It seems like the longer you sew, the more tricks you pick up along the way. I love that “Aha!” moment when I read or learn about a new approach to a sewing technique. Sewing tips and trade secrets have definitely helped me sew better and more efficiently.
Here are some of the sewing tips and trade secrets I’ve learned along the way:
1. Ignore the seam allowance (sort of).
Most commercial sewing patterns use a ⅝” seam allowance. But using a ⅜” seam allowance, especially on curved seams, reduces bulk and can make setting in sleeves much easier.
2. Skip the pins.
When I was learning how to sew, I was encouraged to go to town on the pinning. But pins actually cause the fabric to lay differently, which can cause puckering. Instead, use pattern weights when cutting pattern pieces. When you’re at the machine, use your left hand to hold the fabric down, while holding both pieces of fabric in your right hand, providing a little bit of tension.
3. You can sew knits without a serger.
While a serger makes the job easier, it’s possible to successfully sew knits on a sewing machine. Just make sure you are using a ball point needle and use a zigzag stitch that will stretch with the fabric.
4. Make your own maxi piping.
It’s easy to make your own piping, but what if you need maxi piping, which is significantly stiffer than regular piping, for a home-decor project? Experiment with electrical wiring in place of cording. Just find a wire that’s the appropriate thickness and follow the same process.
5. Add a lint roller and a large magnet to your sewing toolbox.
A lint roller makes it incredibly easy to clean up all of those clipped threads. The magnet is helpful for attracting straight pins if you (or your cat, in my case) dumps them everywhere.
6. Get a real straight edge on your fabric.
Fabric cut off the bolt rarely has a completely straight edge. This can be really frustrating when you’re trying to line everything up perfectly. Fortunately, fabric rips straight. Just make a slight cut on the gross grain and rip away. This is also a handy trick when working with a large amount of yardage that the largest cutting table in the world wouldn’t be able to accommodate.
7. Use a folding template.
Seam gauges are great, but sometimes the whole process gets very fiddly. Instead, use a folding template. Just fold your fabric down to the appropriate line and press with your iron.
If you’re interested in learning even more sewing tips and trade secrets, check out Craftsy’s Sew Better, Sew Faster: Garment Industry Secrets. Instructor Janet Pray will give you the inside scoop on garment industry techniques that have been adapted for home sewing.