Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sewing Supplies

The minimum it takes to sew is a needle and thread. However, some additional sewing supplies won't hurt your creative efforts.

Essential supplies

To start, and to sew by hand, you need a kit that contains, at bare minimum:

necessaire couture minimum matériel outils

Scissors of different sizes, pins, needles, thimble, tape measure, spools of thread, chalk

  • Assorted sizes of sewing needles
  • Small-headed straight pins (the ones with colored ball-shaped heads are less precise)
  • Sewing thread (white, black, colored...)
  • Sewing scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Fabric pencil or chalk (or a regular pencil, in a pinch)
  • Iron and ironing board

Basic supplies

As you move on to more ambitious projects, you'll find that you need to add some more specific equipment to your sewing box.

necessaire couture matériel outils travailleuse

Open sewing basket, with basic supplies

  • The essentials, plus:
  • Thimble
  • Thread nipper
  • Large pair of scissors for cutting
  • Small pair of scissors for detail work
  • Magnet
  • Large, flat, graduated metal ruler
  • Tailor's ham for ironing details
  • And, of course, a sewing machine, your indispensable ally for all sorts of sewing projects: clothes, decorations, accessories...

Watch this demonstration to learn the basics of using a sewing machine.

Advice for use

Remember that these supplies, sometimes expensive at purchase, can last for a long time if you use them well.


  • Scissors have specific uses. Don't cut anything except fabric with your sewing scissors.

  • Scissors come in different sizes. Start with 2 pairs:
    • large scissors for cutting fabric (dressmaker shears)
    • and small scissors (embroidery scissors, appliqué scissors) for more detailed work (forming buttonholes, pinking...)

  • For cutting threads, it's better to use a thread nipper (also called a thread snip or thread scissors) rather than regular scissors (to keep scissors' blades from becoming dull).

necessaire couture matériel outils

Thread nipper

  • Store scissors away from humidity and in a case, if possible.

  • Remember that scissors can be sharpened. So if you love to sew, invest in a good pair, because the quality will last longer than you'll remember the price you paid for them.

Needles and Pins

Needles and pins also need some attention.

  • They can become dull if you use a pincushion that is too hard and they can rust in a humid environment.

  • Store them in an airtight, firmly shut container.

  • Don't mix needles and pins and you'll save time!

  • To arrange your workspace, use a magnet that will quickly collect scattered pins, even ones you don't notice.

Fabric Markers

  • Mark your fabric with a fabric pencil. It's more precise than chalk and cleaner than a felt-tip pen (which you shouldn't use!).
    ! - Chalks and fabric pencils come in several colors, which is practical when working with several colors of fabric.

  • To mark outlines on the back of a fabric pinned to a pattern, put a sheet of carbon paper under the fabric and trace the outline with a tracing wheel. You'll have a dotted outline.

necessaire couture minimum matériel outils

Tracing wheel


Always use a clothes iron for your work: it's an indispensable ally for successful sewing.

  • A good iron is an iron with:
    • a clean ironing plate,
    • an adjustable thermostat,
    • the very useful steam function. But it needs to be able to work without steam, too (to iron a pattern or activate fusible binding).

  • For more precision, use a tailor's ham as well as an ironing board.

  • Always work with well-ironed fabric.

  • Always iron on the wrong side of fabric.

Tape Measure

  • Choose a tape measure isn't permanently encased, if you can. They're generally graduated from 0 to 150 cm (0 to 60 inches/5 ft) on both sides.
    ! - The graduation runs in opposite directions front and back.

  • The flat graduated ruler typically measures 60 cm (2 ft):
    • Choose a metal ruler (more solid than plastic) and smooth the 2 sides so that it moves more easily over fabric.
    • Store it flat so that it doesn't deform.

Tools to create and adapt patterns

For ambitious seamstresses (and seamsters), here's the list of supplies necessary for the different stages of creating clothing items.

  • Paper (a roll of it, preferably white)
  • Pencil
  • Large, flat graduated ruler
  • Set square
  • French curve
  • Paper scissors
  • Utility knife

necessaire couture minimum matériel outils

Scissors of different sizes, thread nipper, pins, magnet, needles, iron, thimble, tape measure, spools of thread, chalk, tracing wheel, French curve

Tools to create a toile

  • The basics, plus:
  • Cloth: cotton-based, soft, white or ecru, 140 cm (55-1/8 inches) long
  • Brightly-colored thread
  • Pencil
  • French curve
  • Tracing wheel
  • Dark-colored carbon paper
  • Large, smooth table
  • Sewing machine


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