I love sewing and like most of you, I don’t have the time I really want to spend at my machine. Life gets busy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make beautiful clothes, gifts and household items in what little spare time we have, though it does make it a bit more of a challenge. Here are some tips I’ve learned through the years that might help shave off some of the time it takes for you to complete a project.. A few were passed down from my paternal grandmother who was a professional seamstress and a few came from my dear mother. I hope you find these quick sewing tips helpful.
- Don’t pin your patterns to your fabric. Pins can distort the shape of the pattern and cause your fabric piece to be slightly off shape. Use weights to hold the pattern down. My grandmother used odd bits of metal from my grandfather’s machine shop and she sewed covers for them to keep everything clean. I use curtain weights. They come in little bags and are already covered in fabric. These are especially good for small areas. Once the pattern is placed, trace around it with a sewing marker.
- Use a rotary cutter to cut out your patterns instead of sewing shears. If you have arthritis, this tip is for you! Invest in a good-sized cutting mat to protect your table. Take the fabric with marked pattern pieces and cut your pieces out using the rotary cutter. This goes much faster if you have a large cutting mat and don’t have to keep shifting it under your fabric. Take care to keep fabric matched up. This is where just a few pins can come in handy.
- Reduce the seam allowance on items like collars, cuffs and waistbands before you cut out your pattern to 1/4″ and save the time of trimming away all the bulky fabric. You may still need to clip corners and notch curves, but you won’t have to spend time trimming the excess fabric. I thought my grandmother was crazy when she first told me this and then I started sewing baby clothes and some craft items that already had 1/4″ seam allowances and started using 1/4″ seam allowances for any piece that is later trimmed to remove bulk.
- Don’t pin pieces prior to sewing. I place a few pins in the center of my work to prevent them from slipping, but I do not pin the edges. This saves time and sewing machine needles. Hold the edges together and watch your work as you go.
- Keep a magnet on hand to pick up dropped pins and needles before the bottom of your foot picks them up for you. While I promote using fewer pins when cutting out patterns and sewing pieces together, there are still many uses for them. I keep a long magnet handy and drop pins on them as I’m working on the project and then move them to the pin cushion later.
- Sew straight seams all at one time and in one fluid seam. I didn’t realize how much time I wasted by stopping my progress after each piece and clipping the thread. Now, I have a laundry basket placed to catch my pieces as I sew one long seam after another. That helps keep them organized and free from lint and pet hair. I lock in the seam of each piece before moving on to the next and then snip between each piece before setting up for the next set of long seams.
- Press seams open all at once. Only wait for the iron to heat up once. After you have finished sewing the long seams, press pieces and press seams open all at once. Again, keeping your work fluid saves time.
- Use a dressmaker’s dummy if you have one. If not, fit the pieces carefully as you work. It may seem like this actually takes up more time, but it is much more efficient than taking all of your work out because the garment does not fit.
- Sew darts from the tip to the outer edge. Think about it. The tip is what everyone sees, so it is important to make it perfect. It is easier to start darts in the same place than to have them end up in the same place.
- Lengthen your stitch to 3mm. Most machines default to 2.5mm. Sewing goes a little bit faster with the longer stitch and 3mm is perfectly fine and strong enough for sewing a garment.
I’m sure many of you have tips and tricks you use in the sewing room. Please share them in our comments. Join in the conversation and visit us often as work to save you time and money in the sewing room.