Sewing 101: Your Bag of Tricks (part 1)

Posted in: Sewing 101, Your Bag of Tricks — By on September 22, 2010 9:03 AM

Sewing School's Sewing Tools

If you want to start sewing, the first step is to put together a basic sewing kit with all of the tools you’ll need. In addition to a good sewing machine, an iron and ironing board, these tools will make sewing so much easier once you know how to use them. You can find these items at your favourite fabric, or craft store.

We’ve broken up this lesson into 3 parts because it got a little long. So stay turned for the other two parts!

Sewing Tools: PinsPins come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are distinguished by their head, point, thickness and length. When thinking about thickness, the idea is to choose a pin that will make the smallest hole possible in your fabric. And remember: if a pin bends, breaks or becomes dull, get rid of it!

Head types:

  • Flat (metal) head pins have metal heads that are ‘flat’ on top and can be ironed. Use these if you don’t want the head to get in the way. Dressmaker’s pins have flat heads.
  • Plastic head pins come in ball or flat shapes and are easy to see. Flat plastic heads lie flat under a ruler or tape measure. But be careful! Both types will melt if you touch them with your iron.
  • Glass heads are smaller than plastic heads, but won’t melt under the heat of your iron. (these are my favourite type of pins)


  • Pins basically have ball point, sharp or extra sharp points.
  • Ball points are round and used for knit fabrics.
  • Sharps are the most versatile and work with lots of fabric types.
  • Extra sharp points slide easily through finer fabrics.

Sewing Tools: Pin CushionYour pin cushion holds your pins and keeps them accessible. You can buy or make your own pin cushion. The tomato pin cushion from the fabric store comes with an emery to keep your pins sharp and clean.

Sewing Tools: Hand Sewing NeedlesHand sewing needles come in a variety of shapes, lengths and sizes, each suitable for different fabrics, threads or purposes. To keep things simple, we’ll focus on three common types: sharps, milliners/straw, and betweens. You can buy a package containing a variety of needle types and sizes. As the size of the needle goes up, the length and thickness of the needle decreases – So a size 1 is longer and thicker than a size 8.

How do you choose a needle for your project? As a general rule, the finer your fabric, the finer needle you should use. You want to avoid making a larger hole than is needed for your thread to pass through.

  • Sharps are great for just about any hand sewing project. Their medium lengths and round eyes work with most fabrics.
  • Milliners or Straw needles are longer than sharps and also have a round eye. These needles are used for millinery work (hat making), but because of their length, they work well for basting.
  • Betweens are short and skinny needles that are good for fine, short stitches. They are most often used in quilting.

Sewing Tools: ThreadThread can be made of cotton, polyester, silk or nylon and comes on spools. Polyester will work for almost any project. It is possible to use the large cones of thread with a domestic machine, but a little adjusting is required.

Sewing Tools - thimblesThimbles aren’t just the best Monopoly piece. They keep your finger protected while hand stitching and help you push the needle through the fabric. They come in a bunch of different sizes, shapes and materials (metal, rubber, plastic, leather…) so you can get the perfect fit. Some are even adjustable. A basic metal or flexible rubber thimble that fits snugly on your middle finger is a good start for hand sewing.

So that’s part 1! We’ll cover more tomorrow.

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  1. Blair says:


  2. shooter says:

    What is…and How do you use the Emory/Emery board on the tomato pin cushion?

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  1. Sewing 101: Your Bag of Tricks (part 2)
  2. Sewing 101: Your Bag of Tricks (part 3)
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