Good equipment goes a long way in making work easier (and more fun!) and in assuring good results. We can’t recommend it too strongly. Buy the best you can afford—you don’t need to get it all at once—and care for it with the respect that good tools deserve.
The items marked in RED in the listing that follows are the ones you really should have. You can acquire the rest as you go along. A full-length mirror, while it cannot be listed as sewing equipment, is of immense help, not only in checking on an individual garment, but in keeping you aware of what looks good on you and what does not.
There are scores of additional sewing aids on the market, impossible to list here. New ones are being introduced all the time - some excellent, others merely gadgets. Look around for whatever answers your particular needs.
A sewing machine is your major investment, even if the machine is second-hand. And you are not likely to buy another one soon. Therefore, shop around carefully. See what the different brands and models will do, and how well they function (go over the check list below). If your budget is limited, don't worry about a cabinet - you can always get that later. Most portables are standard machine-heads that will fit into a cabinet or folding table. If you prefer a portable, make sure you can lift it without strain. Depending on the kind of work you do, you may prefer a free-arm machine that allows you to get into tight places such as cuffs. As for prices, they vary greatly, depending on brand, model and a variety of considerations.
Checklist For All Brands
1. On a zigzag machine, does the straight stitching come out smooth and even? How good is the buttonhole that it makes?
2. Does the machine satisfactorily sew various weights of fabrics?
3. Does the foot or knee control work smoothly?
4. Is the machine quiet and free from vibration at all speeds?
5. Does the light shine directly on the work area?
6. Is the bobbin easily accessible? Can cover plates be easily removed and all parts made accessible for cleaning?
7. Are upper and lower tensions easy to adjust? Does the manual explain this clearly?
8. What type of guarantee comes with the machine? You should have one, in writing, from both the manufacturer and the dealer. Is service available?
9. Are lessons on the use and care of the machine included?
When you buy your machine, you will do well to add a supply of extra bobbins. Also, be sure you have a zipper foot. You may find an even feed or roller foot useful for stitching fabrics that are difficult to handle.
Where possible, buy equipment marked with both inches and centimeters.
Tape measure - Usually 60" long, with metal ends. A good tape measure must not stretch, and has measurements clearly marked on both sides, starting at opposite ends.
Short ruler for marking hem depth, buttonholes, etc. either a plain 6" ruler, or a hem gauge, which combines a ruler with a movable indicator. You can make a hem gauge using a piece of cardboard, notched at the desired mark.
Yardstick - Indispensable for marking straight long lines; often used for marking hemlines from the floor. Should be firm and straight, to use with tracing paper and a tracing wheel.
French curve - For re-drawing curved lines when a pattern is adjusted, and to use as a guide when transferring curved lines with tracing paper and tracing wheel.
Shirt hem marker - For marking a hem when trying on a garment. There are various models. Some, using powdered chalk and a bulb, allow you to do the job alone; one attaches to a door at any height. The one using pins is the most accurate, but requires a helper.
Dressmaker's tracing paper and tracing wheel - For transferring pattern markings to fabric. Paper comes in several colors to contrast with your fabric. Wheels come with teeth, for general use, or smooth for hard-to-mark and delicate fabrics.
Tailor's chalk - For transferring pattern markings to fabric. Clay chalk comes in several colors, in squares or in pencil form.