Sewing Tips & Tricks

Whether your a beginner or an expert, everyone can learn something new, I know I do!
I don't claim to be a know-it-all either but I am like a lot of you out there, I LOVE TO SEW!
I have been sewing/crafting for about 15+ years on & off. Everyday is an adventure & I do own a couple seam rippers! Below you will find my favorite tips collected over the years & ones I have found online.(Will credit others work/ideas) I am NOT an expert! I am self taught & have learned quite a bit over time & I enjoy learning something new everyday.

Must Haves
Here is a list of my must haves or just items I like to keep handy in my sewing box.

 I always have my O'Lipfa rulers lying out on my cutting table. I love these ones cause they have a "lip" on the ends so you can line it up with the edge of your cutting mat & allows you to use your rotary cutter to cut a straight line! No excuses of crooked cutting!
My cutting mat is June Taylor but any will do as long as its a self-healing mat. Be sure to condition it as the manufacture instructions specify to keep it "healthy".
I also love these non-slip pads to lay under my mats or rulers so they don't slide around.

 A good seam guide comes in handy for marking your 1/4" allowances or getting those gaps right for pleats, darts, etc as well as hems. You may not think you need one but they come in handy.

Keep a chopstick in your sewing box! I'm sure your asking why, lol! Well, they're a wonderful tool to have handy to push out corners, to hold down a seam while your sewing. This last one is great so you can avoid accidents by running that very sharp needle through your finger!

 Grain of Fabric
Most of you know, I hope, that you always follow the grain line of your fabric. They all stretch a certain way or "flow" another way. Be careful with this when sewing, especially BEFORE you cut. Nothing worse then finishing the project & you realize one side stretches more than the other or your stripes are going up when you wanted them across.

Using Your Machine Correctly

ALWAYS read your user's manual BEFORE you even touch your machine! In that little book you will find the how-to on threading, maintaining it such as removing dust & oiling it and what NOT to do. Most machine needles face the back, meaning the flat side of the needle goes towards the back. If you have an older one like my 15-90 its facing the left. I didn't know this until my friends in a VSM group on Facebook helped me out. Please read it all & PRACTICE, PRACTICE with that baby to get the hang of it! If no manual you can search online or go to Manuals Lib to find almost any manual. Also YouTube has TONS of video tutorials to teach just about anything you want to learn.  

Practice This
Learn to say NO! So many people will expect you to make them something or do some mending for FREE. Put your foot down and tell them NO! Don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings, this is a craft that YOU want to enjoy or a way to provide for your family. Yes you can make them gifts but that's when & why you want to, not them!

Freezer Paper
Use this wonderful paper for patterns & appliques. You can use it to iron on, wax side down, patterns to fabric & its more affordable than most tracing/transfer papers. Usually can get a big roll for around $5 & it will last quite a while unless you really are working hard, lol. Also you can use a single piece multiple times before you have to recycle it.

I LOVE Velcro! Get you some 3M Velcro, it has a sticky backing. You can cut it to the desired size & use some of it to attach scissors, seam rippers or your tweezers to the side of your machines(out of the way of course.) That way your not using sewing time looking for what you need. DO NOT SEW OVER THIS! Will gunk up your needle & machine!

Threading a Needle
Nothing worse than straining your eyes trying to get that thread into that little needle hole. So there is always ways to help out with this issue, such as: Bee's Wax, Threaders, hair spray(just a little on the end of your thread), dip thread end in your mouth like grandma used to do(ME), or those magical needles that you just slide the thread down in. But my favorite gadget is what my seamstress friend & neighbor told me about: You can grab these babies for a buck or two, in a bag, at your local WalMart or drug store. They are used for floss for people that have braces, bridges, etc. They are so handy & you can also use them for beading. I keep mine at my serger. Or you can use the others like in the pic to the bottom. Or even another piece of thread in a loop to pull it through your needle. :)

Pattern Weights
You can use nuts, bolts, washers, decorative stones, etc. to hold down your patterns while you trace them. You can take fabric strips or yarn & decorate the washers to add some personality. Also sew yourself up some fabric weights in a few minutes & add sand, beans or rice to them for stuffing & weight. Good way to use up some of your fabric stash!

No Chalk
If you don't have any chalk for marking your seam allowances or tracing, that's okay. Grab a bar of soap, it will do just as good & it washes right out.

Big Spool
I have a few large spools of thread that I like to use on my regular sewing machine & of course they don't fit. So I grab a coffee cup & place my spool down in it & sit it behind my machine. Works great! I would love one of those beautiful spool stands, the one's with the flowers but right now funds are tight so I compromised. I had a doll stand that extends & I opened up the loop at the top so my thread won't snag & works just like the others. Easy Peasy!  

Handy Ruler
I cut out the rulers in the back of my pocket calendars & tape it to my sewing table so I'd always have a ruler handy & can get my measurements right. Upcycling at it's finest!

Machine Tools
Make sure to have an array of YOUR own tools for machines. I keep mine in a small tool/tackle box & hide it so my guys wont take off with them. Sometimes it works, lol. If you buy a new machine, usually they will come with some, including a brush to sweep out the dust & loose threads. Keep it all together so you know where it's at.

Seam Rippers
Stock up on these too while your at it. There is nothing worse then making a mistake & not being able to find your ripper. Yes! You will make mistakes & these handy tools will help tremendously! Add one at each machine & store an extra or two, lol, in your tool box. 

Have plenty of pins in different lengths for multiple projects. They have an array of these in so many styles so just pick what you will NEED & go from there. And don't forget the pin cushions. After you get more talented with your machine, making a pin cushion or several, should be on your project list. They are easy to make & you can get ideas online.

A girl can't have to many shoes, threads, lol. Stock up on at least the main colors when you purchase your fabric. Try to match it up as best as you can. Then go from there.
(Yes I have ALOT, of course this is over the YEARS & I have a few machines,14, including a serger)

When just starting out, don't go hog wild & buy one of each color/design. Go for 100% cotton for aprons, quilts, etc. Then go for silks, stretchable knits, etc if your doing clothes. Grab a pattern & follow the directions on the back for fabric type to use. Do your own research.  ( This is only 1 bin, there's more, lol. I'm a fabric hoarder, I use it, or play with it, lol! )

Purchase some good scissors & rotary cutters. Depending on what your designing, your choices are aplenty. You don't have to run out & drop $50 bucks on a pair, even the lower priced ones cut fabric!
My hubby bought me these Black & Decker rechargeable ones  & they are awesome!
**Update: My oldest son surprised me with my very first pair of Dressmakers Shears!! He got them for my birthday! I was so excited, I cried!!**

Stay Organized
To save time so you can enjoy more sewing/crafting try your best to stay organized! There is nothing worse then trying to get a project completed when you cant find your tools to get it done. This I have learned from experience & I am in the process of organizing my entire studio. A big job too!

Did you know?
 I learned a few weeks ago what that little strawberry was actually for! I just love the blog, So Sew Easy & you can also find the sewing chat on Facebook as well. (Will add links from laptop soon) Back on track now! I was reading a post about these great pin cushions, that I am sure everyone has one in their sewing basket. That little strawberry is for......sharpening your pins & needles!! They contain a emery stone that sharpens & removes burrs on your sharps! So now you know that they're for more than guessing the purpose or decorations. 

Quilting Gloves
I didn't go out and buy the actual quilting gloves. I use these gardening gloves that have the little grippers on them. They work just as good and very inexpensive. They get the job done of holding my rulers while cutting & help stabilize my fabric while machine quilting/sewing.
You can also use some fabric puff paint & make your own designs on a pair of regular gloves. Be sure to allow the paint to completely dry before using. Don't want to smear the details or add a mess all over your project! 

DIY Fabric Storage
No shelves for your fabric? Here is a simple idea for upcycling those milk crates you or a friend may have laying around. Stack them up to make a homemade shelf to store your beautiful, folded fabric.