Yes, yes, I know, I know, THIS should have been my first ever tutorial but better late than… yada yada… Anyway, it’s here now and it’ll be handy for all of you who wander into a haberdashery and become so utterly confused that you have to be led from it, by the hand, before being made to drink a steadying brandy. When I started sewing haberdasheries were places of wonder and torture for this very reason so this little guide might spare you the same horrors. Even better, nothing in this kit is expensive and you can plop them all in a shoebox until you find something fancier. Ready for it? Here we go:
Don’t fret about the myriad packets of needles entitled things like ‘crewel’ and ‘straw’ for now. Just pick up a general purpose packet of needles because there’ll be all sorts of sizes in there and they’ll designed for everyday sewing. I think about what I’ll find it easier to use before I buy, though. I ignore the sewing snobs and get what I know will help me get the job done.
Just as with the needles, general purpose pins are what I use every day in all of my work. I prefer to use the pins that have little bobble heads in different colours because they’re easy to pick up from a pile, easy to spot if I drop them and they are less likely to slip out of my work too. They’ll cost a couple of quid but don’t be temped by cheap pins. They can be blunt and will bugger up fabric by pulling at it.
These things are so cheap to buy and I couldn’t manage a day of sewing without mine. They come in little plastic cases and one end is a small curved blade that finishes in a sharp point. I use mine to undo lines of stitches that have gone wrong and to unpick snagged threads. Just poke the point under the offending stitch, push the blade through it and do that at regular intervals along a seam until all of the thread has been removed.
Of course the key to measuring is accuracy so don’t buy any tape measure that will rip or stretch and make sure that the cms and inches start correctly at the end of the tape. If you want to cut out things that have lots of straight lines, though, invest in a metre rule (mine was off Amazon). I’d save mine from a burning sewing shed, that’s how much I love it. Again, make sure it is accurate and not warped in any way. Oh, and when it’s not being used for sewing you can wander about the house with it, poking unsuspecting family members. Winner winner, chicken dinner!
You’ll need to mark your fabric at some point, whatever you’re making, so invest in tailor’s chalk. Like everything else listed here it’s a couple of quid and in one packet of chalks you get three colours so you can use them on different colour fabrics. Don’t be tempted to use the kids’ chalks from the craft drawer though. Tailor’s chalk comes in narrow slabs with sharp edges especially for accurate pattern marking. Make sure you use it on the wrong side of fabric too, even though it usually brushes off.
If you go near your fabric with the same scissors for which you cut paper, I will hunt you down. Seriously, invest in a decent pair of fabric shears because they are ultra-sharp and your resulting raw edges will thank you for it. Mine cost £15 and, even after a couple of years of daily cutting they are still perfect. For jobs such as snipping threads and making teeny cuts a smaller, cheaper pair is fine. Oh, and if you get more serious about sewing use pinking shears too. They have a zig-zag blade which means the cut fabric is far less likely to fray. They’re revelatory.
Cotton comes in all sorts of sizes but I rely the most on something called moon thread, which is polyester and perfect for both hand and machine sewing. In the pic over there it’s the thread on the bigger spools and I can pick up billions of metres for just quid or two from my haberdashery. There are times when it is worth investing in the other type of thread in the pic which is more expensive but has a sleeker finish. I decide on what I need according to whether I’m working on visible stitching or not. Oh, and when you choose cotton, match it to your work as much as possible because mistakes are harder to spot. If you can’t match it up, go a shade darker instead of lighter. Forget the stand-out thread until you know you can stitch accurately other wise it’ll be spotted from a mile away.
Believe me when I tell you that I had to ask my husband where we kept the iron when I started sewing. I couldn’t find it because I never used it. Now, it has permanent residence in my sewing shed where I use it relentlessly in my work. It makes a mahoosive difference to your sewing if your fabric is free of creases and your seams are perfectly flat and it can make the most thrown together item look more professional. With seams, iron them flat after sewing then open the seam’s raw edges and iron them flat against the wrong side. Finally, flip the fabric over to the right side and iron it again. To finish, look at your work and holler, “The Kraken was RIGHT!”
And that’s your capsule sewing kit! Yup, you’ll pick up all sorts of toolery pokery along your sewing journey (or stagger, in my case) but for now this will keep you ticking along in the most basic tasks. Now, go shopping!