The Importance of Sewing

by e. lee caleca

Beginner's Sewing Equipment
Denim Bodice Chiffon Dress

If you love the idea of designing but are not fond of the sewing process, I would caution you to think again. Many inexperienced designers draw designs that are just not feasible in the construction phase of a garment. Some things just don't work. No really, they just can not work. The point is this: you will become a much better designer if you understand garment construction.

The Basics of Fashion Design would not be complete without talking a little bit about the basic sewing equipment and tools you will need to get started. If you're passionate about this field, you will always be looking for newer and better equipment. Always buy the best you can afford but don't buy an expensive tool unless and until you understand its uses and abilities. Start with the beginner's sewing equipment.

Don't overwhelm yourself. Take your time. If you plan to use store bought patterns, remember, they are made for generic size groups and are not custom fit to your body, so don't expect things to fit perfectly until you learn how to draft your own patterns or alter the store bought patterns correctly.


Of course you will need a sewing machine. This is your most important piece of basic sewing equipment. Check the available features on different machines. If you're purchasing a good quality home machine, look for a buttonholer, a variety of stitch selections, a free arm, built in bobbin winder, automatic tension and pressure adjustment to start. Industrial machines are task specific. They are designed so that one operator can do one task many times without changing the machine configuration. If you think you want to start with an industrial machine instead of a home machine, remember you will be limited to a straight stitch.

You'll want a variety of feet: straight stitch or general purpose, zipper foot, blindstitch hem foot, even feed foot, button foot, overedge foot. Machine feet are a little pricey so think about the projects you will be doing before investing in a lot of feet. Many of these basic feet will come with your machine.

In addition you will need: needles, pins, marking tools, measuring tools, cutting tools, pressing tools, and special equipment.

Threads: Keep basic colors on hand - black, white, off-white, tan, red. Use polyester, general purpose thread until you know you need something else.
Pins and needles vary greatly and according to the type of fabric being used. In needles, start with sharps for general purpose and ballpoint for knits. In pins, silk fabric requires silk pins, straight pins for general sewing, ballpoint for knits.
Marking tools: tracing wheel, tracing paper, marking pencil or tailor's chalk.
Measuring tools: see through rulers, 6" and 18", yardstick, fabric tape measure, seam gauge, and L-square.
Cutting Tools: bent handled dressmaker's shears, seam ripper, thread clippers, notch cutters.
Pressing Tools: steam/spray iron, tailor's ham, sleeve board.
Special Equipment: fabric weights (4), loop turner, point turner

Take good care of your tools. Don't use your dressmaker shears for cutting anything but fabric. I like to keep a variety of scissors for different purposes. Keep your machines covered when not in use to keep them dust free. Have them serviced once a year. The right tool for any job will make the project go more smoothly and enjoyably.

One more word about machines: Most machines today are computerized. If you plan to do any serious work with construction, invest in a computerized machine. It takes all the guesswork out of stitches and has far more versatility than a non-computerized machine (if you can even find one).