Thursday, December 31, 2009

Guidelines for Doing It Better Next Year

As I read all the "year-end wrap-ups" and "2009 in review" posts, I reflect on my experiences this year of course. was pretty crappy, actually.  I completed one garment.  Yup, just one; lots of UFOs.  I loved that one garment so much, I got married in it.  That was the highlight of the year.  Everything else was pretty crummy so I won't bore you with it.  I end this year on a high note, however.  I'm still married.  (He's too sweet to admit I'm driving him crazy.)  I have learned oodles about sewing that I didn't know before and I'm excited to plow through my closet of fabric.  To start the year off right, I read one of my Christmas gifts, Mother Pletsch's Painless Sewing, cover to cover. 

Take home message:  SEW SMARTER

In the spirit of sewing smarter, listed below are my favorite tips and tricks from the Painless Sewing book. 

  • When cutting fabric, place the right sides together so you are ready to pin the major seams (center front, sides, etc.) and sew right away.
  • Pin your pattern to the fabric at the corners only.  Pattern weights or using your hand to anchor the pattern as you cut will save you time.  This does not apply to slippery fabrics, of course.
  • Forget about cutting notches and such.  Snip in the seam allowances for center back/front lines, notches, hem folds, etc.  (This is assuming you have a 5/8-inch seam allowance.)
  • Don't stop and clip threads after each seam you sew.  Sew the seam on one piece and then start another.  It's easier to cut the threads off a string of pieces then to start and stop every time.  (I also don't backstitch.  I shorten my stitch length significantly for the first and last several stitches on the seam, pull the threads a bit to get some wiggle room, and then start sewing the next section.)
  • Finish flat pieces first.  This is a hard habit to break if you've been following pattern instructions for years.  It is much easier to sew pockets, zippers, and collars onto the flat piece, then sew up the side seams.  Working in a tube is a PIA.  I also sew sleeve caps to the shoulder seams and then sew up the bodice side seams and the sleeve seams in one step.
  • Prevent thread jams by holding the top and bottom threads for the first 4 stitches sewn.  Also, hold fabric tautly in front and behind the needle.  Taut, not stretched.
  • Sew in blocks of time and set yourself up for a quick start next time.  This is a bit like cleaning up your desk at work at the end of the day.  It's much easier to dive in the next morning when you don't have to dig through piles.  Fitting and planning is one block (fit the pattern, select all your notions, interfacings, etc.).  Cutting, marking, applying interfacing, and pinning is another block.  It would be easier to start sewing if all of the above was done the day before and neatly stacked.  Sewing and pressing is another block, leaving all the finishing details (hand stitching, buttons, etc.) for the final block.  I prefer to do all my hand stitching sitting next to my DH on the couch.  Putting the threads and closures together with the garment (with hems already pressed and pinned, button placements marked, etc.) makes it easy to finish all the fine details in one sitting.
  • Become familiar with all the features on your sewing machine.
  • Sew wardrobes, not just separates.
  • Buy the best fabric you can afford.
  • Have an interfacing stash.  Stock up on your favorites and you'll never have to stop mid-project to run to the fabric store.  Also, preshrink your interfacings right after you buy them so they are ready to go when you need them.  I also keep a stash of black, white, tan and blue threads and zippers.
  • Buy the right size pattern.  Buy according to your hip measurement for bottoms.  Buy according to your bust measurement for tops, dresses, and wardrobe patterns.  Use your high bust measurement if it is much smaller than your full bust measurement (at least 2.5 inches smaller). 
  • Press your tissue pattern before cutting (dry iron, wool setting).  This increases cutting accracy.
Many of these tips are obvious but sometimes we all need some reminding.  Bad habits are hard to break and good habits are hard to keep.

Best wishes for smarter sewing in 2010.  Happy New Year!!

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