Things You Need When You Start Sewing (without a machine)

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”–Chinese proverb

A big part in moving away from our overly materialistic culture is learning to love and appreciate what we already have rather than continuously buying into this disposable economy. We’ve all been guilty of buying cheap products at the dollar store which barely last longer than a few months. Or buying mass produced clothing at the mall (without realizing where it truly comes from) just because it was convenient at the time.

When you teach yourself basic skills like sewing, you give yourself the freedom to cut out all the disposable garbage in your life and focus on maintaining high quality products instead. I mean, there’s so many benefits to learning sewing but for the sake of brevity I’ll try to abstain myself.

Before we get started on our list I also want to add that you don’t have to be a professional seamstress to do useful things like applying buttons, mending holes, or changing hemlines. A lot of people feel intimidated by all the machines and the special names but don’t be. Basic hand sewing can be learned within a single weekend. You don’t even need fancy or expensive equipment to start, all you really need are these basic tools:

Hand Needles

Hand needles are different from machine needles so it’s important you pick up the right ones! They come in a variety of sizes and are made for different fabrics. Obviously a needle designed for heavier fabrics like denim will be thicker than a needle for satin.

Glass Head Pins

Pins are used to pin fabrics down so they stay in place as you sew. I prefer to use glass head pins over the plastic ones since they don’t melt when you iron over them. If you can’t find glass headed pins, the plastic ones are fine as well. Just make sure you don’t apply any heat to your fabrics while they’re still on!


Really important when you want to avoid needle accidents. Also useful when working with heavier fabrics like denim, the thimble acts as a wall that helps push the needle through.


Make sure it’s a good quality all purpose thread to start out with.

Fabric Shears +Pinking Shears

Fabric shears are sharp and designed to cut through all types of fabric (never EVER use fabric scissors on paper unless you want to dull your blade quickly). Pinking shears are great to end seams quickly. You’ll need both when you’re building your sewing kit.

Needle Threader

Excellent if you have don’t have the best eyesight. The wire loop lets the thread easily pass through the needle hole.


You’ll definitely need to measure things.

Fabric Pen/Chalk

Great for marking. Make sure it’s meant for fabrics and isn’t permanent (I’ve made that mistake before).

Spare Buttons

Pretty handy to have as back ups.

Seam Ripper

Extremely important in the beginning when you’ll be making a lot of mistakes and needing to redo seams.

Seam Gauge

A ruler with a gauge on it for measuring and matching seam lengths.

Also another side thought: It doesn’t make much sense spending $75 on a new blouse when you can use that money to buy the tools needed to actually repair your existing clothes. By learning the basics of hand sewing, not only will you extend the life of your current garments but it also opens up a whole new world of possibilities at the thrift store! That means more savings for you and a happier environment. Win-Win!

In the near future I’ll also be posting some excellent free resources that I used when I first started learning how to sew.  

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