Is your favorite pair of jeans showing a little skin at the knee? Did the button on your black sweater pop off in protest at the end of a long holiday meal? If you own clothes you’re not wearing because they are torn or worn, it might be time to pay a visit to your neighborhood fabric store to collect supplies for a sewing kit that can handle basic repairs.
Creating a do-it-yourself sewing kit is worth the small investment required in time and supplies, said Julie Marquez, owner of the popular store Sewing Arts Santa Monica. A home kit, after all, can help you avoid the high cost of hiring a tailor or dry cleaner. And it just might make your clothes last longer, which is no small feat since the average American consumer currently spends more than $1,800 a year on clothes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Marquez, who has been sewing since she was five and made outfits for her Barbie, routinely coaches parents and grandparents who want to put a kit together in the summer for their kids going off to college. Read on for her tips for compiling a mending kit from scratch to help keep your wardrobe in top shape!
“It’s a tool kit,” she said, “but it’s hard to find the old-school ones our grandmothers had.”
Buying and Storing Needles and Pins
Marquez said new needles are ubiquitous at sewing stores, from thinner and shorter, for finer fabrics, to thicker, for heavier things like denim. Be sure to choose “hand needles” as opposed to the style you install on a sewing machine. The two can’t be used interchangeably.
“It’s important to use the proper needle for what you’re doing,” she said. “The thicker the needle, the thicker the material it will go through.”
Fortunately, most stores sell small packs of assorted sizes, perfect for a mending kit! And you can keep them in the original packet or use a small needle tube or other separate container to keep them corralled in your kit.
Sewing pins hold fabric in place for stitching, and they, too, come in different lengths and thicknesses. Personal preference comes into play as well. Some people find long pins with round glass balls at the end easier to handle. Others prefer pins with small matching metal heads. Either works for most mending just fine.
A Thread for Every Tear
Nicole Browne, chapter president of the American Sewing Guild, Los Angeles, began sewing in her middle school home economics classes and her love grew from there. For the kit, any type of sewing thread works, she said.
“Having black and white is good because they will match most things,” she said.
Some people prefer machine washable polyester thread as a versatile option. And in addition to the basic colors, you could consider also purchasing off-white, which goes well with shell buttons, navy and any other color that’s popular in your wardrobe or household. There are also thread kits available, which offer smaller spools of several colors. And any fabric store can work to help you match a favorite item.
There are different weights of thread. Try for something labeled for “general purpose” or “sew all” for your kit.
A Button for Every Blouse (and Sweater!)
You know those extra buttons that come with new clothes? Consider adding them to a bag or box in, or near, your sewing kit. Tape them to the original tag or a new card and label what item of clothing they match. If you start collecting too many, you can go through and remove buttons that are a bright color match to something you no longer own. Some clothes, such as men’s shirts, have buttons that are often very similar and so easier to match.
In addition to the aesthetic appeal of buttons that go together, you’ll also want to be sure you have one that is the right size, to fit the button hole you’re working with. Too small, and your shirt won’t stay buttoned. Too large and your pants won’t close.
“Extra buttons are always good,” Browne said.
Choose a Sewing Kit Storage Box
For storing your sewing supplies as a one-stop mending kit, you can purchase roughly 10 to 20 items, depending on your needs, and you’ll want a box suitable for keeping all these small things together.
“People are always losing needles and safety pins,” Marquez said.
Your storage container can vary from a 12-inch-by-12-inch hinged plastic container, to a shallow cardboard box or tin, depending on personal preference. Even a shoe box could work, but if you want a premium option, look for a box sectioned off to contain and organize tiny items more effectively.
For anyone who graduates to a sewing hobby, unused pizza boxes, available online, are the “perfect size” for storing elements of big projects, such as quilts, Marquez said.
With help from our experts, we’ve compiled a list that offers items to choose from to make your own sewing kit. Unlike buying a mending kit preassembled, which is also an option, you can opt to pay more for quality on important things such as scissors, and leave out what you don’t need if you’re creating your own.
Sewing Kit Supplies List
- Seam ripper—useful if you’re sewing fine stitches with a machine and need to redo something.
- Chalk or other fabric marker—one light and one dark, for marking hems and more. Washes off.
- Magnetic pin dish, pin cushion or box
- A small pair of shears—for cutting fabric
- Small curved-tip scissors—for thread
- Tape measure
- Fabric glue stick
- Needle threader
- Wonder tape—double-sided and washes out once you’ve stitched through it
- Safety pins
- Sewing gauge—a small ruler designed to work well for measuring hems, etc.
- A very fine-tipped crochet hook
- Iron-on patches—handy if you have kids who regularly wear holes in the knees of pants
- Snag repair, aka Nab-it tool—for sweaters. Pulls snags through to the inside of the garment.
If you pick up the items on our list, you’ll be ready to repair many projects that come your way—even those holey jeans and that missing button on your cardigan. And you might even spark a new hobby with your visit to the fabric store. Enjoy!
Did you create a sewing kit at home? Tag Public Storage in your photos on social media!