I’ve been sewing for over 10 years now and have learned a lot “the hard way.” So to speed up a newbie seamstress’s learning curve and help you achieve professional results, let me tell you about a few of the most effective ways to take your sewing to the next level.
Here’s my top five best tips to get you started making couture pieces you’ll be proud to show off:
- If you are looking for a sewing machine or are ready to upgrade, then the best advice I have for you is to buy the best you can afford and only get the features you really need. I have a Bernina Activa 230 and it has the ability to go from sheer fabric to denim with a ton of features that I absolutely love and use a lot. Go “test-drive” machines at dealers before buying one. It’s an investment that will pay off huge when it’s a joy to use and can tackle every job you use it for.
- Get a really good iron! And use it religiously! Nothing like pressing your seams to take a garment from looking homemade to “Where did you buy that?” Pressing seams as you go is essential to professional looking sewing. My iron is a Euro Steam Evolution. I LOVE it! (and I’ve had some real crap irons in the past that leaked on my fabric or never got hot enough) Invest in the best you can afford.
- Sewing machine needles are cheap, but so very important, and need to be changed often because they go dull with use. I change mine with every project. It’s also in your best interest to choose the right needle for the fabric and weight. They are all labeled with the brand name/type of needle/size of needle. The two numbers that you want to recognize is the needle size and it’s listed by the European#/American# like this: 90/14. The Euro numbers range from 60-120 and American numbers go from 8-19. The larger the number the bigger the needle size and tougher the fabric it can handle. So silk charmeuse, which is light and airy, will require a needle size of 60/8 or 70/10 and for a heavy, thick leather you will use a needle size of 90/14 or 100/16. There are also needles specific to jersey fabrics with stretch. Those needles have a rounded tip to help stitch between those stretchy fibers and not break them. Choose right and change often!
- Patterns can make or break you in time and materials, as well as make you lose your mind when they are so poorly drafted that you basically have to redraft the whole thing to get good fit or for all things to line up correctly. I started out using Simplicity patterns and felt there was something wrong with me, like why couldn’t my garments ever look like the picture on the pattern?! But it wasn’t me, it was the poorly written directions and the lack of quality control they use in their mass-produced patterns that was the problem. I have since learned to use Burda, Ottobre, and Japanese patterns which have such great fit and better directions or diagrams that you are destined to create a great looking version of the pattern with less waste of time, materials, and mental hardship.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Those are “learning moments” and can actually speed up your experience level. Get a couple seam-rippers and keep them handy. Try it all; zippers, buttons, linings, sheer fabric to leather, dresses to curtains…just do it! Don’t worry if it doesn’t come out exactly as you pictured it in your head, you will get better with every project and before you know it you’re sewing like a pro!
*Sewing & Stitchery EXPO is February 25th-28th, 2016 at the WA State Fairgrounds*