Tools for an organized sewing kit

Doing your own sewing repairs can save you some money and you’ll always be able to leave the house looking neat and tidy. You don’t need to be a seamstress or tailor or need a bunch of expensive equipment. This list outlines basic essentials. If you have some talent or training in sewing you may want to invest in more tools, but these are the minimal items necessary for most DIY repairs. If you prefer, you can buy a sewing kit that contains all of the basics. I would rather build my own kit, as I prefer left-handed scissors and I like to select my own colours of thread.

Scissors
Invest in quality scissors to be used only for sewing. I recommend two pairs: Dressmakers shears with 8″ (200mm) blades for cutting fabric and embroidery scissors that have blades about 3″ or 4″ (90mm) long for precision cutting and trimming. If you’re left-handed, buy left-handed shears. It will make sewing tasks much easier.

Using sewing scissors for paper and plastic will quickly dull the blades making it difficult to cut fabric. Use a marker or label to indicate that these scissors are to be used for sewing only.

Needles and Pins
Purchase a variety of needles in a one-at-a-time dispensing pack. You’ll have the needles you need and they’ll be organised too!

Pins should be straight and sharp with colourful heads that do not melt if you iron over them. Store the pins in a small plastic box or in a pincushion. Magnetised pin holders are handy for picking pins up from the floor but they do not protect your fingers from getting stabbed.

Safety pins, in a variety of sizes can be used for pinning things together that you may not have time to sew. They can also be used to help feed elastic or cord through waistbands and cuffs. You can hook them together into a long strand to keep them organized if you don’t have a storage container.

Thread
Purchase quality poly-cotton blend thread in a variety of colours that match the majority of your clothing. You should also buy an olive drab colour because it can be used on almost any dark material (blues, blacks, browns). There is a reason the army calls this colour “camouflage!” Good quality thread should have a smooth finish; fuzzy thread will tend to get caught while sewing and break easily if pulled too hard.

Seam Ripper
This is a tool with a sharp point, a blunt point and a sharp blade in the middle. If you stitch something in the wrong place, use a seam ripper to cut the stitches without cutting the fabric. It can also be used to remove buttons that are half hanging off and for cutting thread in areas that scissors won’t reach.

Measuring Tape
You should have a flexible measuring tape at least 150cm (60″) long with imperial measurements on one side and metric on the other. Fabric tape measures stretch slightly with heavy use so if yours is older, you may wish to replace it so that you have accurate measurements.

Iron, Ironing Board
Ironing removes the wrinkles and seams and presses folds neat and sharp making fabrics easier to sew. If you don’t have the space to store a full-sized ironing board, invest in an ironing pad. Also use a pressing cloth when ironing delicate items that might be damaged or those that have a special surface such as sequins or glitter. There is no need to purchase a special store bought pressing cloth, a lightweight cotton or linen dishtowel will do as long as it is clean, stain-free, and white as colours and stains may transfer to your fabric.

Hem Tape
Fusible hem tape is used with an iron to quickly hem skirts and pants. It is ideal if you don’t have matching thread available or if you’re in a hurry. Be careful when you iron as you might scorch delicate fabrics. It may lose its adhesiveness after multiple washings so stitching can reinforce it.

Buttons
Keep a variety of buttons handy in assorted colours and sizes to match the majority of your clothing. Keep them in a small, divided, plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Often the clothes you purchase will come with little packet of extra buttons so this little container is a great place to store those extra buttons.

Lighter
It never fails that in the rush to school and work in the morning, someone has a nylon backpack strap or shoelace that is unravelling. A quick flick of the lighter will melt the ends of synthetic straps so they won’t unravel. And if someone misplaces the lighter used for the birthday candles, you’ve always got a spare one in your sewing kit.

Container
Sewing tools need to be cared for just like any other tools. Keep them free from dirt and do not drop them. Store your sewing tools in a plastic bin or decorative basket. It can be plain or fancy, with or without handles. It should however, have a sturdy latch.

17 Comments for “Tools for an organized sewing kit”

  1. posted by Rae on

    One more thing to add is a small chunk of colorless wax (or black, for black clothing). If you pull your thread over it after threading your needle but before you try sewing, it has far less of a tendency to twist and knot.

    You can buy little plastic slotted things with wax in them at most sewing stores, but I’ve found that keeping a small chunk of candle wax from a burned-out, non-dyed candle works fine in a pinch too.

  2. posted by Jacquie Tinch on

    Be wary about using a magnet to pick up pins, especially if you choose to keep your pins in a box not cushion.

    The pins themselves become magnetised and when you pick up one pin, you’ll get a whole chain of them. Very frustrating when you are using one hand for the pins, the other hand being busy holding whatever you’re pinning.

    They also happily attach themselves to your scissors, seam ripper, metal machine bobbins and of course, the machine itself.

  3. posted by Leslie on

    Needle threaders are a necessary addition to a sewing kit. Most starter kits will come with them, but if not, definitely need at least one.

  4. posted by JC on

    The wax Rae mentioned can also be used to lubricate zippers which can reduce the chance of a zipper failure and the resulting cost/headache to repair/replace.

  5. posted by Fairfax Avenue on

    Packed in a pretty storage box, a sewing kit has been my go-to wedding shower gift for very close family and friends. I’d add to the list: snaps, hook & eyes, a few yards of elastic, double-stick clothing tape.

  6. posted by Harry on

    I am pretty much a total loss when it comes to sewing, but I soldier on to do buttons and easy seam/hem fixes – as long as no one has to see the results I do OK. It saves so much money.

    My kit is even more simplified than Jacki’s: a pack of needles, small embroidery scissors, and a large pack of assorted thread. Spare clothing buttons become my spares.

  7. posted by Leslie on

    I sew and have a variety of thread around, but in my mending basket I have a “thread braid”. You can buy them in a fabric or craft store for a couple dollars. They include a wide range of colors of thread loosely woven together in a braid. It’s easy to pull out the one color of thread you need without disturbing the others. It gives you a good selection without taking up as much room as even 2 spools of thread.

  8. posted by [email protected] on

    A long time ago someone gave my daughter a little sewing kit. I thought it was stupid. But do you know how many times I ended up using it? It was so convenient having all those different colors of thread, a needle and scissors in one convenient location. And when she moved out, I tried to keep it but she didn’t cooperate. So I bought one for myself. I think a sewing kit is one of the most beneficial things you can have. If your supplies are in one place, it’s much easier to do repairs. If you have to search for them, you probably won’t.

  9. posted by liz on

    Recycle the plastic medication bottles to store needles, pins, buttons, snaps, etc.

    You can also get glue sticks for fabric which helps to hold the fabric while you stitch.

    If you travel, you can get small emergency sewing packs that will have a couple needles, pins, thread and buttons. Stick one in your purse or travel case. Many hotels have these small packs in case you forgot to stash one away in your bags.

    If you’re not good at threading needles, look for self-threading needles. They have a small break in the eye area to make it easier to get the thread in.

  10. posted by Pat Reble on

    Another useful addition to a sewing kit is a device for pulling snagged threads back to the wrong side of the fabric. They come in several varieties, and save knit fabrics from looking tatty. The simplest one is a “snag repair needle” – it has a burred surface so it catches the thread as you poke it through. Good as new!

  11. posted by Mary W on

    I took a sewing class one time and the teacher had us tie a strip of our project fabric to our large scissors. It helped to identify they were fabric (instead of paper) scissors and everyone had different fabric so it helped know who they belonged to.

  12. posted by Another Deb on

    I like to store needles in a pincushion with a small amount of thread already loaded. When you are in a hurry and a button falls off, you can grab it and be on your way without trying to thread the needle with the adrenaline shakes.

  13. posted by Pat Reble on

    There are a couple of tricks to make needle threading easier. (1) Thread has a “twist” – when you pull it from the spool the end that comes off first goes through the needle’s eye, not the end you cut off. Going with the twist helps stop tangles and knots too. Trim the leading end again before threading as it will have unraveled just a fraction. (2) Needles are also directional. They have a right and a wrong side. So if the thread isn’t slipping through the eye easily, turn the needle through 180 degrees and try again.

  14. posted by Anna on

    Left-handed Fiskars shears (the ones with the orange handles) are the best. I am an expert sewist and have used them for years. They are not shown in the above link to devices for left-handers.

  15. posted by AinOakPark on

    While I would include safety pins in the kit, I would NEVER leave the house wearing one if ANY OTHER option (including a complete change of clothes) could be taken. Nothing says “tacky” faster than clothing kept together with safety pins, and, yes, people will notice.

    I, too, like my Fiskars, and melted my initials in them with a heated knife, but I do like the strip of fabric idea. I keep all this separate from other things so that they don’t disappear, something that happens often in a mixed-generation household. I like my little spring-hinged scissors for snipping bits of thread. I, too, keep at least two needles pre-threaded, using black and white threads. I buy the smallest spools of my main clothing colors.

    I don’t, however, think olive drab blends into almost any fabric. Camouflage is used to conceal or blend in, and olive drab may work on some lighter browns or tans, but will stand out on black, navy and other colors. You will note that different camouflage is used for desert warfare and forest/jungle warfare because camouflage is not a one color fits all issue.

    I often give a sewing kit as part of a wedding shower gift. I call it the emergency kit, and it has everything in it from a sewing kit to bandaids and spot remover; from Tylenol to digestive relief pills as well as a tissue pack, hand lotion and wet wipes. Great to take to the venue or throw in the best man’s car for emergencies, and perfect for keeping later as a starter kit to take care of this and that in the home.

  16. posted by Marie on

    Fray Check is one of my sewing must-haves. It’s a clear liquid that dries to a washable stiffness and prevents frays from expanding. When the cat snags a hole in a jersey knit fabric, or I get caught on a nail while doing yard work, a dab of this is much easier than frantically sewing a big knot over top of a hole.

  17. posted by Fred paccana on

    This is amazing! Thank you so much for posting. I agree on building it yourself, some of the colours would probably not be needed in my case.

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