s your rotary cutter and it comes in several sizes, but most common are the 45 mm and 60 mm . I have found that my very favorite rotary cutter is this one. The smaller 45 mm just feels good in my hand and I like the control I have when cutting small projects. Rotary cutting will help you to cut quickly and accurately.
- Healing Mat – This is what you’ll use as the base for when you rotary cut. I suggest starting out with one that is 24×36 inches. It will nicely fit on a table and you’ll have room to spread out your project.
- Pens / Pencils – I just use some I gathered from my the kitchen junk drawer. There are fancy ones too that disappear with heat or water.
- Acrylic Rulers – You won’t be able to accurately cut without these. Acrylic rulers will be an investment along the way as you decide what sizes will most benefit you. I have three rulers that are my absolute GO-TOs for cutting. When I cut yardage, I always use a 6″ x 24″ ruler and then I have a 6″ x 6″ inch for cutting smaller blocks. To round off my favorites list is my 12.5 “x 12.5” ruler which I most often use for squaring up blocks.
- Quarter inch presser foot: Almost all of your sewing for quilting will be done with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. If your machine does not have a quarter-inch foot, you will definitely want to purchase one.
Sewing Machine & Iron:
Notions will be easy and relatively inexpensive to gather. The next step is going to be important and little bit more costly, but stick with me and let me explain how to select a sewing machine and iron, and you’re going to be set up to sew.
Selecting a Sewing Machine:
May I offer some encouragement here…you don’t need a fancy sewing machine (you just need one that can sew a straight line), but can I caution you about using that hand-me-down clunker that Grandma passed off to you that doesn’t have a manual or a way to wind your bobbin thread?
Yeah, you’re going to get discouraged if you have a crappy machine.
It’s like if I offered to teach you how to ride a bike but I put a bunch of sticks in your spokes and I took some links out of your chain and asked you to make a 5-mile loop with it. It wouldn’t be fun and you would get discouraged.
A sewing machine is like that. Sure, some older ones will be great (they don’t make ’em like they used to), but make sure it has all of its parts and a manual you can refer to, and has been serviced and cleaned.
Some great news is that if you’re planning to purchase a new machine, they are actually not that expensive! For a good entry-model machine, you could spend as little as $125 or so. I sewed for YEARS on a Brother machine from WalMart that was $89. I now sew on a Pfaff Passport which I love and is still a somewhat ‘entry level’ option, but I’m here to encourage you that for the cost of about 20 non-fat grande lattes, you can be sewing on a new machine. You’re worth it. Costco has this option for around $200 and it is a BARGAIN!
Iron & Ironing Board
An iron and ironing board are not huge investments and you likely have both already. Any good quilter will complicate these more as they progress in their journey (there are special irons, extensions to the ironing board and more!) but for you, just starting out, let’s use the iron that you last pressed your work blouse (goodness, did I just say “BLOUSE”?
Where am I? Did I whisk myself back to 1988?
Just go ahead and use the ironing board that has been tucked into the coat closet (because let’s be real….you don’t actually iron work shirts. And I don’t either. Let’s be friends!)
So that, my friend, is the round up of notions and equipment that I would say is a necessary start to begin quilting.
Tomorrow, let’s tackle fabric and all of the options that area available. Because let’s be honest, it’s the pretty fabric with the beautiful designs and gorgeous color schemes that have us most interested! At least that’s how it is for me.
Are there any other tools you think I missed? Drop a comment below and let’s chat!