Having been a seamstress since I was ten years of age, there have been many lessons learned along the way. I’ve learned many sewing tips from great seamstresses such as Nancy Zieman of Sewing with Nancy.
Some top tips:
The top sewing tips that stuck with me are those I discovered by trial and error. Patience I think is the most valuable lesson I’ve learned. Impatience results in all sorts of mishaps. You cannot cut corners, and have a great finished project.
What not to do:
I learned early on, not to make button holes too small or too large as each are unmanageable but not too difficult to fix. Never sew with too tight of a stitch, especially if you are unsure if it is where you want it etc. It’s much easier to sew the seam twice than to try and rip out a too tight of stitch.
Be careful with seam rippers, it is very easy to cut your fabric if you are not careful. Just the momentum created can cause you to lose direction, and you have torn or caught your fabric with the seam ripper. This usually happens when you have sewn with too tight of a stitch.
If you have ever sewn a project, and found a sleeve or some other part of the project sewn into your seam, you will understand this tip. Always smooth out your project before putting the pressure foot down. Be sure to look at the under layers and make sure that only what you want to sew is under the pressure foot.
Another thing not to do is; don’t forget to backstitch at the beginning and end of seams. There’s nothing worse than washing a garment you made only to have it come apart on you.
If you want to ruin a knit fabric really fast, and frustrate yourself to no end, then by all means disregard the step of choosing the proper needles, in this case a knit needle. You will be hard pressed to get knit fabric sewn with an ordinary needle. Also, the settings on your sewing machine need to be set for that type of fabric as well. If you have a serger, you will be able to sew knit fabrics much easier.
Never start out buying an expensive fabric if you are a beginner. Use cheap fabrics. Get the highest quality you can find of the cheaper fabrics, and pay attention to the fiber content as you will need this information later on. If you ruin a cheap fabric, it won’t hurt your heart or your wallet quite as bad.
Funny, and not so funny things I have done as a Seamstress
One time I had changed the plate on my serger for a rolled hem. Then I put it away like that. The next time I got it out to sew was quite a while later. I had forgotten I switched the plates. Needless to say, it would not sew for the world, and my daughter did not get her hand made Easter dress that year. I swore off the serger because at the time I could not afford to have it repaired. About a year later, I got it out and began looking it over, and looking at the tools that came with it etc. It dawned on me that I might have done this. Sure enough, I had switched the plates. Once I put the proper plate on it sewed like a dream. This was just silly on my part, and needless to say I was much more careful after that. I didn’t come to my senses in time to make the dress;she outgrew the pattern. So, this goes back to being thoughtless or lazy about sewing. It can come back to haunt you.
Early in my Seamstress years, I didn’t want to take the time to pin sometimes, and pre-washing the fabric.. never!! Let me just tell you, for the small amount of time it takes to do these things, you can save yourself a ton of stress later. If you do not pre-wash, you risk fading on your other clothes from the new fabric, and also you risk the fabric itself shrinking.
Some of the handiest tips I think I have learned over the years:
Buy the right tools. If you want great pieces that you can be proud to wear, you need the proper tools. One of the basics are, good sewing scissors. Without them you will end up with a more ripped effect rather than cut. Other scissors may not even begin to cut fabric. It requires really sharp instruments.
Speaking of sharp, be sure to use sharp needles. Dull needles will, instead of gliding through the fabric, snag or drag on it. In some cases it can even refuse to go through the fabric. Another thing, be sure to always select the correct needle, and stitch length for your material. Keep in mind it will be double thick when you sew the garment together. Often times a sewer will test their stitch and needle on a single ply of the fabric they are going to use. Then they do not understand why it won’t sew as before. Lastly pick the right thread for your project.
Learn from a pro:
You may say, ” fine for you to say all of this but how do I figure all these things out?” I”ll tell you one great place to learn is from the sewing with Nancy website or programs. This lady is a genius at sewing, and very accomplished in her field, and well renowned as well. I learned many techniques from her that have proved invaluable. One such thing is how to buy a pattern ‘for you’.
Find someone you know who is an expert at sewing, and see if they will apprentice you. This is a very important thing to consider if you want to be the best in your field.
Buy really good books with detailed instructions on sewing. Try to stay away from trendy type books. If you want to be great at sewing, and become a Seamstress, you must learn the time proven classic rules of sewing. The new tips are great, but start with the good old basics. I do recommend you get a book that is not ancient, although I have a few in my library. Some of the old terminology is not the same as today, and also, their idea of fitting was different, say, back in the 1800’s. However, there is a great wealth of common sense learning to be had from these antique books.
Be honest about your body measurements, and be precise :
You cannot begin to sew for others or yourself if you do not measure properly, and know how to interpret those measurements to make a garment. You must allow for ease. What is ease? Ease is the extra room you allow in the pattern for your body to comfortably move in the garment. Who wants to be bound and gagged in their own clothes? Not me! You do not wish to have your clothes hang off of you either. Fit is everything.
Take the time to study and learn the rules of fitting. Again, the sewing with Nancy show is one great place to learn how to make patterns fit you, and how to buy the right pattern for you.
Start out easy, and grow up to sew garments:
It is so important that you give yourself time to learn. Let your imagination run wild. Make some easy and fun things. Check out the accessories sections in the pattern books, or make some home décor items. These are great quick projects that will help you hone your skills, and give you quick satisfaction for completing them, as they usually do not take too long to sew.
Join a sewing group or find friends who like to sew:
If you enjoy doing things with your friends or family, think about joining a sewing club. Make sure there are educated people there who can guide you, and teach you. There’s nothing worse than the ‘blind leading the blind’.
Conclusion: Have fun and enjoy yourself:
Just have fun, and enjoy yourself. You will have some failed projects. Don’t let that discourage you. This is how you learn. Before you know it you will be able to sew anything, and possibly for a job and a living. From someone who has sewn for a living, be sure you are well grounded, and know your stuff before you dive into the business aspect, and by all means, don’t let the customers shame you into sewing for nothing. You deserve more! They are coming to you because “they can’t do it”. Charge according to the quality of your work.
I hope these sewing tips have helped you realize you can be a seamstress, and have your own business like “Sewing with Nancy”. Get out there and give it your best always remembering lessons learned are what will get you to the top! Now go on… Sew!! :)
Nancy Zieman,”www.sewingwithnancy.com/” ,Nancy’s Notions.
Nancy Zieman,”nancyzieman.com/”,Nancy Zieman official site.