It’s funny – when this post idea came to mind, I was thinking…oh hey, I will write a post that will save seamstresses time when sewing! Something to make their life easier!!! I mean, who doesn’t want that? Then I started writing it…
As it turns out, making your sewing life easier is not about saving time. It is actually about taking a little bit more time on the front end, to save you loads of frustration and tears later.
“To make your sewing life easier – you need to invest a little bit of yourself and your time.”
There are a lot of things you learn along the path to personal sewing success. One of my top blog posts of all time is the ’10 Tips that Changed my Sewing Life’, where I share some of the tips that helped make my life easier in terms of techniques. But today I want to share some things that help give me a sense of peace every time I walk into the sewing room. Things that put me at ease, and help set me up for sewing success, every single time.
“Sometimes it is the small things that you put into place, that can mean the difference of an afternoon of frustration vs. an afternoon of sewing pleasure.”
How to make sewing easier, from one seamstress to another.
Setting you up for sewing success, for most sewing projects.
1. Clean your sewing machine.
It is so easy to skip this step, but an experienced seamstress will tell you just how important it is. There is nothing that spells out sewing frustration quite like skipped stitches, bunched up thread or broken needles. I have found one small thing I can do after each and every project that ensures for smooth sailing in the subsequent project is to clean out my machine. If you don’t know how to do this, ask your local retailer to show you! I promise, it is actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it. By clearing out those loose threads, and removing the textile fuzz that piles up on your feed – you will find cleaner sewn lines and smoother stitches every time you sew.
Every sewing machine is unique in the specifics of cleaning, but THIS is a good tutorial by Colette that goes over some of the basics.
2. Make sure your needle is sharp.
I do not believe you need to change your sewing needle out for every single project, although retailers will tell you otherwise. But I do believe you should check your needle before your first stitch. Simply rub the tip of your needle gently across your finger, it will feel extremely sharp and pointy. Perhaps try this with a dull needle vs. a brand new needle to tell the difference. Once you feel a brand new needle along your finger, you will know exactly what you are looking for…and what not to sew with.
3. Use the right textiles for the sewing project.
This may seem obvious to some, but for a beginner seamstress – it can be quite daunting entering a fabric store not knowing the right fabric to purchase for your project. Every paper pattern specifies fabric requirements and recommendations directly on the back of their packaging. If you are still confused, please, please, please – ask a store associate for help. They should be able to point you in the right direction for the fabric needed. And if they can’t do that, then you are shopping for fabric in the wrong store!
Embarrassed to ask for help? I’ve been there too. Try shopping early in the morning, right as the store opens. It is empty, and you should have an associate all to yourself for help. This is my favorite time to shop, no fabric cutting lines – and a nice, clean store to browse.
4. Learn how to read a sewing pattern properly.
Furthermore, learn how to read a sewing pattern properly. Liesl Gibson made a fabulous video walking you through the entire process in depth. I highly recommend every beginner seamstress watch this video before cutting into your first paper pattern. PDF’s – feel free to wing it if you want, you can always print them again. You will learn as you go, but just know you might mess up and find yourself starting from scratch. (But some people work best that way).
Paper pattern? WATCH THIS:
5. Check your grainline and stretch direction!
When working with woven fabric (basic quilting cotton for example), you need to know the grainline. What is the grainline?
“On woven fabrics, the grain line is the warp (the longwise threads which are stretched on the loom), i.e. the longwise direction a fabric. The weft are the threads woven across the warp.” – Burdastyle
When working with knit fabric (think T-shirts), you need to know which way the fabric stretches to know how to cut the pattern. Need more info on knit fabric and stretch direction? THIS is one of my favorite knit fabric posts ever by One Little Minute.
Even as an experience seamstress, I will still mess this up when I am up late at night sewing. All it takes is one quick cut when you aren’t paying attention, and suddenly your sleeves don’t fit because the stretch isn’t going in the right direction. Check, double check, then cut!
6. Get a serger.
You will never, ever, everevereverever regret this purchase. It saves time, money, and I believe – much needed sanity. The serger I have is the super affordable Brother 1034d. You can get it on amazon, and it makes for a FANTASTIC Christmas present from the hubby. *hint hint.
7. Rotary cutters.
Maybe this is a personal choice, I don’t know. All I know is I will cut ANY pattern out with my rotary cutters…and avoid any pattern that requires basic scissors. I don’t have time for all of that detail cutting!!! The only exception to this rules for me personally is when I am cutting finicky fabric such as chiffon, that needs a super steady hand so the fabric doesn’t shift. But anything else, anything, is fair game for rotary cutters. And make sure to keep the blade sharp!
8. Read through the entire pattern instructions prior to sewing a single stitch.
I find that once I have a general understanding of how a pattern works, I can sew much more quickly without reading the instructions sentence by sentence as I am working. Understand the pattern you are working with first, then start sewing. This way you can sew with ease, while still checking the instructions as you are sewing on a more infrequent basis.
9. Organize your patterns.
There are tons of ways to organize your sewing patterns, please don’t just throw them into a large pile. Here are just 4 I found after doing a quick google search:
I have found that with a little bit of prep work for preserving patterns, you will not only sew patterns more often – but you will be thrilled at just how quickly you can sew the second time around! Your pattern is already assembled and cut out to your size, all you need to do is cut the fabric and sew. It is such a treat on a rainy Sunday afternoon!
Don’t let that stop you from organizing your PDF patterns as well. Create a folder on your computer that holds them, and subfolders for ‘kids’, ‘women’, ‘women’s dresses’, etc. Organize your patterns so that you can find exactly what you want when you want it. Then remember to BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER so that when disaster strikes, you aren’t left with an empty library. Trust me on this one, I speak from personal experience.
10. Sew within your skill level.
Please do not take this the wrong way, there is a time to stretch yourself and grow. But when you are first starting out – trying to sew a ballgown might not be the best idea. In fact, it might turn you off of sewing altogether. By sewing projects meant for beginners, you will gain confidence and understanding into the wonderful world of sewing. And when you are ready to learn new techniques, take them one at a time, such as buttonholes, zippers, etc.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you sew a couture ball gown? One stitch at a time. Just takes time to get there.
Lastly – and here is one that actually WILL save you time…
Learn how to sew without notches.
I just pissed off every extremely anal professional seamstress…everywhere…with that one sentence. Ok – let me rephrase. When you are just learning how to sew – KEEP the notches. They will help you line up your work properly, and understand how patterns fit together. Once you have a few years under your belt….just snip those bad boys right off. The time it takes to go around that stupid little triangle is just ridiculous in my opinion. I am a notch hater…unless absolutely necessary on a pattern. So rule of thumb when it comes to notches…if you understand how the pattern goes together, snip it. If you are confused, and you think you will need to be lining them up for perfection – take the time and keep it.
Tell me…if you were talking to a newbie sewer, what are some things you would have on this list?
Thanks so much for stopping by, and until next time…