Thursday, February 24

tips & tricks: short cuts that aren't really short cuts

When you teach yourself a new art, you often miss out on the tips and tricks that you would get from a teacher. So, for those of you teaching yourself to sew solely by written or video tutorials, I am going to start posting tips and tricks that I've learned along the way.

I started sewing when I was 14. As most do, my first experiences were creating pillows, pajama pants, and draw-string back packs. My mom bought me some patterns for simple pants, shirts, and dresses. I would pour over the instructions, following every word. Always pinning, ironing, and basting when I supposed to.

Lolz, not really. Okay, not at all.

I think I went mostly by the instructions, but I've always been a bit lazy, which made me reluctant to spend as much time as I should on the small details. Then, once I had more experience, I basically strayed away from patterns all together. I often get inspired by clothes that I like to make a slightly different version of my own. Or if there is a style that I want, but can't find in stores, I'll usually just picture it in my head and then get to work.

So when I say I don't use patterns, I don't just mean store-bought patterns. I don't use patterns at all. I don't make my own. I don't even really plan. I just pick a place to start and then keep going until it is done. Sometimes my pieces come out awesome and sometimes they suck. Sometimes they end up completely different where they started, for better or worse. I don't really like patterns, and making things up as I go is more interesting to me.

That being said, it should be obvious that I have made my fair share of mistakes in sewing. Most of them were due to trying to save time. If there is one tip I can give to you it is this:

Trying to save time DOES NOT EVER SAVE TIME.


I can't tell you how many time I've skipped steps to save time, and then realized I made a dumb mistake that I had to undo and then redo the proper way.

  • Use pins. I know, they are annoying. It takes forever to pin something and then have to unpin it later. They prick your fingers and get stuck in the carpet and they suck, but just do it. Your seams will come out neater and your whole piece will come together better overall.
  • Baste. Baste pleats, hems, large continuous sections, zippers, gathered sections, whatever. If it is not a plain, straight stitch, baste it. Especially gathered sections. For real.
  • Iron. Yep. Iron folded sections. Iron pleats, iron seams, iron waist bands and hems. This will make sewing much easier and will make the final piece look better crafted in general. NOTE: Pay attention to the setting on your iron. Don't use a hot, steam setting meant for cotton on a satin material. Be smart. Or look it up.
  • Measure. Yeah, it seems silly to mention it, but I tend to just start cutting without really measuring anything. Eye-balling it doesn't always work.
  • Try it out as you go. If you are making clothes, try them on throughout the process. That way, if something doesn't fit the way it is supposed to, you can adjust it before it is too late. If you are making a bag or a purse, make sure the pockets/straps/whatevers are the right size and are placed properly.
Those are my general tips for beginners. I'll start posting more specific tips with more details on things such as bag straps, hems, waist bands, zippers, and so forth in the future.

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