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Sewing Project Checklist: Don’t Forget These Steps

I spend almost as much time prepping my sewing projects as I do sewing them.

Preparation is essential to successful sewing. Skipping preparation ends up costing me more time if I have to interrupt my flow or—even worse—undo work because I didn’t test thread tension, choose the appropriate topstitching thread, or practice using a particular presser foot.

Here are the steps I take before beginning any sewing project.  I’ll be honest: I’m often tempted to skip a few these in my eagerness to get sewing and/or finish a project. When I do, however, I just as often regret it.

I’ve divided preparation into 10 top categories. Each includes questions I ask related to the category, along with my own experiences and tips.

1. Pattern

When using a commercial pattern that’s new to me, I confirm I’ve traced and/or cut the correct size. I like to measure the pattern against my body measurements, remembering there are usually seam allowances on the paper pattern I won’t want to include, to ensure the finished garment will fit me.

If I’m making a shirt, for example, is there enough ease in the chest, or too much? Is the back full enough, or too full? Will the finished sleeve length—cuff included—be the desired length? I have skipped this step and had to shorten the sleeve from the bottom. Since a standard sleeve narrows toward the cuff, trimming from the bottom can lead to too much fullness above the cuff.

Are the seam allowances wide enough for a technique like flat-fell seams? Conversely, are the allowances too wide? I generally trim my collar/neckline seam allowances to 3/8 inch, which I find easier to sew.

Does the sleeve fit the armhole? If there’s too much…

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  1. dsantil71 | | #1

    That is awesome advice! I usually use a new needle that is the right type & size for my project, clean my sewing machine beforehand, I always buy 2 spools of the color thread I need for the project, I round up in amount of yardage of fabric needed when buying it.

    Your list is so much more comprehensive!
    I'm going to use yours! It will save me so many headaches in the future!! Thank you!

  2. user-6882399 | | #2

    Terrific List! I'm going to use this for a class I am teaching to young sewers. It is never too early to have good habits like yours!

    Article was well written also!

  3. cgincolorado | | #3

    What a great checklist. I do most of these, but in a much more haphazard way. I make my own ironing board covers out of 100% cotton home dec fabric, so they are easy to wash. I also put in a few layers of cotton batting under the cover as the cover that came with the board is always too thin. I usually wind a few bobbins in advance, and I test like crazy! Stitches, serger, interfacing, seam finishes, you name it. I'm starting to pretreat all my fabric as soon as it comes in the house, which makes life much easier. Thanks so much for this article, I love all the ones you write.

  4. lrkimo | | #4

    This is the most valuable post I've read about sewing! Thank you.

  5. User avater
    user-7095274 | | #5

    This would be great as a PDF

  6. ajbx | | #6

    Thanks, Peter! This a beneficial list for a novice like myself. I hope you'll be contributing again to Threads. I'm curious to know what you've been up to. Cheers.

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