Rotary Cutter, Ruler, and Cutting Mat - Yes, yes I know that this is a list of three things, but they all work together as one tool, so I thought it worked. For me, the rotary cutter is indispensable; it makes cutting fabric quick, easy, and accurate. Tara over at Happy Momma Quilts recently posted this great tutorial showing how to use a rotary cutter, so I will save time and refer you there for more info.
Seam Ripper - A seam ripper has been vital to my sewing. There might be people out there who sew perfectly every time, and never have to unpick stitches...but I am not one of them. Seam rippers are much more useful when removing stitches than scissors.
Sharp Scissors - Buy them. Label them. Hide them. Sharp scissors are a must when sewing. Make sure your scissors are only used for fabric projects, and I recommend getting a new pair about once a year to make sure they are sharp. You can then give the retired pair to the family junk drawer for whatever else you need to cut.
Iron & Ironing Board - Again, this is a set. Your projects will always turn out better and look more professional and finished if you take the time to iron your fabric before beginning, and throughout the sewing process. (no picture because I figured everyone knows what an ironing board looks like)
Measuring Tape - I can't tell you how often I use this measuring tape. Just trust me on this one. You will use the tape to measure in many of the projects you create.
Needles (for sewing by hand) - Bahahaahaha. You can tell from my picture, that I don't have to replace these very often. I try to avoid sewing by hand when at all possible, but sometimes, it is actually easier to finish a project or sew one component by hand. I recommend getting a set that has a variety of sized needles and eyes as well as a variety of sharps and rounds.
Fray Check - This handy tool is sort of like super glue for fabric. It can prevent fabric from fraying (the threads from separating), and can keep thread knotted at the beginning or end of a seam if you have not knotted sufficiently. I use fray check in every project where I use ribbon, and many times throughout other projects.
Pattern Cutting Board - If you plan on making any projects that are larger than your small rotary cutting board, a large pattern board is a must. It provides a large, flat surface perfect for cutting pattern pieces and large swatches of fabric. (pattern cutting board as background for this t-shirt to toddler dress upcycle)
Fabric Marker - Fabric markers are useful for sewing projects because the ink disappears (usually with cold water) and leaves your fabric looking as beautiful as ever. (no picture again -- it's a marker)
Now you should be all set to learn about sewing machines tomorrow, and starting your first project on Friday. If you have any questions about sewing machines, please comment or email me, so I can answer them in the post. I hope you are having a great week, and you are as excited as I am about our upcoming sewing projects!