Whether your thing is quilting, tailoring, crafting, or industrial sewing, expanding on your sewing skills is an ongoing process. By learning more tips and secret tricks, you only broaden your scope of utility when it comes to creating, constructing, or repairing “things.” For those who want the edge, here are our best sewing tips and tricks to add to your knowledge base.
Essential Sewing Tips
Choose Your Thread Quality Correctly
The thread supply at the notions department in your local fabric & craft store is enough to make your head spin. Choosing a higher quality thread does not necessarily correlate with a higher price. We have some suggestions for how to select your thread supply:
- Visually examine thread quality
- Use lesser quality thread for basting
- Reserve expensive threads for high-quality projects
If you look at a strand from the spool you are considering, review it for any visible frays. High-quality thread is tight and will have little to no visible fraying along the strand. You can see this more evidently in the threads you find in the bargain bins.
Do not rule out the convenience of cheaper thread. You’ll typically find cheap materials available in the cones offering maximum bulk for the price. These are the threads to use on your basting stitches since you are going to rip them out anyway.
Quality thread improves your sewing experience overall with less breakage, snagging, or tangling. Polyester threads will not produce much lint, either. Frankly, I keep a supply of bargain bin spools as well as a good cross-section of Coats & Clark and, my favorite Gutermann, namely the Cadillac of sewing thread.
Make the Most of Your Seam Allowances
The seam allowance is the fabric’s section that falls between the stitching line and the outside edge of the pattern, and its size varies from 1/8th to a few inches. There are differing ideas about seam allowances, from following them like the Gospel to ignoring them altogether. We have some ideas that can help you decide how to use them:
- Draft your patterns without seam allowances until after fittings and alterations
- You can use your sewing machine platen, rubber bands or masking tape as a sewing guide
- Use the seam allowance for your staystitching
The standard home sewing seam allowance tends to be at 5/8th of an inch with different pieces using different widths. It is helpful when making your patterns to draft them without the allowance until you have completed all adjustments. You add the seam allowances as you are transferring your final design.
Industrial sewing machines used in mass production are exceedingly different from your home sewing machine with its marked guide plate. Place a rubber band around the sewing arm or masking tape along the guideline to produce a long line extending beyond the tiny plate. You should remove the masking tape to avoid the adhesive gums up the surface of your machine.
On pattern pieces like collars, sleeves, and other curved or diagonal areas, you can use staystitching to help them keep their shape. To do this, follow the cutting before sewing the pieces together. Staystitching is also useful on tucks, and anywhere you want to keep the pieces from stretching during sewing.
Threading the Needle is Easier Than You Think
Comedians have used the action of threading a sewing needle as prime mime material precisely because of how tough it can be to accomplish. It need not be so. Here are the hottest tips on how to get that flimsy thread through that tiny hole quickly and easily:
- Rubbing the needle in the palm of your hand
- Cut a fresh end and use a white backdrop for better visibility
- Use something to make the thread more firm
This first one is taking the sewing tips by storm as a simple yet life-changing solve for threading a needle. I think of it as the principle of the odds of unintended consequences. With the thread placed in the palm of your hand, rub the needle over it, and eventually, the thread will push its way through the eye.
Alternatively, I make a sharply cut angle on the end of the thread with a good pair of scissors. I find it helps to have something white behind the needle so I can better visualize the eye. Some machines come with white patch placement, or you can use a white presser foot to do the same thing.
I also have a needle threader, but I can never find it when I need it.
Rubbing the thread over a bar of beeswax is an easy and quick way to stiffen the thread. I typically wet the thread and then pull it through between my thumb and the needle to squeeze it flat, which also makes it stiff and able to go through on the first try.
To Pin or Not to Pin
There are differing opinions on pinning when it comes to cutting out patterns and sewing the pieces together. It all comes down to attending to detail. Here are some suggestions on the use of pins:
- Where and how you place the pins counts
- Iron your pattern pieces and have a flat layout of your fabric
- Pin your patterns perpendicular to the seam line
Some sewists contend that pins hamper your accuracy, which can depend on how you are pinning your pattern pieces. I use fewer pins, pointing them to the edges rather than running them horizontally along the cut line.
This placement will give you more accurate measurements, although some sewists advice you use pattern weights or binder clips and trace the pattern you’ll cut. They also recommend you iron your pattern pieces. With the fabric as flat as possible, you are sure to achieve the most accurate results.
Pins set perpendicular to the seam line, with their big ends headed toward the edge, are easy to pluck out as you are sewing. If you happen to miss one, it is more likely that the needle will quickly pass over them without any collision. Have some extra needles handy, though, as sometimes the needle hits the pin just the right way and breaks it right off.
A great deal of satisfaction in sewing comes from learning the sewing tips, clever tricks, and shortcuts that make the project more fun to accomplish.
Did you like these suggestions and want to learn more about the different options available on today’s sewing machines? The Inspired Sewist is here to help! You can contact us or visit our website to read more.