What you need to get started sewing - the Ultimate Supplies Guide

What you need to get started sewing - the Ultimate Supplies Guide

Entering the world of sewing and dressmaking is incredibly exciting, but somewhat daunting too. There is a whole new language to learn, and a fair amount of equipment that you need to get making. You can have a read of some ways to get into sewing on this blog and decide for yourself but one thing I have noticed, whether starting with a book or a course, is that there are always lists of what you need. Which is great, but... I never really knew if I was getting the right thing, and have spent money on equipment that isn't up to the job. So, here is my ultimate guide to what you need to start sewing. I am going to be really specific, based on what I have found works well. I am not being sponsored for anything here so if I mention a brand it's because it's all my own research and opinion.

What you need to get started sewing - the Ultimate Supplies Guide

Sewing machine (obviously)

Starting out you don't need to spend hundreds of pounds, but one of those small half size ones probably won't be up to it either. Find a machine that has:

  • straight and zigzag stithes
  • buttonhole function
  • ability to adjust stitch width and length
  • backstitch function
  • foot pedal
That is the basic minimum and will allow sewing with knit fabrics as well as woven. These models are under £500, and some can be found for under £100. Mine is a Janome 7025 (also known as 525s). This is the model used in my first sewing workshop and on previous series of the Great British Sewing Bee. I started with a Brother machine, but changed because I couldn't adjust the width of stitches (something needed to work with jersey and knit fabrics).

Sewing machine feet - Machines use different presser feet for different uses. All machines come with a regular zigzag foot. Also helpful is a zip foot, an invisible zip foot and an overedge foot.

Extra bobbins - every new coloured spool needs a bobbin in the machine. Which ones you get will be determined by your machine's make.

What you need to get started sewing - the Ultimate Supplies Guide scissors


Dressmaking scissors - something in the region of 23cm. There are lots you can get, some are more expensive than others. Mine are basic ones from Hobbycraft. John Lewis have a wide range at reasonable prices too. Fiskars have ones which have offset blades which can make cutting easier.

Embroidery scissors - a pair of small scissors for snipping threads accurately (2-3cm); nail scissors will work.

Paper scissors - never use your fabric shears on paper. You need a pair of regular scissors for patterns.

Cutting mat - one of those A2 or bigger, green self-healing ones (especially if you are using a rotary cutter) or a big lino tablecloth to protect your table from pins and scissors whilst you are working.

Optional extra
Rotary cutter - this is useful for slippery fabrics like chiffon and for fabrics like jersey or knit which can distort. Mine are from Fiskars (via amazon); I may try a different one next time.

Pins and needles

Pins - with coloured ball heads so you can see and remove them easily.

Magnetic pin holder - invaluable. Stops pins spilling all over the floor!

Needle - there will still be some hand sewing. You only need one or two.

Safety pin - for threading elastic. Plus they are just useful.

Stitch unpicker - life saver. You will make a mistake and this will be needed to unpick stitches (mine came with the machine).

Pattern tools

Measuring tape - a flexible one that has both cm and inches on it, over 1m.

Tailor's chalk or washable fabric pen - You do need these for pattern markings. I don't find chalk pencils work brilliantly. Actual triangular chalks seem to give a more visible line. I have tried a fabric pen from Prym in John Lewis as some fabrics don't take chalk very well and occasionally you need to be very accurate. I always worry it won't come out (it does), and tend to stick with chalks.

Carbon paper and tracer wheel - the best way of transferring markings and patterns. I have a set with two colours from Prym.

Tracing paper - if you want to preserve patterns tracing them first stops them getting ruined. I use Swedish Tracing Paper because you can also sew with it, meaning you can try out toiles and fitting adjustments at the same time.

What you need to get started sewing - the Ultimate Supplies Guide pattern tools

Making life easier

Lint roller - I got mine from Asda. I use it to pick up all the loose threads or bits of fabric and keep my workspace tidy

Iron with steam - this is kind of essential. If it has steam it makes the fabric easier to work with. Probably you can use your regular iron!

Sewing box or storage - I got my sewing box on sale from John Lewis, and it keeps most of my equipment compartmentalised nicely. Any storage containers will do, but you will need them for threads, scissors, equipment, patterns and fabrics.

What you need to get started sewing - the Ultimate Supplies Guide

Fabric and threads

Threads - get these to match fabrics as you buy them (some online shops will add these for you). Gutermann have a wide range and work best in my experience so far.

Fabric - You may be lucky enough to have a lovely fabric store nearby, a Hobbycraft, or (like me) a couple of John Lewis stores with haberdashery departments (and lovely helpful sales assistants).

I often use online fabric stores and sign up for newsletters as this means you can get discount codes. 

Favourites so far are:
  • Sew Essential - basically an online superstore for sewing - you can get your whole fabric, pattern and habersashery set in one go
  • Backstitch - speedy delivery and will match threads for you
  • Remnant Kings - reasonable prices
  • Sew Over It - amazing fabrics which you can filter by intended garment and will match threads for you
  • The Splendid Stitch - brilliant customer service and beautiful selection, matching thread and pattern suggestions
  • Maud's Fabric Finds - loyalty programme, speedy delivery and high quality fabrics
  • Plush Addict - online fabric retailer winner with regular discounts and loyalty programme
  • Minerva Fabrics - very reasonable, wide selection
  • Fabric Godmother - interesting range and newlsetter discounts
  • Girl Charlee - specialising in knit fabrics with reasonable prices
  • Croft Mill - interesting selection, will colour match threads and linings for you

What you need to get started sewing - the Ultimate Supplies Guide patterns


You'll need some patterns to make your fabulous garments with! In my opinion independent companies are best for beginners because their patterns are less complicated and their instructions are more detailed. They also usually have sewalongs on their blogs which have more help, or Pinterest boards of other people's makes for inspiration.

So far I have found these to be particularly beginner friendly:
  • Tilly and the Buttons - both her book Love at First Stitch and her other patterns are aimed at beginners. They are full of photos and language that is easy to understand. Coupled with the blog posts she features you have all the help you need.
  • Sew Over It - again both the Sew Over It books and the other patterns available feature lots of beginner friendly projects. Inspiration also available on the blog (and vlog) as well as Pinterest boards and sewalongs.
  • By Hand London - even the intermediate projects are achievable when coupled with the sewalongs.
  • Colette patterns - Different levels are clear and the instructions are very easy to follow.
  • Love Sewing, Sewing Made Simple and Simply Sewing magazines - there are always free patterns with these magazines, many of which are good for beginners.
What you need to get started sewing - the Ultimate Supplies Guide advice

Advice and Inspiration

Advice and inspiration from sewing communities and bloggers is so helpful, and it makes sewing so much more fun when you can share what you have made.

Just for starters:
and still discovering so many more! 

What you need to get started sewing - the Ultimate Supplies Guide


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Welcome to Sewing and Other Stories; my journeys with sewing and knitting; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm also the designer behind West Beach Knits knitting patterns and I host a Knitting and Sewing channel on YouTube where you can see all of this in person. Come have a look!

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