me I have a vague memory of my mom keeping an emergency sewing kit in the glove compartment of her car. When I asked one of my brothers if he could remember the little plastic kit, with its loose strings and tiny scissors, he admitted he now carried one, too. In fact, he told me that just last week he used it to sew on a button while he and his girlfriend were traveling from Munich to Norway. (It was always annoyingly practical, but it turns out she had it sewn to the button.)
While a sewing kit may not be a universal household item, the recent rise in thrift-turning and the easy access to online tutorials means that the repair craft enjoys repeatability.
In honor of this, and as a treat to the sales season, we asked a few experts for advice on how to create an at-home repair kit.
Start with quality
Because sewing and mending is easier when things are precise, Rel Vild, owner of Loom Fabrics, recommends investing in high-quality tools from the start. “[They] It will make you enjoy the process a lot more than struggling with poor quality scissors and thread.”
Go to a specialty retailer or haberdashery – not the supermarket. “Your thread won’t tangle and you’ll cut your edges precisely so you get a better result,” she says.
Pre-plastic is awesome
You should keep used items in mind when shopping for your tools. “I think some of the best sewing concepts are now considered vintage,” says Holly Simpson, owner of repair service Hot Dog Workshop. “I often look for used gear, anything pre-fabulous that’s made out of plastic. There’s a lot out there from our past that was beautifully made and still performs perfectly, so why buy new?”
Keep scissors sharp
The best foundation for your toolkit, Simpson says, is “good quality tailor’s shears.”
Use these scissors only to cut the fabric. If you use them to cut other things like paper, cardstock, or craft items, the scissors will quickly become blunt and won’t work as well with the fabric.
Scissors bought in bulk packs don’t stay sharp for long and therefore need to be replaced frequently, warns Wild. Instead, she recommends purchasing scissors that you can sharpen using a professional tool sharpening service. “Sharpening scissors will cost you about $10, so buy decent scissors and take care of them instead of sending lots of poor quality scissors to a landfill.”
In addition to large shears, Simpson suggests getting smaller scissors or shears thread sniper To cut threads and trim the mess.
The next most useful thing in your kit will be an unpicker, which is a small tool with a pointed metal hook that helps undo any sewing mistakes. Field recommends two larger outlets because they are “easier to manage, and smaller ones are harder to control.”
When it comes to buying needles, she suggests looking for good needles with appropriately sized holes so they are easy to thread. These come in packages of a variety of sizes which can come in handy as you figure out what works best for you.
You’ll also need a packet of nails—Simpson recommends glass heads as they’re easier to work with. A pin cushion is also an easy way to keep pins together. Vild suggests choosing one that you can tie around your wrist. “When you drop them in, the staples don’t spill out everywhere,” she says.
Other helpful but not necessarily necessary items include: tape measure, small embroidery hoop or loose egg, needle pen, thimble, hook, eyes, iron-on patches, iron-on repair tape, chalk, and safety pins.
When it comes to buying yarn, Simpson suggests considering what you’ll be repairing. Although you don’t need an exact match for every project, if you have a color scheme in your wardrobe, try mixing your thread palette with it.
“The poly-cotton blend is the strongest and provides longevity, you’ll want to have black and white/natural in your ensemble, then choose colors in midtones that can be used in darker or lighter shades,” she says.
Clips and buttons
Depending on the type of repair you’re going for, you may or may not want to keep clippings on hand. “If you want things to look repurposed/recycled, these can be handy and fun to use, but if you’re going for a classy look, I don’t think saving things is very useful,” says Field.
Instead, Simpson suggests keeping an old pair of jeans and a T-shirt on hand to cut patches from a ball or two of fleece to darn, and some cotton rope. “Buy zips when you need them, according to project specifications, or else they will just hang around without use,” she says.
When it comes to buttons, she says, “I can’t recommend starting a home button jar enough! I have my mom and grandmothers, they’re big bushel jars with orange lids filled to the brim with buttons.”
“There’s something particularly soothing about taking the time to sort through a bunch of buttons to find a matching set for your project.”
When it comes to storage, Wild says, “I love the old tin!”
Although any type of case or box can do, “an oversized pencil case will work, right down to a custom divided stitching box.”
Simpson prefers a small container, “like a cookie tin or lunch box” though something that fits a scissor-length is wise. “I’m a fan of the tool roll, which is a soft bag with a place for everything that folds neatly.”
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