skip to Main Content

It’s so important to have quality sewing tools, and understand how to use them properly.

Your sewing tools play a vital role in making your garments look professional, and when your sewing tools work perfectly every time you use them, you will love using them. They also allow you to create an endless number of original garments that express your style and personality.

Again, using the proper sewing tools and notions makes the difference in whether your garment looks homemade or professional.

A few tips…

– make sure that you store your tools out of the view and reach of others who are unaware of their value.

– your sewing room or space needs more creativity and fewer rules; if it works, use it. Look around your home for an area or space that you can claim your own.

– the tools you’ll use just about every time you sew are essential for creating your projects should be readily accessible at all times.

– keep your marking equipment, needles, thread and thimble all together to accelerate your work and increase your accuracy.

– select a sewing or craft organizer with a handle and a secure latch so that you can easily carry your stuff without dumping it all over the place. You can find organizers that look like small fishing tackle boxes at local fabric or craft stores.

The organizer that I use and recommend is below:


And, I have the matching tackle box that I mostly use for traveling:

The sewing tools and notions that I use and recommend are listed below.  I also explain why you need them and show you how to use each one.

The single, most expensive investment you will make is your sewing machine. 

I started sewing when I was 10 years old and the first garment I made was a pleated skirt, sewn with a hand needle and thread.  It was a slow process even with my mom’s assistance.  My first sewing machine was a manual, straight-stitching Singer machine passed from my grandmother to my mother, and it worked just fine.

Thelma Horton’s First Sewing Machine

As my sewing skills improved, my sewing machines progressed. I currently own several Bernina sewing machines below.  I am partial to Berninas, but my suggestion is to use whatever brand you have to get started, if it works.  If you are in the market for a sewing machine, I highly recommend going with a Bernina. Their new line of bernette’s offer a wide range of reasonably priced sewing machines to fit any fashion sewer’s budget.


Thelma Horton’s First Bernina Sewing Machine


Thelma Horton’s Bernina 765SE


Bent Handle Dressmaker’s Shears have two differently shaped handles to accommodate more fingers and get better control.  The bent handles are preferred because they allow you to cut out fabric without lifting it off the table. If you are cutting anything you don’t normally cut when sewing like cardboard, plastic, wire or paper heavier than tissue paper will cause the blades to become rough  and dull  that will chew or snag your fabric as well as wear out your hand when you try to use them. Left-handed shears are also available.  


Rotary Cutter looks like a pizza cutter, and is used in conjunction with a cutting mat allows you to cut very accurate lines because you do not have to lift the fabric off the mat. 

Scissors have small round handles and are used for cutting more delicate fabrics and trimming.  Have one pair 5″ to 6″ long and another pair 3 1/2″ to 4″ for buttonholes and small detail work.  I also have a regular pair of office scissors for cutting paper only.

Seam Ripper is a simple little tool with a point and sharp blade that lifts the stitch off the fabric and cuts the thread to remove seams for adjustments and mistakes.

Thread Clips are a scissor variation with short blades and an inner spring mechanism to keep them apart.  They fit neatly into your hand and are used with a clipping motion to cut stray threads quickly and easily.

Tape Measure is a plastic coated, fabric strip that does not stretch, 60 – 120 inches long with metal tips on each end.  It is the width of a standard 5/8″ seam allowance with both metric and U.S. measurements clearly printed on both sides. Tape measures are used for taking your own measurements, checking measurements on a pattern and other measuring tasks.

Transparent Rulers lets you see what you measure or mark.  Choose one of flexible plastic 12″ – 24″ long easily helps when you need to mark buttonholes, tucks, pleats, bias strips; and as a guide for your tracing wheel.

Sewing Gauge is a small 6″ metal or plastic ruler used for measuring small and narrow things.  It has an adjustable slide  that moves up and down the length of the ruler, allowing you to check the measurements of hems, buttonholes, and pleats quickly and accurately.

Tracing Wheels are used with dressmaker’s tracing paper to transfer pattern markings to your fashion fabric. You can choose from a serrated-edge wheel or a smooth-edged wheel.  I prefer the smooth-edged wheel because it does not cut through the pattern, but it can also depend on the thickness of the fabric when the serrated-edge wheel makes a more definite mark.  

Dressmaker’s Tracing Paper is a form of carbon paper.  It is used in conjunction with a tracing wheel to transfer construction markings.  Always mark on the wrong side of your fabric.

Dressmaker’s Silk Pins are used to primarily pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and pin the cut out fabric pieces together during construction. I recommend using the long, fine, brightly colored glass-head pins that are easy to fine if you accidentally drop them on the floor. 


Magnetic Pin Caddy or Pin Cushion for storing pins when not in use.  The magnetic pin cushion is great for picking up pins and other stray items that fall on the floor. The pin cushion with an attached emery bag for sharpening and removing rust from pins and needles.

Needles are necessary for all your hand sewing.  The needles most commonly used for hand sewing comes in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the fabric and project you are working on.  Generally, the finer the fabric you work with, the finer the needle and the heavier the fabric, the heavier the needle. The best, in my opinion are  self-threading needles that make it so much easier to use.  The also come in an assortment of sizes.

Thread should be selected in a matching shade or one shade darker than your fabric.  Color and size numbers are printed on the spool. Usually, the greater the number on the thread, the finer the thread.  Most threads labeled as all purpose threads are 100 % polyester, 100% cotton or a cotton-covered polyester. I buy thread based on the fiber content of the fabric I am purchasing.  If the fabric is a natural fiber like cotton, linen, silk or wool, I buy natural fiber threads like Mercerized Cotton for most sewing tasks.  Silk thread for fine fabrics and basting; Silk Buttonhole Twist for decorative stitches and hand-worked buttonholes.  Always ask your sewing machine dealer what thread brand works best in your machine.

Beeswax should be kept handy to coat your hand sewing threads.  It strengthen the thread and reduces tangling, knotting, and breaking. Beeswax is usually sold in a plastic container so you can easily slip the thread tthrough the slots.

Thimbles are used to protect your fingers from potential pain when pushing needles through fabric when hand sewing.  They are available in a variety of sizes 6 – 11 to fit snugly on the middle finger of your dominant hand. Try on a range of thimbles until you find one that fits you just right. If you still feel uncomfortable using a metal or hard plastic thimble, try an alternative soft leather thimble or thimble pads. 





Pointer and Creaser is a flat wooden tool about 4″ long.  One end is pointed, the other is rounded.  The pointed end is for pushing out small corners; the rounded end is used in conjunction with an iron to flatten seamlines to assist finger pressing. 

Iron is used to press seams as you sew the garment together.  Choose an iron that can be used as both a steam iron and a dry iron.  The steam vents should be located at the head of the soleplate to provide concentrated steam when it is needed.  Be sure the iron has a wide temperature range for the best care of all your fashion fabrics.  

Ironing Board should be sturdy, level, adjustable to different heights and heavily padded.  Without the padding, seams and edges press against a hard surface that scars the fabric.  Pad the board with cotton batting or purchased padding already cut to fit and cover the padding with muslin or 100% cotton. If you leave the silver, reflector-type cover on that comes with some ironing boards, the heat from the iron gets too hot and cause scorching on your fabric.

Press cloths is a piece of lightweight fabric that you place between the iron and fabric before pressing to prevent shine and overpressing. I use several types, depending on need: a transparent type for seeing details on the right side and a cotton type for general pressing needs.  The cotton types I use are made of cheese cloth and a cloth diaper that  I  next to the ironing board.

Tailor’s Ham is a triangular shaped, firmly stuffed cushion with subtly rounded curves.  It is designed for pressing the curved areas of your garment such as darts, sleeve caps, princess seams, or any place that requires a rounded, curved shaped pressed in. There are no substitutions for the tailor’s ham as it simulates actual body curves.  Hams are covered with 100% cotton on one side for pressing high temperature fabrics such as cotton and linen, and a wool side for pressing lower temperature fabrics such as silks and synthetics.

Seam Roll is a long, tubular, firmly stuffed cushion that is rounded at each end.  It is used to press small curved areas and log seams in hard-to-reach areas such as sleeves.  Because the roll is round, you press only the seam and not the surrounding fabric.  This prevents the iron from creating ridges on either side of the seam on the right side of the fabric.  One side is covered with 100% cotton for pressing high temperature fabrics such as cotton and linen, and a wool side for pressing lower temperature fabrics such as silks and synthetics.

Point Presser or Pressing Board is an important pressing aid.  It is made of wood and provides many different shaped surfaces for pressing points, curves, and straight edges.  The different sizes of curves and narrow straight edges allow you to press seams flat and open without wrinkling the surrounding area.  The board can be used as it is for firm fabrics and sharp edges, or covered with a contoured pad for softer edges.

Brown Paper is an essential item to have on hand along with your other pressing tools.  Strips should be placed under the folds of darts or the edges of pleats to avoid unsightly ridges from appearing on the right side.  I cut strips from brown paper lunch bags.

Most of the tools are the same ones that I use in my sewing room.  I have slowly collected them over the years that I have been sewing and the majority of the purchases were made using a 50% – 60% off coupon or special pricing.   All items can be found at the following locations:

Bottom-line, these basic sewing tools will save you time, make sewing easier and more enjoyable. You’ll always want to have your supplies when you sew any project!

Here’s the complete shopping list:

  • Sewing Machine
  • Bent Handle Shears
  • Rotary Cutter
  • Scissors
  • Seam Ripper
  • Thread Clips
  • Tape Measure
  • See-Through Plastic Ruler
  • Metal Sewing Gauge
  • Tracing Wheels
  • Dressmaker’s Tracing Paper
  • Dressmaker’s Silk Pins
  • Magnetic Pin Holder or Pin Cushion
  • Hand Sewing Needles
  • Thread
  • Beeswax
  • Thimble
  • Pointer and Creaser
  • Iron
  • Ironing Board
  • Press Cloths
  • Tailor’s Ham
  • Seam Roll
  • Point Presser or Pressing Board
  • Brown Paper