If you’ve just begun sewing, this post is for you! I will describe some of the basic sewing tools that everyone needs and that I personally use for almost all my projects. Keep in mind that this list doesn’t cover everything that one needs to sew, just a few favorites of my own. There will also be a part 2 coming later that will cover more specialized tools.
Tracing wheel and tracing paper
When I started sewing, this was one of the first set of tools I bought. I use it to transfer all dart lines and sewing marks from my patterns to the fabric. Some people actually trace all the pattern pieces to their fabric with this to avoid having to cut their pattern, but personally I’m too lazy to do that! To this day, I still use it for all my sewing projects.
AKA your best friend
Lately there’s been a video teaching how to properly use a seam ripper shared quite a lot on social media sites. I’m not going to lie, I had no idea you could use a seam ripper like that, but that’s probably because mine is too dull to work! It’s a really cool technique, but you also have to be careful not to stab your fabric with the sharp end, especially if it’s thin.
Whether your seam ripper can do this or not, this is a must-have tool for every dressmaker. It comes in handy when you make mistakes (which I never do obviously *cough*) and for cutting open buttonholes.
A tailor’s ham is a type of pressing tool that is shaped like a small ham. It’s essential when you need to iron shapes such as darts, princess seams or any curved garment section. Actually, it would be very difficult to get a nice finish on those seams without this!
A very similar tool is the seam roll which is like the skinny version of the tailor’s ham. Inserting it inside the garment prevents a crease from forming when pressing open seams on sleeves or pant legs.
Just like the tailor’s ham, this is another pressing tool. Depending what type of fabric you tend to use, sometimes you’ll notice the seams won’t easily lay flat when you iron them. This is where the tailor’s clapper comes in. Place this smooth wooden tool on top of your seams right after you remove the iron and leave it there for a few seconds. The wood helps absorb the moisture and it forces the fabric to lay flat while it cools without burning your fingers. Nice flat seams every time.
Curve & square rulers
When you sew your own cosplays, sooner or later you will need to modify commercial patterns or draft your own. Most likely sooner than you think because those crazy anime character outfits aren’t found in the Butterick/McCall’s/Vogue catalogs!
To draw curves you will need a template (usually plastic or metal) having an edge composed of one or several different curves. French curves are one of the many types of rulers that you can use. Since they are not exclusively designed for sewing, you can easily find those in art stores. There are also various curved rulers that you can get depending on your needs.
Square rulers, or L-squares, are also useful for patterning, but I use them as well for cutting strips of fabric on the bias to make bias tape. I bought the largest one I could find for more precision.
Last in this list of basic sewing tools is fray check. I don’t use it on all my projects but it can be quite useful at times. Fray check is a type of very thin glue that prevents raw edges of fabric from unraveling. Even though it dries clear, it will make your fabric a bit darker so I always use it on spots that are not visible. Be careful if you use it in an area that directly touches your skin, once dry it makes some fabrics quite scratchy so it can be uncomfortable when you wear your garment.