Regardless of whether you’re a hobbyist, dabbling in the occasional commission, or looking to make a full-time gig of your sewing skills, you need some quality dressmaking supplies.
It used to be that most woman had the skills to perform basic garment construction and clothing repair tasks. No more. Dressmaking has become a skilled trade utilizing knowledge held by a shrinking group. If you have dressmaking skills, that places you in demand.
In order to really capitalize on this skill, though, you need supplies and tools. As you ramp up to the professional level, think about the money you’ll spend on your dressmaking supplies versus the benefit of the items purchased. If you’ll be logging hundreds – even thousands of hours – with your equipment and supplies, you’ll want to be confident that they are up to the task. This is motivation enough to treat your purchases as investments in the future, and to buy the very best dressmaking supplies you can afford.
• Sewing machine – Obvious, right? While there are a few nimble-fingered folks out there who make a wonderful living with handwork, embroidery, and needlepoint, the vast majority of dressmakers use their sewing machines more often than any other piece of equipment in the studio. Think hard about the features you’ll need in a a machine before you buy. If at all possible, try out a few models prior to plunking down a lot of cash.
You can buy a sewing machine for a few hundred bucks, or you can commit more money than it cost me to buy my last car, depending on the brand, the model, and the features. You can also squeak by with a used machine if you’re cash-poor. If you go in this direction – try before you buy – check the mechanisms for smooth operation, run the machine full out for about a minute straight and check for strange smells or sounds. If you do buy it, take it straight to a dealer for it’s first annual maintenance visit. Remember, your sewing machine will be the heart of your business. Take care of it.
• Tape measure – Standard tapes are 60 inches long, though you can get other lengths. Whether you go plastic, paper, or fabric, choose a tape that is easily manipulated and that feels good in your hand. It’s really a personal choice, but I like the fabric tapes.
• Scissors for paper and shears for fabric – Dressmaker shears or scissors should only be used on fabric – period. Never use them on paper, plastic, string, tape, or any household use at all. By limiting your shears to fabric use, you’ll avoid dulling them, and ensure a clean, smooth cutting edge. Most dressmaker shears come with a sheath for storage – using this will help protect your shears. Make sure to have a few general use pairs of scissors around the studio – easy access to “junk” scissors will help you resist the temptation to misuse your good shears simply because they are handy.
• Needles and Pins – This is the point at which many are tempted to skimp – they’re just pins and needles, right? While I understand the sentiment, the economics just don’t back it up. The very best package of pins you can find will cost relatively little, and will resist rusting, bending, and breaking much better than the dollar-store super-pack. Good pins and needles are a joy to work with. They are strong, resist bending, and last forever. Spend a few extra bucks here, and you’ll be glad you did.
• Rulers, straight-edges, marking supplies – Rulers and other straight-edges are very handy when cutting fabric, marking patterns, and the like. I prefer the metal rulers with the cork backing. These tend to stay-put on a flat surface so I don’t have to worry about it sliding around and messing up my measurements. My metal rulers are also durable – I’ve had them for nearly twenty years. Pencils and tailor’s chalk will be your primary marking supplies for dressmaking. Pencils help when taking notes and working with patterns, and they’re erasable so you can make changes without making a mess. The chalk marks clearly on fabric, yet comes out completely when you need it to. Accept no substitutes.
• Dressmakers Dummy – Thus far, you may have gotten by okay without a dummy. If you want to go pro, it will be hard to make it without one. A dressmakers dummy will allow you to see the drape and movement of a garment on an appropriately sized model. You can get an inexpensive plastic dummy to start, and upgrade when you feel you need to. Read more on the dressmakers dummy.
• Iron and ironing board – Finished garments often need to be pressed so that they will look their best when delivered. Some fabrics are much easier to work with if you’re able to iron-in pleats and folds. Make sure there’s plenty of table-space around your ironing board to placing garments to be pressed.
As you take the step into professional dressmaking, it’s hard to overemphasize the value of quality dressmaking supplies.