I’m happy to share my little piece of the blogosphere with another talented and crafty stay at home mom who found herself answering the call of her creative brain. Melissa from a happy stitch teaches sewing classes locally, maintains an Etsy shop and keeps a sewing blog. I met Melissa a few months ago at a local craft fair and was so excited to find another Mom Sewing Entrepreneur in the area. Melissa has a ton of awesome know-how when it comes to needle and thread so I couldn’t resist asking her to share some of her advice here on my blog….if you are new to sewing, or have been sewing for years you will find words of wisdom in her post. Thanks Melissa for sharing!
Hi Sewplicity® readers! I was so excited when Jennifer asked me to guest post and thought it was a good excuse to gather together all the little tips and bossy rules that I enforce on the students in my sewing classes. I hope you find something new and useful. If not, and you already do all these things then call me…we are kindred spirits.
You can find more about me and all my adventures on my blog, a happy stitch. I teach classes in Central New Jersey, makes patterns, specialty quilts and sew quite a lot when I’m not chasing after my two little people. I also look nearly identical to this fisher price doll:
But most importantly, I believe you are an amazing sewer! And, with the right approach you can get even better! So, here goes:
1. kick of your shoes! seriously, take your shoes off. sewing without shoes helps you better feel the pressure you are applying to the foot pedal and that helps you control your speed. this can make a world of difference with those especially tricky stitches.
2. lotion up. rub a small dab of lotion into your hands before you start sewing. it will help you grip the fabric and have more control over what you are doing while you sew.
3. soap up. got a sliver of soap that you are considering throwing in the trash? don’t do it! dry it out and nab that soap for your sewing room. next time you need to mark something on dark fabric, use your soap sliver…it’s cheaper and works better than some of the marking tools they sell in the store and it’s guaranteed to wash out!
4. keep your chopsticks handy. a chopstick is a great point turner even better than some point turners, frankly. because chopsticks have a blunt end, they tend to push the fabric without accidentally busting through it!
5. splurge on the good thread. there is a time and a place for saving money (see tip #3 and #4) but don’t skimp when it comes to thread. cheap or old thread breaks easily, is difficult to thread into the needle and doesn’t work smoothly. you work hard on the things you make, don’t give them the short shrift. I always use Mettler or Guttermann brands. you can still buy them on sale, of course. (no one is paying me to say this, fyi.)
6. give yourself some space. do yourself a favor and set aside a small space dedicated to sewing. it doesn’t have to be more than a card table in the basement. but, by having it set aside you are able to leave projects out and it won’t feel daunting to work on a project if all you have to do is sit down and start sewing. right? right! extra bonus if you have space for a cutting mat and ironing board to stay out permanently.
7. prepare your fabric as it walks in the door. did you know that cotton fabric can shrink up to 30%? yes, ma’am. did you know that cotton is a heavy-pesticide product? indeed. so, for your health and for your sewing success it is best to pre-wash and dry your fabric before you sew. that way you can rest assured that you aren’t unnecessarily interacting with pesticides and your project won’t go wonky when you do get around to washing it! the best approach is to throw it in the wash right after you get it. that way, when you do get the time and inspiration to sew you don’t have to wait for for a wash/dry cycle. it will be ready and waiting for you. (please note–a few projects call specifically for ‘unwashed’ fabric–some quilts for instance–so check your pattern if you have a specific project in mind.)
8. iron and then iron again. every time I discuss ironing with people in my classes they groan. and, I get it. ironing is a pain. but, I am here to tell you that in the realm of sewing, ironing is a shortcut. well-ironed fabric is easier to cut with precision and that means it is easier to sew correctly. that is going to save you so much time in the end. so, here is the deal: iron before you cut anything, and iron open any seams that you can after you sew them. yep, iron and then iron again. and, when you are annoyed at ironing you can think to yourself “phew. I am saving myself so much time later on!”
9. chunk it out. it’s so hard to find time to sew. I’ll bet that your time to sew is restricted to crazy, unpredictable nap times or when everyone else is asleep, right? yeah, that’s nuts. but, it’s reality. to make sewing happen even under crazy circumstances you gotta chunk it out. find the first annoying task–say, lining up your fabric or preparing a pattern—and aim to accomplish just that piece. anything else is gravy. then, the next step isn’t so daunting and so on and so forth. sewing is just a series of stages so just line ‘em up and knock ‘em down. you are fierce.
10. screw up and make some crap. not on purpose, of course. but do go ahead and try something new and don’t be afraid to mess it up. every mistake is an opportunity to learn. we don’t have much room to make mistakes at work or as partners, friends or parents but sewing is different. it’s the place we can go wild and mess up and it’s nothing but the natural stumbling blocks of a learning process. so, push yourself to try something new and get it terribly, horribly wrong. make some crap and relish it. ok good. you made some crap, now you get to go back and make it better. chances are, you will discover something new while you are at it. it’s a great feeling to make something well and have it look beautiful and feel satisfied. but, take stock…if you haven’t messed up recently you might not be taking enough risks.