Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Things I have learned since I started sewing

I was thinking yesterday of sharing some of the things I've learned over the years!  So here goes...

~Use quality thread.  Cheap thread tends to break.

~Use the right needle for the job.  Thin fabrics require a different sized needle than thick fabrics.

~Change your needle more often than you think you should.  They get dull and that can affect the quality of your sewing.  In fact, keep several packets of machine needles.  You will break one at 2am the night before your event.

~If you are sewing along, and you hit a pin, and then suddenly your machine acts or sounds funny...don't keep sewing until you break the machine.  Stop immediately.  Change the needle, rethread the top and bottom threads.  Make sure there isn't a piece of pin lodged in or under the bobbin case or some thread wrapped up in there.  This can save you hundreds of dollars in repair bills.

~Speaking of pins...they are your friend when sewing.  Especially if you are sewing together wiggly fabric like silk velvet (or in my case...rayon velvet).  Do throw away pins that have been damaged or become dull because they will cause pulls or runs in your fabric.

~ Use the right fabric for the garment.  If the pattern shows draping, don't get something stiff.  If the pattern requires fabric that has "body," don't get something drape-y.  Wearing the garment in hot weather?  Avoid polyester and go for cotton or linen instead.

~Investigate the different "feet" available for your machine.  There are some helpful products out there that can help you insert a zipper or ruffle trim.  Hell, I still need a "walking" foot.

~If a pattern says to use interlining somewhere, do it.  They didn't write that step for kicks.

~Make a mock up.  Make a mock up.  Make a mock up.  (still learning this one!)

~Velvet has a nap and changes color when held up from different angles.  You need to remember this when laying out your pattern.

~Most Big 3 patterns (Butterick, Simplicity, McCalls) are not historically accurate.  This only matters if you care about being historically accurate.  It's ok if you don't care.

~Never say never.  Someone will find an example of what you claim was "never" worn or done in a museum somewhere.  Or you might suddenly fall in love with an era you hated 6 months ago.

~If your fabric is washable, wash, dry, and iron it before you begin.  Iron your seams as you go along.  Iron or steam your garment before you wear it.

~Research your project before you choose fabric.  Nothing like spending money on fabric only to realize it's wrong.

~You need one more day to finish your project than you think you do.

~Read the pattern before you begin and make sure you have all the fabric and notions needed.  No fun to realize you need and don't have interfacing when you begin your project at 9pm on a Sunday.

~Seam rippers, seam gauges, rulers, marking pens/chalk all disappear.  Buy two.

~Don't cut anything but fabric with your fabric scissors.  Keep a pair of separate scissors in your sewing room to cut patterns or fabric with heavy beading or sequins.

~Trim your seams before you turn the garment to the right side.  Especially at corners!

~If you have a cat, it will end up on your project at all stages.  There is nothing you can do, so just accept it.  Keep a lint roller handy.

That's all I have time for today.  I'm sure I'll think of more later :)


  1. Heh heh, so true! Esp. "Seam rippers, seam gauges, rulers, marking pens/chalk all disappear" & "You need one more day to finish your project than you think you do" :)

  2. I could not make a better list!

  3. Hahaha! All so true, and yet even when we know better we tend to "forget" these.

  4. Great tips! So true about the seam rippers walking, where do they go?

    One more I would add is to use a pressing clothing when pressing any fusible - nothing rose than getting gunk all over your iron. :P

  5. Loren, great tip! I didn't know that one!

  6. Excellent advice, all of them!
    The only thing I differ on is that I never ever sew across pins... that way, you won't hit one, which risks damaging your machine, project, or, in the worst case, you eye. I've also read professionals say it weakens the seam to sew across pins. Of course it does slow one down a bit, taking pins out as you go.

    I would add that hand basting is your friend. I couldn't do without for things like curved seams in velvet and setting in large puffed sleeves (1890s).

  7. Your list brings a smile to my face. I think I learned them all the hard way. Can't think of a thing to add.

  8. Thank you, ProfessorBats! Great advice!

    Oh my goodness, Andrea Schewe!! I love your patterns!

  9. You will break (a needle) at 2am the night before your event.

    LIES! FILTHY LIES! It was 2:25am.