5 Must-Have Sewing Notions

Shaker Pincushion

Sewing gadgets can make life easier, and if they are the right price, I am happy to try them out. Some of these things include a bobbin winder (used twice), a 1/4″ rule for marking seams (used a lot!), and the Dritz EZ Hem (used once for this dress). As you can see, even when you have the right tool for the job, you may not find that it is a must-have (just a fun to have). However, there are 5 sewing tools I can’t live without.

1. Seam Ripper

Clover Seam Ripper

This gets used all the time! I used to get frustrated whenever I had to rip out a seam, but now I find it kind of therapeutic. Seam ripping is a nice break during a marathon sewing session. Also, once I learned the correct way to rip out a seam, the job was much faster and easier. There are two seam rippers I recommend (having used both quite a bit): the ergonomic once by Clover and the Dritz one that folds (which is nice for travel). The main thing is to pick a seam ripper you can easily hold in your hand without it cramping up.

2. Iron

Rowenta Steam Iron

An iron is on this list, even though it is probably not considered a sewing notion, but it is a necessity. There are wide variety of opinions on which one is best. Many people swear by their $20 iron, while others say that the more expensive irons are worth the money. I’ve had experience with both types and I find the more expensive irons (like a Rowenta) really do work better for quilting and sewing. This is because of several reasons — and if you can find a cheaper iron that has the following features, get it:

The first thing to consider is the weight of the iron, a big heavy iron is going to work better since the natural weight of the iron makes it easier for you to press down and get a nice flat seam. Some people find that an iron can be too heavy and thus tire out their arms, so keep this in mind. The temperature is another factor in how well your iron works – you want a iron that can get nice and hot, especially when working with cotton – the hotter the iron, the flatter the seam. The final thing to consider is steam – more expensive irons have more holes for the steam to escape, which makes better use of the steam. One caveat is that if you store your iron with water inside, it is more likely to leak. I have heard that keeping water in the iron is the biggest reason why irons start leaking and break down. Each time I finish with my iron, I empty out the water, and I also run the self cleaning function a few times a month.

3. Scissors

Gingher 8" Dressmakers Shears

Again, this is an area where you can spend a little or lot of money. After comparing scissors, I splurged and bought Ginghers (made in the USA!) –8″ dressmakers shears for cutting fabric, 7″ craft scissors for ribbon, wool, and foundation piecing, and a 4″ utility pair for embroidery and applique (also good for travel). There are several reasons that Ginghers are worth the money. First, they accurately cut all the way to the very tip of the blade. This is especially important for detail cutting, where you don’t want to risk a slip of the scissors. They are really sharp and can through cut several layers of fabric at once. They are LIFETIME scissors, meaning they will never wear out and I can send them to Gingher at anytime to get them sharpened (for a nominal fee) and they will be like new again.

One interesting thing to note is the difference between scissors and shears. The word “scissors” is used interchangeably between the two, but there is a difference Scissors are usually smaller, and feature two similar sized round holes for your fingers. The handles are separate and made of plastic while the blade part is metal.

Shears feature a round hole for the thumb and a larger oval hole for the rest of your fingers. This makes the shears easier to control when you are cutting fabric. The handle and blade are made out of one piece of metal. , which means that shears are two metal “scissors” held together by a bolt.

4. Chalk Wheel Marker

Clover Chalk Wheel Marker

Oftentimes while sewing, there is a need to mark the fabric. For example, you may need to draw lines for quilting, divided pockets, o r a hemline. The chalk wheel marker makes a nice sharp line and wipes off very easily. For a few dollars you can purchase a bag of chalk dust for refills and it last a loooong time.

5. Pincushion

Tomato Pin Cushion

Pincushions are something I can’t live without. They are pretty, functional, and fun to make. I have three that get used on a regular basis, and several others for decorative purposes. They are great scrap busters and you can make them in variety of shapes and sizes.

From a functional standpoint, pincushions are much easier to use — you don’t have to worry your pins falling on the ground as you add and remove pins to your project. If you want to get fancy with your pins and needles organization you can section off the pincushion by type – needles in one section, applique pins in another, and quilting pins in a third.

Finally, the tomato pincushion is pretty much the universal sewing symbol. Why the tomato you ask? According to some, people used to place a ripe tomato on the mantle of a new home to guarantee future prosperity. However, in those days, tomatoes were not available year-round (or would rot easily), so a round ball stuffed with sawdust or sand was used instead. These balls were the perfect place for storing pins, thus the tomato pincushion was born. The strawberry that is attached to most pincushions is filled with emery which is useful for sharpening pins. I wasn’t able to find an explanation for how the strawberry got added to the pincushion…if anyone knows, please enlighten us!

Shaker Pincushion

Since everyone needs a pincushion and a place to store all their odds and ends – a Shaker Pincushion is the perfect solution. Click here for my free pattern. Enjoy!

Keep it Thimble!

132 thoughts on “5 Must-Have Sewing Notions

  1. I sewed some when I was in high school. And now my mother-in-law is who I go to when I need a sewer. BUT…I can see where most of these could be useful for someone who doesn’t sew as much. I may need a better pair of shears/scissors. I love the story of the tomato pin cushion =0) I’m off to check out your pattern for the shaker pincushion!

  2. is this the post for Blogelina? I don’t sew at all, my poor husband gets that task in our house. So I honestly can’t say what i wouldn’t live without, but if I were to choose, the chalk wheel thingy looks kinda cool! Your post was very good for beginers, thank you.

  3. I don’t even sew but I love my seam ripper! I “inherited” it from my mom, who does sew and had a few extra. I use it for taking the feet off of footie pajamas so that my daughter can get a few more months out of them, snipping stray threads off of clothes, and removing buttons when randomly necessary.
    -Viva, from dailycitron.com

  4. By the way, your link on the Blogelina website is broken. I only found your article because I manually typed in your main website address and then searched for it. I’ve noticed that happened with a couple of the Blogelina links provided.

  5. My mum bought me 3 extra seam rippers because she was always losing hers – funny thing is I’ve never lost any of mine! (of course now I’ve said that I probably will!! πŸ™‚ ) Good scissors I think would be my no 1 item! They slowly blunt and you dont realise how much until you get them sharpened and realise quite how good they once were!!

  6. This article SO reminded me of my mom! She sewed almost all of our clothes when I was growing up and she even had that red tomato pin cushion.
    Thanks for a trip down memory lane!

  7. I love the story of how the tomato pin cushion came into being. I don’t know about the strawberry. I have all of the must have sewing notions that you list. I got really lucky when a friend of mine was selling a great old sewing machine with the cabinet and all kinds of notions to come with it for only $75. I love my sewing machine. Thanks for sharing these tips with us.

  8. After being required to sew in college (at UNCG in what used to be the School of Home Economics, but was renamed School of Human Environmental Science), I took a long vacation from it. I now only sew occasionally- I usually opt to buy used or clearance items to which I can add a monogram, since I keep the monogram attachment on the machine at all times!

  9. I am excited to find your blog. I have recently taken an interest in sewing and have no idea where to start. I purchased a sewing machine about a month ago that is still sitting untouched. Thanks.

    1. Jamie, I’m glad you like the blog. I have a few tutorials and some free patterns that are good for beginners. I also hope to post some video tutorials soon of some basic sewing techniques.

  10. Thanks for the tips! Embarrassing to say but I don’t even own a iron! I went somewhere to use their iron and I was so impressed by how well it ironed. The other ladies there thought I was crazy for being so worked up by a simple iron! I am a sewing newbie, still learning to use a machine and can’t even get to sewing a straight line! Not sure if I’ll ever get good! I want to though! Thanks for sharing with us!

    It’s nice “meeting” you through Blogelina’s comment tour!

    1. Kathy, thanks for stopping by! You will be surprised at how quickly you can learn to sew. I took a few lessons at the local quilt shop and it was enough to get me on my way.

  11. These are great items. I sew about once every 1.5 years. LOL. I inherited a older sewing machine that I need to get looked at so I can start sewing again and not have to borrow my moms sewing machine. I liked the tip about the iron. Need to buy a good one. Along with a seam ripper. Don’t know how to use one though. I did not know that there was a difference between shears and scissors. Will have to look at the pattern for the pincushion. Thanks for the tips.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Clarinda. For the seam ripped, click on the link in my post and it will take you to a tutorial on how to use one. Once you learn how to use once correctly, the work goes really fast.

  12. Very interesting – I didn’t know the different between scissors and shears, nor was I aware of the reason for the tomato pincushion. I love learning stuff like that – thank you! πŸ™‚

  13. I lost my pin cushions during a period in which I wasn’t sewing much. I’ve got my pins in the plastic box they came in. I should get myself a new tomato.

  14. like easytosave, i have all those things. i inherited my moms when she died, along with her sewing machine.

    of course i can’t sew. my kids never saw an iron until my now 6.5 year old started daisy scouts at 5 – they asked what it was. LOL

  15. I have all these sewing notions, they are definitely important. I totally agree with you on the scissors, it is mandatory to have a good quality pair. And it helps if you have someplace to get them sharpened once in awhile. I have to hide mine because my family will use them for anything and I have been told to only use them to cut material or the blades will become dull.

  16. Would you believe my dh broke my seam ripper yesterday using it like it should not be used. Ugh! I have a pair of shears that my mom bought me for 9th grade home ec class in the early 70’s. I remember her griping about having to pay $20 for them. I still use them as my best shears. No telling how much they would cost today.

  17. I agree with 4 out of 5. I have never tried the chalk wheel liner. Have you tried the magnetic pin dish? I used my pin cushions but am wondering about getting one.

  18. I used to like to sew, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a sewing machine or room for one. Maybe in my next home.
    I didn’t know that leaving water in the iron was a bad idea. Thanks for the tip!

  19. Fun facts about the tomato pin cushion – I have two! πŸ™‚ I’m a sewing novice, and I have only supplies that have been passed along to me. I really need one of those chalk pins!

  20. I do not sew, and do not care to learn. I can mark and cut out a pattern, but I avoid the sewing machine. My mom is an awesome seamstress, and I enjoy her creations.
    With that said, I now know the difference between scissors and shears. Thanks for the explanation!

  21. This is a helpful post for those learning to sew. My granny gave me her sewing machine last year, and the cover has never been taken off! I do want to learn soon though…

    1. Kecia, it’s time to take the plunge and learn. You will be so glad you did! I plan to post some simple video tutorials in the next few months – so please check back.

  22. Thank you for the information about scissors and shears. I honestly thought that they were the exact same thing and maybe just a regional dialect thing. Thanks for the info on it, it was interesting!

  23. Oh the seam ripper. The bain of my existence! If only I could find the thing when I need it. (Which is often!) I plan on taping it to my forehead on my next project. Ha!


  24. You nailed it! Those are certainly some absolutely essential sewing supplies, but I would add that thread snippers are just as important. While the large shears are terrific for cutting, I am completely unable to sew at a fast pace unless I have tiny scissors nearby to clip my threads.

    Happy sewing!


  25. I don’t even sew and I’ve needed or wanted all these things at one point or another. I have a seam ripper and good scissors; I’ll probably buy the chalk marker soon and someday I hope to have a Rowenta!

  26. I use and have all of these but a chalk wheel. I recently got the gingher scissors and just love them, they are so nice. Great post I have to agree with these being must have items.

  27. I think I have all of those items from my old sewing days. Unfortunately, I had too many difficulties trying to sew a skirt and I got frustrated and gave it up. Now I’m not sure I can remember how to thread my sewing machine 😦 Maybe I’ll take it up again some day!

    1. Erin, I find clothing can be frustrating to me. I started out by making simple quilts and tote bags. Then I tackled my son’s Halloween costume – which gave me confidence to try a dress. Pick a small project and see what you can do!

  28. I use my seam ripper regularly to take apart sweaters for their yarn. I got a foam grip handle that you just slide over the seam ripper handle to make it easier to hold in my sometimes arthritic hands.

  29. I am an awful sewer. My creative skills are very lacking. My mom is a great sewer though, i remember in grade school when she used to make me clothes. πŸ™‚

  30. I’d love to start sewing and create something fab. I will def think about these things when I embark on that journey. I also need a sewing machine!

  31. I don’t sew, but I can attest to needing all of those things. My mother sews, and not just a blouse here or a pair of shorts there. She does heirloom sewing, shadow embroidery, smocking and all of that really complicated, detail stuff that I just stair at in awe.

  32. Who invented the tomato pin cushion? I feel like EVERYONE that sews has one. I’m so not cool b/c I don’t have one 😦

  33. I used to sew for a living at a ski wear factory. That was interesting to say the least. Sewimg machines on steroids. Scary. I like to just sit down and sew something simple. Thats for sharing.

    1. Dianna, it’s great that your daughter is beginning to sew. I plan to teach my son in a year or two. He likes watching me make projects and will often advise me on colors.

  34. I’ve tried ripping seams with a needle. A seam ripper is definantly something I need to add.

    The chalk wheel looks handy. I’ve quilted before, marking the design with chalk. However, I always ended up frustrated because I couldn’t tell exactly where to sew and it would rub off. Have a crisper light would help a lot.

    thanks for the pointers.

  35. I just started learning how to quilt, so I can say that as of last month, I actually have all of those items in your list! lol I remember from sewing class in high school, a seam ripper is AWESOME. Probably because I had to use it so much…

  36. I am new to sewing. I love it, but can’t seem to find the time to do it. I need to carve out some time and get crafty πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for sharing these must haves. I appreciate it.

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