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A Starter Kit…
If you have clicked onto this post you are likely to be a novice or a beginner here in the world of sewing and dress making. If that is the case- welcome! Congratulations, you have taken the first step towards developing a skill you can use forever. Something I have learned from my mother is- as a beginner, do not dive in head first. Start small. Otherwise you will get frustrated and give up before you’ve even begun. Here is a list of things you’ll need to get started…
There are two pairs of scissors you will need in your kit. The first, shears or dressmaking scissors. They will make your future dress making projects a whole lot easier provided you choose the right pair. They don’t have to be an investment, but a great investment they will be! Both are designed to make the cutting of fabric a less laborious task, their handles allow for you to get a good grip and really control the cutting, and their sharp blades result in the fabric having a clean cut. You should choose them carefully, as you may find that some are very heavy whilst others too light. It’s personal preference. One thing you will hear time and time again from dress makers is do not, I repeat DO NOT use them to cut paper. Paper will blunt the blades, and therefore render them useless when it comes to the task of cutting fabric. Fabric only, people.
A set of small embroidery scissors is the second pair you will think a handy tool to have, for the likes of cutting thread. A little less clunky and pretty reasonable value.
Thread can vary, and depending on the project you may need to select accordingly. A great starter addition to your kit would either be cotton or polyester (or both). Cotton is versatile and comes in different finishes, it can withstand a lot of heat from the iron and runs smoothly through fabrics, particularly natural fabrics. Polyester is great because it works well with all fabrics and has great longevity- it washes well and keeps its colour. An important thing to consider when buying thread, is to know your thread. You should test it before using it in a machine, as a dodgy thread could cause damage. Tip- when pulled tightly, thread should snap before you cut your fingers. If it doesn’t then consider your machine, if it gets caught will it snap the needle or cause even more damage?
Pins are a bit like hair grips, they will end up everywhere and you will always be grateful to have them at hand. Use them to hold your pattern to a fabric whilst you trace it, they are also handy when you are sewing as they can keep your fabric in place to help you sew evenly (especially as a beginner). There is a variety of pins available, and standard steel pins would be a good place to start. They may not look as decorative, but for sewing tasks they will be versatile and easy to use on most fabrics. An adorable pin cushion will brighten up your sewing area too!
Hand sewing needles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they all have their uses. It can be daunting to know which one to choose, so be advised to go for a general pack. It has a few different lengths and types, so that you can find what suits you best dependent on the project at hand.
Sharps Needle: When in doubt, choose a Sharps needle. Very sharp (as the name suggests) and used for all general sewing projects. A good one for beginners as it will be able to tackle most beginner projects such as your first attempt at free hand embroidery!
Quilting Needle: Its has a short length which allows you to stitch faster than you may with a normal sized needle.
Embroidery Needle: Similar to a Sharps, except with a longer eye which will make threading the thicker embroidery thread a little easier for you.
Knitters or Ballpoint: Both are great for knit fabrics, the rounded edge goes around the yarn rather than breaking through it and potentially damaging your handiwork. Knitters are for hand sewing, closing the seams on your knitting projects, whereas Ballpoint is a machine needle, great for knit fabrics such as jersey.
We have a great selection of pins and needles available online and in store.
Provided you are confident that dressmaking or sewing is something you really have an interest in, it’s time to invest in a machine. We here at Hickeys are big fans of the Brother machines. With a starter machine, the more basic the machine, the less chance you have of overcomplicating your projects. The Brother LS14S is affordable as far as machines go and it is a great starter machine. Easy to use, a nice size and it covers all the basics. It comes with a DVD to show you how to use your machine and they have a YouTube channel that will show you all of their top tips and tricks. With an LS14S, even if all you end up doing in your sewing career is turning up your trousers, it will be money well spent.
Now that you have committed to a machine, you are raring to go and create magic. This is great! But you need to practice first. You need to get to know your machine, which means sitting in front of it and trying out all the settings. Try every stitch, get used to working the reverse stitch button, find the speed that suits you on the pedal. You will be grateful that you took the time to practice, it will make creating your first garment a far less daunting task.
When cutting out a fabric, this tool could be your best friend. Trace around your pattern onto the fabric with tailor’s chalk and it will make your life a whole lot easier. You could get a little more technical by using a blunt tracing wheel and some carbon sheets but really it is not necessary when you are learning- leave it to the pro’s for now.
Tailors chalk doesn’t have to be boring! Go for a lucky dip, you could get a red, yellow or blue Tailors Chalk – the excitement!
Even the best of the best dressmakers will make the occasional mistake. A stitch ripper will save you and your scissors the big task of ripping the stitches whilst also saving your fabric from damage so that you can try again!
We have a nifty little seam ripper with a rounded edge, to save your fabric from any nicks whilst ripping your stitches.
It’s easy to run away with your imagination and picture yourself creating dramatic pieces or a complex outfit, and with practice you will be able to achieve that one day. However, for now start simple. Don’t go out and buy a really difficult pattern and a really stretchy material. You might struggle and find yourself frustrated and feeling less than confident about your skills. Practice, practice and then practice some more. You should spend a while getting to know your machine before you even commit to a pattern. When you feel ready, go with a Simplicity pattern. They are very easy to follow, have some great looks and hopefully you won’t feel overwhelmed with their guidance.
If you are unsure of a pattern, pop into one of our stores! We have catalogues upon catalogues of patterns and styles to choose from. If you need help finding a fabric to suit your chosen pattern, our staff will be delighted to help you.
As the saying goes “Measure twice, cut once”, A measuring tape will save you on your mistakes (hopefully!). Soft and flexible, it will measure your curves accurately and easily. Most of them will come with both imperial and metric units, so that you can follow the sizes easily. A quick tip, make sure you replace your tape occasionally. This is as over the years, it can stretch a little when used often, your measurements may become inaccurate, even if you measure thrice!
So, you’ve collected all your bits & bobs, now you need somewhere to store it all! Sure, you could have it all stashed away in a drawer, but where’s the fun in that?! We have a great variety of little and large sewing baskets. Most sewing baskets will contain a removable compartment, acting as a little shelf for the smaller items in your kit. Sewing baskets also usually contain a small pin cushion for you to use while working away on your projects, as well as a little pocket often useful for the sharp embroidery scissors. Half the fun of a sewing basket is the choice in colours and patterns, so get choosing!
At this point, you should be kitted out and raring to create. If so, fantastic news! Use #HickeysFabrics in your social media posts so we can check out all your creative crafty bits and bobs- we can’t wait to see them! If you need any further assistance in your crafting career, why not pop into your local Home Focus or Hickeys Fabrics store? Our lovely staff will be delighted to help you with any queries you may have. We also host a range of Free Craft Demonstrations, no sign up required, just come along and be immersed in the crafting world. Happy Crafting!
Growing up with a dressmaker mother, I’ve always been immersed in the world of craft and DIY. I love to get creative and feel there is nothing you cannot achieve if you have Mod Podge or a glue gun at hand. I’ll be focusing on craft from a beginner level- we can embark on this journey together!
What other beginner machines woud you recommend? I was told to buy a brother Inov -15. Am just about to start off so any guidance would be appreciated.
Hi Fola, thanks for getting in touch! The Brother Inov -15 is a great machine, it has a few more stitch options to offer that the Brother LS14S, but really it depends what you intend to use the machine for. I have an LS14S and I love it! You can see all the sewing machines we have to offer following this link: https://www.homefocus.ie/hickeys/haberdashery/sewing-machines.html
All of our products have descriptions detailing exactly what they do, so you can find which one is best suited to you and what you want from the machine. Happy Crafting!