Sewing tips

Cut The Buttonhole With The Pin Prick

It can be very annoying if your neatly sewn buttonhole is accidentally cut when opening the hole. There is a simple trick to prevent this from happening to you: Stick a pin at the end of the hole and then separate the hole with a seam ripper. The “stopper” helps the buttonhole remain intact.

Sew On Bias Tape

Bias binding is versatile and enhances many sewing projects. It is particularly suitable for “hiding” seams – such as the inside of a diaper bag, for example. We’ll show you how easy it is to sew! First, unfold the bias binding completely and lay it flush with the edge of the fabric that you are using to sew with – Make sure this is on the wrong side of the fabric ! Now pin the bias tape in place – insert the needles directly into the first fold and topstitch the line with a straight stitch. It’s best to lock at the beginning and end of the seam. Now you fold the bias tape on the other side – not sewn on line – and fold the bias tape over to the other (right) side of the fabric. Now pin it on the right side of the fabric. Quilt the bias tape close to the edge. You can also use a decorative stitch like the zigzag stitch here.

Slow down!

Operating a sewing machine is like driving a car (okay not quite, but bear with me): you need to be smooth with the gas pedal. Don't suddenly push it all the way down (or risk completely losing control of your stitching). Go slow for precise manoeuvres. Practice at a reasonable pace. Many computerized machines are equipped with a speed control button that allows you to set a maximum speed. It's super practical for beginners or touchy pedals. Another trick is to sew barefoot (or with socks on, basically just remove your shoes). The extra sensitivity helps controlling the pedal.

Make sure you have enough thread

Before starting a new project (or a major part of a project), check the state of your bobbin. You want to make sure there's enough thread on it that you won't run out in the middle of a neat seam or complicated stitch. If the bobbin is nearly empty, better to change it from the start than deal with it midway.

Maintain ideal sewing conditions

You would be amazed at how many times mechanic glitches can be fixed by cleaning the machine, rethreading it, or changing the needle. I have covered the cleanliness part already. Rethreading is another useful maintenance operation to apply. If you can't seem to get the tension right, if the thread keeps jamming or breaking, if anything feels wonky, try rethreading everything (spool and bobbin). That will often solve your problem. As for needles, be sure to use the proper one for each project. Universal needles are good in many situations but they aren't the universal best choice. They won't work as well on very thin or thick fabrics than thinner/thicker needles will. Jeans for example may be your everyday wear, but they require more than your everyday needle! Needles also become blunt or bent fairly quickly. This can lead to thread jams or, worse, the needle crashing into the needle plate instead of going through the hole (and consequently breaking). Change it regularly for better, safer stitching.

Don't be a slob

Clean your machine from time to time. Fluff gets caught in the mechanism when you sew. It can affect your machine's performance (even if you don't always feel it) and noise level (which you should notice, otherwise maybe clean your ears too :P). It's also good to protect your machine from dust by covering it. Most machines are sold with a slipcover or case, but if you don't have one they're easy to make! Good upkeep may also spare you a trip to the repair shop.

Keep your scraps of fabric

How will you practice (c.f. tip #6) without them? Plus they can be useful for smaller projects, or even to add a bit of a twist on larger ones.

Practice, practice, practice

Practice makes perfect, and that's what you want your work to look like right? I know it's tempting to jump right in and get going. But be aware that every type of fabric, thread and stitch has its own characteristics. Different threads need different tensions; thin fabric can be fragile whereas thick fabric requires a thick, strong needle; stitches come in all shapes and sizes; etc. By taking a couple of minutes to practice on a spare bit of fabric, you can make adjustments without ruining your work. Obviously you need to recreate your project's circumstances for this to make sense. So be sure to use the same fabric (and the same number of layers), thread and machine configuration for your test and your project. Complete beginners can also practice on printed paper first to get the hang of it. There are loads of free patterns online (lines, curves, even drawings) that you can print at home and exercise with.

Flatten your fabrics before sewing them

Avoid the crooked stitches that come from sewing scrunched up fabric by flattening it before. Simply use your hands if that's enough to smooth out all the lines (even the neat folding ones) or iron it if needed. It's a bit of extra work to begin with, but in the end it will make your life easier.

Keep hold of the threads' tails at the start

The threads' tails are loose before you make the first stitches. This can cause them to get tangled in the machine's mechanism and even pull the fabric in with them (especially light thin fabrics). To avoid this mess (and possibly having to cut a hole in your fabric to solve it), always hold the threads' tails with your left hand while making the first stitches.