All About Fabric

Sewing for Beginners Watching the Great British Sewing Bee on TV.

Beginner sewinf essentials

When just starting to learn how to sew you do not need to buy tons of equipment. Buy tools when they are needed for a project.

Watch the Great British Sewing Bee due on BBC 2 Tuesday evenings. Be inspired to sew.

Sewing teachers have a few “taster” classes where the sewing equipment including machine is provided.

What is essential equipment?

Basic sewing is divided into four processes, measuring, cutting, marking and stitching by hand or machine. For each of these tasks there are tools which make things easier.

You need a variety of tools because working with different fabrics requires slightly different tools. As you learn you will know which marker works best on which fabrics etc.

sewing essentials

Hand sewing equipment

Needles and pins – buy a mixed set of needles.

  • Needles and Pins are available in a variety of sizes and styles for different uses. Look for rust-proof needles and pins made of stainless steel, nickel plated steel or brass because the will not mark your fabric.
  • Pins with coloured heads rather than flat heads are easier to see in the fabric and are used with most fabrics. Regular shaft and fine shaft pins are available, but the fine shaft ones are good for lightweight fabrics.
  • Dressmakers pins are used for general sewing, they are silver with a little head and are approx 2.5cm long. Because they are fine and sharp they are good for most fabric.
  • Long Colour headed pins are used for holding thick layers together and heavy fabrics. Because quilters have thick layers of fabric, these are ideal.
  • Sharps are all-purpose, medium length needles for general sewing.
  • Crewel Needles  Are used for embroidery and have long eyes for the thread to go through.
  • Ball Point Needles are used on knitted fabrics as they don’t pierce the fabric.
  • Straw Needles are long with round eyes and are used for making long tacks or gathering stitches.

Marking tools

The symbols on a pattern are guides for the accurate construction of the garment. Transferring these symbols from the pattern to the fabric is essential to putting a garment together accurately.

  • Tracing wheels come in two types – serrated or smooth edge. The serrated edge makes a dotted marking line. Use with dressmakers tracing paper. The paper is like carbon paper but comes in different colours.
  • Tailors chalk marks quickly and easily. It comes off easily so use it only when you are sewing as it will rub off.
  • Liquid marking pens make it easy to mark darts, pleats and pocket positions. Some markers disappear in a few hours and others wash out.
Tailors chalk

Measuring tools

Body and pattern measurements need measuring tools. To ensure a good fit, measure often and accurately with the best tool for the job.

  • A See-through ruler is perfect because it lets you see what you measure or mark. It is used for checking grain lines and to mark hems, buttonholes, tucks, and pleats.
  • Yard/metre stick does the same as the plastic ruler but it is good for adding length on to patterns.
  • A Tape measure has the flexibility required to take body measurements. Select a 150cm / 60″ tape with metal tips. Most have cm on one side and inches on the other so you can choose which measurement scale you prefer.
  • Seam gauge helps make quick, accurate measurements for hems, buttonholes, scallops, and pleats.
  • See Through T square is used to locate grains of fabric, alter patterns and square off straight edges. Consider using this to true the grain line when pattern cutting.
Tape measures

Cutting Tools

Buy quality cutting tools because they give the best results and last for a long time.

What is the difference between scissors and shears?

Scissors have both handles the same size, shears have one handle longer than the other.

  • Sharp shears make clean cuts and well-defined notches. Blunt shears slow the cutting process down. Do not use your sewing scissors for anything else but sewing as cutting paper will blunt them completely.
  • Small scissors are great for snipping threads as well as being good at cutting close to the stitching line.
  • A Seam ripper is your best friend because it allows your sewing always to look good. : ) Remove any stitch errors with this and then re sew. Open buttonholes but use it with care, it is sharp and will pierce your fabric.
  • Pinking shears cut a zigzag edge instead of a straight one. It is used to finish raw edges on medium and heavy woven fabrics because they cut a fray resistant edge.
Quick unpick

What sewing machine is best for a beginner?

Whether you intend to sew complex garments, make curtains or just intend to do the odd repair to your clothes, choosing the right machine for your needs will help you get the most use.

The Which magazine has a useful sewing machine guide.

Sewing machine choosing guide.

  • Buy a machine that does what you want it to do and a bit more.
  • Consider the size you would like, the weight if you need to carry it around.
  • If you have a local sewing machine shop, pay them a visit and test drive the machines.
  • Brand names like Singer, Bernina, Elna, Janome and Brother all are well known. Read reviews on the machines and shop around for best price deal before you consider purchasing one.

A Selection of Easy Sewing patterns suitable for a beginner.

Sewing patterns are available from online stockists

What’s in the Sew Mag?


Croft Mill Fabrics advertise and contribute to the SEW MAG. Looking through the March Issue of the SEW MAG we found this lovely skirt pattern Simplicity K1200, the pattern came with the magazine. See our fabric suggestions below.

Some fabric suggestions for skirts

Internet Freebies and Inspiration for beginner sewists.

  • From Crazy Little Projects -we have 25 easy sewing projects which are suitable for beginners.
  • Another good selection from The Polka Dot Chair blog has a selection of 50 easy sewing projects for beginners.

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  • Reply
    Brenda Bailey
    11/02/2019 at 12:03 PM

    I’m delighted that the BBC are putting the Great British Sewing Bee on again. Better than more cooking programmes

    • Reply
      11/02/2019 at 1:38 PM

      I must agree with you Brenda, sewing is so much more fun, enjoy watching it.

  • Reply
    13/03/2019 at 6:51 AM

    I’m a beloved housewife with a busy daily schedule. Sewing is more of my devotion than just a pursuit. I believe you can sew properly as long as you’ve esteem for the sacred job.Trust me, I had none, but you wouldn’t believe seeing what I can do with the needles and fabrics now.

    • Reply
      13/03/2019 at 9:20 AM

      Thank you for your comment and how true it is… Glad you enjoy sewing it is a great, and rewarding past time and sewing gifts for others can bring great joy.

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