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10 Better Sewing Habits

Get Comfortable with Hand Sewing


Many sewers avoid hand sewing at all costs. But hand sewing helps in constructing a garment every step of the way, and can often give a superior finish to any machine-stitched seam. For example, zippers can be frustrating to install by machine, but they're comparatively easy to install by hand.

Hand-basted seams hold garment sections together better than pins. Your garment fitting will be more successful, and when it's time to machine-stitch the seam, your stitches will be more accurate, and you won't have to pause to remove pins. Also, hand-picked zippers are so easy to install, and they look beautiful. -Susan Khalje


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SLMiller

Comments (24)

HillBillary HillBillary writes: Whoopsies! I'm blatantly ignoring Claire's advice, making her Vogue 8333 pattern with Italian silk dupioni. In my defense, I scored it at cost years ago, never got around to using it and I think it will look awesome. Better than letting it go to waste I suppose.

My mom the upholster/woodworker/renaissance woman is making me a full size layout table, but in the mean time I've been using a table from IKEA with adjustable sawhorse style legs. For the price it's a great system.


Posted: 3:29 am on December 31st

MaryElliottN MaryElliottN writes: I'm surprised that no one has mentioned basting. It's a tremendous help with fitting and speeds up machine sewing. Sure it takes a little longer, but well worth the effort. Also, use GOOD PINS!!! Iris are the only ones I've used for decades.
Posted: 10:22 pm on December 26th

user-898530 user-898530 writes:
Before pressing each seam open, it is important to meld each seam. This is very simple to do - simply press the seam flat. It will give your garments a more finished look.
Posted: 6:44 pm on December 20th

hazelspi hazelspi writes: I, too, was surprised to read about increasing the stitch length. I ran a couple samples of 3 and 3.5 and like the look. I'll do that on the next garment I make.

Posted: 6:03 pm on December 20th

Vegasmom Vegasmom writes: I have been experimenting with sewing all flat sections that don't join at once and after pressing those seams, joining them to each other. With a skirt, I sew in the zipper before joining the front to the back on the right side which makes working on a flat surface with the zipper easier.
Posted: 12:09 pm on December 20th

Rutb Rutb writes: I think the most important consideration when deciding the height of your cutting table is your own height. You need to be able to easily reach the middle of the table, but not have to bend to cut. I use an old, large kitchen table which I raised with 6" blocks of wood, with the tops slightly hollowed out to stop the table slipping off them. It works perfectly and I wouldn't use anything else.
Posted: 8:18 am on December 20th

MarMax MarMax writes: Couldn't believe it when I read the article on 10 Best Sewing Habits. Number one should have been Start with Quality Equipment. Over Thanksgiving my daughter from MN was in and wanted me to help her with a substantial costume sewing project. When I saw what she brought the first words out of my mouth. "Let's use some good scissors and pins." I have a huge soapbox about people who don't like to sew probably started out with cheap tools. OOPs, I almost got it out, but it was stated very well in the article and probably reached a lot more people than I ever could. Thanks
Posted: 7:59 am on December 20th

yourwildestseams yourwildestseams writes: I have found that by keeping several projects going at once, I can switch from a difficult step on one garment to another fresh project and keep the work going without getting frustrated. Later, what seemed difficult is easier solved. Also, keep a fun project nearby to get the creative juices flowing...makes the boring projects easier to complete! Debbie Florez of 'Your Wildest Seams'
Posted: 1:43 am on December 20th

CAS48 CAS48 writes: I was surprised to read about sewing garments with a longer stitch length.
Posted: 12:40 pm on December 19th

NinaLBoston NinaLBoston writes: Dear Ozviking,
I have sewed in small apartments too, although now I have a home. I can't believe it took us so many years to come up with this solution. I formerely cut out fabric on a cutting board placed on my queen size bed. Talk about an aching back! The kitchen table was a possibility, but mine's too small.

My husband gave me a pair of saw horses and a partial sheet of masonite. The saw horses can be made any height you need. You can disassemble this at any time. If needed, you can even break down the saw horses, if you use the new clamps sold for this purpose (I think Stanley tool makes them).

My masonite is small enough not to need bracing below (I'm not sure of the dimensions: maybe 3X4 ft). I place my cutting board/rotary mat on top of this and can cut standing up without pain. I also sometimes use it as a basting station, although I need to sit on a stool with a back instead of a chair.
Posted: 10:18 am on December 19th

TaraSews TaraSews writes: My only issue with this is pushing the use of pins. My experience has always been to use less pins. The reason is that the pins for one take more time and it does off set the amount of fabric when cutting.
Ironing is indeed a life saver to do while constructing a garment. It will make your finished piece more professional and I use a cloth over my fabric when I iron.

Posted: 8:46 am on December 19th

user-2084595 user-2084595 writes: I have very limited room for sewing. For a cutting table I use a folding table that I put on bedrisers to raise it to the correct height. When I am done, everything folds away.
Posted: 11:15 pm on December 18th

ObjetsTrouves ObjetsTrouves writes: In response to ozviking: Although it's not ergonomically correct, a folding cardboard cutting board laid on your bed will work for larger projects until you can find a place for a large, tall cutting table. I used this for years in a small apartment even though it was hard on my back. Now my sewing room is in my laundry room and I placed a hollow core door over my front load washer and dryer (with a measuring tape secured along the front edge). It is a good height and gives me plenty of room for almost anything.
Posted: 9:01 pm on December 18th

Vulcan1957 Vulcan1957 writes: I always start a new project off with new needles, also the right needle and right weight thread...I was a clothing inspector in a Garment Factory and one of the biggest part of constructing any garment is pressing as you go...
Posted: 8:29 pm on December 18th

StageLeft StageLeft writes: I sew all day long, mostly on silk charmeuse.
My cutting table is tall enough for me to only have to bend slightly to reach across...my table is 48" x 96" with a grid rotary mat the same size.
I use excellent scissors and have a few pair so I can switch and have a pair while the other is being sharpened.
I love my table, but it is good lighting that is imperative.
An excellent secretary chair at the machine is also helpful,
as is a mat on the floor like chef's use in professional kitchens, to help with fatigue issues.
Posted: 8:28 pm on December 18th

Carolebarrel Carolebarrel writes: Excited to finish a project late at night often results in mistakes when you're tired. Finish one of the tasks (sewing in a sleeve?) and go to bed. A fresh start the next day can make all the difference in the world in the final result.
Posted: 8:25 pm on December 18th

ozviking ozviking writes: How do you manage cutting out your fabric when you only have a small table available? What is the ideal height for a cutting table. I dream of having one, but I don't know exactly what I should be looking for.
Posted: 8:23 pm on December 18th

sandipratt sandipratt writes: I think pressing each and every seam is important. Another pet peeve : Little strings hanging off the garment. So tacky !!
Posted: 8:20 pm on December 18th

fotofashion fotofashion writes: This won't apply to everyone, just us Lefties. Be careful where you have your scissors sharpened. You need to test them before accepting them. If the sharpener is right handed the scissors may not be right for you especially if they need to be adjusted by tightening the screw.
Posted: 7:38 pm on December 18th

victlady victlady writes: Agree with divaweava. Assess your table and chair height and adjust to the most comfortable and do not skimp on a comfortable supportive chair, took me quite awhile to figure that one out after backaches, neck aches and raging headaches. Most of us just use whatever is a spare in the house with seat pads to cushion, not the way to go!

Posted: 7:28 pm on December 18th

divaweava divaweava writes: I think figuring out your individual ergonomic relationship of table to chair to sewing machine is crucial for good construction, let alone a healthy back. When I lowered my table and chair to the correct height - quite low to the ground with the table at 25" - I found I could sew much longer without fatigue. Remaining focussed while sewing is essential for a happy ending!
Posted: 6:58 pm on December 18th

sewivy sewivy writes: I would like to add that you should press as you go. My home ec teacher said "Never let one sewn seam cross another without pressing it first." I thought she was nuts and a waste of time. But the more I have sewn specialty fabrics, linens, and others I have found this makes the difference between an amateur or professional looking job.
Posted: 6:43 pm on December 18th

user-2075865 user-2075865 writes: One of the things that makes a huge difference is to iron as you go . I think it can make or break any project

Posted: 6:26 pm on December 18th

user-2088613 user-2088613 writes: Great tips, In addition to the tips I would love to see specifics, for example names of good quality threads, the name of a resource for hand stitches, a resource for matching needles, threads and fabrics. Thanks
Posted: 6:14 pm on December 18th

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