Both my Mother and two Grandmothers were extraordinary seamstresses. They sewed new clothes with or without patterns, reconstructed all varieties of used clothing to fit like it was tailor made and mended holes and seams on favorite stuffed toys and hand-me-down clothes. Sadly, all three of them are gone now and with them went a wealth of knowledge. It happens for not just this, but in so many other areas of life. I was lucky enough to be in the receiving position of some of this knowledge and as I was patching knee holes on about pair number 3 out of 5 pairs of pants this morning, it occurred to me that this is knowledge worth sharing. What I’ve compiled below contains a lot of sewing basics that a new sewer may find useful but even if you’re a seasoned sewer, hopefully there is at least one tidbit that you’ll find helpful that goes past just basics. All of these are machine sewing related and should apply whether the machine is electric or treadle. I know we have at least a couple of sewers among the readers here so I hope you guys will chime in too and share your own tricks (hand or machine) in the comments. Lets harness some of this fading knowledge for those that follow in our footsteps. 🙂
- A round patch holds up better to wear and tear than one with square corners.
2. Put your presser foot down when threading your needle. It will make it easier to reach the needle but also triggers the tension mechanism which will hold your spool of thread still while you work.
3. When loading the bobbin, feed the thread up through the bobbin hole by hand-turning the spinning wheel for a stitch or two with the presser foot up. The top thread becomes intertwined with the bobbin thread so you can run your scissors under the presser foot to pull the thread up and to the back.
4. When sewing stretchy fabric going WITH the stretch, use a zig-zag stitch so the thread can move with the fabric and not break. The more stretchy the fabric, the wider the zig-zag stitch you’ll use. My machine is almost 65 years old, you can see she’s skipping a little. I love her regardless. 🙂
5. Put the needle in the fabric and lift the presser foot to make sewing around a sharp corner nice and tidy.
6. Lock your stiches by sewing a few forward then backward before sewing the rest of the garment.
7. Make direct sewn elastic work by stretching the elastic out as you sew it to the fabric. Use a zig-zag stitch just like you would with stretchy fabric so the stitches can expand as they need to without breaking the thread.
8. Make your own ruffle by sewing a straight stitch down the middle of a piece of fabric or ribbon. Then, holding the bottom thread only, gently slide the fabric up the stitches to make it gather. Use a long stitch and make sure you lock your beginning stitches, but not the end ones. The presser foot is a handy tool to hold one end so you can work the gathers with two hands. Once it’s gathered, sew along the top to hold it in place. (this works great for crepe paper decorations also!)
9. Make a button hole without a button hole attachment by using a pen to mark two straight lines the length of your button and use them as a guide for the needle placement that will be the inside edge. Use a tight zig zag stitch then snip down the middle between your two lines to make your hole.
10. Don’t forget to use the lines on the foot plate to keep your stitches the same distance from the fabric edge. That’s what they’re there for. You can also use the side of the presser foot itself as a fabric edge guide if you need to get closer to the edge than your machine markings allow.
11. If your seam will show, like on the side or back of a dress, turn the garmet inside out and press the folds of fabric open. This will make it lay flat and the seam will have a finished appearance from the outside.
12. Snip out small triangles of the fabric to make round seams lay flat.
What are some of your favorite sewing techniques?