Do you keep a Sewing Diary, sew your muslins with one-inch seams, or keep a pad of post-it notes beside your machine? The 2014 RTW Fasters are rocking the sewing scene with some fabulous frocks and I asked them to share some of their secrets to successful sewing.
Following are 48 of their Favorite Tips from techniques to practical and even philosophical advice.
The first clip, from a Singer Sewing Manual was offered more for amusement, but I find it could be quite helpful if re-written for the 21st century! Does anyone want to give it a try? While I don’t want to be in my pajamas when the FedEx guy rings the doorbell, being fearful that my husband will come home and see me without makeup has got to go!
Now …… on to the present!
Roxanne - How to match stripes when cutting pockets. http://strikesmyfancy-2013.blogspot.com/…/tip-perfectly…
Linda – Take the time to baste. It seems silly, but especially when I felt intimidated by the better fabrics, basting them together before machine sewing gives you time to see the construction and appreciate the mechanics of sewing. It forces you to slow down and not rush. You can use basting to dry run a fit, to hold layers together that want to slip and slide, and it is better than pins when holding an awkward bit of sewing.
Rachel – Forcing myself to “sleep on it” before I do the last step (which is usually hemming). This stops me from rushing to get the garment finished and hurtling through the steps; which ultimately means that I end up with a better result.
Judy Walker – Measure twice, cut once .
Kathleen – Don’t assume that just because you’ve made several of the same pattern, that you can cut to finish without trying it on! Of course, I learned the hard way, that even though everything is cut Exactly The Same: different 3″ elastics & different double knits mean “Different Fit”. Of course they do!
Denise -Mine’s not so much style or technique, but… ORGANIZE YOUR SPACE. However big or small it may be, sewing is *vastly* easier when you’re not rummaging around muttering, “Where did I put my stupid seam ripper?”
Nancy - Sew fusible interfacing to your facings with the non-glue side to the right side of the fabric, then trim, turn and fuse. It makes the edges look so nice, I no longer omit the interfacing (my old lazy habit)
Lorraine – Place a pad of Post It notes to the right of your sewing needle, at the distance you want your seam width to be. Make sure you take the backing of the Post It notes off, so you can stick the pad to your machine. When you sew, you can then butt your fabric up against the Post It notes and get a great, even seam. When you are done, just remove the pad! This is great for bulky fabrics and for when you need quite a wide width!
Patti – My number one tip for new sewers is to be sure your take-up lever is always”up” when you get to the end of a seam. This keeps you from losing the thread out of the needle when you start again which is very frustrating. Some newer machines do this automatically.
Melissa – http://www.thepapercutcollective.com/…/mask-paint.html… This is a great way to paint fabric without buying really expensive fabric specific paint.
Tee – Two tips:
- Make a muslin!!!!!!!!! Allow for 1-inch seams not 5/8 makes fitting easier. Make all adjustments on the muslin. You should then be able to successfully sew up the garment in you fashion fabric with ease.
- Read the pattern instructions entirely before you cut or sew.
Nancy – Insert your zipper as early in the construction process as possible. For instance, on a simple sheath, sew the center back seam and add the zipper while you still have a fairly flat garment section to work with. A lot of pattern instructions tell you to complete the basic garment and then work down inside the neckline to stitch the zipper.
Diane - When sewing with silk, use silk thread…it melts into the seam, whereas poly thread sits on top. You will never have to rip out a baste when you do this, as it won’t ever show. I love silk thread, yum yum yum!
Julie - “Good enough” isn’t my sewing vocabulary any longer. If a mistake is made, stop and take the time to correct it. It will inevitably show up again later and affect something else.
Sandra – I sew a muslin for everything I make, I also cut it with one inch seam allowances so that I have room to let it out if needed during the fitting process. I also like the fact that it gives me a practice run of sewing up the garment before cutting into my fashion fabric.
Linda – It is the details that transforms a homemade garment to that special piece of clothing that people ask about. Master top stitching, pattern matching, adding lace, ribbon, nice buttons, etc…
Michelle – Match and pin based on seamlines (not necessary matching cut edges), especially for shaped seams like princess seams or set-in sleeves.
Winifred – A well drafted pattern saves many tears.
Sharon – When putting in set in sleeves, a trick I learned is to do a base stitch ALL the way around the sleeve, 1/8″ from the cut edge. This will help to spread the ease better and will allow your sleeve to fit it perfectly. No bunching or gathering. I have used this technique with all kinds of fabric and it hasn’t failed me once.
Erin – When putting my sewing patterns away I fold each piece individually with the letter or number facing out and then stack them numerically/alphabetically before placing them back in the envelope. This ensures I get all the pieces back in the envelope and helps me the next time I go to pull out pieces to make the pattern again.
Rebecca – Prep first- baste fabric before washing so it doesn’t fray and iron before cutting. And 1″ seam allowance for muslins.
Margaret – I keep a sewing “diary” — a bound notebook where I date each garment I make and write the pattern number, tape on a piece of the fabric, and give details about the changes I’ve made to the pattern, where I got the fabric from (if I remember!) and even the stitch if on the serger. It’s really helpful if and when I decide to make it again, to know all of those little things.
Roxanne – I make notes on the pages of my overlock/serger/coverstitch manuals. I make a note of the fabric type and the setting if it differs from the suggested settings written in the manual.
Kathleen – Don’t forget your iron is your best friend! I try to sew as many seams as possible (without crossing seams) and then make sure they are all press well – I find pressing makes a great difference between “sewn at home” and “great” Good pressing includes a light hand, point turner, seam roll, ham and clapper
Lauren – I never do the hem for skirts and dresses suggested by the pattern. I always hem for my body shape. Having the hem fall at the right spot can make the garment (or break a garment).
Ingrid - When sewing in a zipper, it’s WAY easier to sew the entire seam on which the zipper will be sewn, match the zipper teeth with the center of the seam, sew in the tape all around, and then rip out the seam from the top to the bottom of the zipper. Perfect zipper seam every single time, no puckering or wrinkling!
Nancy – To help organize fabrics, I keep the packing slips of the fabric I order and staple a 1″ x 2″ snip of fabric by its description on the invoice. That way if I need more, I can quickly know from where it came and also I keep up with garment costs. This is especially helpful if ordering swatches!
Denise - Fusible stay tape is great for stabilizing necklines and shoulder seams, but it made a big difference in the look of my invisible zippers. Press it along both sides the seam line, before inserting the zipper. I have to credit Sunni Standing’s free Craftsy class for this.
Chris – A tip I read in vogue magazine some time ago has been useful for keeping track of sewing machine needle sizes and which size you currently have in your machine. You take one of those old fashion pin cushions; the red ones that look like a tomato with sections. Use a permanent marker to label each section with a different needle size, and when you change needles, place it in the correct section. The best art of the suggestion is to put a glass head pin in the section that tells you the needle size you currently have in the machine.
Timea – My best friend is the iron!!! The not so perfect piece can be helped with good pressing, steaming and forming. But no matter how well you cut, sew and fit, if you don’t iron every seam every step of the way it won’t look finished.
Ma - I love understitching. European Patterns don’t use this technique, but it think it is an essential one. Also: keep your sewing space neat and organized – it makes sewing so much easier and so much more fun! A last one would be: don’t build up a fabric stash, when you are a beginner – learn something about fabric, which you like, which you don’t like, what’s easy to sew and so on and than start a stash.
Lynn – Two comments, one on style and one on techniques:
- When deciding on style, look at the things you already own and love whether those items are things you made or RTW. Then look at the pattern you are considering. Is it drastically different in style or fit? If so, think twice. If it is an effort to move away from your comfort zone, fine. If not, it may not be for you.
- The best technique is really not a specific technical item; it is an attitude. Take the time to think about what you are doing when you sew. It does not matter if you sew fast or sew slow just as long as you understand what you are doing and why. It is always faster to think on something before doing it than to rip it out and redo it!
Leslie – I like to put the needle in the fabric manually before I hit the presser foot. This seems to start things off right.
Relynn - My tip is something I’ve learned from experience… Never sew when tired. I tend to be a night sewer, after the kids are in bed, and I have to stop myself by a certain time or else I will become tired enough that mistakes are guaranteed to happen. I turn back into a pumpkin (like in Cinderella) around midnight, so that is my cutoff time for sewing. Whatever I’m doing I just walk away at that time and go back to it the next day. Doing that has seriously cut down on my number of mistakes.
Nikki Brooks When needing to ensure a proper fit, I baste everything first. which saves a lot of time
Linda - Trim to reduce bulk as much as possible and understitch because it is a magical sewing technique.
Barbara – My favorite sewing tip is something I learned from someone else through the sewing community blogosphere. Before you sew the sleeve seam, press under the bottom of the sleeve as if you were going to sew it, but skip that part. Gently unfold the pressed edge when you sew the sleeve seam. Now you don’t have to try to turn and press the edge of the small opening for sewing, It’s all ready to go!
Terry - Press as you go.
Teri - To get a nice crisp, straight edge stitch on lapels, necklines and cuffs I use my blind hem foot and move my needle over one or two clicks. Then you just place the edge of the fabric against the guide on the foot and stitch away.
Winifried- Favourite sewing tip = Measure thrice, cut once.
Deby – My favorite right now is the twin needle. http://so-sew-easy.com/how-to-use-a-twin-needle/
How to use a twin needle – So Sew Easy
so-sew-easy.com. Video tutorial for how to use a twin needle to get an excellent result on the hem
Sherry - I take a piece of tape and tape it on it’s self and then stick it next to my machines. When I’m sewing and cutting away threads I stick it to the tape. Keeps me from vacuuming up a lot of thread and clean it out of my vacuum.
Anna – One awesome tip I have learned is to tuck the leftover serger thread into the seam with a needle.
Virginia – Remember to change the sewing needle often and to pop off the sewing plate and pull out the bobbin case, in order to give the machine a good cleaning after each project. I use a small, soft paint brush. It is amazing what can collect in that space. It is also surprising how many stitching problems will be corrected with a fresh needle.
In other news, I’m attaching a clip from the Spartanburg Magazine featuring an article abou my blog. The magazine was published this week, and can be read online here or on the PDF link below. I’m quite flattered and very grateful for the exposure!
Spartanburg Magazine Article Spring 2014