10 Steps for Sewing Success...says the Good Stitch!

10 Steps for Sewing Success...says the Good Stitch!

Start your New Year with my 10 Steps to Sewing Success!
Have you ever wondered why your sewing projects just don't quite turn out the way you hoped they would?  It just might be that one of these steps or tips could help change the course of your final outcome.

1. Grainline matters!  Knowing that the fabric lengthwise grainline is parallel to the selvage and that the lengthwise grainline marking on the pattern must be completely parallel to the selvage is step #1.  I've seen too many simply 'eye ball' it when laying out a pattern.  It's important to measure from one end of the grainline arrow to the selvage and from the other end of the grainline arrow to the selvage.  These distances must be the same.  If not, cutting 'off grain' can cause the finished garment to hang crooked.

2. When cutting out the pattern, especially when you use fabric shears, keep the blade as close to the table or cutting mat as possible.  When you lift the fabric for the cut, you can shift the position of the fabric.  That's why you'll often see me using a rotary cutter when cutting out pattern pieces.  I use my fabric shears in tight to cut curves and for cutting out notches.

3.  When cutting the pattern, pay attention to the actual cutting line for the seam allowance.  The standard seam allowance is 5/8" (1.6cm) wide.  I have seen this cut as wide as 3/4" and as narrow as 1/2".  When this happens it totally throws off the intended fit of the garment.  Please pay close attention to this detail.

4. Begin each project with a new sewing machine needle.  I know you think that if it's not broken it can be used again...and again...and again.  And pretty soon you forget how many projects that poor old needle has sewn for you.  I know some folks say change the needle every 2 or 4 projects, but to be on the safe side, make it a habit to insert a new needle for every project.  Over used needles can result in poor tension, blunt/dull ends, or have burrs that catch the fabric.

5.  And speaking of needles, make sure you use the appropriate needle for your selected fabric.  When working with knits, generally a ball point needle will be best.  When working with denim, go for a heavy duty denim size of needle.  But definitely have on hand lots of Universal needles in varying sizes.  Universal needles will sew a lot of different fabric types.

6.  Make sure to use a specialty sewing machine foot for specialty tasks like using a zipper foot for regular zipper installations or an invisible zipper foot when inserting an invisible zipper.  If you prefer machine hemming, consider using a blind hem foot.  Buttonholes always require a specialty foot.  Be aware of the machine feet that come with your sewing machine and use them for their intended purpose.

7. Slow down!  Please don't sew too fast particularly if you're a beginner seamstress.  Develop a nice comfortable speed where you can successfully guide the fabric under the presser foot.  Trying to race through a project will usually result in seams that need to be ripped out and no time at all being saved.

8.  Along with not sewing too fast...make sure you are sewing with accurate seam allowance widths.  In #3 above, I've said to cut accurately on the seam cutting line.  The same holds true for stitching the seam allowance width as accurately as possible.  A 5/8" seam allowance really does mean 5/8" wide - not 1/2" or 3/4" wide.  If sewn too narrow the garment can feel looser than intended and if sewn too wide the resulting fit can be tighter than it should be.

9.  Press, press, press during construction.  I'm sure you've all heard the phrase - 'press as you sew'.  Typically you want to press a seam or a dart before it is crossed or attached to another seam.  Pressing in a one dimensional state is far easier than when the garment is completed in its 3 dimensional form.

10.  And last but certainly not least is to press with the correct pressing aids.  Tools like a Tailor's Ham, Seam Roll, Sleeve board and press cloth are just as essential as a good steam iron.

And if you're new to sewing or perhaps an intermediate seamstress returning to garment construction after an hiatus, the DVD production from Glenda the Good Stitch (Sure-Fit Designs), is our Make It Sew Beginner's Series (4 DVD set).  To see details of the lessons contained over 4 DVD's, please click here.

Happy Sewing!

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