- The importance of pressing This first one is a big one. When I first started sewing I was just keen to be on the machine and actually sewing. I hated the hours spent cutting and resented all the up and down from the machine to the ironing board. However, making the effort to take time over pressing and pressing correctly has made a huge difference to the finish of my garments. It can also be a huge help in achieving those slightly tricky techniques; sewing a curved hem no longer daunts me thanks to this tutorial from Colette Patterns and a good press! The most important things to remember are to lift and move the iron rather than using a side to side motion as this can distort seams and that every seam/dart/pleat needs pressing before you sew anything that crosses it. This doesn't mean you need to get up and over the to the iron after each and every seam you sew but rather sew everything that you can until you are about to cross an unpressed line of stitching. This might mean that you can sew the shoulder and side seams on a blouse in one go but will need to press them before inserting the sleeves.
- The difference under-stitching and stay tape can make This is right up there at the top of my best and most used sewing techniques when it comes to achieving a more professional looking finish. I've got to give credit for this one to Tasia from Sewaholic as this is a tip I picked up from making the Lonsdale Dress, which was the very first dress I made! There are great instructions for this included in the Lonsdale Sew-along. A stretched out and wavy neckline or lining flipping through to the wrong side at the edge of a pocket can ruin the look of a garment and be incredibly frustrating when you have invested so much time in an otherwise beautifully made project. Adding stay tape to your seam allowance helps curved edges from stretching on the bias over time and can also reinforce things like pocket edges which have to stand up to wear. I picked up my tape in New York's garment district last year but I've also used a narrow twill tape or the selvedge of my fabric. After adding your tape, stitching your lining or facing to both layers of the seam allowance (under-stitching) helps prevent it from peeking out on the right side when worn and can help a neckline stay nice and flat. I was delighted with the results on my Lonsdale.
- Keeping a 'sewing journal' This is something that I actually haven't been doing all that long but have found totally indispensable since I started! I keep a little notepad by my machine just for sewing notes. In it I start a new page for each project and briefly jot down everything I've done for a particular project. Things like what size I cut, how much fabric I used, any alterations I made as I went along, any particular techniques and what worked well or didn't. Most importantly once finished I record any ideas or alterations I might have if I use this pattern again. This has really helped me to make sure each project is an improvement on the last, rather than forgetting what it was that I was so certain I'd do better next time. For lengthy projects this has really helped me write thorough blog posts too!
|My thread box, also including Fiona's other sewing essentials...|
- Good general organisation saves time With limited space it's taken me a while to sort out a set up for all my sewing equipment and supplies that I'm happy with. I mainly found myself getting frustrated with all the time I was wasting hunting for my bias tape maker, my chalk pencils or that zip that 'I'm sure I saw somewhere the other day'. My sewing space is a room which also functions as a dining room and a music and teaching room for my boyfriend (Tilly wrote a great post about working in a shared sewing space like this). There isn't a huge amount of space for sewing equipment, some is even stored in other rooms, so things are split between boxes, baskets, a chest and a sewing table. I was loosing track of what was where but a good sort out a while back has made the world of difference. Tools are now all together, fastenings are now all together and threads are all together. I still have to root things out when I need them but I know exactly where to look. My most useful tip in terms of organisation is to figure out which tools and supplies you use frequently and keep these 'essentials' easily accessible by your machine. I have a little tin with useful thread colours, chalk, quick unpick, snips, bobbins, a seam gauge...all those handy things.
- Using the correct tools When getting started with sewing it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of tools available. It's hard to know which are essential and which are an unnecessary gadget. I plodded along for ages thinking 'I don't need one of those, surely this chopstick/these kitchen scissors/this pencil' will do the job just as well'. In some cases yes (e.g. the chopstick for turning through straps) in other cases no (e.g. using a pencil instead of a tracing wheel. Don't ask how I know). Sewing can be an expensive hobby but some of these tools cost very little and will make a HUGE difference. A tailor's ham is amazing for getting that professional finish with beautifully pressed and shaped seams and is something you can make yourself basically for free. Using the correct needles for the fabric you are using is essential (e.g. ballpoint for stretch) and I've discovered choosing quality interfacing is worth taking your time over. Some tools are non essential but will make your life so much easier and your sewing more enjoyable. Kathryn from Yes I Like That wrote a great post on sewing accessories. Two of my personal favourites are my bias tape maker and my invisible zip foot. Both totally worth the investment.
I'd love to know what you have found to make a difference with your sewing. What are your favourite sewing tips and tools?