Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stitch Your Life: Get Started Supply List

Sewing Supplies

It seems I have lots of friends who are just now dipping their toes into the stitching pool.  We've been talking supplies lately, so here's my list to get you started.

  • Sewing Machine.  Unless your mother-in-law's machine can live with you for weeks at a time, don't plan on borrowing.  It just makes everything so much harder.  Sew Vac Direct has some great machines and wonderful customer service if something should go wrong. 

  • Sewing Machine Needles.  Clearly you need needles (need needles, need needles!... sorry).  All the options can be confusing.  Buy a multi-pack with several sizes so you'll be ready to work with different weight fabrics and a pack of size 12/80, which is a the size I use most.  It doesn't hurt to get extra so that you're not stuck if a needle breaks.

  • Thread. I recommend cotton thread because I love natural fibers.  Coats & Clark Cotton is a fine start in black, white and natural.  Wait to buy colors for a specific project.  Higher quality threads like Gutermann are wise choices when you're working on heirloom items like quilts.  You do not want "hand quilting" thread for your sewing machine.

  • Bobbins. These clear plastic disks fit in your sewing machine to feed the bobbin thread.  Your machine likely came with a few, but you'll want more.  They're cheap so buy a pack.

  • Straight Pins. Have some fun picking out a cute set.  Cheap and necessary.  Woohoo!

  • Tiny Scissors.  You'll be snipping threads all the time at the machine.  A small pair of 4" embroidery scissors stay out of the way and are easy to manage in tight places.  Also a must for applique work.

  • Big Scissors. Treat yourself to a new pair of quality 8" fabric shears.  These babies will be for fabric only and as such will remain quite sharp.  Using your everyday scissors to cut out pattern pieces can backfire, allowing the fabric to bend and cut wrong.  Your hands might also start to hate you.

  • Marking Tools. Grab yourself a plain old pencil.  Skip the disappearing fabric markers, as they don't last long or go on easily.  One of my favorite marking tools is the Clover Chaco Liner.  It smoothly dispenses chalk in a neat line.  And, if I'm careful, the chalk is there as long as I need it, then brushes away.

  • Seam Ripper.  To undo those pesky mistakes that are totally not your fault (and the ones that are).

  • Soft Measuring Tape.  After accidentally melting my cheapo measuring tape with the iron, I invested in a retractable one.  So far, it's managed to dodge both iron and scissors.

Rotary Cutter Set up

Rotary Cutting Extras

A rotary cutter works like a pizza wheel to cut straight lines SO easily with a special mat and ruler.  No one is going to tell you that you MUST start with a rotary cutter set up.  But, you'll never regret the day you get one!  Cutting can be the most time-consuming part of sewing.  So, if you have the cash, gear up with these babies from the beginning.  P. S.  If you are making a quilt, run-don't-walk to get your rotary cutter setup!

  • 45mm Rotary Cutter.  Look for a cutter that seams comfortable, is self-retracting and has a locking mechanism for storage.  My cutter is a great choice.

  • 6 x 24" Quilters Ruler.  These clear rulers are designed to be used in conjunction with a rotary cutting mat to make getting cuts square a cinch.  Start with a ruler that's 6 x 24".  This is a key size!  Once you start using it, you'll see why.

  • Rotary Cutting Mat.  Be sure to buy a "self healing" rotary cutting mat.  These are usually dark green and are definitely covered with inch grids and angles.  Bigger is better, but these get quite expensive.  Also, it should be stored flat so keep that in mind.  I started with a 12 x 18" mat.  It was often tricky to work on that small size.  An 18" x 24" mat is so much better!

~Reference the whole series at Stitch Your Life.


  1. Great suggestions! I am fortunate to have my mother in laws amazing sewing machine indefinitly, so I am set for now.

    Next on my list to buy is a serger.

  2. You know what I need? I need a little tiny cheat sheet for needle sizes. I don't know why but I can never remember the numbering scheme. And you know what else I can never remember is the thing about if your bobbin thread is showing on top, which way you are supposed to adjust the tension and vice verca, when the top thread is showing underneath....yup need a cute little printable pdf...yup...wonder WHO I know who is doing a cool series called stich your life...hmmm....don't make me beg Rachel! ;)

    Seriously though - even though I've been sewing for a while I love to see what other people use and like. I've not tried the chalk - I'm going to be making some bags, I'll have to try it out! Thanks!

  3. oh I want a rotary cutting set-up!! & I think it may be time for me to upgrade from the straight and zig-zag only machine i have...now to find that hidden stash. ;)

  4. You know what's funny, I actually have a little cheat sheet that I saved off the back of my needle package. But, I'd like even more info than what's on it. I'll look into an "all about needles" post and pdf. Ha, only in the sewing world would we want to discuss this! Thanks for the idea!!!

  5. I don't think I'm eeeeever going to own a serger, but my mother in law has one that I can use (not that I have). They amaze me.

  6. I too want a rotary cutting set - up! Someday soon I hope. :)

  7. great list! and i wish i had friends who liked to sew!!

  8. Don't forget a glue stick!! I have been using glue sticks a lot lately because I absolutely hate pins! It is amazing, and washes right out. (obviously only use for things you are willing to toss in the washer!) I use it for raw-edge applique. However... I'm sure it will be fine with normal applique as well, but I don't know how to do that yet, so I don't.

  9. Also wanted to let you know that I absolutely adore your blog and have featured it on mine!

  10. great tips rachel. thanks for posting this. i would love to add that joann's 40% off coupons are fantastic and can be used on any of those big-end purchases as well (most of these things can be found at joanns.) just sign up for their coupons at the store or online. ....sidenote- i also have a kenmore- woot woot for sears. ;) question for you- do you only use kenmore needles? my machine manual says to only use kenmore needles but they are pricey and i know they are just trying to get you to buy their stuff... what brands have you found work well on your machine? thanks! :)

  11. Just what I needed! Thank you for this post! :)

  12. Well, I don't remember if my manual says Kenmore only, but I have mainly (maybe only) used Kenmore needles. I bought a bunch when I bought the machine because my mom had fed me horror stories of frequent needle breakage. I think I've broke only one! But, of course, I've changed them with all the sewing I do. I think I'll be buying non-Kenmore needles when I need to restock if the regular ones are cheaper. I'd just examine them and see if they look different. If they look the same then it's probably like you said - a marketing angle for Kenmore.

  13. I'm just starting with this (I was inspired by reading memories of my Grannie about her mad sewing skills -- wish my mom had made me learn!), and must bookmark this post. I'm planning to borrow stuff until I can tell I'm really going to do this. My husband gave me a couple of sewing books for my b-day!

  14. [...] P.S.  Are you wondering if you’re ready to quilt?  I’ll be assuming you know how to sew a straight line with your sewing machine.  That’s pretty much it.  So, minimal sewing experience is recommended.  We will be using a rotary cutter too.  If you don’t already own a set up, see my suggestions under “Rotary Cutter Extras” on the Get Started Supply List. [...]

  15. [...] -Rotary Cutter Setup (cutting mat, rotary cuter and quilter’s ruler) [...]


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