Sewing Tips


Problems with needles?

  • Don’t sew over pins if you can help it. When you jump over a pin, the stitch is weakened and makes that part of the seam susceptible to breaking. If you remove the pin before you get to it, you’ll have stronger seams – and less risk of breaking your needles on pins!
  • Did you know that your thread passes in and out of the needle hole 50-60 times before each little bit of thread becomes a stitch in the seam? That’s a good reason to use good quality thread in itself.

Problems with seams?

  • Uneven stitches? While it could be your needle (needs replacing) it could also be your tension settings. Take a scrap of the same fabric and sew a line of stitching on the bias of the fabric. Then grab the fabric by the corners (at the two ends of your stitched line) and pull on the fabric until the thread breaks. If the needle thread breaks, you need to loosen the top tension a bit. If the bobbin thread breaks, try tightening the top tension.
  • Are your seams wavy? Your stitches are too short for the fabric. Just increase your stitch length a little.
  • If you have trouble keeping your seam allowances consistent, pick up a magnetic seam allowance guide. It works like a little fence to keep the edge of your fabric the right distance from the needle. I started sewing before these were available (at least in my neck of the woods) so I actually drew 3/8, 4/8, and 5/8 seam allowances onto my machine in felt marker. I kept my eye on those black lines more than anything else in the early days. : )

Pattern cutting tips

  • Did you know you’ll cut out patterns more accurately if you keep the pattern to the right-hand side of your scissors? (Make that the left if you’re a leftie cutting with your left hand.)
  • Develop a habit of placing your pattern pieces in the same “direction” whenever possible. Some fabrics (like velvet) have a visible nap – but many other fabrics will show slight variation in color and shade when cut in different directions.

Quick & Slick Sewing Tips

  • When you start a seam, does the fabric get sucked down into the needleplate? Lightweight and loosely woven fabrics have this nasty habit. Here’s a couple of things to try. Try holding the threads tautly and slightly to the left when starting. Or – my favorite fix is to start a a quarter inch or so “into” the fabric, backstitch to the edge, and then go forward, holding the thread behind the fabric until you’re several stitches beyond the edge. : )
  • Have you ever been half way through gathering up a ruffle only to have the threads break? Aaargh! Here’s a nifty trick. Get a spool of very fine fishing line. The finest stuff you can buy. Then, instead of sewing “gathering threads” – sew a very wide zigzag thread OVER the fishing line. When you reach the end of the length of fabric that you need to ruffle, and the fishing line is in place “under” the zigzag stitches, it’s a snap to adjust the ruffle to the needed width. Once you’ve sewn the ruffle on where ever it goes, just pull out the fishing line. [Note; you can also use dental floss, but I prefer fine fishing line because you can't accidentally sew "into" it]
  • If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of satin or rayon slipping and sliding around as you cut and sew it – this one’s a lifesaver. Spray it with spray starch. It adds just enough body and weight to make it behave. This was a lifesaver when I was sewing four bridesmaids gowns (satin, of course) for a rush order. Be sure to test on a scrap first to test that the color doesn’t run or change.
  • Save time sewing on buttons. Double your thread before you thread the needle, then double the thread again. You’ll be sewing with four stands. Stitch, stitch, tie, done!
  • When sewing white buttons on a white garment, try sewing them on with dental floss. Then apply heat (tip of your iron) to the stitches at the back of the garment. Because of the nylon in the dental floss, the knot will melt a little and seal itself.
  • Do you use pins to pin down your patterns? Because I used to run a daycare eons ago, I have a box of beanbags that I find handy to “weigh down” patterns so I don’t have to pin them… but a past sewing student of mine shared this nifty trick. She uses washers from the plumbing section of a hardware store. They’re rather large – about 3 inches or so. Her husband, who dabbles in woodworking, set a dowel in a base for her to store them on. What a great idea.
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