Tuesday, January 24, 2012

5 Things I Wish I Knew When...

The other evening while sitting at my sewing machine, sewing with a fabric that used to give me a fit, I thought...I wish I had known how to do this when I first started sewing. Of course, we learn by our mistakes. We have to do research and ask questions, read books and articles, and just give things a shot and see if it's right or wrong. I don't by any means think I know everything there is to know about sewing. SO far from it. But, I have learned a few tricks over the last year and half, and I thought I would pass those along for those of you who are just starting out. A few things that I wish I had known sooner.

While drafting this post, I thought how fun it would be to turn this into a series. Immediately my mind starting going to friends of mine who have offered me great advice and given me some tips along the way. I made a list, contacted a few ladies for input, and the "5 Things" series was born. Every week will be a new post with tips and tricks, little pieces of advice for a variety of things. Just 5 easy steps to making that area of your life a little easier. Some of the posts will be written by me, and some will be written by some wonderful ladies I know who have expertise in areas that I don't. I hope you enjoy it! If there is a topic that you would be interested in reading or sharing on, please contact me. I would love to hear your ideas! So, without further ado, the first post in the "5 Things" series:

5 Things I Wish I Knew When I First Started Sewing: 

1.  You don't have to use a zipper foot to sew a zipper on. The first time I sewed a zippered pouch, it took nine attempts to get the zipper right. NINE. When using the zipper foot there is a lot of room for error (in my opinion, anyway). It's far too easy to get too close to the zipper teeth, or for your stitch line to be uneven. It is perfectly acceptable to use your standard sewing foot when sewing on a zipper. I do it all the time. So do a lot of other ladies I know. In fact, Gussy has a great zippered pouch tutorial in which she teaches how to sew a zipper on with a standard foot.
*Please keep in mind that I am referring to sewing zippers on things like purses and pouches. I have never sewn a zipper on a piece of clothing. The rules might change for that.*

2.  When sewing burlap, use the zig zag stitch on the smallest stitch length. The fibers of burlap tend to pull apart. A lot. Perhaps this is common sense, even to those of you who aren't experienced at a sewing machine, but it took me a few attempts to figure out what worked best. Now, when sewing with burlap, I use the zig zag stitch and set my stitch length at a 1. This gives you a very tight stitch that helps to keep the burlap from fraying. I also stitch over it twice for added durability.

3.  A cutting mat & rotary cutter will make your life so much easier. Invest in them. Again, probably common sense, but for the longest time I didn't have one. The first time I used mine it was like a whole new world had opened up for me. Cutting mats come in a variety of sizes, and the size you need will depend entirely on the projects you take one. My cutting mat is 24 x 36, and I have an Olfa 45mm rotary cutter. The mats are a little pricey, but I purchased both items at Joanne's using 40% off coupons.

4.  For me, sewing with knits was extremely difficult. It usually made me want to throw my machine out the window. I had all but given up when I found this post on Prudent Baby. I'm not even going to attempt to sum it up for you, because it's lengthy. But if you want to sew with knits, read it, study it, follow it. It will be your best friend.

5.  Start simple and don't put your work out there until you know what you are doing. A pillowcase or a simple zippered pouch are good things to start with, and practice, practice, practice...and then practice some more. I used to take scrap pieces of fabric and practice hems and even just sewing a straight line. If your goal is start a shop, make sure that you are at a place where you are able to produce quality products. I love to buy handmade, but it's so disappointing to receive a product that is poor quality. Take the time to perfect your skill. You won't be sorry :)



  1. What a fun series! And, as a beginning sewer, I really appreciate these tips! Especially #4 :)

  2. I love the idea for this new series :) and these are very helpful tips! I haven't bough the rotary cutter and mat, but keep thinking I should and would want to sew more b/c it would be easier to cut things. I've also taken a while to understand just how helpful the iron can be! Thanks :)

  3. awesome new series!

    i am super bitter about sewing right now. my mama is an amazing seamstress and she isn't very patient with me:) last time she visited, well, let's just say i am taking an indefinite break from sewing. ha! working through it:)
    i will surely refer to these tips when i start fresh with my machine!

    love ya!

  4. Yay!!! I'm excited about this series!! :)

  5. Fun series! There is so much you learn as time passes and you attempt new projects. Can't wait to read the rest.

  6. I am so with you on #1!!! I rarely use my zipper foot...usually only for sewing on piping. I actually like using my walking foot since it helps keeping the fabric and zipper from shifting so much. Great tips!

  7. Thank you for starting this series!!!

  8. What a great idea for a series!! Oh... and I'm so with you on the zipper foot thing!!

  9. haha i love this! i pretty much suck at sewing so i'm soaking this all in like a sponge!

  10. great idea!!! i'm sure i will learn a TON from this series!!

  11. Wonderful idea! If you're ever looking for guest posters, I'd be happy to help :) (jaclyn1423@yahoo.com)