Isn’t it awesome that we have a WHOLE month to celebrate sewing? I know! I looked up a bit of the history (which you can read yourself here) and one of the things recorded in the proclamations is this statement - speaking about home-sewers: “Their efforts demonstrate the industry, the skill and the self-reliance which are so characteristic of this Nation.”
Makes you glad and proud to be a sewist, doesn’t it! One of the things I love so much about our sewing community is that not only are our people skillful and smart and industrious – they are also willing to share. I’ve yet to meet a sewer who didn’t mind showing me how to do something I didn’t know how to do or just showing me how to do it a better way.
So, my self-reliant and skillful friends, in honor of this wonderful month’s celebration, I want to know what YOUR favorite sewing and embroidery tips are. I will share some of mine here in this week’s glob of blog. (You know, the ones I learned while flying by the seat of my pants or doing the “unsewing” necessary after a moment of “well shoot that didn’t turn out so good.” Yeah, those.)
Unsewing – my least favorite thing to do. I was taught to sew by a dear, wonderful Irish lady who happened to be my mother’s aunt. She told me once (probably after listening to me whine for ten minutes about having to rip something out) that if you didn’t take out at least three stitches for every nine you put in you were doing something wrong. Okay, she was a perfectionist and she TRIED to teach me to be one too, bless her heart. But here’s the best tip she gave me on that dreaded task - Use a sharp seam ripper and when it gets dull, throw it out and get another. So, how long have you been using the seam ripper in your sewing kit? Uh huh.
Buttons & Buttonholes – another “bit of a pain” to deal with in sewing. I know, they can be really easy, especially with machines like my sweet Baby Lock that have that great buttonhole foot and function that makes this job so simple. Yet sometimes I just mess up, usually because I’m not paying attention. Here are some rules of thumb that help me out and maybe you’ll find them helpful too.
I always stitch out a sample buttonhole on a scrap of my project fabric. That way I can make sure the button I have chosen will fit nicely in the buttonhole and the thread color I've picked actually looks good on the fabric. (For instance, did you know that on black and white fabric such as a hounds tooth check, a dark gray thread will look better than black?) AND it helps me know exactly how long the buttonhole will end up being so that I can mark my buttonhole position accurately. This is especially helpful when sewing the top most buttonhole on a shirt placket.
If you have a buttonhole attachment foot you might find it helpful to either use a slightly larger button or slightly smaller button (than the one you plan to use on your project) in the holder that measures the length of the buttonhole. I don’t like too much extra buttonhole extending past the edges of my buttons, so I usually use a slightly smaller button. When I stitch out my sample I can make sure the button will still fit in the opening.
I use a seam ripper to cut open my buttonholes. (Those little wooden blocks and chisel looking cutter-opener things are pretty cool, but I don’t have one and I’d probably miss and chop off the thread anyway, or my finger.) Seam rippers (sharp ones, heh) work really great as long as you don’t rip right through the end. So I put a pin at the end to keep that from happening.
Have you ever tried to button a button that was stitched too tight to the fabric? Or needed extra buttoning room for buttons on coats or such? I like to make some room under flat-no-shank buttons by creating a bit of a thread stand there. All you need are two safety pins placed on either side of where you will sew on the button. Prop the button on the pins, sew it on and then wrap the thread around the stitching under the button a couple of times before bringing your needle to the back and securing the thread. A thread shank! Voila! Makes buttoning lots easier.
I also love using buttonhole weight thread to sew on buttons. If I don’t have a thread color in buttonhole weight that matches then I’ll double double my sewing thread instead or use embroidery floss.
Did you know that ironing along (beside not on) the teeth of an invisible zipper before installing it helps keep the teeth riding in the groove of the invisible zipper foot properly? I learned that little trick from my high school Home EC teacher. (And, ahem, I'm proud that I can still remember that.) She also taught me to pre-shrink my zippers. NOT that I always do so, but it’s a good idea.
Another thing I learned about installing invisible zippers is that it’s easiest done before you sew up the seam. (Except for matching prints or plaids of course.) Then if anything goes catty-wampus you've got some fudging room.
For instance, if you are planning to put one in the center back of a skirt, sew it in before you sew the center back seam of the skirt. Then sew up the seam, using a regular zipper foot so you can get close to the teeth at that part and switch to a regular sewing foot for the rest.
I always tack the ends of invisible zippers to my seam allowances too. Helps keep everything flat and neat looking on the outside and keeps those want-to-curl zipper ends from getting fresh with me. :-)
Sewing small things can get my neck all out of whack. That’s because my shoulders come up to meet my ears while I’m struggling to take a tiny seam around a tiny bit of fabric. Like wee collars for baby shirts or little lined pockets. Now I trace my pattern shapes on blocks of fabric, sew the seam and then cut them out, leaving seam allowance past the seam stitching. I find it's lots and lots easier to cut ¼” away from a seam then it is to sew ¼” away from the edge on something really small. It's easier on my hands too because the bigger block of fabric is easier to hold and maneuver. Plus it keeps me from saying things that scare the cat.
Now it’s YOUR turn - what favorite sewing tip will you share with me? I can’t wait to hear them! Inform me, educate me and entertain me! Who said this glob blogging stuff was going to be all one sided? WHAT, you didn't know you needed to work too? :-)
Till next time, Happy Sewing!