Sunday, September 14, 2014

Evy's Favorite Sewing Tips

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.”

Wow.

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!

Evy

32 comments:

  1. Hi Evy, I have a double comment: Take as many opportunities to learn about your sewing/embroidery machine from your dealer; I am fortunate to have a wonderful one. The second comment is to join *you* and others who so willingly share such great tips as yours above. I haven't sewn in a zipper or made buttonholes in a long time. Thanks for the great reminders on how to do so.

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    1. Yes! You are SO right - a great sewing machine dealer is worth their weight in gold :-) Thanks for adding that comment! And thank you reading my blog!

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  2. My fabulous tip: When gathering ruffles, zigzag over a piece of dental floss. Then, pull the floss. This is much easier than pulling the threads from a straight stitch and you only stitch once! It also pulls evenly unlike the straight stitch method. Happy gathering!

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    1. Woo! I can't wait to try that! Great comment, thank you!

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  3. Another buttonhole tip that I learned years ago in a class with Sandra Betzina: sandwich the fabric where you're going to stitch the buttonhole with a piece of water soluble stabilizer like Solvy. The stabilizer allows the buttonhole foot to slide easier over the fabric. After you remove the excess stabilizer, spritz the buttonhole to dissolve the stabilizer that's under the stitches & they will help seal the stitches. It's also a good idea to use a seam sealant like Fray Check or Fray Block to seal the stitches. Put a drop on a piece of wax paper & dip a toothpick into it & run the toothpick along the inside of the buttonhole. Let it dry before cutting open the buttonhole.
    Janet

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  4. Evy,
    Thank you for your tips. The way I unsew is using the scissors (I got from you) to cut ever other bobin thread then pull the top thread and they all come out.

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    1. Ha! Me too Kathleen! I had a sewing friend teach me to snip the bobbin thread about 12 stitches in, pull it out, then flip and snip the top thread about 12 more stitches in, pull the top thread tail out, flip and repeat. Gets the whole seam out with no little bits of thread to mess with and those snips work AWESOME for that!

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  5. Save stabilizer on embroidery projects by leaving the hooped stabilizer on the roll. As you continue to need more stabilizer you can just rehoop right next to the last design. This saves several inches or more of your most expensive stabilizers like the water soluble mesh,...
    This is great when doing many hoopings for the same project like the quilt blocks for the blog quilt from several weeks ago!

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    1. Love that idea! How do you keep the roll from escaping? Got a tip for that?

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  6. I meant to say that I love the tip you gave us about sewing the tiny pieces before cutting!

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  7. I see someone already wrote a tip similar to mine. I use a tearaway stabilizer under the buttonhole fabric. It gives the stitches a little more stability.
    Another thing I use it for is sewing on Velcro. The thread won't tangle up and break!

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    1. Really? For sewing on Velcro? Do you put the stabilizer under the fabric or under the Velcro or on top of it?

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  8. I embellish with small fabric flowers stitched rather than glued for washability. To be prepared my pincushion stays ready with threaded needles AND KNOTTED. Prevents laying aside the perfect rose bud just to knot thread.

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  9. Best Tip I have learned is to trim my embroidered appliqués blindly with my appliqué scissors.

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  10. I like to use one of those little yellow post-it note stacks for sewing. I take the back paper off so I have a sticky back. Then I place it to the right of my needle in the position I want my fabric to follow and sew a perfect line of stitching. I use this for topstitching and seams that are a custom size. Your fabric runs up against the stack perfectly. I hope this is clear.

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  11. I always like to remove my pins as sewing (so as not to run over them), but in order to save time I just slide them off and to the right of the needle where they are out of the way. Then when I finish the seam, I just pick up my Pin Cushion Magnet and hold near the pins and they all jump into place. Saves tons of time!

    Hugs,
    Gina

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    1. Yes! I remove my pins too. Can't imagine sewing over them as I've seen them snap in two and what if one of those shards ends up in your face - ugh. Scary thought! Not to mention the machine damage you could do. LOVE your tip! I'm going to try that out next seam I sew :-)

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  12. I stock up on cheap glue sticks during the back to school sales - they are wonderful for temporarily holding hems and zippers in place until they can be stitched. Also, I used to sew a lot of leather (rodeo queen outfits) - rubber cement was awesome to glue down the seams after they're sewn - and I used a pastry roller to really get them flat. I just want to say - the zig zag over dental floss is one of my favorite tips ever! I used to hate gathers until trying this way!

    Patty

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    1. A Pastry Roller! What a clever girl you are! So much better than the wood block I bang things with :-))) I'm so getting a pastry roller for my sewing studio - thanks for that tip!

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  13. Like the safety pin tip for buttons. Seems much easier than what I've done. My tip is that there are a LOT of different feet for sewing and it helps if you learn how to use them. For long ruffles, I definitely prefer my ruffler foot but it takes practice to learn how to comfortably use it. My fave is my Left Edge Topstitch foot. Since the 2 sides of the feet are different heights, it makes topstitching on edges sew easy.

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    1. I will be hunting that foot - don't think I have that one and I definitely need to add it to my collection :-) Thanks for that tip!

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  14. I have read several tips here that I use. I have used dental floss for buttons and gathering with zig zag for years. A tip I learned about 10 years ago I have really put to use. Do not lick your thread when threading a sewing needle or machine needle. Lick the back side of needle and it creates a suction which pulls your thread through the needle.

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    1. Well I'll be... that's one tip I will be trying for sure. Just hope I don't accidentally "pierce" my tongue - ha!

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  15. Wow I Love all these tips and I new to your wonderful Blog, the one I was going to share is similar to the Post it note one, I used to use a piece of tape. Now I am going to use a stack of Post it Notes as mentioned Here.
    Huggs, Nancy

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    1. Welcome to the blog Nancy! So glad to have you here :-)

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  16. I am new to your blog as well. I so enjoyed reading others' comments. My tip is about storage. To me there is nothing more frustrating than knowing that you have something but you just can't put your finger on it. I have many of the clear drawer storage units that fit under my sewing tables. Each drawer is labeled, one is for bobbins, one is for needles, and I have 3 of the 5 drawer units for my embroidery thread labeled with the colors inside. This keeps everything dust free and accessible.
    Another thing that has helped me is to join Yahoo groups of my sewing interest. I certainly recognize your name, Evy, from the Sashiko group. And I just came back from a Martha Pullen event where I met people that I had only known through Yahoo groups. It was great to put a name and a face together.!! The sewing community is such a caring and sharing group. Lots of laugh while we stitch and rip. ps, Missy Billingsley shared your Sashiko tips during her demo of that machine. !!

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    1. Yes! Our sewing community is so awesome - we are so lucky, aren't we?!! :-) Glad you got to have a class with Missy. She is an EXTRAORDINARY instructor - so sweet and SO very, very knowledgeable. I wish I could have a lot more time with her! :-)

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  17. These are all great tips! Mine is pretty simple, but it helps me with my least favourite sewing job--putting in a regular zipper. I use a strip of regular scotch tape on the right side of the still basted seam with the zipper underneath. I use the outside of the tape as a topstitch guide to prevent a wonky stitchline on either side of the zipper. Thanks for your blog and website!

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