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How-To Guides: Essential Dressmaking Tools
Essential Dressmaking Tools



An old adage that is certainly true in the realm of dressmaking is that a bad workman or even woman blames his tools. Obviously for a beginner the technique will develop but getting the right tools will definitely give you a very good start point to begin that development. Working with scissors that have also been used to cut wallpaper will hamper cutting out your pattern paper let alone your carefully chosen fabric.



Tape MeasureBasic Essentials

  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Tape measure
  • Marking tool
  • Pins
  • Needles




1.    Scissors / Sheers – An 8”or longer blade is ideal for dressmaking as it allows a good length, clean cut. Your choice should be determined by the weight and type of handles on offer. A good quality scissor should last for many years so may seem an expensive investment but will give the best results. For thread snipping and finer cutting fine pointed pair of embroidery scissors are useful.  Remember to use paper scissors for cutting your patterns out!

2.    Thread - A range of standard colours, black, white, ecru, gets things started especially for tacking, however for the best results that will last; your thread should be matched to the fibre that you are working on, i.e.  Cotton for cotton fabric, silk for silk. When working on multi-coloured fabrics then a very dull grey is often useful as it will have no colour to argue and will just have a dull appearance. This practise is favoured by patch workers and translates really well for dressmakers also.

3.    Tape Measure - Essential for checking body measurements, length etc.

4.    Pen & Marking Tools - Many and varied ranging from traditional tailors chalk and chalk pencils to disappearing or soluble marking pens.

5.    Pins - Sharp, rust proof pins are essential for any sewing, however with a large range available it is possible to tailor your choice to your suit your fabrics. A useful tip is to have a separate pin container for pins that are in use and keeping the remaining pins fresh and sharp for the next project. After a while you can then discard the blunt pins in favour of fresh ones.  

6.    Needles - Whether you are sewing by hand or machine, it is necessary to suit the fabric, fibre and particular project that you are working on. For example a mixed pack of needles is ideal to have to hand, but a more specific choice is available for a more specific project.  

Don’t forget a box to hide all your tools away with the scissors that should not be used for cutting the wallpaper!


There are many publications on the market giving help and advice on dressmaking and all kinds of textile crafts. These can be invaluable for deciphering the jargon that is used on all kinds of patterns and giving more specific instruction on basic techniques and their applications. They can then make a useful reference when developing your chosen craft encouraging you to achieve the best results.


As you move on…


1.    Rotary cutter- cutting mat, grid

2.    Interfacing

3.    Seam ripper

4.    French curve

5.    Pinking sheers

6.    Dressmakers dummy

7.    Tracing wheel

Louise Barker, Truro Fabrics

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