It doesn’t matter what you skill level is, there are certain sewing tips and techniques that you simply cannot skip.
Doing so will result in ill fitting garments that belie the fact that they were made by ‘loving hands at home’… a phrase I learned from retired sewing maven, Shirley Adams.
Some basic rules of sewing are:
1. Pre-wash your fabric
I learned this one the hard way. Certain fabrics have a tendency to shrink – even a little – during the first wash. Take time to read all of the notations on the end of the bolt when you buy fabric.
While on vacation in Atlanta several years ago, I bought a piece of beautiful floral material.
The colors were somewhat muted. You know… the kind of print that goes well with just about everything.
It was so pretty, I decided to make a top, pull on pants and elastic waist skirt. Well, I wore each piece once.
Thankfully, I was able to wear that print three times because I wore each piece with a solid color top or bottom.
I wash almost everything in cold water and dry my clothes on a warm or cool setting.
The next time I tried to wear the pants, I was amazed had how much weight I had gained. The same thing happened with the top.
In shock, I hopped on the scale and discovered that my weight hadn’t changed one ounce.
The problem was the clothes had shrunk! The only thing that still fit was the full skirt.
Thank goodness, I chose to make a full skirt. If it had been straight, it too would have ended up in the give away stack. At least some petite woman had a nearly new floral top and matching pull on pants. Lesson learned.
I wash EVERYTHING before pinning my patterns now… even knits. You never know when something will shrink – even a little bit.
NOTE: Of course, this rule does not apply to any fabric that is recommended for dry cleaning. All ‘dry clean only’ fabric should be professionally dry cleaned. NO EXCEPTIONS.
2. Measure twice – cut once.
You may be the most talented sewer in your community, but if your work is not cut properly before you take the very first stitch, it is immaterial.
Anything that is not cut properly will not fit right, no matter how well it is constructed.
Even home décor items like curtains, drapes, slipcovers, and covers for pillow forms will look as if they were made by a rank amateur if they are not cut the right way.
Measure everything. Write the measurements down and then measure again to make sure you did it right the first time.
3. Press all your seams open as you sew.
Taking the time to press as you sew gives everything you sew that crisp, professional look. Some people like to take shortcuts and press their seams open after the garment is finished or almost finished.
Big mistake. There are lots of shortcuts that you can take while sewing, but this isn’t one of them.
4. Fold your work until your facings are in place.
Many people like to put their dresses, shirts, blouses and jackets on a hanger as soon as the shoulder seams are done. If your neck facings are not attached before you put your garment on a hanger, you run the risk of your fabric stretching out of shape along the neckline.
When you go back to insert your facings, you might discover that it will not go in as well as it should because your neckline has stretched and lost its shape.
Fraying is another problem. Without facings in place, a loosely woven fabric will fray, sometimes to the point where the integrity of your garment is jeopardized.
Some fabrics are far more prone to fraying and stretching than others, but why take chances?
The treasury of sewing tips and techniques doesn’t stop here. Over the years, I’ve devised a few tricks and shortcuts that help make my time in the sewing room more productive.
Here are links to just a few of my favorites…