When I start planning a new sewing project, what I envision is a blissful time in my sewing room, effortlessly cutting through gorgeous fabric, pinning, stitching and pressing. After a few lovely hours of peaceful quiet time, listening to music or a podcast, I try on my fabulous new garment which fits perfectly.
This is mostly a fantasy.
Any sewist knows that about 80% of your time sewing will be re-threading your machine, unpicking something, figuring out what to do next, realizing you left out a pattern piece and trying to cut it out of the scraps of fabric you have left…..
Does this sound like your sewing experience, all the time? It can be really annoying when you have high hopes for a sewing project and then nothing seems to go as planned. Fabric bunches and slips. Thread tangles. Pins stab you. It feels like the universe is conspiring to keep you from completing your sewing project.
Over the years, I’ve cultivated a lot of sewing tools and supplies to solve common sewing problems and make my life easier. Some of these are standard professional sewing tools, but beginners might not know about them or what they are used for.
I’ve put together a list of 13 tool that will make your sewing easier, and more professional!
There’s a lot more to sewing a completed garment than just having a sewing machine and some thread. I use a vast array of sewing related tools and supplies to make my garments look professional, as well as to make my life easier. These are tools and supplies that I’ve discovered over the years to solve my own sewing frustrations.
I’ve made a handy slideshow, and I’ll also write a list of the items with more detailed information. Each item's title is a clickable Amazon link to purchase them.
These items vary in price, but most are quite affordable. If you’re a beginner, I recommend starting small and keeping pricier items on your wishlist for later, as you advance in your sewing.
A gravity fed iron is a game changer. It’s not cheap, but it’s one of the most solid investments I’ve ever made for my sewing. I burned through 2 nicer consumer irons in less than a year before I bit the bullet and purchased a gravity fed iron, which I should have done from the start. The “gravity fed” part is a tank of water that you hang from the ceiling, which feeds water for steam from a hose down to the iron. This means your iron is a steam machine. These irons are made for professional use and they are heavier than consumer irons, get hotter, and are able to hold heat without burning out. Pressing is the #1 thing you can do to make your handmade garments look professional - you need to be pressing yours seams and hems, and you can’t make a collar without pressing. If you’re serious about sewing, invest in a gravity fed steam iron. It will last you a lifetime and make your life so much easier.
My mind was blown when I got a magnetic pin holder. It’s just so amazing. No pins falling out all over the place. When I want to gather up pins I’ve been using, I just wave it over the pins and it sucks them up like magic.
I use slanted tweezers all the time when I sew. They have a ton of uses! I always have them on hand. I use them to thread the sewing machine needle sometimes - if the thread is being difficult, I can grasp the very tip in the tweezers and poke it through. Then I use them to pull it out the other side. I use them all the time to help thread my serger. They are useful for holding small items that you need to press without burning your fingertips, and I frequently use them to pick out leftover threads from ripping out a seam, or from basting stitches.
4. Spray starch
Spray starch is another game changer. I use it like spray on interfacing for thin or difficult fabric such as organza and chiffon. I’ll cut out my pattern pieces, and them lay them out flat on a large sheet of paper. Then I spray them really well with spray starch and let them dry. When the starch is set, they are stiff but flexible enough to sew. This really helps with annoyingly slippery fabrics! You can steam and press them, and then I gently hand wash the finished garment and let it hang dry to get all the starch out. Works like a charm!
Basting spray is incredibly useful. It’s a low-tack spray glue that washes right off. It’s great for placing pockets, holding things to delicate or small for pins, and keeping appliques on. I recommend putting down a large sheet of paper or a paper bag, and then placing your fabric on that before spraying. Otherwise, it can get a little sticky on your work surface.
6. Thread wax
Thread wax will bring your hand sewing game to a whole new level. You know how irritating it is when you’re trying to stitch and the thread keeps tangling and knotting, no matter how carefully and slowly you pull it through the fabric? Well, thread wax will fix that. In traditional tailoring, beeswax is used. However, I like this brand. It’s not actually wax, it’s a silicon and it comes in a handy little box. You thread your needle, pull the thread through the wax while holding your finger down over it, and then give it a press with a hot iron. It only takes a few seconds, and no more thread tangling.
7. Tailor’s ham
This is a standard sewing tool, but it is infinitely useful for pressing your garments into the right shape. It’s great for collars, princess seams, and anything with a curve. They aren’t expensive, and you should always have one on hand.
8. Sleeve roll
Another classic and must have tool. This one is for, as I’m sure you guessed, sleeves and cuffs.
9. Thread stand
A thread stand is a one trick pony, but it’s really more like a unicorn because it is magical. A thread stand is a little stand that holds your thread cone. More specifically, it holds a large cone of thread that won’t fit on a sewing machine’s thread holder, and keeps it spinning freely. It has a little arm that holds the strand of thread up above the thread intake, so that the thread feeds smoothly and the tension is perfect. You can pick one up for cheap, but I’ve been using a home made on for years. All it is is a coffee cup that a spool of thread can fit into, with a ruler taped to the side. A binder clip attatched to the top of the ruler creates the little loop for the thread to feed through. It’s ugly, but works like a charm.
Glass headed silk pins are the Tesla of pins. The glass heads don’t retain heat and won’t melt under an iron. They are extra thin and long, so they hold a larger amount of fabric and work better with thin, slippery, and difficult fabrics. I won’t use any other kind of pin.
11. Pinking shears
Pinking Shears are not just for making zigzag paper. You can use them to finish seams neatly if you don’t have a serger - this was a common method of finishing seams back in the 50’s when home sewing was more common. I also use them to cut out pieces of interfacing. The zigzag edge won’t show that little line through the fabric that you get sometimes. And, you can use them as a quick, easy way to trim curved seam allowances instead of clipping triangles out of the curves.
Basically the most essential tool I own, aside from my gravity fed iron, and of course my sewing machine. I use it for making patterns and altering patterns, as well as for marking hems, centers, buttonholes, pocket placements… whatever needs marking in a straight line.
13. Fray check
Fray check is super handy to have around. It’s great for finishing the ends of serged seams, sealing up tiny frays or accidental scissor cuts, and making sure a hand knot will stay put. I always use it on my buttonholes.
And that’s my top 13 sewing tools to make your sewing easier and more professional!
Of course, I have many other tools and supplies that I use frequently. Some are very commonplace and I didn’t include them. This isn’t a comprehensive list of all the sewing tools and supplies you will want to use frequently. These are the sewing tools that I love, can’t live without, and use constantly. They are the ones I think are the most useful and create the most impact in making a handmade garment professional.