People sew for a variety of reasons – necessity, self-expression, relaxation, creative outlet among a few. No matter the reason the bottom line is that everyone wants a successful project. No one ever wants to have a project that hangs in the back of the closet after all that invested time and money because it just didn’t turn out right. Here are some great sewing habits that you can develop in your learning stage that can help.
Know and Understand the Directions I know I have posted about this before, but I’m saying it again here. Take the time to study your pattern and know what steps you need to take to complete the project. Make sure you are familiar with the techniques involved and research them a bit or even work up a sample or two to make sure you understand how to do what is required. Be familiar with the order of the steps involved in the construction. Make sure you have all the notions you need. Nothing is more frustrating or overwhelming than getting into a project and finding out you are unprepared to finish the project correctly.
Measure, Measure, Measure Carpenters use the rule of measure twice, cut once. Often they won’t get a second change to fix any mistakes. Same with sewing. Fabric can be expensive and the wrong cut can ruin a project and send you sprinting to the fabric store hoping there is still enough fabric left on the bolt so you can try and save things (been there, done that!). This is especially true with quilting. Getting those pieces cut accurately can make or break a quilt top. Take the time to measure at least twice and then cut with confidence.
Pin Everything Pinning is a pain, I know, and it may seem like an easy shortcut but resist the temptation to sew without pinning things together. This will make the difference in a project that has that professional look versus one that is just okay. Keep a ready supply of pins handy. Pin as much as you need to to make sure your seams are neat and straight. I pin extra on curved seams, in collars, cuffs, sleeves, hems to hold things in place. To get that professional look, it’s so worth it.
Press Your Seams and Hems This is my BIGGEST pet peeve in sewing – people who don’t/won’t press their seams as they sew. The whole idea is to spend your time sewing something that looks professional. Avoid the “homemade” look by pressing as you sew. Invest in a nice iron. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a good, solid iron. Have a nice, flat surface area to press on whether it be an ironing board or an ironing mat. Place them where you can get to them easily. Use them. Press before you sew your seam. Press after you sew your seam. It may seem overkill but someday you’ll thank me.
Finish Off Your Seams Even if it is as simple as a zigzag stitch, seam finishes are just plain nice. Besides the obvious of keeping the seam from becoming unraveled over time, a garment that has neatly finished seams, at least in my opinion, has seams that lay nice and flat and helps the inside look great. But, perhaps the most important of all, is that it feels great to wear. No one may ever know what your seams look like on the inside but you will. And that’s what counts, right?
Take Your Time Being rushed is a guarantee for mistakes. Be a “process” seamstress in that you enjoy the act of sewing and the experience you gain from it. Enjoy the journey. Stop and smell the roses. You get the idea. There will be plenty of time to wear/use the project, but you only get one chance at making that one project. Taking your time allows you to think through each step lessening the chance of errors that will only frustrate you. This doesn’t need to be a frustrating experience. It’s up to you, really . Choose to take your time. It’s time well spent.
Take a Break I am a veteran of marathon sew-ins. I know what it’s like to stay up until the wee hours of the morning nonstop having sewn perhaps for 12 or more hours straight determined to finish what ever it is. Believe me, when you are hungry, sleepy, sick or just plain frustrated with what ever it is you’re doing , you will not do your best and need to take a break. Frustration of that type can and will eventually lead to the I-can’t-do-it- it’s-too-hard syndrome and perhaps lead to giving up sewing altogether. Now, we all have those times when a project just won’t wait, but try your best not to fall into this trap. Listen to that inner clock that tells us it’s time to stop for a while. Even a few minutes of down time will do wonders and may save your sanity.
Lastly, Don’t Expect Perfection. No one is perfect. No project is perfect. We want to give our best for sure, but rarely is our best perfect. Keep a good attitude about those imperfections that perhaps only you are aware of. Don’t beat yourself up or feel guilty if it isn’t “just so.” The next lesson you learn will be a mistake you make. Take that to heart and embrace those lessons.