Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sewing Modest Clothing on a Shoe String Budget Part 2: Tools

The last post I talked a little bit about defining what your goals and skill levels are. In this post I want to cover some basic tools to consider investing in to aid you in your sewing.  One thing to keep in mind when you are considering starting to sew clothing for yourself, no matter what your goals and budget are there are some investments that you will have to make in order to do it successfully.

1. Start with a Good Sewing Machine

Unless you are planning on sewing everything entirely by hand you will need to have a sewing machine. One thing that I hear quite frequently from people who are relatively new to sewing clothing is they are planning on buying a really cheap machine so that they can use the money they are saving on other things.  Don’t fall prey to that line of thinking, it’s just a money trap waiting to happen. 

·         Don’t “settle” for a sewing machine from Wal-Mart or JoAnn Fabrics. While the price tags may be lower, chances are the machines won’t last. Buy wisely, buy once. If you get a good sewing machine to begin with and have it regularly maintained it will last you a very long time.

My very first sewing machine was a cheap model that I was given when I was probably ten or so. After the feed-dogs frayed all of the fabric, it simply stopped working approximately two hours after I got it out of the box. It ended up that we were able to return the machine, but it had still cost us hours of frustration and wrecked perfectly good fabric in the process.

·         I would also caution against going out and buying fancy machines with all of the bells and whistles if you are new to sewing. I’ve seen many women buy very expensive machines and never use the features that cost them extra.  A basic, good quality machine is a true gem.  Spend time researching the machines available and the features that you will need and use. There are plenty of good sewing machines from reputable brands available in many different price brackets.

·         If you’ve got an old clunker machine, spend the money to have it tuned up. I’ve seen many of my students get frustrated and quit sewing entirely, because they were sewing on an old machine that didn’t run properly. If you are serious about sewing, it will save you money in the long run to have a machine that won’t ruin your fabric or fill it with knotty seams. 

There are ways to find  good deals on sewing machine. Find a local dealer and check to see if they have any good sales. Our sewing machine repair shop has a yearly mother’s day sale, where they mark down all of their new and used sewing machines as well as give you a discount for trading in old clunker machines.  If you know people who sew in your area it would be wise to see if they can give you any information.

2. Invest in Supplementary Tools.

Sewing machines are only one of the tools to consider when you are preparing to start sewing clothing. Other things that you should invest in, if you don’t already have them are:

·         Sewing Scissors. Don’t ruin your good fabric by trying to cut it with dull paper scissors.

·         Seamstresses Tape Measure. Knowing exactly what size is important, but we’ll cover that later.

·         Good pins and hand needles. This is going to sound silly, but it’s frustrating when your most basic of tools don’t work right. If it looks like they are cheapo and will snap or bend, they probably will. They are very cheap.  J

·         Chalk or white charcoal pencil. When you are making clothing you will need to mark different points on the fabric. Whether it’s pleat lines, darts or buttonhole placement, almost every pattern has something that needs to be marked on the fabric. Enter the chalk or charcoal! I use mine all of the time. It leaves a much better mark than a regular pencil and once you’re done marking the fabric it washes right off without damaging it like a marker or pen would.

·         SEAMRIPPER! This is the tool that will get used the most. It’s far easier to manage pulling out a bad seam with a seam ripper, than it is with a pair of bulky scissors. You’re far less likely to damage your fabric this way, true story L

This is not an exhaustive list, but a few things that I use all of the time. You can find most of these for fairly inexpensively in the sewing notions department of your craft store. Don’t feel like you need to go all out on your smaller tools. One other thing that I’ve found is, just because they make it, doesn’t mean you need it. When you are starting to purchase your sewing supplies, stick to the basics and acquire other tools as needed.

I get most of my small tools at JoAnn fabrics and use coupons from their direct mail flyers. That’s what I’ve found to be the least expensive. However, it never hurts to shop around and compare prices. I’ve also found some good deals at

(PSST! If you are a homeschool mom, JoAnn Fabrics has a 15% Teacher’s Card that can be used on top of sales prices all school year.J Be sure to ask them about their teachers’ discounts.)

Pop in again soon for the next installment! If you have questions please leave a comment!
Happy Sewing!


  1. Holly...Good post. I used to use my mom's Singer for the longest time then I invested in a Pfaff and have had it ever since. And we've been blessed that a friend gave us another sewing machine and a serger. Both need a little work but I'm okay with that. My daughter has been sewing now for two years and she has seen the usefulness of the skill. (She made her own regency ball gown this past spring.)I found you at Raising Homemakers link up, I believe. Have a good week.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by!
      My very first machine was a Singer too. It was my grandmother's from the late 1950's, but wasn't a good beginner machine. It was a good lesson in patience though. It's such a joy to have a machine that actually works smoothly and reliably. You will probably come to love your serger very much once it's tuned up. Happy sewing to you both!