When gathering, especially on a long piece of fabric, it can be difficult to get the gathers even. Here is what I do. After setting the stitch to a small or medium zig zag, I place a contrasting thread on the fabric and then zig zag over it. This technique produces nicer gathers, is easy to pull up and very easy to adjust. It is particularly good for sleeve tops also.
Christine Hetherington, Brisbane AU
That’s a Good Point
When sewing and you want a sharp point such as on a collar, sew along one seam and before pivoting to sew the other make one stitch across the point. You will then always have a nice sharp point. Christine Hetherington, Brisbane AU
Oil your machine regularly. My sewing machine mechanic recommends doing it every time you sew. Also make sure that it is always clean in the bobbin area.
Christine Hetherington, Brisbane AU
Adding Machine Tape
I have to say I loved the Craftsy class you did! It was great and I learned so much. The same for the website and the tips listed here. I wanted to share a couple of mine and hopefully win that wonderful pattern you mentioned! I have been sewing for years but just now learning so many new ways for altering existing patterns to fit my apple shaped body. My tip is to use adding machine tape to enlarge patterns. It is cheap at office supply places and you don’t have to cut pieces from large sheets when all you need is a narrow strip of paper to make the extra space you need. Margaret Lehmann, Earle AR
I take altered patterns and punch a hole in the stiff paper part and hang on a tie/belt holder in my closet in my sewing room so I don’t have to try to fold them back into the original sleeves. That way they stay nice and flat and easy to reach anytime I need one. They are hung in numerical order so it’s easy to find them and I just move them around to the one I need when I get it off the ring. Margaret Lehmann, Earle AR \
Don’t Let the Bobbin Run Out
When I start a project I always fill a couple of bobbins. One goes in the bobbin case, and the other on the top of the machine to thread the needle. This has two advantages:
If the top bobbin is running out, you know that the one in the bobbin case is low too, since they started with the same amount of thread.
The “drag” on the needle is more equal, so the tension stays balanced. This is especially useful when making buttonholes.
I sure don’t want the bobbin to run out in the middle of a buttonhole! Frances Fogel, River Forest IL
Cone Thread Storage
Big cones of sewing thread can be stored and protected using one liter plastic soda bottles. Cut one bottle just where it starts to curve in. Discard the top of the bottle and keep the bottom. Cut a second bottle just below the curve for the top section. The two pieces will slide together and hold well. Place your thread cone inside and run the thread out the neck of the bottle. The bottle cap will hold the end of your thread when not in use. When I am using it, I set the bottle on the floor behind my sewing machine, run the thread up to it, and loop it around the post where the spool of thread would normally sit, then thread as usual. Bigger cones? Use 2 liter bottles. Terry Killingsworth, Summit MS
My best solution for storing bobbins is from the hardware store! Eight-inch plastic cable ties (sometimes called zip ties) are just right for keeping one or more bobbins attached to its matching spool. They are only a few cents each and will last until you cut them off. I keep extras in my thread drawer. Elaine Acosta
Seam Stitching Guide
If your sewing machine does not have seam allowances clearly marked on the sole plate, use a 3″ square post-it note to mark the desired seam allowance. The post-it is easy to see and reposition, does not harm your machine, and makes it easy to line up your seam edges. This is especially helpful for beginners or those with limited vision. Maralyn Pypa, Huntington Woods, MI
Instead of using a metal hem gauge to press up your hems, try a silicone potholder. Measure and mark frequently used hems on the potholder with permanent marker, then fold and press hems as usual. The silicone won’t get hot and it holds the heat like a metal gage will. Maralyn Pypa, Huntington Woods, MI
When I started using a serger, I found one of the biggest challenges was how to sew a seam at the 5/8 mark the pattern indicated. To solve the problem, I placed a small length of masking tape on the front of the serger (the cover that hides the thread guides. I mark it at 5/8, 1 inch (and because I’m lazy) 2 inches with indelible black marker. Being a petite, my purchased garments are usually too long, pants especially. The 2 inch mark helps with hemming. Rather than cut off the excess, I serge the raw edge using the 2 inch mark. I can cut, mark for the hem, and serge at the same time…saves a bit of time. Deb O’Neill, Victoria BC
Warp & Weft
This is a terrible PUN, but it does help one to remember which is which between WARP and WEFT threads in woven fabrics. The WARP threads run the LENGTH of the yardage, parallel to the selvedge edges. The WEFT threads go from Wight to Weft (Right to Left – ACROSS the yardage) Liz Powell, Elliot Lake, ON
Sewing Machine Pincushion
I find it handy to have a pincushion to the right of me as I sew. I attach a small handmade cushion or a purchased strawberry onto a band of elastic at least 1/2″ wide. I slide the band around the sewing arm and onto the body of the machine. (It will be easier to get it on if you take the presser foot and needle off first.) Be sure to measure around the body of the machine with the elastic band to get a snug fit before you attach your strawberry or your handmade pincushion. Be sure you place the pincushion below any buttons or levers so as not to interfere with your work. This pincushion is more convenient than a pin box or just putting the needles on the table as I work. Theresa Farrisi, Bethel, PA
While the fabric for my new sewing project is in the washing machine, I get my sewing machine or serger ready with thread and correct size needles. I wind 2-3 bobbins and assemble all the notions I need (thread, pre-wound bobbins, zipper, elastic, buttons, needles, pattern instructions, etc.) and put them together in a large Ziploc bag. Also, I iron my pattern pieces with a warm *dry* iron and put them on a hanger in my sewing room closet. When my fabric is ready, I’m ready to start cutting and sewing! (And, if for some reason I have to delay making the project, everything is in one place when I get back to it.) Mary Maychruk, Nanaimo, BC
I do a lot of alteration work and have small pieces of thread everywhere. For a quick cleanup, I use a paint roller with a long handle to hold a cardboard roll such as comes with plastic wrap. Then, I wrap 2″ wide painters’ tape or masking tape – sticky side out around the tube. Just roll along the floor or carpet and it will pick up all the loose threads. When the sticky roll gets filled up I remove the old tape and apply new tape. I always keep one ready to go. Lorraine Turcogeorge
What A Useful Album!
I use a photo book to keep track of the fabrics, sizes and patterns I use when sewing for each of my 8 adult children and 13 grandchildren. I add a picture of the item (preferably being worn by the person) with the data alongside each photo. With a color shot it’s usually easy to identify the fabric, but if it’s something unusual I add a swatch to the facing page. I take new measurements often for the kids because they grow at an amazing rate! These measurements are dated and kept in a note book in my sewing room for quick reference.
Nancy Gohlke, Plattsburgh, NY
Use Wonder Tape to keep buttons in place before sewing them on. Put one side of the Wonder Tape onto the fabric after taking one side of paper off, and then remove the other side of paper. Stick the buttons on and sew away. Marley Tarlton, FL
A Bobbin Forest
Whenever I begin a project, I run 3 additional bobbins. I use the bobbins on an older sewing machine that I’ve set up for twin needlework such as hems on knitwear, gathers on sleeves, and pin tucks.
I store my bobbins on wooden chopsticks and shish kebob sticks held on a foam oasis floral block. It’s an instant vertical on-site inventory!
Occasionally, I’ll clean up my bobbin forest by running unwanted colors through the serger when overcasting a fabric before laundering.
Rosemary Schalck, Grayslake, IL
Tried and True Topstitching
I love the look of silk twist topstitching on a seam or a collar. The silk twist is too thick to go through the eye of the needle, so here’s what I do: I do the topstitching first with water soluble thread in the bobbin and contrasting color in the top (easy to see for pulling out later). Then, with silk twist in the bobbin and thread that matches the fabric in the top, I do the topstitching working from the reverse side, just next to the first set of stitching. The silk twist ends up on top, perfectly positioned. It’s easy to get rid of the first set of “guide” stitches by dabbing the water-soluble thread with water and pulling out the contrasting thread on the opposite side of the fabric. I keep an extra bobbin case around with the tension set for silk twist, just for this kind of topstitching. I’ve done this many times, and it really looks beautiful. Frances Fogel, River Forest, IL
Don’t Go In the Out
Sewing needles have a right and a wrong side. So, if you are threading a needle for hand sewing and the thread is resisting going through the eye, just turn the needle around and put the thread through the other side. Page Zelasko, Riverside, CA
To keep all my sewing notions safe from reach of two adorable kittens I went to the sports section of a “big box” store and bought a huge fishing tackle box. The one I like has a see-through section on top where I can put small stuff and in the longer sections I keep scissors. Spools of thread fit beautifully. There is a separate compartment below for cones of serger thread and other bulky stuff. It also holds small removable boxes that are perfect for bobbins and other tiny items. As a bonus it is totally portable. Vivian Trudel, Kelowna, BC
Magnet Helpers (for non-electronic machines)
I sure enjoy reading all the tips, here’s mine. I put two strips of sticky sided magnet strips together on top of my sewing machine to hold the pins that I remove while sewing, I did the same along the side of the machine to hold a small pair of thread clipping scissors. Barbara W., Vernon, BC
A Little Dobble Do Ya
Love the tips. Here’s one that may help when sewing that special “dryclean only” fabric. If you prick yourself with a pin and get a drop of blood on the fabric; the enzymes in your own saliva will make it disappear miraculously with no staining. Joan Topp, Burnaby, BC
I have a new tool to help thread the lower looper on my serger. It is the long metal wire with the hook on the end that is sold for tube turning. It is thin enough to slide through the machine. When I insert it towards the thread guide on the lower looper, the hook grabs the lower looper thread and I pull it back out to the right. It has really sped up threading.
Debbie Lauzon, Lampman, SK
Instead of buying twill tape, use the selvedge edges on cotton and polycotton material. It goes a long way. Roll it up and store in a ziplock bag. Jeanne Sharpe, London, ON
I use tiny safety pins to secure my “covered buttons” on my garments. So far they work great and I just take off the safety pins when laundering the garments and the buttons come off as well. Works like a charm. Doris Steele, Logansport, IN
I have a lot of patterns that I can’t bear to part with so I came up with this storage system. I take the pattern out of the envelope and put it into an 8″x 7″ zip lock bag. I poke holes in the bag so it won’t take up room. Then, I put the pattern in the bag so that the direction sheet and picture of the contents is face up. I store the patterns in numerical order in a cardboard file box that measures approx. 12″ x 23″x 11″. I have several of these boxes now and store them either in a closet or under my cutting table. I put the envelope into a separate smaller cardboard file box that measures 7″x12″x9″. I use card stock for category separators. Now, when I want to make something, I can see at a glance just what I have. All my Petite Plus Patterns are filed in a large three ring binder in plastic page protectors. I keep that on the bookshelf for easy access! Mary Ann Ackerman, San Diego, CA
I use long bent pointed tweezers (like the kind that should come with your serger) for all sorts of reaching, pulling, and holding. I have a pair by my machine, serger, and end table where I do a lot of hand work. They have become the extension of my fingers that won’t fit under the machine foot or into the tube I am turning. You can purchase them at your local fabric store for about $6.00. Tifeni Whittington, Sew Creative, Temecula, CA
Easy Solution for Hard Water
Our water is very hard and causes a build up of minerals in the steam iron which can cause ugly spots on your fabric. I prevent this by using filtered water in my steam iron. I keep a Brita jug filled in my sewing room and use it to fill my iron. (I also have filtered water handy to quench my thirst!!) I have had no mineral spots from my iron since I began doing this. Jean Korte
Many of us have to cut out our fabric on the dining room table. This can be backbreaking. Raise up your surface about six inches by laying a crib mattress on top of the table. It might also be used as a handy pin cushion too. Happy sewing! Wilkins
Cats Who Sew
I try to sew with cheerful music tapes and CD’s, and my cats enjoy the sewing room. They are not allowed in there “unsupervised” however. If I haven’t sewn in a few days I hear them scratching at the closed door, and thus they help motivate me with their insistence and humorous ways. Happy sewing! Catherine Tombs Kahan, Longueuil, PQ
I made a small 4″ wide x 3″ deep bag and pinned it to the ironing board. It holds a 6″ hem guide ruler, a roll of fusible webbing, extra safety pins for making bias binding, and a small pair of scissors. The front of the bag is made out of a quilt block & padded for a pin cushion. What a time saver to have everything so handy! Mary Jo
Personal Tips for the #501 Straight Skirt
To keep the elastic from rolling at the back on the #501 Straight Skirt, I sew through both the elastic and casing (perpendicular to the waistline) at a couple of points in the back, (in addition to the lines of stitching at the front anchor points). I do this after I’ve tried the skirt on and adjusted the gathers at the gathers to my liking. Also, to strengthen the area just above the slit, I fuse a small piece of interfacing on the seam line at the “notch”. (I’m not too lady-like getting in and out of the car, and had pulled the stitches at the slit on the first skirt! I have made 6 of these skirts (slit front); it looks just great in fake suede…always gets comments. Cyndy Mason, Sooke, BC
Prevent Frog Mouth
To give your buttonholes support and to prevent “frog mouth”, always interface your buttonholes with QUALITY interfacing (you get what you pay for). To prevent accidental damage when cutting, place a pin at each end of the buttonhole BEFORE the two bartacks. When you slide the sharp seam ripper in the opening it cannot go through the pin and you will not damage or destroy your buttonhole. Robin Burch Girard, PA
Linen Closet Tip
A great linen closet tip from our friend in the UK. To help me easily distinquish the size of bed sheets without having to open them, I stitch on the corner a single line of zigzag on single sheets, two lines on double sheets and three lines on king size sheets.Dot Gray, Cyncoed, Cardiff, South Wales, UK
A Wet Needle Tip
When threading a needle wet the eye of the needle instead of the thread. This helps “wick” the thread through the eye. It works well on both hand and machine needles.
Sandra Betts, Saint John, NB
Machine Heirloom Sewing Tip
Evenly gather lace edging for attachment to either lace insertion or entredeaux by laying lace edging over a strip of light-weight water soluable stablizer. Sew 2 rows of basting thread the length of the lace as you would if setting in a sleeve. Pull up the bobbin threads to gather the lace to the length needed, spacing the gathers evenly. Attach the gathered lace to the desired edge. Rinse with cool water to remove the stablizer.The stablizer may be removed prior to attaching the laces but I find that by leaving it in place the gathers remain more evenly spaced while sewing. Sara Powell-Aldridge, Charlottesville, VA
Keep the Sharps Safe
I took a pint size plastic milk “jug”, super glued the top on, poked a just right size hole in the top and wrote “SHARPS” with my marker on the outside. All my old or broken needles and pins go in there. The top doesn’t come off so I know everyone including the garbage man is safe. You could decorate the outside with a nice leftover piece of fabric. Gail Nelson, Joliet, IL
Easy Set in Sleeve Ease
On the wrong side of each sleeve, from front sleeve notch to back sleeve notch, 1/4″ from the edge, do a machine-basting stitch with your widest twin needle. When you have adjusted the gathers (easily, because of the even stitches) knot the ends of these stitches. Stitching on the sleeve, on the seam allowance and NOT using your walking foot, set the sleeve into the garment; additional fullness is eased in as you sew. Irene Hudgins, Richmond, BC
Design Placement with Perfection
I have fallen in love with machine embroidery-but am sometimes frustrated when a design is slightly “off” from where I wanted it placed, especially on a garment front. I find that I am more successful in my placement if I embroider the fabric before I do a final cutting of the pattern piece. Place the pattern piece (adjusted for fit and on the grain line) on the fabric, pin down and outline it in tailor’s chalk. Rough cut around the outline, leaving a generous border. Remove the pattern piece, mark the fabric for placement and embroider. If my design placement is a little too low or too high, I just shift the pattern piece to place it correctly, repin and cut. Jana Barthold, Collinsville, IL
Wider Pattern Paper
Looking for paper to trace your pattern onto? Visit your local newspaper and ask if you can buy an ?end of the roll? of newsprint. Most newpapers just discard the ends that are too short for them to use. This is wider than medical exam paper so you don?t have to tape pieces together. This paper also works well for banners etc. Most newspapers will either give the paper to you for free or charge you a very nominal fee. Ramona Padilla-Dus
A Bevelled Grade
Instead of grading seams by trimming both sides of the seam separately – do it in one go and save time! How? Keeping the two seam edges together bevel your scissors as you trim. Presto – a lovely neatly graded seam in one fell swoop. Maxine Bullimore, Ilford, Essex, England
Here’s a tip to keep your patterns from tearing through many uses. Before I cut patterns apart I first iron fusible interfacing and iron onto the back side of them. Then I store them along with the pattern envelope in a larger storage bag. Marley Tarlton, Lake City, FL
Curved and straight hemostats, available at medical supply stores are terrific for clipping and holding the pieces of quilt blocks together. Barbara Harberts
Clean the Machine
Use a fuzzy pipe cleaner, readily available at craft stores for cleaning the lint out of your sewing machine. It’s the easiest way to get into tension rollers, threading nooks and crannies, and behind the bobbin case. (Always a good idea to unplug the machine before sticking anything into it.) Anne Jones, Baltimore, MD
No Foot Hem Rolling
To machine roll a hem, here is an alternative for those without a rolled hem presser foot. I learned this trick from an experienced Italian seamstress while working at a bridal shop. Straight Stitch 3/8 inch from the raw edge. Use this stitching line as a guideline to roll the hem with your fingers as you sew the hem. A wide length stitch can be used to mark the hem and then removed when hem is sewn in place. I have use my serger to get a consistent cut edge and the stitches help to stabilize the fabric. I turn the serged edge in twice as I sew. It takes a lot less time and delicate fabrics don’t fray. As always, “Practice makes perfect”. Karen Hebert, Norcross, GA
Natural or Synthetic?
To check if your fabric is made of natural or synthetic fibre; Cut a sliver (1″ by 3″) of the fabric and using a set of tongs hold it to a candle flame. Do this in a disposable pie plate or in your sink so that running water is available if needed. If the remains are nothing but ash, the fibre is “natural”, i.e. wool, plant-based, rayon or silk. Small, hard balls indicate the fabric has some artificial component; polyester or nylon, for example. If the fabric curls tightly and becomes hard, it’s likely 100% manmade fibre. To take the test further, wool smells like burning hair; cotton, linen and rayon have a “woody” smell and silk has a unique, almost “burned bugs” scent all its own. Kris Aaron, Cambridge, WI
Prepared to Shop
I carry an inexpensive, small mini photo album in my purse at all times. In it I have swatches of fabric from outfits I have sewn, swatches from all of my home decorating projects, paint chips from every room as well as wall paper swatches. I also have yardage requirements for my favorite patterns and any home decorating projects I am planning. This way, when I see something on sale, whether it’s a pair of shoes, fabric or even a candle, I can pull out my book and see how much I need and if it matches. Sheila Howell, Rothesay, NB
Is There a Doctor in the House?
Check out your local medical supply store for some very handy items for home sewers. Rolls of white exam table paper are useful for tracing off pattern pieces. White paper medical tape is great for piecing together these pattern pieces, especially when you’re slashing and taping pieces to make pattern adjustments. You can even iron over it. Disposable scalpels can be handy for various cutting tasks such as ripping out seams or cutting notches and buttonholes. Suture scissors (they have a tiny hooked tip on the lower blade) are great for cutting threads w/o damaging fabric (especially useful for snipping thread ends and jumps on machine embroidery) and other handy scissors may be purchased there.
Catharine Decker, Eau Claire, WI
While at the medical supply store, Barbara Richards suggests that you pick up a package of individually wrapped adhesive remover wipes. They do a great job of dealing with tape residue.
Save the Original
When I have a pattern that I will be making major adjustments to, I trace out a duplicate of the pattern so that the original pattern stays intact. That way if the first draft of the adjustment doesn’t work, I can either go back to square one using the original pattern or adjust my duplicate. Also by working with a copy I can get creative and “slash” pattern pieces in various places and make these with different fabric or in different colors. For example, make a jacket that is pink on top and white on the bottom on the right hand side, and just the opposite on the left. Paula Thomas, Burbank, CA
A place for everything and no tangled threads!
Pill bottles (the ones that are all neck) are just the right size for storing bobbins. Glue a small sponge to the cap and you’ll have an added pincushion. Adiva Wayne, Elizabeth, NJ
Oil’s Well That Ends Well
Something Kathleen learned in the factory: Oil; machine, salad or otherwise can be removed without a trace using baby powder. Set the garment aside in a place where it will not be disturbed for 24 hours. Shake a generous amount of baby powder over the oil. The powder will absorb all the oil and can be simply shaken off. This treatment works beautifully on all fabrics including suede.
Oil’s Well That Ends Well – #2
To remove grease spots from fabric try mechanic’s hand cleaner. I was able to remove black grease from the sleeve of a white cotton blouse (I slammed my car door on it) and I use it all the time on grease-splattered t-shirts. Let the hand cleaner sit for a couple of hours then machine wash as usual. You might want to pretest on fine fabrics! Janice Juarez-Molina, Burnaby, BC
Plan Ahead for a Happy Sewing Day
When you know that you have a “sewing day” coming up, here’ s how to make the most of your precious time. Spend an evening or two, ahead of time, cutting out your fabric and prepping. Fuse or sew in all of your interfacings. Have matching thread wound on bobbins. Prepare your dinner ahead too, so that you’ll have a lasagna or a crock-pot stew to serve without interrupting your sewing day. And make sure there are good snacks on hand for yourself! On sewing day, you ‘ll be ready to dive right in to sewing something beautiful.
Lisa Ahbel, Deerfield, MA
Get back here!!
To keep your sewing machine and serger feet from crawling on carpet, cut a length of the hook side of adhesive backed velcro and attach to bottom of cleaned foot. Works great!
Dot Willard, Washington, NC
Don’t throw away that mascara brush!
Don’t throw away your mascara brush when the mascara is gone. Wash the brush with shampoo and let dry. This makes an excellent brush to get in those small spaces on your sewing machine and serger to get the lint out. Joan Ignaszewski, Waseca, MN
Another Clean Idea
When cleaning lint from sewing machines and sergers use a new blusher brush for quick cleanings. A mini vaccum cleaner is great for thorough cleanings. Never use canned air as lots of lint is blown in & it uses a water-based propellant. Roberta Brown, Surrey, BC
Save money on washing delicate fabrics and make use of a kitchen product with these great tips from Terry McCormick
Museums, spinners and weavers have long used a product best known as Orvus. This paste is much safer than most of the more commercially known products for washing delicates. It is available from farm supply, feed and seed stores. No kidding! It is used to wash farm animals and also used by dog groomers. The last time I bought some the name had changed to Animal Legends – Paste Detergent. The paste is made of sodium laurel sulfate. It costs a small fraction of the quilt and delicate wash products on the market (and many of these products are the same thing with just some perfume added!) Use a tiny amount – the tip of a spoon will fill a dishpan with suds. It can be used in the washing machine also – experiment with amounts – I use about ¼ cup for a small, delicate load. A pound costs $5.00 US and lasts months, even if you wash delicates weekly.
Keep a roll of Baking Parchment with your pressing equipment and use it instead of a press cloth when applying fusible interfacing. Use a piece on top as you would a press cloth and another one on the bottom to keep your ironing board clean. You can cut pieces to any length and discard as you go. This saves looking for a fresh press cloth or accidentally reusing a cloth with something sticky or gummy on it. Hope these tips are helpful – I found several on your web site that I am delighted to know about, and thought I’d reciprocate.
Terry McCormick, Corvallis, OR
author of The Consumer’s Guide to Vintage Clothing, Dembner Books
Put the horse before the cart – so to speak
If you plan on doing any machine embellishments, tucks, or quilting – do it before the pattern is cut out. Embellishments can draw up your fabric considerably and if you cut the pattern piece out first and then embellish, your garment may end up too small! Genny Knirr, House Springs, MO
Ready to Wear manufacturing does this – and so can you
When using fusible interfacing, fuse it to the fabric, let it cool completely and then cut out your facings. This saves a lot of time on big projects and eliminates the need to preshrink the interfacing. Suzanne Carbonne, Tacoma, WA
No Cost Wrinkle Remover
Keep a spray bottle of water beside the dryer. Place wrinkled clothes on a hanger, spray lightly with water and smooth with your hands. This works just as well as any of the bottled wrinkle removers at the supermarket and it’s free! Also, pack an empty spray bottle when you travel. Fill with water when you arrive at your destination and you will have a fabulous, lightweight, energy saving iron. Rita Gallagher, Toronto, ON
Rolled Hem Helper
Before the great invention of the rolled hem foot for a sewing machine, we had to come up with ways on our own for sewing problems. My grandmother taught me a trick for getting a rolled hem to obey you and ease in nicely on curves. It’s a seam ripper. Just hold the seam ripper in your left hand with the point of the seam ripper facing down into the fold. The arch in the seam ripper will cause the fabric to go in and make the fold/roll. Depending on the fabric, take your finger and press the fold into a crease and sew near the edge. Some fabrics don’t need to be pressed with the finger, just sew after the roll is made. I find myself using this method more often than using the foot. Especially on delicate fabrics. Use stabilizer for stretchy or biased fabrics, this will make it easier. Suzie’s Sewing, Erie, PA
Gather your rippers, nippers, curved scissors and shears of all sizes and head over to a pet store that has aquarium supplies. There you can get short lengths of flexible vinyl tubing to put over the ends and tips of your cutting tools to protect them from damage when in storage or from dropping. Most pet stores will sell the tubing by the inch and it comes in sizes as small as 1/8 inch to as large as 1 inch. This tubing is also available at home improvement stores, but they prefer to sell it in longer lengths. Genny Knirr, House Springs, MO
One Pair – Many Outfits
Shoulder pads are expensive! I use one pair for many garments. Simply sew one piece of velcro (the soft side) to your garment, the other to the pad. Sew the velcro to your garment along the shoulder seam using the stitch- in – the ditch method. Great for laundering ease also! Margaret Terrell, Green Valley, AZ
I keep an empty medicine bottle, with childproof cap, by my sewing machine. I use it to store used/broken needles, bent pins, staples, anything sharp and small. When it is full I throw it away and replace it with another. Also, whenever my machine is on and I’m not sewing on it, I keep it set to “bobbin wind”. This way I know that if I, or one of the children step on the foot pedal accidentally, the needle won’t start moving. Kelly Stinson
Slip and Slide
If you think that the back of a top that comes down over your rear end, may stick to your pants or skirt when you stand up, why not cut out a piece of slippery fabric or interfacing and sew it to the back of the top. Just treat the lining and the top back as one. You can also use iron on interfacing for this as long as it has a slippery side. Just iron it on to the back of the top. It doesn’t necessarily have to go all the way up, just to the waist is enough. This lets the top slide down over your rear end when you stand up and you don’t need to keep tugging at the top to ensure that it is not bunched up when you stand up. I find this is especially helpful for full figured women. Anita McDonald, Halifax, NS
Is It On, Or Is It Off?
I’ve come up with a way to always remember to turn off the iron. My husband hung a powerstrip above the ironing board. The iron is plugged in and when the power is on, a power light comes on. That way I know at a glance, as I walk by the sewing room, that the iron is off or on. A power strip is available at the local hardware store, about $8.00. It has multiple plug in slots and one main button (with a light) to turn on the power. Deanah Alexander, Amarillo, TX
Sewing Needle Organizer
To keep track of which needle I have in my sewing machine, I write the needle sizes on each section of a “tomato” pincushion–9, 9B (for ball point), 11, 14, etc.–with a black permanent marker. When I use a needle, I put a pin in that section to let me know what’s in the machine. When my husband started machine embroidering, he liked this idea so well he added an “E” section to keep track of his embroidery needles. Anne Isbell, Ballinger, TX
Use a small post-it note (or just a strip of the note along the sticky side) to list the size and type of needle in your machine. Also list the date and whether it is a new or used needle. Post this on your machine where it can be seen be seen but where it will not be knocked off. I like to use a bright color. Liz Enloe
Getting the Applause
Those seam ripples that shout “homemade” will disappear with this professional technique. First press the seams with a steam iron. ( We recommend first flat then open.) Then using the clapper. apply pressure on the area. for 3 to 5 seconds. The clapper presses the fabric while allowing it to cool and hold its shape. No clapper? Grandma’s wooden rolling pin works great! Joyce Krauchuk, Slippery Rock, PA
Tear It Away
To get neat, perfectly placed buttonholes , try this tip from Sue Boutin in Calgary, AB. When doing the button holes on a garment, I mark the button hole placement onto a strip of tearaway. I line up the tearaway, along the edge of the garment and stitch my button holes onto it. When the button holes are sewn I just tear away the tearaway. Sue Boutin, Calgary, AB
Get a Grip
A rubber “non-slip” bathmat cut in half and placed under your serger will stop your machine from traveling while you sew. Christine Quinn, Yakima, WA
Hold It Right There
Stop chasing your foot pedals with this tip from Karen Markin. She got a great idea when her computer mouse pad fell to the floor. She went out and bought two decorative mouse pads for her machine pedals – one for the sewing machine and one for the serger. Now those foot pedals stay right where she wants them. Karen Markin
Fabric Shopping Made Easy
Here is a little sewing tip for you: When you travel, or are at home, make copies of your favorite patterns ( front and back where the yardage is) and put them in your planner or purse. Then when you are shopping impulsively, and find that perfect material, you can consult your copies for the amount of material you will need. I put them in my planner which is the size of a normal pattern and the copies don’t take up much room and are always available when I need them. When I travel I don’t have to be concerned about losing my “real” pattern. Mary Moody, New Carlisle, OH
Tidy Those Threads
I sew at my dining room table and scotch tape a small bag to the edge of the table pad before beginning to sew. All my thread trimmings & small scraps go in the bag instead of on the floor. Diana Petersen, San Jose, CA
Tidy Those Threads – Tip #2
Here is a tip from my shop. Roll a length of masking tape backwards so that the sticky surface faces out. Use it as a thread magnet to pick up the bits when ripping seams.
Make a Sandwich
Here is a great tip on saving your expensive specialty buttons from damage on laundry day. Cut a piece of hook and loop tape (often sold as Velcro) a little longer than each button. Cut a little buttonhole slit in the rough non-fuzzy part just long enough to fit over the head of the button. Then, before washing your garment, sandwich the button between the hook and loop tape by pushing it through the button-hole slit and pressing the fuzzy, soft part of the tape over it. Mary Moody, New Carlisle, OH
A Recommendation for Points
I just finished my first suit using Petite Plus Patterns! I made the #601 Flat Front Pant and the #150 Tuxedo Wrap Vest in a summer weight gray flannel polyester, and have gotten lots of compliments already. (My friends and co-workers don’t ask me where I bought a new outfit, they know I’ve usually made it). Something I didn’t do with the vest that I will when I make it in the future is to interface the back piece along the hemline. The rest of the vest hangs very crisply, but when I was hemming, then topstitching the back, I must have stretched it just a little as the back doesn’t lie as flat. Those points are, of course, on the bias! PS – I love your patterns! Donna, Kelowna, BC
No More Tangles
When pre-shrinking fabric, you’ll eliminate tangles and fraying if you start by sewing or serging the raw edges together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance (so that the fabric is in a continuous ” circle”). After washing and drying the fabric will be easy to fold and store and you’ll know by the seam that it has been pre-treated. Blanche Batey
Take advantage of the next notions sale and pick up a metre of lightweight fusible interfacing. Use a metal ruler, rotary cutter and mat to pre-cut strips in common widths of 1 cm (3/8″) and 2.5 cm (1 in). Roll up bandage style and store in a zip lock bag at your press table.Use to interface side vents, plackets and hems.
Save a Sip for the Iron
Use a recycled water bottle with squirt top for quick and easy steam iron fill ups.
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