These are a few things I think are essentials to have if you're going to sew. None of these items are super expensive, and are easy to store in a cute little zippered pouch or small box.
- Needles - these come in different styles, but as long as you can thread it and it's sharp, it should do.
- Thread - a spool each of black & white threads are a must for sure. If you know you're really partial to certain colors for projects, get those too.
- Tape measure - a flexible one, so that you can measure pretty much anything from yourself to the pillow to the cat.
- Seam ripper- for deconstructing or pulling out mistaken stitches to do it over.
- Good scissors - Fiskars are a good brand. But whatever you get, keep them with your sewing things and DO NOT USE THEM FOR ANYTHING ELSE but fabric or thread. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. Nothing ruins good scissors faster than using them for paper or letting the family use them for everything else.
- Pins and pincushion - the first is a must, the second is safety. It's easier to pick up a tomato than a bunch of tiny pointy things that fell out of a box you dropped.
- A thimble - if you're going to sew by hand, you may occasionally need a little oomph to get your needle through uncooperative fabrics. A thimble will ensure that whatever finger you're using will not get punctured by the back end of the needle (ouch!).
- Liquid fray stopper - there are a couple of brands available. Essentially it's just really diluted glue-like liquid. If you're working with fabrics that ravel a lot, this can help stop that while you're trying to work with it. A tiny bit of white glue or clear nail polish can also do this job, but it's very thick.
In addition, if you've got a machine, make sure you keep on hand extra bobbins and spare needles. If you snap your last needle in the middle of something that needs to be done TODAY, well, you're kind of screwed, unless you live really close to a store with notions.
Good luck, new stitchers! It'll be a journey full of fun and fabric.