Start with these sewing essentials, and add specialized supplies as needed.
Assorted fasteners: Hooks and eyes, small snaps
Beeswax: A wax coating keeps thread from tangling during hand sewing; keep it in a plastic holder with slots to slide the needle and thread through.
Buttons: Keep a small supply in various sizes and colors.
Hand-sewing needles: With assorted sizes, you'll be prepared to work on different fabrics. Sharps are best for most stitching and mending; ball points should be used on knits.
Iron-on tape or patches
Needle threader: To use, slip the flexible wire loop through the eye of a hand needle, feed the thread through it, and pull the wire back out, bringing the thread with it.
Needles in assorted sizes: When it comes to sewing machine needles, general-purpose sharp-point needles are good for most woven fabrics. For knits, use ball-point needles.
Pin holder: A magnetic one can pick up scattered pins.
Safety pins: Store them on one pin so they don't scatter throughout the basket.
Scissors: For cutting fabric, a pair of good quality sewing scissors or dressmaker's shears is a necessity; you'll also need pinking shears to prevent fabric from fraying. There are several types of sewing scissors, each with a specific purpose.
Seam ripper: This tool opens seams almost effortlessly.
Tailor's chalk: Use this to mark fabric before cutting and altering.
Tape measure: Use this to measure soft, curved things (use a yardstick to measure fabric on a work surface).
Thimble: When hand sewing, wear it on your middle finger to push the needle through.
Thread: All-purpose is appropriate for most sewing. Use extra-thin thread on particularly fine fabrics; heavy-duty on thick fabrics. Buttonhole twist is good for buttonholes and decorative stitching. For mending, make sure you have a variety of colors that match your clothes.