Skip to main content

Sewing Equipment: The Must-Know Tools

“The right tool for the right job” applies throughout most industries far and wide. This saying is equally applicable in the world of sewing, whether commercially or at home. Hand stitched methods have existed since the time of Neanderthals, where needles were carved out of bone and horn, while thread was intricately woven from animal sinew. Hence began our earliest methods of combining two materials through the use of sewing tools. 

As technologies advanced throughout the 14th century, iron and steel needles replaced the archaic bone and horn, allowing more precise methods of sewing. Further into the 19th century, the infamous sewing machine revolutionized mass production of clothing, bags, blankets, and resources of all kinds thanks to the convenience and efficiency of this still used, yet modernized tool of the centuries.

While the needle and thread serve as the backbone of sewing practices across the world, numerous tools within the industry have broadened our methods of incorporating designs, stitches, and materials within the practice. Below are some of the must-know tools seamstresses, tailors, and commercial sewing manufacturers use to this day.

Simple Tools

Beginning with the most commonly used items known by any sewing tradesmen, pins, pincushions, thimbles, needles, threads, and scissors encompass the bulk of any sewing starter kit. These tools provide the groundwork for amateurs or experts to hand-sew two relatively moderate materials together. Depending on the skill level, these tools can provide the means to create intricate or simple stitching patterns and styles for various needs as seen below.

Hand Stitches

  • Running Stitch: The mother of all stitches, the running stitch, or straight stitch, is the simplest form of stitching with the most basic of thread and needle. Consisting of an in and out repetition from the needle and thread, fabrics are conjoined by the woven connection between the thread and the fabrics. Depending on the spacing, length, and direction of the stitch, various designs and patterns are produced using this method.

  • Basting Stitch: When temporarily applying a location for fabrics or patches on clothing or garments, basting stitches are used to quickly straight stitch a fabric to its base. Unlike a running stitch, basting stitches are loose and widely spaced to generalize its location on a material. Once the seamstress is satisfied with the positioning, they can continue with a running stitch, or others, to tightly and permanently fasten the material in place.

  • Cross Stitch: Similar to needle point, cross stitching requires tightly woven, thin threads to cross over straight stitches in “X” like patterns. These are traditionally used to create images or uniform shapes in thicker, evenly spaced displays.

  • Slip Stitch: To create a hidden seam between two materials—great for pillow seams, jacket seams, or plush animals—a slip stitch invisibly conjoins fabrics by alternating the needle and thread along the folded edges of fabrics. In a back and forth motion, largely replicating that of diagonal motions, the thread is concealed by the fold of the fabric, allowing a “seam-ingly seamless” stitch—pun intended.

  • Back Stitch: Much like the running stitch, a back stitch requires the forward succession of the needle and thread, with a variation of doubling-back on itself from the end of the previous stitch, then continuing forward in a running stitch motion. This creates a looping display of the stitch, resembling humps or crescent-like formations of the thread.

  • Blanket Stitch: As its name implies, blanket stitches are commonly used to reinforce the edges of bulky or thick fabrics—like blankets! When threading the needle and fabric between two materials, before tightening the thread, the needle is placed through the loose opening of the thread, creating a threaded edge on the outside of the materials and vertical lines from its end.

Each of these methods of sewing are used with the simple tools listed above, using thimbles for finger protection, various threads and needles for preferred thicknesses and colors, and scissors for cutting when the stitching is completed. Anyone can hone their sewing proficiencies with these simple and effective tools.

Advanced Tools

For those that stitch often, or produce large quantities of an item, sewing machines of various complexities provide fast and efficient means of conducting the above stitches and more. Some machines are even programmed to create patterns or stitches fully on their own with minimal effort on behalf of the seamstress. Depending on the need for the machine, some individuals acquire more advanced machines for more convenient and easier methods of sewing without having to meticulously hand stitch every step of the process.

The Machines

  • Mechanical Treadle Sewing Machine: As close to a traditional sewing machine in our modern era, mechanical treadle sewing machines are powered by the press of a pedal by the user's foot, powering the machine to thread a needle back and forth in an upward and downward motion. By maneuvering the fabric underneath the needle, fabrics are directed depending on where the stitch is needed.

  • Electronic Mechanical Sewing Machine: Varied in complexity and customization, electronic mechanical sewing machines are the next step of sewing convenience. At the touch of a button on an LCD screen, these machines are capable of various decorative stitches, patterns, lengths, and spacing. Many are programmed with dozens of stitches, all dependent on your own preference.

  • Computerized/Automated Sewing Machine: Akin to the electronic sewing machine, these computerized or automated sewing machines feature the custom preferences of its user, while also capable of self-guidance to keep stitches straight, even, and fed at the speed the user desires. Many can create buttonholes and attach accessories with the press of a button.

  • Overlocking/Serger Sewing Machine: This advanced sewing option allows multiple threads to create tightly woven, interlaced stitches while trimming excess fabric along seams. When advanced and efficient means of sewing are required, these machines provide an all-in-one experience without relying on the added step of fortifying seams or trimming edges.

This brief example of both simple and advanced tools is only the tip of the iceberg in the plethora of tools available within the industry. As skill level and interest increases, so does the knowledge of tools for specific purposes, including the seam ripper for removing accidental stitches. Fabrics of varied thicknesses may require thick or thin needles, or specialized forms of stitching those fabrics together. Knowing the intricacies of the trade will expand your own determinations as you begin your sewing mastery.

Plenty of tools, both simple and advanced, exist for varied skill levels and interests to attempt sewing at any proficiency. With each type of tool comes many variations, price ranges, and skill caps. Do your research on each and begin sewing at the level you require. The tools are the means to reach your fullest potential in the wide world of sewing.


And if you have a large sewing project that you need to take on, but don’t have the tools necessary for the execution, give Development Workshop a call. We have a full service sewing manufacturing team ready to help with your sewing needs.