Build your own sewing kit – Mother Earth News


Breathe new life into old clothes with a few basic skills and supplies. This list of sewing kits for beginners covers your essential supplies.

You don’t need to be an experienced seamstress to mend your clothes. You don’t even need a sewing machine. The power to patch your favorite pair of jeans, hem a thrift store skirt, or swap ordinary buttons for extraordinary buttons is in your hands. Mending clothes is good for the environment and good for the soul – a simple and soothing pastime that allows us to slow down and save resources. And with our list of sewing kit essentials and our mending tips and techniques, you’ll be mastering sewing in no time.

Tools of the trade

To start your sewing kit, pick up these basic supplies at your neighborhood fabric store. This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good starting point. As you hone your skills and hone your craft, your sewing kit will evolve with your needs.

Needles: A pack of assorted sewing needles will have a variety of thicknesses and lengths. Use fine needles for thin fabrics and thick needles for heavy materials such as denim and canvas. The shorter the needle, the easier it will be to make short stitches, which are stronger and don’t show as easily.

Of: It may be difficult to use at first, but a thimble will protect your finger from accidental pricks. They are usually worn on the middle or ring finger and should be snug but not too tight. Metal lugs provide the most protection; open thimbles accommodate long fingernails and provide airflow; and the leather thimbles are soft and “catch” the needle better.

Thread: Stock up on spools of organic mat yarn in your favorite colors, plus white, black and navy. (If your local craft store doesn’t carry organic products, check Don’t focus on finding the perfect thread color to match your fabric. Simply choose a color that blends with or is a shade darker than the fabric; he will “sew” the lighter.

Scissors: You will need at least two pairs of scissors: one for the fabric and one for everything else. Invest in a good pair of stainless steel dressmaker’s scissors. Unlike cheaper orange-handled aluminum varieties, they can be sharpened and will last well beyond your life. Never use them to cut anything other than fabric, especially paper, which will dull them in an instant.

Tape measure and ruler: A flexible measuring tape is essential for correctly measuring inseams and curved areas such as the waist. Opt for fabric over vinyl. A standard 60 inch ribbon should do the trick, but you can get a 120 inch version for larger projects like curtains. Keep a ruler handy to draw straight lines.

marking tool: There are several options for marking fabric, but clay tailor’s chalk is the most environmentally friendly. It is non-toxic, easy to remove and inexpensive. Get white for dark fabrics and light blue for fabrics and prints where the white won’t be visible. The only downside is that the chalk makes a thick line. For projects that require precision embroidery, for example, use a fine-tip disappearing ink marker.

Pins and Pincushion: Pins hold hems and seams in place when repairing and altering your garments. We like the ones with large colored metallic heads because they won’t melt under an iron and they’re easy to spot on the floor before you spot them in your foot. Store pins safely in a pretty pin cushion.

Vessel: Once you’ve collected your goodies, store them in a pretty container that reflects your style. Vintage baskets, suitcases and purses make great totes for sewing supplies. Collect tea canisters, baby food containers and jars to store loose items.

In dots

Extend the life of your clothes with these simple suggestions.

• Traditionally, mending was done on laundry day. Why not revive this custom? Inspect all your clothes before washing them and set aside pieces with loose or missing buttons and small holes or tears that could get bigger during the wash. Use cold water and dry clothes on a clothesline or drying rack when you can.

• Gather your clothes and your sewing kit and find a comfortable chair. The great thing about hand sewing is that it’s portable; you can retrieve it at any time. And when you focus on this silent task, your mind also becomes quiet.

• You may be tempted to use long lengths of thread to avoid rethreading your needle. Don’t ! Keep your thread shorter than your arm’s length so it doesn’t get tangled and knotted as you sew. Keep in mind that wire weakens with age. Give the strands a few sharp blows to test their strength before you begin.

• Work the stitches from right to left (reverse if left-handed) and keep the thread tension loose enough to avoid puckering the fabric. For a guide to the different types of hand stitches and 24 projects you can hand stitch, check out Susan Wasinger’s Hand sewn.


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