Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sewing Tips From Those Who Know ~ Part Two

A few days ago, I asked in the Etsy forums for the best sewing tips from those who sew. The response was tremendous!! Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned seamstress, you're sure to find a tip that will make sewing a little easier! In celebration of National Sewing Month, here are those tips, part two....

a.)If you have little kids or just don't want to find straight pins with your own feet: the best thing to have is a magnetic pin box. They're not as flashy as some pin cushions but should you drop a pin, especially on carpet where it becomes super hard to find, you simply take the box and drag it over the general vicinity-locates the pin every time.  b.) Professional tailoring results come from pressing not ironing. People often think pressing is simply ironing as if you're getting wrinkles out. True pressing is actually applying heated weight with your iron to a garment and/or seam to set it or achieve a certain effect. Therefore its best to have a heavier iron,(the best are the vintage metal ones) and the appropriate pressing/tailoring tools such as hams etc. Many pattern companies have patterns to make the tailoring tools yourself. These are great for not only traditionally tailored pieces but practically every kind of garment that might be made.
c.) when pressing velvet or some other napped fabric where you want to preserve the pile, its great if you have a needleboard but a cheap alternative that will work in a pinch is to use a piece of loose velvet in the place of a needleboard: simply place the piled side of the garment onto the piled side of the velvet piece and press.     Popondo

Iron freezer paper to your pattern pieces. They will hold up much longer. Use aluminum foil to keep your ironing board clean.i.e. place aluminum foil on ironing board, then pattern piece (right side down), then freezer paper (wax side down), press. Let cool before cutting around pattern piece. I rough cut pattern pieces before doing this, then precision cut after freezer paper and pattern are bonded together.
I do this even for patterns I've drafted myself on heavier paper. Makes them very durable.    DeckedOutDickeys

Measure twice, cut once, is a good one that some one else posted. So many good tips. Freezer paper and parchment paper are good for making and tracing patterns and cheap too. Regular chalkboard chalk is good for marking on dark fabrics and doesn't stain when brushed off... my greatgrandmother used it all the time. Keep your sewing machine clean, change needles often. Just as one can never have enough fabric, one can never have enough pins, needles and safety pins. Don't sew when you're drunk... Always have your needle DOWN when pivoting around curves. A sidewinder bobbin winder is always handy. Know what kind of fabric you are working with, so when you press the fabric, you can set your iron one notch below what it says so you don't scorch it. Waxed dental floss works well for gathering some fabrics. Keep your most used sewing tools in a toolbox where you sew most often. Read all patterns and pattern instructions before you start. Don't sew your fingers together. Keep scraps near the sewing machine to test new stitches, tension, and for possible excess oil after cleaning the sewing machine. Keep the lint brush or some soft paintbrushes near your sewing machines to keep it tidy. Cotton threads make a lot of lint. Always check to make sure you threaded the machine properly and loaded the bobbin properly. Hold on to the owners manual of the sewing machine and know the manufacturers website in case you need to download a replacement for the make and model of your machine. Sewing machine repair places often have loaner models to keep you going while your machine is being serviced and they offer classes and if you service your machine yourself, they have parts.   When trying out a new pattern, get twice as much fabric as it calls for, so you can make two attempts at it.  berrybluecreations

ALWAYS pre-wash any fabric that contains cotton & serge/overlock, or zig-zag the cut edges before tossing it in the wash to reduce fraying.  The finished product will look much nicer if you press your seams as you are constructing it. This is especially true for clothing, everything just lays nicer.
Have a super wrinkled pattern piece? Iron it! Put your iron on medium heat (NO STEAM!) and lightly run it over your crinkled paper pattern.
Did you know you're a walking yard stick? The distance from your hand with your arm stretched straight out from your shoulder to your nose is roughly one yard on the average. Fold fabric with the selvege edges together, and hold the end in the hand extended from your shoulder, loosely grip the fabric in your other hand and gently pull the fabric to your nose: one yard! Its a great quick way to get an approximate measurement of your fabric.
Hydrogen peroxide will take blood out of any fabric without altering the fabric's color.
Keep a can of compressed air (like what you use to clean out your keyboard)handy to quickly clean your your sewing machine or serger.
When sewing magic dot (the stretchy fabric with sequins glued to it), use vegetable oil to lubricate your needle every few inches to keep it from gunking up.
Never use the steam setting on your iron when fusing interfacing, fusible fleece, wonder-under, or any other iron-on product.
When ironing red, purple, or blue satin, use a pressing cloth. The heat will temporarily change the color of the fabric, but sometimes it can last a pretty long time.    FrayedFuzzies

***NOTE***  Because machines differ, always check the manufacturer's instructions for proper cleaning procedures!

Always stay-stitch! Even though it takes a little longer, it will make the finished product much smoother across curves and necklines. This is something my mom drilled into my head when she first began teaching me how to sew.   StandingSun

You can use a fine bead of Elmer's White School Glue (the washable kind) to hold/secure tricky areas together. Set the glue with by pressing over the area. This will keep the fabric from shifting as you sew it in place.  Set the glue by pressing over the area with a hot iron.   momomadeit

hmmm... I dunno if this is standard or not, but I trace all my patterns onto sturdy white paper, which makes it easy to just lay on the fabric and chalk around.Also, I have a Singer 201-2 which runs quite fast, so to get light pressure and slower sewing, I always sew in my bare feet.   ananemone

For sewing on knits, I like using the "walking foot".     aromafields

hocky pucks. I use them for fabric weights instead of the expensive ones or pins. My son collected them in the skating rinks while my daughter skated. Just clean them up, put some furniture polish on them and you are ready to go!    HowardAvenue

Never buy fabric unless you can think of something specific for it. Fabric that is just so cute (or cheap or whatever) that you're sure you'll think of something just sits there.    Mylittle

Stick one side of a piece of sticky-backed velcro to the side of your sewing machine and the other side to your seam ripper. So long as you stick the seam ripper to the machine point down, you don't have to worry about getting jabbed and your seam ripper is always easy to find. I'm forever losing mine, so this tip has saved me a LOT of time!   lauriescustomcreate

These are awesome tips. Been sewing for 30 yrs. gave it up for 10, just started again. my machine is almost 30 years now and still kicking strong.I was 5 yrs old when I received my first sewing machine and my mom a profesionnal seamstress taught me so much but I am still learning and I love it.  Looking forward for a guide that has all those wonderful tips. Some I already do, some that I found were fantastic ideas. I don't really have any, but one I can think of: I use newspaper when making patterns. They don't tear up, iron easy and last.    chantalmarieliving

I really enjoyed putting this post together.  There was much positive feedback and encouragement and I appreciate all the comments in the thread and through convos.  I might have to do this again next year!


  1. These are great - nice to see how much I knew and how much I didn't know.

    I love the "don't sew when drunk" and "don't sew your fingers together".

    Hugs - Marie

  2. part two was wonderful too. I'll be sharing again on my blog, giving you credit. thanks sooo much for the tips.

  3. Well I totally buy fabric even if I don't have a present use for it. Something always comes up and if you love it you'll use it. Bad me.....

  4. I loved every tip except the one about not buying fabric unless you have a plan for it....REALLY???? OMG....I violate that one at least once a week ;-)

    Janet xox

  5. I really need to take my machine for a check-up! It's starting to make funny noises - that can't be good!
    Thanks for the great tips.

  6. What a great collection of tips! A lot of those tips were new to me, but I always buy fabric because I love it. Most of the time I don't have any plans for it. Maybe if I had I plan I would not waste so much money. Great post.

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  8. Love part two as much as the first one. I don't really sew much anymore but just reading all the great tips stirs up my interest. I DO have a couple little projects that have been noodling around in my head.......8+) Maybe this will get me inspired to go rummaging through the scrap drawer and see what I can come up with.


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