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Conversational Threads

Pass along your sewing advice

Deana | Posted in Talk With Us on

What is the best piece of sewing advice you ever received?

Deana Tierney, Assistant Editor, Threads


  1. User avater
    suesewing | | #1

    Iron before, during and after

  2. dsrtrt2 | | #2

    Baste whenever possible.  I use hand basting for pretty much everything from armholes, jacket lapels, hemming, etc.  It does a much better job than pins.  Its alittle more work but the results is well worth the time spent.  It also allows you to see how something will look before you actually sew it.  Hard to do that with pins.


    1. WandaJ | | #43

      I echo the first two pieces of advice, which were to iron and baste, and I've only read those two thus far. To add to that I would say either make a muslin to work out the pattern's fitting details, or make sure the pattern has the appropriate adjustments prior to cutting into your fabric.

  3. User avater
    dayenu | | #3

    after ironing and basting I would want to add:

    1. prep fabric before beginning by washing drycleaning etc

    2. make sure you stay on grain when required.

  4. Ckbklady | | #4

    For me it's a tie between "press as you sew" and "don't be afraid to sew over pins". I know some may shriek at the latter, but I was taught this by a boss who was an incredible sewer, and taught me how to make flawless set-in sleeves. The secret was to use "lots and lots and lots of pins," as she used to say, and to sew over them very slowly. It has never failed me - I have never once had to rip a sleeve because it was crooked.

    Of course, advice #1 is equally invaluable - pressing as you sew helps eliminate that "made with loving hands at home" look.

    :) Mary

    1. denise | | #41

      I agree pins are very handy especially  the long patchwork pins that have heat proof heads.

      I use my modern conveniences on my machine,  my basting stitch is wonderful re dart positions and pleats,  then i use my taking stitch which is around 1 cm long.. and iron as i go.

      TO be honest if i had to sit and hand baste and tack etc  i would not have taken up sewing again, it makes my shoulders heavy as i even think about those days.

      Its a bit like a washing machine my mother once used a copper and wrang the washing out by hand.

      1. Ckbklady | | #44

        Copper and hand wringing - ack! Ooooh, crikey, I hadn't thought of wringer washers in an age - my Mum was a die-hard user until the late 80s (not a typo) - she used to special order parts from Sears that would take weeks to come, and endure puzzled stares when servicemen would come for tuneups. One guy actually choked on a handful of peanuts when he came around the corner and saw the machine he'd come to fix. I did the Heimlich, he pulled himself together, muttered," The work order said 'wringer' but I thought they were joking,' and got to work.

        I HATED that machine, and the way my Mum would sniff "automatic machines don't get clothes as clean," after I'd moved out and was, of course, regularly using an auto washer in the laundry room of my building. Oh, yes, they do, and you can have a nap while they work - priceless. She's in a lovely modern condo now with an auto washer that she simply loves. When she realized how much time the wringer ate up, she converted in a flash.

        I channelled my loathing of the wringer washer to the love of all things automated. I go out of my way not to handsew ANYTHING but tailor tacks and buttons.

        But you're absolutely right about the patchwork pins - my sewing machine dances right over them!

        :) Mary

        1. denise | | #45

          I still remember getting wet and cold in the school holidays, standing on the other side of a sheet that was going through the wringer , catching it and putting it in the wicker basket,  at least i still have the wicker basket.

          It must be 55 years old by now.

          1. Tatsy | | #46

            Gosh, I thought I was the only one old enough to remember those things. In the early 50's my parents moved from a house near Minneapolis (where the Humphrey football stadium used to be) to a farm with no telephone, electricity, or indoor plumbing.  We took our baths in a zinc tub on the kitchen floor with water heated on the wood burning stove.  As oldest, I was last.  I never could figure out how I was supposed to get clean after the babies in diapers were washed first.

            My dad's aunt brought her copper tub when she stayed to help while Mom was having one of the middle babies because Mom was using a big kettle.  I remember when Mom got her brand new pink Sears wringer washer in 1960. I still couldn't figure out how the clothes were supposed to get clean when she washed the diapers first, then reused the water to wash our clothes, lightest to darkest, until she got to Dad's dungarees.

            I love doing laundy.  I can do it the way I want.  Everything smells fresh, and I still have a clothesline to use on all but the foggiest days--and a dryer for the permanent press.

          2. denise | | #47

            I am  59 it would be interesting to know how old our oldest sewer is.

            My mother inlaw was still sewing at 87 and made the most beautiful wool coat that i will not part with even though she has been gone 5 years now.

            My Husband parents where immigrants and they still had that bath you spoke of when i met him in 66.

            My mums copper had gone by then.

          3. Tatsy | | #48

            I'm only a year older than you.  We only lived 35 miles from Minneapolis but did not get electricity or telephone at the farm until '51 or '52.  It was just before I started school.

          4. Ckbklady | | #50

            Oh! I know that cold-hand feeling! My sister and I had to do our own laundry from age 10 on (I stood on a stool to reach the wringer). Every Saturday was punctuated with math homework and cold hands from laundry. Horrible. I'm in my 40s but I can remember it like it was yesterday.

            When I think today that I have "too much laundry" to do and wring my hands about how long it will take, I remember those days and know that it could take a LOT longer than it does now, and that the hands-on (a little joke) time is minimal.

            Wearing mittens,

            :) Mary

  5. Teaf5 | | #5

    Besides pressing, make up samples and then work only with fabrics that you love.  Anything you spend time and energy on should beautiful to start with and be a joy to touch and look at while you're working.

  6. sewelegant | | #6

    Don't be afraid to RIP... it can be viewed as a learning experience and it can mean the difference between your garment looking homemade rather than handmade.

  7. dionna | | #7

    My advice that i have is to preshrink denim and wash wash and wash again to remove dye because denim bleed a lot. Thank you this is a good question

  8. Tatsy | | #8

    Make sure the pattern is laid out properly on the straight of grain before you cut.

    1. starzoe | | #9

      Take a tip from carpenters - measure twice, cut once.

  9. BJB1929 | | #10

    Always wash or dry clean your fabric before you start laying out your patterns.  If there is any shrinkage, it will be taken care of and your garment will fit even after it is washed or dry cleaned.


    Edited 9/19/2007 8:40 pm ET by BJB1929

  10. midnitesewer | | #11

    If you are feeling very tired, stressed, upset, sad, or angry, do not attempt to sew anything. Do something that doesn't require much concentration and is unlikely to result in an injury or ruined fabric if you lose focus such as cleaning and organizing your sewing area. You'll accomplish something sewing-related and may end up feeling well enough to attempt some simple sewing.

    Edited 9/13/2007 4:33 pm ET by midnitesewer

    1. Ralphetta | | #12

      Gosh, that is an excellent rule.  Reading the previous rules had just reminded me of the time many years ago that I helped my ex mother in law sew something.  She had material and a pattern that were way, way beyond her skill.  She had a terribly expensive  big plaid wool and obviously thought I was being weird and picky when I explained that she couldn't  just fold it in half and cut 2 of everything.  Then, every time I would go check on the baby, etc., I would notice that while I was gone she had moved all the pattern pieces so the edges of the pieces were parallel to the selvage.  I tried explaining that the arrows needed to be parallel, not the pattern edges...but it fell on deaf ears. Periodically I would smile and say that I had to go check the laundry and I would retreat to the dark basement, put my head on the dryer and count to 10 while I breathed deeply.  I was SO stressed that I just knew I was going to make some kind of really, stupid mistake like cut 2 left sleeves.

      Now, when things get stressful and crazy I do stop and go back to it at a later time.  It's a lot more efficient than making mistakes that have to be ripped out and redone.



      1. Ckbklady | | #13

        Oh, please tell us the rest - what did the plaid jacket look like when completed? Did she cut the pieces as she wanted? Did she have you sew the whole thing or did she do some? Did she eventually see the logic in aligned grain and matched plaids?

        It sounds horrible, and stressful to be sure. Thank heavens it's in the past!

        :) Mary

        1. Ralphetta | | #14

          I had not been asked to sew it, just help cut it out.  I wasn't joking about periodically going to the basement....there was NO laundry. I'm not sure whether I actually knew what happened to the garment, or whether I have just erased the experience from my mind.  It was very difficult for me to communicate with someone who had no imagination at all.  She was bright and very, very nice, but honestly didn't understand why someone would prefer a crazy looking drawing to a very neat paint-by-number thing.  Having been raised by a mother who was the extreme opposite and taught to value originality I often found it impossible to explain to her why I would prefer my "home-made" dress to what I could afford to buy.

          1. Ckbklady | | #15

            Oh, dear - that must have been difficult. I agree that dealing with unimaginative people can be rough. At least she was nice and not the cliche dragon-lady Mum-in-Law.

            Her paint-by-numbers approach can't have worked in the end here if she cut the pieces off-grain and without matching plaids. I'm glad you were able to excise it from your memory, but I bet the made-up garment would have made a great visual. Like the episode in the TV series MASH in which the character Klinger had a pinstripe suit custom-made, and the workmanship was beautiful, but the pinstripes were horizontal! It always makes me giggle just to think of it. I hope you can giggle at your MIL's sewing attempts too.

            :) Mary

      2. Gloriasews | | #16

        Hilarious, Ralphetta!  I can well imagine your frustration!  Did your ex mother-in-law ever finish the garment?  How did it turn out?  You've got to tell us the rest of the story!



        P.S. Oh, you did tell us!  I loved the "visual" the other poster mentioned :)  - it would have definitely been eye-popping (you'd probably need sunglasses to look at it!

        Edited 9/15/2007 4:06 pm by Gloriasews

        1. solosmocker | | #17

          I just thought of another bit of advice that I have adhered to for the past 20 years or so. With every new garment try a new technique. Are your making a jacket? Try bound buttonholes. Are you making a blouse, try a bias sleeve. With each garment you will then be able to use the previous techniques and try the new ones.

      3. Kathee | | #33

        Great story. Made me smile. Thanks.

  11. Carolinemary | | #18

    When I was about 12,my mother taught me how to sew by having me make the very same pajama pattern for myself and my five brothers and sisters. I learned all the basics thoroughly by repeating them on the same pattern. Along with this my mother told me to be very precise in everything--that even 1/16 of an inch makes a difference if you're off that much several times.

    I love beautiful fabrics and look for them when I travel. I have a shelf of books on all aspects of sewing, most of which I buy cheap from Edward Hamilton, Bookseller (look online). I refer to them all the time. I'm not interested in sewing fast, just well. I've found that the slow careful way is often faster than the speedy way, especially when you have to rip things out.

  12. Ralphetta | | #19

    In addition to pressing as you go and washing fabric if you plan to wash the garment I would add.. carefully reading the suggested fabrics on the back of the pattern.  Seeing what kinds of fabrics/weaves they've left out tells you a lot.  Whenever I've used drapey fabric when their list consisted of firmly woven fabrics, (or vice versa),  I've almost always been disappointed.  I like to think "outside the box," but I finally learned it's foolish to ignore their suggestions.

    1. sewanista | | #30

      In my first sewing lesson with Nana, she told me, when I complained that the machine wouldn't sew, that I had to stop sitting on my foot, and put it on the pedal instead. I've barely taken it off the pedal since. :-)

  13. rodezzy | | #20

    I've found that having an organized sewing area is a very important thing.  I have often let my sewing area (room) become sloppy and then I spend precious time looking for needed tools and notions.  Then when I spend the time to get it straigthened out, I have a more pleasant sewing experience and/or I look forward to sewing.  This goes along with my crafting sessions also.  I just recently organized my yarns, needles, etc.  Now I know what I have and can easily view what I may want to use.

    I usually have month(s) long sewing, needle art, and/or craft sessions because I'm driven at the time to do some projects in that medium and things get out of order.

    Also, when I'm making a quilt (which I sew more often than clothes) I find that assembly line set up and sewing gets you to the finish line faster, and organizing the finished blocks in strips, then sections and then the final layout makes me a happy camper.  Ta Da, its done.

    1. marye | | #21

      Wow! Everyone has such great advice, I am enjoying all the responses. Like rodezzy, the 1st thought I had was that it is important to keep things organized. I like to end my sewing session a few minutes early & use that time to clean up & reorganize things for the next time.  For me, returning to a messy sewing room is so frustrating & I don't want to feel that way! 

    2. nutsew | | #29

      My mother taught me to sew, and she taught me to WALK AWAY!  One time when I was young I had the bright idea to make a gift the night before a shower.  I was making a little baby dress and bonnet.  You all know how hard it is to set in a teensy little baby sleeve.  I must have put it in and ripped it out ten or fifteen times.  Finally, about 2:00 a.m. my EX-husband (heh) came in and yelled at me, "You are not your mother!  Come to bed!"  I did, but in the morning before I left for work I sat down one more time and it went right in, easy as pie.  It turned out adorable, was the hit of the shower...then she had a boy.  :P


  14. cruelladequilter | | #22

    I once read that you should buy the best fabric you can afford and use a simple pattern.  I have a pant, skirt, blouse and coat pattern that i use all the time and simply by changing the fabric have a nice wardrobe that is comfortable and works FOR me not against me.

    1. GailAnn | | #23

      Really very good advice.  Gail

  15. promdressesrme | | #24

    Make visual decisions visually.  In other words, take whatever it is you're working on to the fabric store and lay things together to see if you find the combination pleasing.  Audition the buttons!  Make that lining try out for the part!

  16. user-206190 | | #25

    Mesure twice, cut once!
    Never cut if you are tired!

  17. sewdomani | | #26

    Don't be afraid to make a mistake!  So many times I've put off trying something new, 'in case I make a mistake'.....take the plunge!  After all......it's only fabric and thread.....how bad could it be? 

    I still have to remind myself of this constantly, after more than 40 years of sewing.

    1. Tatsy | | #36

      That is such important advice.  Mistakes are a fundamental part of the learning process and avoiding them means no learning, no growth.

  18. mumser | | #27

    Back in 1966 my husband was stationed at Edwards AFB in California, in the middle of the desert. I decided there wasn't much to do at that time out there, so I bought a sewing machine and signed up for a sewing class at the high school on base.

    The first night the teacher said, "Don't ever say I could never sew like that" when you see a ready-made garment. Rather, turn it inside-out and see how poorly some things are finished when commercially made, and say "I WOULD NEVER sew like that"! I never forgot her words and they really inspired me to become an accomplished sewer.

  19. roma | | #28

    at [email protected]

    1. honeybsmom | | #32

      The best I've found is the system from Snapsource.com.  It's not perfect - but WAY better than anything else I've tried.

      1. roma | | #42

        Thank you so much. Im going there right now.

  20. honeybsmom | | #31

    In order to get a straight seam, never look at the needle.  Use the edge of the foot or the markings on the throat plate as a guide.



  21. label | | #34

    To work clean- from a tailoring professor at FIT - to always clip unnecessary thread ends and it really does simplify your working.

  22. Jannet | | #35

    Just to go for it!  To not be afraid.  When I get an idea, try it. 

  23. kmayne | | #37

    Making a sample garment out of some inexpensive fabric, to make fitting adjustments, before cutting out the garment from the expensive fabric.

    1. jgrue | | #38

      What great ideas--I'm sending them to my daughter who has just recently started to sew.I would add the sewing hint of grading (on multiple layers or heavy fabrics) and clipping your seams--makes such a difference with how a sleeve, collar, pocket, etc. look and move for the finished garment.I save fashion ideas that I want to copy--collar, pocket, hem, etc. For fashion ideas, check out http://www.style.com/fashionshows/collections/F2007CTR/runwayshows/index.htmlI think sewing and cooking are much alike--you can start with a pattern or recipe that you like--the first time you follow it exactly. After that you change the fabric/ingredient or pattern/recipe to something that you want to try instead, and on and on. A little discipline and creativeness will give you something unique. Don't be afraid to try it.Joanne

  24. gillS | | #39

    Given to me many years ago - if something won't go right, or won't fit right, place in a large plastic bag, seal the top and put it in the dustbin.   Take out before bin collection day and reconsider!

  25. sasanda | | #40

    This one has saved me on numerous occassions!

    Measure twice, cut once


  26. needlenose | | #49

    This bit of advice is coming late but ...

    My couture teacher taught me to NEVER use a seam ripper. You have no control -- it can slip, especially when opening buttonholes. It'll inevitably go through the end stitches on at least one project, and that's one too many. I've used small, sharp, pointed scissors for 20 years and have never had an accident, no matter what I've been fixing (and that's a lot of things!).


    1. Ckbklady | | #51

      That's a good one. Those little scissors are a great idea.

      My dermatologist gave me a little scalpel that plastic surgeons use for eye tucks (a #15 blade, if I remember correctly). I've used it for seam ripping for years because the blade is curved like a thin fishhook. It scoops the stitches with the hooked part and slice them open as you pull the blade up. I glued popsicle sticks on either side of the thin "handle" to improve the grip. Works like a charm.

      :) Mary


      1. jjgg | | #52

        I use a single edge razor blade to rip stuff apart

        1. Mokey | | #69

          How many times have you ripped material with that blade?

          1. jjgg | | #70

            with a straight edge razor? Never. With a seam ripper? too many to count!Perhaps I'm more careful, or that it's that the razor is sharper and cuts the thread so easily I don't have to use much pressure.

      2. artisticmom | | #79

        I love the idea of using a surgery instrument, since my tiny, pointy scissors aren't that pointy anymore.  I ask my son, a doctor, for paper used on the exam table, and use it for pattern changes.  Now I'll ask for one of those curvy instruments.  I have been sewing 75 years, with time off to be a draftman (lady!) college teacher of drafting, and now that I have retired, I'm getting back to sewing,and painting.

        1. Ckbklady | | #81

          You're a drafting instructor? Gosh, you should submit articles to Threads on the subject - we'd all cheer here for instruction in drafting.

          Yes, the scalpels are marvelous as seam rippers. Can your son get you one of the curved, hook-like little scalpels used for eye tucks (plastic surgery)? The straight, knife-like ones are good, but the little curved ones hook so nicely into a seam (especially a serged seam) and cut the threads like butter.

          :) Mary


    2. autumn | | #55

      I've discovered that a one-edged razor blade is best for cutting buttonholes. If the hole is small I use a magnifying glass and work slowly. It is much more precise (to me) than scissors. My grandmother had a pair of buttonhole scissors (that I have not) that you could set to the right size by turning a screw so it would not cut bigger than you want. I have kept it for sentimental reasons although I do not use it.

  27. lifelongsewer | | #53

    Before beginning a new project -
    Clean your machine; on a piece of the project fabric, test your choice of thread type, needle type, stitch length, and appropriate presser foot.
    Kay E., the Sewing Muse in Los Angeles

  28. beebuzzled | | #54

    As already posted: make a muslin. The few extra dollars are worth it.

    Use tailor tacks to mark your fabric if needle holes are not an issue.

    Baste your seams.

    Learn to love your iron (still working on that one).


  29. autumn | | #56

    My 17 yr. old granddaughter has just started to learn to sew. The first bit of advice I gave her was "NEVER sew when you are tired." That includes being sick or frustrated. Just leave it.  Also, don't tackle a pattern or fabric that is way beyond your ability. You will just get frustrated and maybe never want to sew again. That is what happened to my daughter (the mother of the 17 yr. old) when she was taking Home Economics in junior high. The teacher didn't offer any advice about pattern or material, and I couldn't talk her out of making a blouse out of a very slinky, slippery polyester. She had so much trouble that she has never sewn again.

    I often think of solutions when I'm asleep or just waking. I solved many problems with my daughter's wedding dress that way, (plus crawling up inside a commercial wedding dress when no one was looking).   I NEVER baste, just use lots of pins and sew slowly. This method has never let me down.

    1. solosmocker | | #57

      I hope I am not repeating myself here. If so, I am sorry. My advice, the second batch of such, is to make samples, samples, and more samples. IE, if you are going to make machine buttonholes, setup the same fabric on the same grain with the same interfacing and do a practice run. This week I needed to do some pintucks so set up the same fabric, same grain, same interfacing, and did a trial run on the pintucks. This helped me determine what I wanted as far as stitch length and tension. It gives you the opportunity to fool around a bit before you commit to the real thing. When done, take your sample and with a fine point permanent sharpie, note the needle size, tension, thread, stitch length, and whatever other variables come into play. Keep these handy and before long you can go digging in your samples for a good place to start.

      Edited 10/10/2007 7:11 pm ET by solosmocker

    2. artisticmom | | #80

      The advice "to never sew when u are tired" was given to me by a kindly , elderly, fabric salesman when I bought many yard of a beautiful patterned sailcloth, and was about to slipcover a 2 piece, curved, tufted sofa.  (it was stylish in the early 1st)  Whenever I became frustrated I stopped and came back to the next day.  Well, they finally came out great, pillows, zippers and all.  The slipcovers lasted longer than the sofa.

  30. KathleenSews | | #58

    Every mistake is a new design. I have a vest with matching belt that illustrates this principal. I made about 6 mistakes on it and I always get compliments when I wear it.

  31. KathleenSews | | #59

    Learned in the school of hard knocks: if you are running low on a firm-weave cotton fabric, don't cheat on the straight of grain for the facings. They will never lie flat.

    1. WandaJ | | #60

      Through a course in Heirloom Sewing I learned that all mistakes can be fixed, and no one will ever know the difference. This was a course offered by Martha Pullen.

      1. Consuelo | | #61

        While I love (I mean LOVE) altering patterns, I think the best advice I have gotten in order to have a wardrobe, not just a hobby, is to have a set of patterns that you can use over and over.  I can whip up a pair of tailored trousers in an afternoon because I have a pattern that's ready to go. Same with pull on pants, basic blouse, tee and simple casual jacket... and my beloved-since-retirement pull on split skirt.  I don't do dresses or skirts much so I don't have those.  I can vary the details: pocket, no pocket; wide waistband, no waistband; collar, no collar; narrow fitting,wider fitting; etc. 

        This approach switches the focus from the front end of selecting a pattern, altering the pattern, etc (which for me takes 50% of the time for the project) to having clothes to wear.  That's not to say that I don't ever get a new pattern, it just helps me a lot to get to the clothes part.  Otherwise I diddle ad-nauseum with chosing and fitting the pattern.

        That's my story and I'm sticking to it!!  :-)

        1. Stillsewing | | #62

          The various pieces of advice that have already been posted are all very useful, thanks. Can I offer two tips not to do with the actual sewing -
          Keep a note book by the machine to record issues relating to a project eg stitch length etc. When I close down my machine (Pffaf) I lose all my settings. Also it can be handy to refer back to previous projects for info.If you are not lucky enough to have a dedicated room for your sewing use a large Dept/Dress store carrier bag to hold all the parts of a project. I am in this position and I find that I can throw everything to do with a project into a bag - neatly folded of course - until such time that a hanger can be used for the garment. In particular this stops small pattern pieces going AWOL. At the end of the project clear out the bag, put the pattern away and start again.

  32. sewingdeb | | #63

    My Mom decided I would learn to sew the summer I turned 9.   Almost right away I made a mistake and had to rip out the threads.  I was upset and didn't like that fact that I made mistakes sewing.  Mom said, "if you're going to sew, you're going to rip".  It made sense to me and I haven't stopped sewing for 47 years!  My seam rippers have been replaced many times.

    1. GailAnn | | #64

      "As you sew, sew shall you rip."  A friend of mine.  Gail

      1. sewfar | | #65

        I wish that I had had kept a file and noted what pattern I used along with fabric and information about what patterns I combined for each garment I sewed. I find that I can wear some of the older garments I made and they fit well and are in style again but I can no longer remember which patterns I used. I supposed I thought I would never forget and I also suppose I never expected that I would have interest in redoing them so far in the future and that my long term memory would have gotten so short.

      2. Gloriasews | | #66

        A great saying, Gail - thanks!  :)  It's SO true!


    2. autumn | | #67

      A few years ago I bought a complete set of instructions for teaching children to sew, thinking that my granddaughters would learn -- wrong!  But one thing it said was that the instructor should do the ripping out because it would be too frustrating for a beginner. Then you can learn to do the ripping later. I never gave up, myself, but I can see how it would be to discouraging for some kids. I took a weaving class when my now 46-yr.-old daughter was about 2. Somewhere in the setting up I had gotten one thread in the wrong place, and the instructor made me take it out. I didn't want to bother, but after my piece was finished it was gorgeous and I got an A+ on it. Now I always make sure I rip out or otherwise correct mistakes because the final product is worth it.

    3. Lilith1951 | | #71

      I'm coming into this discussion late, but I did want to add to the sewing advice: Mine is to NOT buy cheap, off-brand thread (like the 3/$1 stuff in the bins.) It is NOT a bargain.  It will break and tangle much easier than the good stuff.  At the very LEAST, buy Coats and Clarks for your regular, everyday garment sewing.  Buy BETTER if you can. 

      Also--change your machine needles often!  They do get bent and burred.  Don't wait for one to break in the middle of a project (which is gonna happen sometimes anyhow.)  They get a lot of wear and tear and they do need to be changed often in order for you to continue making quality stitches.

      Please do clean your machine and especially your bobbin case.  If you've been sewing flannel, fleece or quilt batting, it needs to be done frequently. If you have an older machine (or a serger) that needs oiling---OIL it!  Your car engine won't run without oil and your sewing machine needs it like you need air.

      Lots of good advice on here.  I'm truly enjoying reading the discussions.

      1. denise | | #72

        Yes  I agree with Lilith, if things are going to happen, they usually do if we use interferer products.

        Sometimes less is better than more by that I mean buy good quality fabrics and  notions,have less clothes in ones wardrobe.  I have actually got to that point at the moment, where I do not need any more clothes especially now I am retired, so being a bit lost for inspiration my daughter ask me to make her  Cushions, which I am going to give her for Christmas. Also there is our grand son to sew for,  I am often ask why i choose good quality fabric for him i simply explain that it will then be handed down to the next child i usually use neutral colours,  but if the next baby is a girl ( we will know soon) I shall take the items back and embroidery rose buds on them

        I had some beautiful linen I had put away, and now it is going to be cushions for our daughters very elegant home. I know we all cannot afford to buy the best fabric, but that has always been our motto since we where married and things where hard,  buy less and have better quality.

        I change my sewing machine needle for every project and put them flat side facing back in to the container just incase I cannot quite afford another packet and I have a quick small project  e,.g. repair etc.

        Also another writer mentioned about using the same pattern when you find one that fits your.  Well that is what I do,  this saves so much money, and also has another way of keeping me at the same weight as I know I have to keep using the same patterns. I write on the patterns in permanent pen when I find a little alteration here and there makes a differerence.

        Also ways mark your fabric with chalk with arrows pointing up, or what ever helps. I once sewed a  straight skirt together with the back down and the front up, in small stitches, what a mess.

        Also when using the same pattern , trim it in another way, and actually when you use different fabric most people do not even notice and what if they do,  They probably wish they could sew too.

        1. Stillsewing | | #73

          The point about ripping. It is very necessary, but can be so frustrating to a beginner. My mother encouraged me to sew and to do everything myself.....but when I ran into difficulties she often ripped and corrected a problem for me while I was at work and I could then take up the process the next time at the same point. This gave me the necessary help to persevere and I am so grateful to her now.
          So the moral is, if you want to encourage the next generation to sew help them with the ripping and the re-sewing.

          1. SAAM | | #74

            I've done ripping and correcting for my girls while they were learning. It has saved so much frustration and kept them going. As they've gotten more experienced, they have become less intimidated by correcting mistakes, plus they've learned from watching me fix things that have gone wrong. This is such good advice.Sherry

          2. Brine | | #75

            These are all wonderful suggestions! Might I add baste, baste, baste when using slippery fabric? I just ripped out a seam not once, but three times, before it occurred to me that I was not saving time by just using pins and barrelling ahead.

          3. autumn | | #76

            I have been sewing for 63 yrs. and have not basted once since I was about 12 yrs. old.  I PIN, PIN, PIN, and have never been sorry. I think basting is a waste of time.

          4. sewingkmulkey | | #77

            I, too, pin, pin and pin rather than baste but I say use whatever method works best for each seamstress and gives the best results.

      2. Aunty Joyce | | #78

        I absolutely agree with all your points here  - I have had garments splitting at the seams after a few months wear because the thread I used was not a good make.  If, like me, you have a huge number of spools of thread, ask your local store for an old sweet jar - they usually just throw them away and will let you have them for free).  They hold a huge number of spools and its easy to see the colours.   I always use a flat pastry brush with soft nylon bristles for cleaning my machine - it gets into all the nooks and crannies with ease!    Re buttonholes and stitch rippers - I was taught to place a pin just at the inside edge of the bartack across the buttonhole and work towards it with the seam ripper - the pin stops any accidental over shoot.     I am a new Threads subscriber and am overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of you all and the wealth of information I am getting - even after sewing for 40 years I am constantly learning new things, which is great!  I have no friends or family who sew - in fact I think its a dying art in Britain which is such a shame.   I'm doing my best to rectify it by giving a friend's daughter sewing lessons and she is loving it, so maybe she will enthuse some of her friends too! 

        1. Josefly | | #82

          I commend you on teaching your neighbor's daughter to sew. The skills she'll develop will be useful in so many other parts of her life! I'm so thankful my mother taught me - even though many aspects of our relationship were rocky, I still appreciate the many things we enjoyed together because of that shared hobby, and the appreciation I have of fabrics, sewing, etc., was a gift from her.

  33. sewingdeb | | #68

    I made the mistake of asking someone to cut out a pattern for me.  When I started to sew I hade a difficult time because I didn't know the feel of the pattern from looking at it while laying it out and cutting it.  It wasn't an easy pattern and I regreted not cutting it out.  Always layout and cut your own pattern.

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