While working on my York Pinafore for the most recent Sewcialists mini challenge, it occurred to me that there are some things I do while sewing that are lazy, technically wrong, or just my own way. These little things are what I like to call my sewing secrets. Now these secrets aren’t the kind shared by sewing peeps to have the perfect anything. I think I would even dare to call them dirty little secrets.
I decided to go to my fellow editors and ask them for their secrets as well, and oh buddy, were there some GOOD ONES! I think the idea of sharing these secrets is fun because it can be so easy to get caught up in the idea that our makes need to look perfect, or that we have to do every step technically right in order to have a garment to be proud of.
Now onto the secrets!
One of my secrets is that I do not own an ironing board and rarely iron my knits before cutting. Speaking of ironing, did you know that Gillian doesn’t even iron her hems for her knitwear?! Also, I never match my thread to my project. If I happen to have enough thread in a matching color, I roll with it; otherwise, it’s natural or manatee for me, baby!
Wanna know something even juicier? Anne uses a regular old pen to trace her patterns onto fabric. When it comes to working with patterns with pockets, Charlotte almost always leaves that step out. Kerry told me that when she cuts her fabric with shears, her work is comparable to that of a “drunk kindergartner.”
Now that I’ve spilled some of our secrets, it’s your turn! Let me know in the comments below what your sewing secrets are.
Amanda is a mother of two trying to craft her way through life. She can be found on Instagram at @mandabe4r, where she shares superfluous pictures of her kiddos and current projects.
I’ve learned how to finish the edges of garment pieces with my serger. Now I don’t have to finish the edges after I sew the seams, especially with seams that need to lie flat. It also keeps woven fabrics from fraying so much.
Sergers seem pretty clutch! My machine has an overlock stitch I like a lot!
I use Easy knit fusible interfacing on just about everything I make. It works why mess with it?
I’ve fudged a grainline or two…serged a woven hem and turned once…and I spent several months at the beginning of my sewing practice (almost a decade ago) using tweezers and a utility knife instead of a stitch picker!
Knife and scissors?! You’re bold! I’d probably slice my fabric to pieces trying to do that lol
Depending on what I’m aiming for bulk-wise, I serge woven hems and turn once on a regular basis. 😉
This is a total valid way to hem as far as I’m concerned!
I also use a ballpoint pen or a pencil to mark notches, they’re going to be in the seam allowance anyway. I have tried and failed to insert an invisible zip, now I always use the same method whether the zip is an invisible style one or not, machine tack the seam closed, sew the zip in, rip out the tacking, looks OK to me.
I did that method of zipper install recently and it’s the only way I’ll do a zipper from here on out!
I’ve never tried to install an invisible zipper – I learned your way and keep using it when I need zips (although not on bags which have their own version or jeans/trousers where I use fly zips). Mind you I don’t make dresses either.
We use friction pens to mark everything.
I only replace my needle when it breaks. I leave in gathering threads. I use a zigzag stitch to hem knits.
I change my needle when I remember 🤣 definitely not after every project!
Before I discovered my machine had a straight stretch stitch I also used a zig zag.
Oh yeah. I leave in like 80% of gathering threads, any that arent an eye sore on the outside. I hear you!
Those gathering threads ain’t bothering anyone! :-p
I hate cutting flat. I will, to the detriment of fabric saving, do everything I can to cut on the fold. If the pattern piece is just a rectangle, I’ll just measure it out from the fold and make the notches afterward. I hate turning thinnish straps so I usually use twill tape, gross grain ribbon, or something else to avoid the headache. I like a little contrast anyway.
Ahh cutting on the fold is my love language
When sewing a mother of the groom dress from poly chiffon a few years ago, I used ballpoint pen to mark the lines for some seam modifications. Worked fine! Then later in the sewing journey, the fabric was soiled by something on the counter, so I washed the dress. Disaster. The ink bled all through the seam and was very visible on the outside. Could not be saved. I had to go shopping for a dress as I was out of time. I have never used ink when sewing since that time. I hVe no idea why that happened but I’m no longer willing to risk it!! But I use plenty of other “forbidden” sewing practices 😉
Warm milk removes ballpoint pen ink from fabric and leather 😉
I use a regular Sharpie pen to trace out my patterns, never put in the pockets, cut on the fold where ever possible. I convert pieces with a straight seam to being cut on the fold. Essentially two identical pieces with a seam down the middle for no apparent reason – that going to be one piece cut on the fold. I serge the outside of all pieces before seaming, which means I generally don’t stay stitch. I never pin anything. I recognize the pictured pattern – it’s a shoe! I’m working on one of those. I have it traced, now I want to embroider it before proceeding. And figure out how to create a lining.
I skip pins sometimes if I’m making simple things for my one of my boys!
I use pins to mark darts. Push them through all layers then pull apart slightly and push another pin to mark the other side. Seems more accurate than using cotton to sew the marks.
This seems quite smart!
I always look for seams that can be eliminated and placed on the fold. And regularly add seams in the back, front or sleeves when short fabric. I use my own side seam pocket block almost always. I never, ever trace (shudders). I mark, if needed, as I go. I’m a convert to clover clips and skip pinning unless it’s truly tricky. I do one turn finishes most often. I serge my seams on one pass and call it sewn. Same as rtw. I interface with knitted fusible on knits and wovens for gentle stability. I am very fussy about my iron and won’t keep a bad one. I know the proper sewing person, but I do short cut whereever I can for all but very special items.
A bad iron can bring SO MUCH unnecessary frustration.
I still put pins in my mouth. I use sharpies or ink pens to mark because its going to be in a seam anyways. I almost never change the feet on my machine, the standard one works fine and I just put in zippers by hand.
I’m also guilty of sometimes putting pins in my mouth 😩
I don’t like sewing, but I love reading sewing blogs and watching sewing videos. I sew when I need something, a skirt,a bag, some mending, recently masks. I often start on a project and abandon it, with a small bit of work to be left to do. I do have enough fabric and notions to make a simple wardrobe. It’s just that I don’t like sewing very much…
This is hands down the juiciest secret I’ve seen so far!
You and me both!
I only sew because I can’t find RTW clothes that I like and that fit me – I’m basically a tall triangle. I only sew maybe one garment a month to replenish something in my wardrobe. All that said, I do feel a sense of satisfaction when a garment turns out nice and I want to wear it a lot.
Natural or manatee for me too! (I immediately feel the need to see the colour name of my gray threads lol). I sometimes even dont match my thread when I do have a match available…. because its easier to unpick. I also never iron my knits and sometimes hate pockets.
I frequently use straight stitch on the hems of my knits because its easier to get flat and nice even if it impacts stretch a bit.
I sometimes use my rotary cutter to cut paper as well as fabric because paper is less destructive on the blade than some fabrics and I replace it regularly anyway.
I buy overlocker thread in pairs. So I’ll match my two loopers and my two needles but my loopers never match my needles.
My sewing secrets are also things I’ve never done. In 4-5 years of sewing ive never used an invisible zip. I frequently use incorrect widths of elastic and have never successfully lined anything.
Yes!! It’s SO much easier to rip out a seam when you can actually see the thread…and I have to rip out seams frequently
I cut on the floor. Nothing slips off the table, and I can just lay everything out right there. Done.
I dont add real buttons or buttinholes on anything if I can help it. I just sew a short line of stitches where the button would go. If it actually has to open, I sew (or glue!) a bit snap on the inside or use poppers.
If I can pull it on over my head, I’ll always eliminate a neck closure (back button/zip, I’m looking at you).
Always cut on the fold to eliminate a back seam – even to the detriment of my sway back.
I’ve never hemmed a lining, I just serge the bottom.
I don’t follow the order of operations in my patterns anymore. I try to sew as many seams as I can before having to press anything. I use stitch witchery for any and all precision tasks. I use my edge stitch foot A LOT. And I stopped using pins for most seams. I’ll make a few bobbins at the beginning of the project so I don’t have to stop to do that in the middle. I don’t like changing thread on my machines, but I do like my thread to match my project, so I do as many projects with that color thread in a row as possible.
Winding multiple bobbins is actually quite brilliant I may do that on my next project!
I usually have a pin in my mouth too!
I rarely mark notches
I don’t finish all my seams, especially in jeans
I like long stitches because they’re easy to remove
I almost never tie off darts. So lazy.
Match thread? pfft. Only if I’m topstitching.
I have loads of thread in shades of grey, it works most of the time. I learned from Beth (sunnygal) to use navy thread on black garments (interior) and black on navy. OMG unpicking black garments is no longer an exercise in frustration!
I put pins in my mouth which is especially bad since I have a bonded retainer and the thickness is about the same as a pin.
I sometimes play fast and loose with grainlines (never on pants though).
I hate pinning when I cut patterns so sort of hack it out with weights – and my weights are whatever is close by (a drink or perhaps a cat). I HATE BASTING. And I’ve been known to trim off the head of a sleeve if it calls for gathers ESPECIALLY if it’s a knit. Seriously? Who gathers a sleeve head in a stretchy garment? Not me!
I have done all these things. But mostly I came here to say how much I enjoyed reading these comments.
I’m with you Cindy! These are gold!
Except that I had to google “serge” – I think my machine is so basic it doesn’t have an overlocker type foot. I do a bit of a bastardised french seam – not sure if it even has a name – to make sure all the fraying ends are hidden away. My sewing is as rough as it gets – LOL!
My machine doesn’t have an overlocker foot but it does have a stretch stitch (which it doesn’t like doing on stretch, I suspect it might work with a walking foot) and an overlocking stitch, which does work
I use frixion erasable pens to mark notches. I use Elmer’s glue to baste in zippers. Press it with the iron and it will stay unless you pull it apart.
These are terrific tips and secrets!
I mark my fabric with Crayola skinny washable markers in a close color to my fabric. I use white color pencils on dark fabric. Instead of pattern weights, I use nail polish bottles. They’re smooth, they glide over the paper and I’ve got a lot of them.
I never prewash my fabric. Seems like a waste of time and water, and takes the newness out of the material. Haven’t had a problem yet.
I use as few pins as possible, hate pinning. I use pilot fixation pens to mark my fabric. Irons right out.
I use most of the time black or white threads.
I have a big collection of old and all qualities bobbins coming from I-don’t-know-where. So, I may use different types of thread for the same garment just to finish them.
And of course, the can thread is 50% not matching the main one!