Tips and Clips

22 Feb Tips and Clips

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!

Sewing Tip from Singer

Now …… on to the present!

Roxanne – How to match stripes when cutting pockets. ‪…/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 ‪…/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. ‪ 
How to use a twin needle – So Sew Easy 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

Until soon 🙂


  • Sharon Gritsko Nichols
    Posted at 11:11h, 22 February Reply

    Awesome tips! I especially like the post it note idea and using the pin cushion to keep track of your needles. Someone should make a pin cushion just for that (premarked with needle sizes?) and market that idea!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:02h, 23 February Reply

      I agree with you Sharon! Many thanks for your comment 🙂

  • Sharon Gritsko Nichols
    Posted at 11:16h, 22 February Reply

    I forgot to mention, I also really like the method of sewing the fusible interfacing to facings, turning and then ironing. What an awesome way for a nice clean finish. Thanks to everyone for these great tips

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:03h, 23 February Reply

      I used this tip when I made my clothes 25 years ago and completely forgot about it! I’m so glad to be reminded of this clean method to apply interfacing to facings 🙂

  • Cindy C.
    Posted at 11:38h, 22 February Reply

    First of all, what a great magazine article! Not only does your sewing room look fabulous, but the extensive coverage of your actual garments demonstrates that one can make truly beautiful garments, too. It’s sure to inspire many women to have the courage to take up sewing, or to dig out their sewing machines and start creating again. Second, thanks for sharing the sewing tips from the RTW fasters with the rest of us. That’s a quite a lot of solid gold experience being passed on!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:04h, 23 February Reply

      Hi Cindy! I’m going to print these tips and keep them on the wall 🙂

  • gingermakes
    Posted at 11:49h, 22 February Reply

    Oh my gosh! The article looks amazing! So many great photos!!! I’m so impressed!

    Thanks for sharing the tips- these are great!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:05h, 23 February Reply

      Many thanks, Ginger! I was pleased with the article and delighted to receive such great tips from accomplished sewists 🙂

  • Virginia
    Posted at 12:10h, 22 February Reply

    Congratulations on your success…..on both a personal level and on an outreach level. You have achieved the satisfaction of creating a lovely, unique wardrobe reflecting your personality, as well as, watching others flourish through your inspiration.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:07h, 23 February Reply

      Thank you, Virginia for your comment! My current wardrobe is indeed unique but I truly love knowing that my efforts have inspired others to flourish through their own creativity 🙂

  • Margy Houtz
    Posted at 12:22h, 22 February Reply

    Thanks for your generosity in sharing these tips, Sarah…no matter how long I’ve been sewing, there’s always something new to learn! Fabulous article…congratulations!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:09h, 23 February Reply

      Hi Margy! I was most appreciative of receiving such useful tips and tidbits 🙂 …… and very grateful to be included in the magazine!

  • AJW
    Posted at 12:46h, 22 February Reply

    Terrific article and wonderful collection of tips. Thanks for taking the time to share.

  • Anne
    Posted at 13:12h, 22 February Reply

    Terrific article. Thanks for sharing all these tips. You are an inspiration to me and many, many others. Next year, perhaps, I’ll join your RTW fast. You must be very proud of what you’ve achieved.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:14h, 23 February Reply

      Many thanks for the kind comment, Anne! I’m proud but there is always room to improve and grow 😉

  • Mrs K
    Posted at 14:22h, 22 February Reply

    Great tips and thanks for sharing. Some I already knew and used, but learned a few more. The magazine article is such a great compliment to you and your skill. I always look forward to see what you make next.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:15h, 23 February Reply

      Thank you so much, Mrs. K! I was very honored to be recognized by the magazine 🙂

  • Rachel
    Posted at 15:39h, 22 February Reply

    These tips are so useful. Great idea collating them Sarah, and thank you for sharing. I’m off to read the article now – whilst my other half watches a movie – we are happy as two hippos in mud. Thank you! Rachel 🙂

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:16h, 23 February Reply

      Indeed you sound like a happy couple! Many thanks for writing 🙂

  • CherryPix
    Posted at 16:28h, 22 February Reply

    You are such a wonderful sewing ambassador! Great article! I’ve stashed the tips…and forwarded that clip from Singer to my home economics teaching mother….if you hear hysterical snorts of laughter, it’s coming from down here…

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:18h, 23 February Reply

      Thank you so much, Anne! …… just couldn’t resist the advice from Singer and I hope your mother gets a good laugh 🙂

  • marjtrundle
    Posted at 18:45h, 22 February Reply

    Thanks to everyone for such great tips.

  • Jenny
    Posted at 19:31h, 22 February Reply

    I love these tips! I recently wrote a blog post about what I’ve learned from sewing (both sewing and life lessons), and I have a few in there as well…

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:21h, 23 February Reply

      What a beautiful post you’ve written, Jenny! Enjoying the process can be applied beyond the sewing machine along with many other observations in your post. Thank you for sharing, and btw…… you look great!

  • Marilyn
    Posted at 21:56h, 22 February Reply

    I love all the tips–thank you so much~

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:22h, 23 February Reply

      I love them too, Marilyn – many thanks for writing 🙂

  • Sheree
    Posted at 04:15h, 23 February Reply

    Great post and congrats on that article. When I first started sewing years ago I seem to remember that I only pressed the seams at the very end! I wouldn’t dream of doing that now. I really think it is SO important to press after every stitching. The other thing I have learnt is to take my time. I want to enjoy the process rather than hurrying to “make it and wear it” as I used to.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:23h, 23 February Reply

      Thank you, Sheree! Learning to slow down and do it correctly was I lesson I had to learn as well and I’m glad I did 🙂

  • Sandra (Sewist-Stitch)
    Posted at 04:45h, 23 February Reply

    What a fantastic article Sarah – congratulations. I love your last comments correlating reading a recipe and driving a car to a pattern and sewing machine. All too true!

  • Sewellen
    Posted at 06:43h, 23 February Reply

    Great article, Sarah, congratulations! Are you a lefty? (it takes one to notice one) 🙂

  • Jeanie in SC
    Posted at 12:10h, 23 February Reply

    I love the sewing tips and the well deserved article. I’m not ready to take the RTW fast challenge yet because I make most of the clothes (all of the cute ones!) my 4 grandchildren wear. But you’ve inspired me to sew more for myself!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 20:06h, 25 February Reply

      Thank you, Jeanie! I’m delighted to read I’ve inspired you to sew for YOU!

  • sewdooley
    Posted at 14:44h, 23 February Reply

    Lovely article about you and great promotion for sewing in general.

  • zibergirl
    Posted at 17:41h, 23 February Reply

    What a great list of tips! I plan to incorporate several right away into my sewing projects. Wow, what a great article in the magazine. You are an inspirations to us all!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 20:06h, 25 February Reply

      Thank you, Barbara………. and I am inspired by ALL of YOU!

  • Sharon
    Posted at 21:33h, 23 February Reply

    A lot of useful tips and a lovely article about your sewing journey, congratulations.

  • SunGold
    Posted at 12:36h, 24 February Reply

    Thank you and your fellow sewists for the collection of tips. Some are new to me, some are old friends, but it’s nice to have them together for inspiration. One of the many things I like about your blog is that you continue to share sewing insights, along with your unique and beautiful fashion sense.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 20:08h, 25 February Reply

      Thank you so much for your comment, SunGold! I’m happy to share what I learn with those kind enough to read my posts 🙂

  • Tina Spear
    Posted at 21:27h, 24 February Reply

    Loved reading the tips. I especially loved the article from the Singer Sewing Manual from 1949. Ironically, I am a bit like the article when it comes to getting the house in order first before I can sew. That’s so me. If my house is a mess, I just can’t sew. Also, kudos to you and the newspaper article! They did a great job & I loved seeing all the different garments.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 20:11h, 25 February Reply

      Hi Tina! I find the message very relevant as in its important to keep priorities straight, but oh how times have changed 😉 !!

  • Linda
    Posted at 09:50h, 25 February Reply

    Barbara’s tip made me think of a good one. You can press your center front pleat in slacks before you stich front to back. It will keep everything aligned when pressing the leg later.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 20:11h, 25 February Reply

      What a great tip, Linda! Many thanks for sharing 🙂

  • beckiefrazier
    Posted at 22:22h, 25 February Reply

    What a wonderful list! I am bookmarking for later reference. I have the joy of being close enough to Tater Patch Quilts in Merrill (amazing quilt shop!!) and took a picture of the framed sewing manual picture. I use it as my computer wallpaper. It reminds me that RTW items are technically a rather new way to acquire clothes. I get motivated knowing that I can create amazing things with the right skills and focus.

  • Janice Cho
    Posted at 07:59h, 03 March Reply

    Hi Sara,

    Your postings are most enjoyable. Your garments are a wonderful inspiration to me. I have purchased so many of the patterns you have modeled with such fabulous results.

    Can you help? Which Butterick? pattern did you much prefer for an easier to make wrap dress? That was posted some time ago. Also, in the tips and clips, one suggested using a 1/8″ easline on a sleeve. Is that correct?


    Sent from my iPad


    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 20:47h, 03 March Reply

      Hi Janice! Thank you for your nice email. To my knowledge I have not made a Butterick wrap dress. One vogue and one vintage simplicity.
      I made a Butterick mock wrap in September (look in archives) which was supper easy.
      Your are correct about the 1/8 inch easline recommended in the tips.
      Good luck 🙂

  • Experiments in Silk: Durathon Iron Review and Giveaway | Sew Well
    Posted at 10:01h, 13 March Reply

    […] to be perfect, so I used French seams and silk thread (the latter because of a tip I read on this post at Goodbye Valentino, where silk thread was recommended when using silk fabric).  Unfortunately, […]

  • Alania Sheeley
    Posted at 22:23h, 30 March Reply

    I am a newbie to your blog, so I am trying to catch up. I was concerned with one of the tips — sewing silk fabric with silk thread. Garments from silk fabrics should be constructed with fine cotton thread. There is a very good reason for this. While silk fabric is strong, silk thread is stronger. If the garment is under stress and has been constructed with silk thread, the fabric will rip. You don’t want that. If something has to give, you want it to be the thread, not your beautiful silk fabric. A seam can be mended; torn fabric can’t be.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 19:10h, 01 April Reply

      Hi Alania!
      Wow – that post was written some time ago 😉 I went back and read the following :
      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!
      I’ve never tried this tip and appreciate your opinion and reasoning.
      Many thanks!

      • Alania Sheeley
        Posted at 19:17h, 01 April Reply

        Basting with silk thread is a good idea, especially on fine fabrics. You can press over it and it will not mark the fabric when removed.

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