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20 Ways to Improve Your Sewing

Improve your sewing by marking things that matter
Prioritize pattern size for a better fit
Learn the difference between topstitching and edgestitching
Improve your sewing by marking things that matter

Improve your sewing by marking things that matter

by Barbara Emodi
from Threads #79, pp. 38-40

Besides all the surprising things that I've inevitably learned from the ingenuity and talent of my students, one of the most interesting aspects of working with lots of sewers is how one begins to see that almost everybody (myself included), no matter how skillful or experienced, has a few blind spots, or areas where they could improve their results. Of course, blind spots will vary from sewer to sewer, but they tend to occur in areas you think you have down cold. So, I suggest reading through the following wide-ranging list of potential pitfalls (developed in the course of conversations with my students and other teachers, in our relentless pursuit of ever-more-satisfying sewing projects) with as open a mind as possible. May it prove as useful to you as it has to us!

Mark the things that matter

1. Mark the things that matter
It's important to always mark center front. Thread-trace lines that need to be seen on the right side (pocket placement, roll lines). Color-code your markings-how can you tell a large dot from a small dot if you've tailor-tacked them in the same thread color? This will save time, not waste it. How often have you pulled out the pattern pieces to double-check a marking?

Establish priorities

2. Establish priorities when choosing a pattern size
Few of us are one size all over, so be sure to select a pattern size to best fit the part of your body that will carry the weight of the garment. When buying a pattern for an upper-body garment (jacket, dress, shirt, blouse, or coat), choose the size that fits your shoulders and neckline. When buying a lower-body pattern (pants or skirt), choose a size that fits your waist and upper hip. Shoulders/necklines and waists/upper hips on patterns are very difficult to alter, so it's easiest to start off with the closest possible fit right from the pattern envelope.

When you choose tops, use your chest measurement (above the bust, as high as possible under your arms, and over your shoulder blades-don't worry if the tape isn't perfectly horizontal at all points) and alter for the bust if there's more than a 2-in. difference between your chest and bust measurements. It's always much easier to make a pattern larger than smaller.

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Comments (5)

MurielM MurielM writes: About the diagram for #4, when it is turned, would not the outside curve then be an inside curve, and vice versa? Or am I just seeing it wrong?
Posted: 10:41 am on July 25th

user-3957048 user-3957048 writes: The diagram that shows when to clip a slit and when to clip a V is the wrong way around.

On an external curve, clipping a slit is correct. There is less fabric on the outer edge than on the seam, so the curve will spread these slits apart to allow the outer perimeter to be larger than the inner one. You don't need to clip a V.

On an internal curve, the perimeter at the outer edge is larger than at the seam. It needs to squash up into a smaller space so to you need to clip V notches to prevent the fabric from overlapping and being lumpy. The Vs will just look like slits around the curve once it's clipped.

You have Vs on the external and slits on the internal - please correct the diagram: 79-improve-your-sewing-04.jpg - move the V shaped bits above the internal curve.
Posted: 9:55 am on June 28th

sewingbeginner sewingbeginner writes: This helped alot with the placement and how to do the pockets in the seam of a ready made dress.
Posted: 12:24 pm on July 5th

katzber katzber writes:
As a sewer of 40+ years, I recognize good advice and there's a lot of it here.


Posted: 6:40 am on April 18th

rosb rosb writes: I thought this was well thought out & the last comment is so true so I recently donated all my bits to a migrant learn to sew group & its interesting to see my pieces of fabric walking around the streets all made up & someone has fallen in love with them. Some of these fabrics I have kept for many years carting them around the globe then thinking what made me buy that its not me
Posted: 6:48 pm on December 15th

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