Assemble Your Own Sewing Starter Kit: Product Checklist

Read ahead to learn about the necessary tools and supplies to have on hand for making or repairing clothing and soft furnishings.

Have you wanted to learn how to make your own clothing, curtains, or pillows? Perhaps you would just like to be able to repair existing clothing, but you don't have all of the supplies. In this article, we will provide product checklists for a basic repair kit and for a complete sewing kit.

This basic kit includes everything that you need to make simple repairs to clothing and soft furnishings:

-Mixed package of household needles

-Straight pins

-Safety pins

-Polyester-covered cotton thread in black, white, and gray

-Mixed package of assorted colors of embroidery floss

-Small pair of scissors

-Seam ripper

-Measuring tape

-Sew-on Velcro

-Iron-on hem tape

-Quick-dry fabric glue

-Assorted iron-on patches

-Extra buttons and snaps

Pack those items in a small tin or shoebox, and you'll be prepared for practically any minor clothing emergency. However, if you plan to actually make or alter your own clothes or home furnishings, then you'll need some additional supplies.

Sewing Machine

Sewing machines for domestic use vary drastically in price and quality. You can find a decent refurbished or used machine for less than $200. Simple new machines are typically in the $300 to $500 range, and then there are incredibly advanced machines that will cost you $800 or more. Shop around and compare prices. If you are buying your first machine, purchase the best quality machine that you can afford. Pick one with more attachments and settings than you think you currently need so that you can grow into the machine as you learn more about sewing.


New machines usually come with a package of needles for that machine, but it won't be long before you need to buy more---you should change the needle after every project, and you might need specialty needles, like ballpoint for knits, for a certain project. You will also need household needles for hand work.

Pins and Pincushion

Pins are indispensable to the sewer. You will use these to hold together pieces of fabric before you sew them, to mark hems and other alterations, and to pin patterns to fabric. Straight pins have a knob at one end; pins with glass heads are easy to see in fabric and on the floor, and they don't melt when ironed (plastic heads will melt). Some sewers prefer safety pins, and it's a good idea to keep an assorted package on hand. You will also need some way to keep all of your pins together (and not all over the floor). Magnetic pinholders are popular today---if you spill your pins, you can simply wave the pinholder over the floor to pick them up! There are, however, many other sorts of pinholders and pincushions; find one that works for you.


Polyester-covered cotton is a good general-use thread. However, when selecting a spool of thread for a specific project, match the thread fiber to the fabric. For example, use 100% cotton thread with cotton or wool fabric, and use 100% silk thread with silk fabric.


A home sewer needs three pairs of scissors: one pair of quality scissors or dressmaker's shears that are for cutting fabric only, one pair of general purpose scissors for cutting patterns and trims, and one pair of small scissors for cutting details, trimming threads, clipping seams, and other close work.

Seam Ripper

We listed this in the basic repair kit, but we're including it again here because this tool is so important to have in your sewing toolkit (you might even want to have more than one in case you misplace one). The seam ripper is used to undo stitches without destroying the fabric. You'll use it to take apart seams when making alterations, removing buttons or trims, and for undoing any sewing mistakes.

Measuring Tools

You will need a dressmaker's measuring tape, a regular 12-inch ruler for measuring and marking patterns and fabric, and a sliding dressmaker's measuring tool for measuring hems and alterations.

Marking Tools

Marking tools are used to transfer the markings of a pattern (such as darts, buttonholes, or notches) or to make alteration marks to fabric. There are many types of marking tools: chalk blocks, chalk pencils, dressmaker's carbon paper and tracing wheel, marker pens, and vanishing pens. Find one that works for you and with that particular fabric.

Ironing Tools

Technically, you can sew items together without involving an iron in the process, but to produce professional results, you need to iron out the wrinkles of all fabrics before you begin to use them and also press all seams, darts, hems, and so on. You will need a high-quality steam iron, an ironing board, and large squares of lightweight cotton to use as press cloths between the iron and delicate fabrics. In addition, a "seam roll" and a "ham" will make your job easier. A seam roll looks like a bolster pillow and is used to press seams in sleeves and other small areas; a ham looks, well, like a ham and is used to press darts and other curved areas. If you would rather wait to purchase these items, you can make the same shapes out of one or two rolled-up towels.

Although there are many more possible items and accessories for sewing and tailoring, some of which you might want to add to your workshop over time as you become a more advanced sewer. However, the items discussed here should give you all of the tools that you need to get started right away with making your own clothes or soft furnishings.

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