Three Items I Have Found Useful – and a giveaway

Desk lamp copy

A Habitat desk lamp. Short and squat, light enough to easily move about my sewing table, I can drag it really close to the machine bed on my sewing machine. No more winter nights spent squinting at dark fabrics.

Silk shears

My Gingher micro serrated shears have really proved their worth, cutting out all those drapey fabrics for my Pussy Bow blouses. The blades have tiny teeth, which prevents slippery fabric from billowing away as you cut. If you have a bit of money to spare, I’d definitely spend it on decent sewing scissors. They make all the difference.

Finger Pressing

This has been a recent and revolutionary discovery. The importance of my own hands! A tip I picked up from Couture Finishing Techniques. After pressing a seam or fold, lightly finger press. (Ensuring the fabric isn’t too hot. Obligatory health and safety message done.) Press your hands lightly against the fold, holding the steam in the fabric. This makes a real difference. In the photo above, the top swatch hasn’t been finger pressed; the bottom swatch has.

Do you have any tips of your own for useful sewing or knitting aids? Which part of your body has proved most useful? (Don’t answer that!) Supply a tip for my readers, and you automatically become eligible for my January busting giveaway:

January Giveaway

The giveaway is open worldwide and closes on Wednesday 7 January, midnight GMT.

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189 Responses to Three Items I Have Found Useful – and a giveaway

  1. emmabeaty95 says:

    Something I have found useful in knitting is using small (or medium) safety pins as markers. I have a small amount of pocket change and I was working on knitting a cardigan that needed markers; which I, naturally, did not have. Then I had a light bulb moment: knitting markers are very similar to safety pins! Problem solved!

  2. Christine Gibbons says:

    I am more than thankful for my eye sight as I couldn’t do all the sewing, stitching and more without my eyes. My tip for beginner s is that you buy the best sewing machine you can afford and be sure to test the different brands to find what suits you best.

    I must say how much I enjoy your blog. It it very inspiring.

    Christine

  3. Betsy says:

    Oil machine, clean out lint and change that needle after every project!

    • You know, I still struggle with the changing needle rule!

      • Ruth says:

        You don’t need to change your needle after every project, not unless you are sewing through breeze blocks. A needle should last for 12-16 hours actual sewing time – that means needle punching through fabric time, not time spent cutting, pinning, etc The actual sewing time is very little in any project. It’s nonsense to say change it every project. Test it. What’s a project? A T-shirt? A pair of trousers? A lined coat? A tent? Test it like this – in a factory, are the machinists changing their needle every project? Every ten projects? Every twenty projects? Or just when the needle starts to show wear?

      • I used to change them every 10 hours until the textiles tech at school taught me how to check it. Run the shaft of the needle down thumb and second finger and you can start to feel when the metal starts ‘feathering’. Totally works!

      • Bunny says:

        I can literally hear when the needle is getting dull and it can often be before a project is completed. I also what my needle threader. If it doesn’t line up perfectly I know the shaft is ever so slightly bent and that’s not good. I change every project.

  4. lauriesannie says:

    Instead of using your fingers on a freshly pressed seam, you can use your seam clapper. Just rest it on the seam after steaming. Said to absorb the moisture.

    • Thanks! I have a clapper (and love it) but they’re expensive and hands are free and – to hand! I wish I’d known this in my newbie pre-clapper years.

      • Suzanne taggart says:

        I’d you have a woodworker in your family, provide them a photo and the clapper is practically no cost! You might Even get a choice of woods from their scrap pile. Mine is a hardwood the has been lovingly sanded and worn over years!

  5. Emma says:

    I have found using a magnet incredibly useful so that as I see on the machine I can whip the pins out and hurl them with little precision at the magnet rather than fiddling about stuffing them back into the pin cushion as I go! I use the Merchant & Mills magnet because it is nicely presented and I’m a sucker for their packaging but I’m sure any magnet will do. Also helpful if you are sure you dropped a pin or needle on the floor but can’t see it!

  6. Don’t underestimate the time it take to complete a project. In fact, estimate the time you think it will take then double it! That way you are unlikely to be disappointed or frustrated and doing it in too much of a hurry (although even doubling time required won’t always work!!!).

  7. Carolyn says:

    I’m sure I’m not the first person to do this, but I use a piece of blue painter’s tape to mark the seam allowance on the throat plate of my machine. It’s not too sticky and can be easily moved around for different seam allowance widths without leaving any residue on the machine. When it loses its stickiness, I just tear a new piece off the roll! One roll will probably last a lifetime worth of sewing.

  8. Claire says:

    I’ve found since buying good quality scissors I get less frustrated cutting out. It’s made me more accurate when cutting out and gives the cut edges of the fabrics a better look and prevent excess fraying whilst I’m putting things together. I’ve also found my sewing books very handy especially when I’ve not got the computer fired up to google things. The internet can sometimes take longer to find things seeing as you have to trawl through search finds which aren’t necessarily what you needed. With a good book, you can find things pretty fast!

  9. I put my thread snip on a ribbon around my neck. That way, no matter where I am in my sewing room, my snips are always at hand for any thread I find hanging.

  10. Ann M. says:

    You can make a very inexpensive clapper with a 6 inch section of a 2×4 from your local lumber yard. Sometime they have scraps left over from cutting for other people. I cut my piece of 2×4 about 10 inches long, sanded it well and it was good to go. I wouldn’t use any treated lumber because of the chemicals but, pine is a nice light wood to use.

  11. raquel from j.c. says:

    I use heavy washers from homedepot or lowes to hold the patterns over the fabric. You can cover with fabric the washers to make them look pretty! I also use a compass with lead points to mark seam allowances on Burda patterns (you lock the compass on 5/8″ and trace around the pattern over a piece of paper)

    • Jenny says:

      I bought a 1kg slotted mass from Hope Education in the UK. 10 weights on a hanger, quarter the price of proper weights.

      • Raquel from j.c. says:

        Oh! That’s nice! I’m a polymer engineer, so I really appreciate the use of lab equipment in sewing, knitting, cooking, etc. Love it!

  12. Kellyssewing says:

    Instead of my hand, I use a ruler. Either a regular wooden ruler or my plastic see-through 6″ wide ruler. Happy New Year!

  13. That lamp is very cute and looks so useful! I wish they shipped to the US. I will have to keep my eye out for a lamp similar to that.

  14. Wendy says:

    Thanks for the giveaway Karen! My tip would be to learn when to step away from the machine! Sewing when you are frustrated, angry, disappointed is the road to ruin – this I know to be true 🙂

  15. cherylren says:

    Tuck a straight pin through the cover on the edge of your ironing board and run your homemade bias strips under it to get the folds in the right place for ironing. I’ve sadly misplaced my Nanna’s bias tape maker recently so this has been a great work around. Still hoping it turns up soon, though – the only material legacy of a Nanna’s who made me lovely frocks when I was a little girl.

  16. Kim says:

    Great tips! My tip is to have a bobby pin handy when sewing straps.. When you try to turn them it really helps to snip the seam allowance and then stick the bobby pin through it and use it to turn the strap!

  17. Stella says:

    I use the IKEA Jansjo LED work lamps for lighting my sewing machine and overlocker. They don’t take up much room on the table and the long stem can be bent and angled in any direction right down to the needle area and back up again when not needed, plus the bulb area is very tiny and bright. They are cheap, too, so you can have several in different parts of the sewing room. I believe you can get ones with clamp bases as well, so those would be great for attaching to shelves, etc. And no, I don’t work for the company!

  18. Jen (NY) says:

    Hmm, here’s one… acquire a stash of different interfacings. I never seem to remember to buy the stuff when I start a project and am always glad when I have a scrap enough for cuffs or a button band. Also, even if I don’t have the right one in my collection – its easier to try out different weights and types at home before going to the shop.

    • Lily says:

      Good idea! Interfacing aren’t much fun compared to fabrics and notions and I tend to forget them all the time! Thank you for this tip Jen!

  19. kathy says:

    Don’t underestimate the need for accuracy! Accuracy in cutting and sewing can make a huge difference in the finished project. Take it slow when cutting and sewing and get it right and remember to press as you go – proper pressing can make or break a garment. 😀

  20. My tip for knitting and crocheting is to invest in a yarn winder it is so so so good as you just knit and crochet away with no worries of tangles, my next tip is you can get little storage boxes from asda and they have clip on lids i put my yarn that had been wound in them and pack them tightly and it works perfectly to not worry about yarn going places, plus the lid comes in handy to put all the equipment you made need for you project, rather than digging through a bag 🙂

  21. Christina says:

    I’m new to sewing so I’m soaking up advice rather than dishing it, but the only advice that stuck with me before starting was to be okay with breaking down projects into segments instead of trying to do it all at once. I might spend a whole day just figuring out what I want to try to make, another getting my supplies, and depending on the size of the project, continue to break it down accordingly. This way, as a beginner, I don’t get overwhelmed. Thank you to all who are commenting for all the sewing advice! BTW…. change the needle after EVERY project?! Whoa! Is this the normal or are we talking huge projects? (I’ve made a bib and some bags thus far.)

    • jdiettrich says:

      I change needles after every bigger project (big bag, quilt, etc) and after every few little projects (smaller zip pouches, mini quilts, bibs, etc). A dull needle can make a big difference in the quality look of your project and needles are fairly cheap, so stock up when they are on sale (if you are in the US, get the JoAnn’s coupons. About once a quarter they run 60-70% off notions. You can also use the coupon online.)

  22. Jenna says:

    I have at least 3 different scissors in my sewing box, and in order to keep my paper cutting scissors sharp (my fabric ones never so much as touch paper) I cut up a bit of foil to add an extra bit of sharpness, this allows me to cut my patterns out smoothly!

    • That sounds like something worth trying. I once read that you could cut up emery paper (lightweight sandpaper, I don’t know what your local terminology might be) to help maintain sharp edges on your scissors (obviously, however, not your fabric scissors). I tried it and was remarkably disappointed! I’m now off to give this tip a try. Thank yhou 🙂

  23. anotherstitch says:

    I love your lamp! I just discovered stretch thread for sewing with knits. I love it. I use it in the top and bottom threads and sew with a straight stitch. No more broken stitches. It’s great!

  24. Jenny says:

    Nothing special, just common sense. Take it slowly – I am more accurate if I slow down. Use your iron, it makes a lot of difference if you press, press, press. Don’t sew when you are tired. Stop. It has taken me many years to learn these rules and I am a much better sewer for it.

  25. Rachel says:

    When taping together PDF patterns (or tracing large pattern pieces), I use masking tape instead of Sellotape – it’s easier to peel off if you make a mistake when lining up the pages. Also, if you want to make alterations to your pattern, you can also easily draw on top of the tape, which is a nightmare on regular tape!

  26. Verykerryberry says:

    I guess your finger is mimicking a tailor’s clapper passing the fold! I write fabric details on the selvedge with Pigma micron pen- good for Jersey or solids and denims with no details written on and you only see the details like fabric weight and content when you buy them.

  27. G-A- says:

    I love my mini ironing board (jeannette in French, bought in a Paris thrift store). Wonderful for darts, sleeves etc.

  28. Judi in Tinton Falls says:

    When I’m sewing wool, I’ve found 2 simple tools valuable. The first is a stamp moistener, the kind with a small reservoir and a chiseled sponge top. I can moisten just the area I need, rather than use a spray or a washcloth. The second is a two foot length of closet pole that my local hardware store cut lengthwise for me. Much less expensive that professional pressing bars, but useful in pressing seams without show through.

  29. katemcivor says:

    Thank you! I have also learned the value of finger-pressing this year. I have also slowed down and made sure to complete each step.

  30. Beth says:

    i have a really nice steam iron, but getting up and ironing seams as you sew them is really time consuming – so my tip is to sew up as many pieces as possible as far as you can, then ironing all the seams in one go 🙂

  31. sarah says:

    I made a pin cushion which straps round the main part of the machine. It saves time when sewing and there’s less chance of me losing pins on the floor.

  32. onejolie says:

    Swedish tracing paper from Amazon!! One roll will last a LONG time! The paper folds and presses back out easily, making storing tracings easier.
    I put all of my patterns into big envelopes, and label them with the pattern, but also details. Is it a 6-gored skirt? A dress pattern with a boatneck? A lot of times the name or number of a pattern just doesn’t tell me what I need!

  33. Post it notes for keeping your place in patterns in between sessions-especially useful for more complicated knitting projects, but sewing ones too. You can also scribble down notes and adjustments as you work 🙂

  34. redsilvia says:

    Interface strips in seam allowance where zipper will be inserted (situational), read through pattern instructions before starting so you can modify anything stupid and don’t break out the wine and sew – bad things happen.

    Happy new year!

    • Alex says:

      Definitely agree with the interface strips, and not only for zippers, but can use instead of stabiliser tape on necklines, armholes, etc, for jersey or even woven fabric that has a tendency to stretch.

  35. Julie says:

    Doubles of the tools I use most has been a real time saver! A pair of snips, a seam ripper, a container of pins, and a seam guage at the sewing machine and a second set at the ironing board. So enjoy your blog – and photos of Miss Ella 🙂

  36. UtaC says:

    Be patient with any project you start! 🙂

  37. Shelley says:

    Putting a suction handle on my long quilters ruler has made a huge difference to my cutting out, bought from elderly assistance shop on ebay for £3. Also new rotary cutter, old one was a budget purchase, you really get what you pay for when it comes to cutting tools. My other recent find is the pilot range of Frixion pens, I have always struggled to find accurate marking instruments, love these pens instead of using the little rubber on the end you can just iron the markings and they disappear, so much better than the disappearing ink pens (the markings always disappear too fast or need washing out). I have found that the red and green also show up sufficiently on dark fabric too. Love wonder tape for hems too.

  38. Alex says:

    First tip: One of the first things my sewing teacher taught me was to store the patterns in clear freezer bags and fold the pieces with the number up, to be able to recognise them easily net time. I also use Magic Tape (not selotape) for any alterations on the pattern, it comes off easier if need be, and you can write on top.

    Second tip: Use sharp embroidery scissors, not a seam ripper to open seams and this technique: snip the thread on both the right and wrong side, then unravel until you have enough to pull at. Then pull sharply on either side until it snaps. Then turn on the opposite side and do the same until it snaps. And repeat until you’re done. When you reach the backstitched stitches at the end, use your sharp scissors to snip them. This way, you do not have to pick the tiny threads that are left from the seam ripper and you do not run the risk of accidentally piercing through your fabric. Plus it’s really quick.

    Third tip: A very useful tool turned out to be the chalk sharpener. It’s very cheap and helps keeping your chalks nice and sharp for precise marking.

  39. Tereza says:

    My tip is one I learned recently: buy plain unbleached cotton or inexpensive white jersey whenever it is on sale then you always have something to make a muslin out of when the mood to try a new pattern strikes. That way you aren’t tempted to cut into fashion fabric because you don’t want to run to the store or wait =)

  40. Barmy Beetroot says:

    I’d have to say that my son’s toy trains do make the most excellent pattern weights. I also love my prim tube turner, for turning thin straps the right way out.

  41. Happy Hermit says:

    As someone new to wearing glasses … Put them on!!

  42. Corey :) says:

    I feel like I’m almost too new to give a tip, but for me, buying the best sewing machine I could afford (after reading a lot of reviews and trying them out at the store) from a local shop made my life so much easier. I replaced one I had bought on sale from Amazon and it made a huge difference in my sewing.

  43. Ann says:

    My best advice is to read through the entire pattern at least once before you do anything else. I make a note of areas I may find difficult and do the appropriate research to figure those out, then I make a list of all the materials I need and go shopping in my stash before I head out to the store. This saves me a ton of time in frustration when I start my project.

  44. Clare says:

    The iron and ironing board, use every time you sew anything. Be patient, and take your time!

  45. amcclure2014 says:

    My first post got lost. So briefly – a good iron and ironing board too. I found a great improvement in pressing with those alongside other pressing tools. That and keeping work organised or, like me, you might mix up or even lose pattern pieces and its no good trying to continue when frustrated!

  46. Phnip says:

    My advice would be to pay attention to why you were attracted to a sewing pattern. Was it the colour, the drape, the print? Sometimes I’ve been disappointed in a garment because I picked the wrong fabric. So choose fabric that mirrors the image on the pattern envelope and you’ll have a better chance of success.

  47. Knitlass says:

    Ooh – some great tips here.

    I think the iron is a really useful tool – and it’s important in that all important finishing stage. my general tip for knitters and sewers is to spend time finishing things off. It is tempting to start wearing things as soon as possible – but a little patience and some time on the details is important. Blocking knits before sewing up makes a HUGE difference to the finished article as does ironing seams and making sure buttons and buttonholes line up properly!

  48. penelope says:

    I have a pair of scissors with curved blades and they are just wonderful for cutting thread really close and also for unpicking …

  49. Emma says:

    Masking tape is great. It’s cheap and doesn’t leave marks behind. I lay strip on strip on strip and stick it to the flat part of my machine to use as a guide when sewing so my seam allowance is always consistent. I also use masking tape to write down what needle size/type I’ve put in the machine so that a) I don’t worry about forgetting (which I always do) and b) I don’t have to try and read the teeny tiny writing etched on the needle! I stick this masking tape on the outside edge next to the hand wheel.

  50. Hannah says:

    Read all of your pattern and instructions before starting to make it! And practice and difficult bits on scraps of similar fabric.

  51. Wow, some great tips that have pretty much everything covered. Would only add keep a load of different pressing cloths to hand, plus I always keep a plant mister full of fresh water beside me when steaming and shaping fabric as you will quickly run out of water in your iron. Also, if you are inserting boning into a boned bodice and are worried about leaving chalk marks on your fabric, insert a flat steel bone of the same width in position close up to the seam. Then use your zip foot to stitch close to the bone without breaking a needle. Works every time. Xx

  52. I have two 🙂
    Buy large sheets of tissue paper for tracing off patterns and then store in envelopes with the size etc written on!
    And own as many pairs of scissors as you can muster! I keep some by my sewing machine, my cutting table and my ironing board! I loose scissors all the time!
    Frankie
    Xxx
    Knitwitsowls@gmail.com

  53. megsewing says:

    I know this is the most annoying tip :p but making a muslin is the most helpful thing, I’m a beginner so muslins really do guide me to a much better standard then going straight into the project.

  54. Beth says:

    Measure twice, cut once!!

  55. Siobhan says:

    Thanks for the tips! I love seeing what other people use for their sewing. It’s one of those things you don’t really pick up on until you take physical sewing classes. My favourite thing right now is a wooden dowel, used for pressing seams open in narrow areas. Bust open a collar seam from the inside on a cut piece of dowel and you’ll have the flattest collar you ever sewed. Just make sure the wood isn’t ‘weepy’ or sappy (eg use oak instead of pine), otherwise you might ruin your precious WIP!

  56. Tetyana says:

    I love using the silk pins from Clover on fine or delicate fabrics. They are thinner and longer than the normal pins, so they don’t pull threads and don’t leave any holes in fabric.

  57. I use dental floss for gathering fabric. I just zig zag over it and it pulls up beautifully. I slap find cutlery really useful. When I need pattern weights I just raid the draw and use the knives to hold my patterns in place..

  58. mlm247 says:

    The best sewing advice ever is to look after your pins. Buy good pins. Keep them in a tin with a sealable lid. Add plenty of talcum powder and a small pocket knife. The talc ensures the pins will never rust and that they will always glide through the fabric. The knife is for holding, poking, winkling, and amusing. The lid makes travel simpler and keeps cats’ tails from tricky flicking.

  59. Suzanne says:

    There are some really good tips here and a few I hadn’t heard or tried. Was a mgr at a fabric store 25 yrs ago, became a Jewelers and forgot the sewing machine unless I needed to repair something. Just now, getting back it it. My healthy fabric stash of silks and cottons survived years of storage by use of moth balls in drawers and like items were stored in those plastic zippered bags (that sheet sets come in..). Can’t wait to read more and get back into this!

  60. Janet says:

    A couple of tips. Use cotton thread for basting because it is easier to remove (it will break). If you are sewing at the dining room table then use an office chair so you can adjust the height. Sitting too low is hard on your back.

  61. Fadanista says:

    Wow, there are some wonderful tips here. I also try to have two (or even three) of everything, so wherever I am in the room, I have tools to hand. My tips:
    When twin needling, make sure that the cottons come off the spools in different directions – this stops the threads from getting twirled round each other.
    If your knitting is a bit uneven, use one knitting needle one size smaller or larger than the other (depending on your tension) and this helps even it out.
    These are both tips my Mother gave me, but I’m claiming them!!

  62. Sandra says:

    Clover wonder clips are great for dealing with heavier fabrics, piping, bias binding and materials you don’t want to leave holes in… Plus they don’t prick!
    Also brightly coloured washi tape to mark the sewing allowance on the plate of the sewing machine. I used to use a magnet, but kept knocking it out of place and it wouldn’t date on plastic bobbin cover obviously! The bright (contrasting) colour helps make it more visible than painters tape for me.
    Love your blog by the way! Creativity IS contagious 😉

  63. Clover wonder clips are great for dealing with heavier fabrics, piping, bias binding and materials you don’t want to leave holes in… Plus they don’t prick!
    Also brightly coloured washi tape to mark the sewing allowance on the plate of the sewing machine. I used to use a magnet, but kept knocking it out of place and it wouldn’t date on plastic bobbin cover obviously! The bright (contrasting) colour helps make it more visible than painters tape for me.
    Love your blog by the way! Creativitity IS contagious 😉

  64. Katie M says:

    I always sew with a pair of thread snips hanging on a ribbon around my neck. That way I’m never hunting for scissors, or tempted to bite my threads.

    I also think it’s perfectly OK to spend ages musing on a project before you get started. I made a dress about six months ago that just didn’t look right. I spent ages looking at it, considering how I could remake it, and then finally inspiration struck. The remake took me a while to do perfectly, but I absolutely LOVE the finished dress. I just had to give myself time to sift all the ideas into one perfect dress.

  65. Katie M says:

    Oh, and make sure you visit IKEA after Christmas and stock up on rolls of brown kraft wrapping paper. I use it for pattern drafting. It’s especially good because it has subtle stripes down the length of it. Last Christmas I bought 10 rolls at 9p each!

  66. Shelley c says:

    Everyone has so many good tips! I hope I’m not repeating anyone. I keep a binder of all my sewing projects ( past a certain point) with the type of fabric if known, and the tension I used, with a little scrap with a seam down the center. This is organized by fabric type, and it saves time when I’m starting a new project and can’t remember the setting for a crepe de chine in silk, or what have you. very handy, although it is getting a bit full!

  67. Tina C. says:

    Flat surfaces that aren’t the floor are your friend AND a huge life saver when it comes to preserving one’s back! I find that something kitchen table height works wonders…

  68. auntychacha says:

    My favourite is to use a toast rack to hold fiddly little projects such as small toys I may choose to make after breakfast. Previous toast resident removed of course.

  69. I like the pin my fabric down on to a towel or ironing board when trying to cut a really straight line. I don’t know why, but it’s something I really struggle with and it’s made a lot easier by having the fabric held taught.

  70. emily says:

    I plug my lamp and my iron into the same power strip, so I have a really good visual, and easy way, to turn everything off

  71. Natasha Tung says:

    I have been using wonder tape on hems when I’m doing knits. The one I get sticks down really well, and you can sew through it as it doesn’t gum up the needle.

  72. Sarah says:

    Wow, some of these tools are really clever! Mine isn’t, really, it’s just, Don’t Worry, and Have FUN, and keep trying new things.

  73. Stephanie says:

    When pinning fabric together, put a pin straight down between the 2 pieces of fabric holding the pin completely straight. Then pin the fabric together in your usual method.
    This will eliminate any shifting between the two pieces of fabric.

    (hard to put this in words but I usually have the pin between my fingers whilst holding the fabric taut)

  74. deadlycraft says:

    Chopsticks for point turners. They are actually better than the bamboo point turner I have which is too pointy and will rip out to the other side if am not super gentle…

  75. fabrictragic says:

    Always hand baste in the second side of a zip. Before pinning it close the zip, mark on the zip any spots where it must match up with some chalk eg waist band seam, neckline etc. then pin, starting at those chalk points. Then take 2 minutes to hand baste it in before sewing. Guarantees it won’t creep up or down. Also glue sticks are great for basting knit seams before sewing and can reduce channelling with a twin needle.

  76. sewsable says:

    Put a sticky velcro dot on your machine and the other side of the dot on your mini-ruler so you can always find it when you need it!

  77. susan says:

    I am new to sewing, so the only tip I can give is not to rush or sew when tired and to read all of the pattern stages through before you start so that you have a clear idea of what you are doing.

  78. Lily says:

    Thank you for the finger pressing tip, I tested it on a small project and it does make a difference!
    I am fairly new to sewing but it was a small revolution for me when I invested in French curves to trace my patterns! No more dubious curves, yay!

  79. Mags says:

    Not much else to say. My clapper has been my best investment this year, such a difference on wool, but my other much used item is my Taylor’s ham. I use it all the time when pressing, it makes such a difference on darts and any curved seams! What a great list of tips.

  80. Jennifer says:

    I use little sticky dots from the newsagent. I use them to mark the right side of the fabric when it’s hard to tell. I can also write a small code on them to differentiate between pattern pieces that are very similar shape. These have definitely saved me heaps of time!

  81. Ann says:

    What a fantastic amount of really good tips. As i only have a small amount of sewing room and storage i use tins of beans etc out of the food cupboard to hold my patterns down when cutting out. It works well for me.

  82. happysewer says:

    When cutting buttonholes put a pin at 90 degrees in the middle of the buttonhole. Use a seam ripper and slit from each end towards the middle. The pin will stop you slipping and cutting a slit past the length of the stitching

  83. Hello again!
    I am now a ‘did you make that’ addict, loving your style, your common sense and your attitude (Oh how I do so love a bit of attitude dont you?) and just loved that comment about the ‘selfie stick’ the other day.
    Ok Back to my tip I love my new pegboard, makes tidying up so easy! (the old man made me two!)
    bestest
    Daisy J

  84. CarmencitaB says:

    I use a wooden spoon handle so often for pressing that I have one, bamboo, with my pressing tools at all times.

  85. Marie F. says:

    I use large envelops to store back my pattern (traced or not), it save me the frustration of having to fold them back into their original envelops, and the pattern have less folds to press when I want to re-use it.

  86. Susie says:

    I need to remember to read the directions all the way through before I begin, even after sewing for almost 50 years, I still think I know what I’m doing….and that’s not always true!

  87. Lynn says:

    I keep a small folded up slip of white paper in a dish next to my sewing machine. I hold it behind the machine needle when threading and it makes seeing the eye and threading so much easier! This is a tip for over40 eyes, ha ha

  88. Terzi Begum says:

    I just say don’t underestimate the power of hand stitching! You don’t need to sew all the parts of the garment with your machine. Sometimes it is really easier and cleanier to use hand stitching! And it keeps your sanity 🙂 Don’t be stubborn like me 😀

  89. Karen says:

    As a newb sewist I thank everyone for so many great tips. My tip right now with it being -0 outside is let your cat be a lap warmer while you sew,plus if I get frustrated, petting and snuggling for a few moments makes things calmer.

  90. diane beavers says:

    Use a walking foot on your machine to sew everything. It’s the best for keeping seams aligned, evened up when you get to the end of your garment, and over all keeps pieces from slipping.
    I only used the walking foot for quilting multiple layers and then a light bulb went on…it keeps any fabric from slipping. Thank you for the giveaway and the opportunity to share tips. I’m totally enjoying everyone above and absorbed some already and tried ’em:)

  91. Katie R says:

    I cut all my silk between sheets of paper, no slipping or frayed edges!

  92. Kristen Bradley says:

    I use masking tape to extend the length to follow for seam allowances. I’ve found this invaluable as a beginner to sew in a straight line.

  93. sian hallewell says:

    My sewing scissors are very precious, they are kept stored safely away and at one time even had a lable on saying do not use. Many people don’t realise that cutting paper is really bad for scissors, so these are for material only and while they cost a lot many, many years ago they are still as good as new. So my tip is to be equally as precious with any quality scissors you buy and you will get your moneys worth many times over

  94. dinglebobbins says:

    Get a “Little Wooden Iron” It’s under 5 dollars, and great for the quick “Finger Pressed” effect without getting up to go to your iron. For non stretch fabrics like quilt-weight cotton.

  95. amy says:

    break it down and take it slowly

  96. Julie says:

    I always try to sew off on to a scrap of fabric. It saves thread and time. Thanks

  97. Dawn Jones says:

    I am a beginner so I don’t have much to offer other than take your time and measure three or four times before you cut. Have a great day!

  98. Ros K says:

    If you are busy with work and family life and/or feel like you haven’t enough time to sew bigger projects, sew ‘little and often’ even if you only have 20mins to spare.

  99. Clare Bluett says:

    It may sound cheesy but have fun, don’t take it too seriously and enjoy yourself.

  100. Hersom says:

    Sewing (and cutting the fabric) has become so much easier after I got myself some weights to place upon the pattern when cutting!
    hersom@mil.dk

  101. sarah birkett says:

    As a relative newby I am enjoying all of these tips. I find I always work better with a cup of tea, and allow extra time

  102. Kate Deakin says:

    I’ve crossstiched for years but having a frame has actually made the world of difference to the finished product.

  103. susew says:

    Save the strap rings from old bras! They work as stitch markers and I once used them to make dorset buttons.

  104. Lynn Marsh says:

    Love these tips! Mine would be to stick up the instructions of the pattern you’re using on the wall in front of you as you work, so you can see at a glance where you should be. I use a bulletin board.

  105. Wendy R. says:

    I don’t know that I have any tips of my own to add… but my mom has a friend who taught her children to put all the clipped threads from seams while sewing into their mouths so they wouldn’t end up floating all over on the floor. I always thought that was a gross tip! lol

  106. LadyxBec says:

    Washable textas (markers in American) to draw darts/seamlines/notches etc. They tend to last longer and be cheaper than the ones designed for fabric use, but wash out just as easily as they’re made for messy littlies 🙂

  107. Alison says:

    Hmm, let’s see: I use a sharpie to mark the seam allowance line on the machine bed (it can be removed with a cotton bud dipped in surgical spirit); if your machine has a horizontal bobbin load it with the thread coming off the left like the letter “p”, if it has a vertical bobbin in a case, it should come off the right like a “q”; trace kids patterns, otherwise you’ll have to buy another copy everytime they grow!

  108. Sassy Lass says:

    This is a tip I picked up somewhere along the line. If you prewash your fabric be sure to attach a safety pin to it once it’s folded and put away in your stash. That way you won’t have to wonder if your fabric had been washed and ready to go.

  109. cath smithston says:

    I am a beginner and the best advice I have picked up so far…and which I keep reminding myself of is that it’s ok to be bad! I’ve been picking up all these bits of beautiful fabrics (not expensive, just nice designs) and you can freeze yourself by worrying that you will ruin it once you start cutting into it and make your ham fisted attempts at sewing! Everyone starts out bad and that’s ok, learn by doing. Plus there’s always a seam ripper…my favourite bit of kit!

  110. Debra E says:

    My tip would be to take your time when starting a project and pre-wash any fabric you are going to use. It might seem unecessary with new fabric, but it could have avoided a few disasters for me in the past.

  111. Grace says:

    I love my clapper… My wood version of your fingers only more burn proof 🙂 it didn’t cost much but the crisp folds are brilliant for hems, seams and collars. I also use it to iron the “permanent” creases back in to my RTW pants that have seen one wash too many.

    Mmm, a tip. I’ve marked all my seam allowances on a couple of pieces of washi tape and stuck that to my machine in front of and behind the needle. No eyeing a line for me anymore!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  112. Cathleen says:

    I’m a beginning sewer. My best friend is a seam ripper.

  113. helen says:

    There are some great tips to read!
    I have one sewing…
    Clover double pointed pins, these are great, they look like an elongated staple. The seriously keep your seam in place when sewing. No shifting around. I use when having to match seam lines like at a horizontal waist seam on a dress or the underarm point on sleeves when I’m sewing from cuff to body hem.
    And one knitting…
    I remember back when I used to knit a lot as a teen I’d use an empty square tissue box to keep my ball of wool in whilst knitting. It stopped it unraveling to much and away from the cats who wanted to play with it.

  114. Janie says:

    Something I have found useful is keeping the 1/4 seam allowance consistent in quilting. Thanks.

  115. My Tip: use a block magnet on your footplate so that your seams are always the same width. Put it on the right hand side of the needle and run your fabric up against it. I know there is a mesuring line there but a block of something makes you extra careful.

    I have enjoyed reading the other tips. Jo x

  116. Cécile says:

    To fasten/hide an overlock’s threads, rather than loosing time with a standard needle, I use a knitting machine needle. It works like a crochet, but it’s smaller (you can slip it easily between other threads) and the hook closes (so you don’t loose threads in the exercise).

    And I couldn’t do without my index finger’s nail. To open a seam, grab something small (a thread, a pin, etc), to make a crease to mark the middle of a piece, …

  117. sewchet says:

    Don’t throw away used machine needles – keep them in a separate tin and use them when sewing onto paper/card. They’re too blunt for sewing fabric but are perfect for free machine sewing greetings cards.

  118. Debbie says:

    My tip is to use an old prescription bottle to discard used machine/hand sewing needles. Just make a small hole in the lid then drop the needles in as they are used up. Also, in addition to never sewing when angry, etc. you also should not sew when you are tired – that’s when I find I an “unsewing” frequently. Thanks for this opportunity.

  119. Lety says:

    My tip is to relax and not take things so seriously. Sewing, knitting, needle crafts are not life or death situations (hopefully!) Worst thing that happens is a failed project and a lesson learned–not too bad!

  120. Luus says:

    When too lazy to baste seams in pants, use safety pins and not straight pins… I learned that the painful way.

  121. Amanda says:

    I inherited my husband’s grandmother’s sewing stash when she passed last year.her Dritz sewing gauges and magnetic pin holder have been amazing tools. Also, I can’t do without my bamboo turner!

  122. karen shaw-jones (wannabsewing) says:

    oh so many wonderful tips and the only thing I can add is the one biggest tip for me –
    the online sewing/crafting community is the biggest resource with all the helpful friendly tips & reassurances, a great font of knowledge and one i can turn to for help, advice and support. You are all AMAZING, thankyou

  123. I have a collection of pebbles I use as weights. My bf gave me a conductors baton which I use for poking out corners. When I say gave I mean I pinched.

  124. duchick says:

    I love to sew and “collect” fabric. My best tip for storing fabrics are to organize them by color families. It makes it so much easier to find what you’re looking for and to coordinate fabrics when you have them categorized this way…at least for me!

  125. Cyndy Knapp says:

    My favorite knitting tip is to use small rubber bands found in the hair accessory aisle for stitch markers. They slide from one needle to the next very easily. I have some in all my knitting bags.

  126. Meenakshee says:

    My tip is to prepare the fabric before cutting out! I started sewing recently and didn’t think it was a big deal, so I skipped it. The skirt of the dress hung weirdly, although it looked “fine” otherwise. Definitely worth the extra few mins to get the layout right first, might make a world of difference on some projects.

  127. cclc1976 says:

    I love all these tips, I’m soaking them up! One thing I have done to help organise my fabric stash: I bought 4 sheets of foam core board (from the hardware section in my local diy store where I happen to work!) to make my own fabric bolts, cut them up to my own measurements (ie, to fit my storage boxes). I now get an inordinate amount of pleasure looking through my stash as everything has been stored in rainbow order! And I don’t have to pull everything out to find the colour I need/want. It took a bit of work but was well worth doing to feel organised and in charge of my stash, I can’t give it up!

  128. Alexandra says:

    I love all these tips! Fantastic advice. One of my tips for organising your fabric stash is this: I bought 4 foam core boards (from the hardware section of my local diy store where I happen to work) and cut roughly 12 pieces from each one to make mini fabric bolts. I could cut them to my own specs to fit in my storage boxes. I now get an inordinate amount of pleasure from looking through my fabric stash as it is now arranged in rainbow order! I can’t give the stash up! So this was well worth doing even though it took a little bit of work, because now it is organised and tidy and extremely accessible. Love the neckline on your jumper xxx

  129. Kimmy Rocket says:

    I always trace pattern pieces onto Swedish tracing paper, which is much more resilient to tearing. It’s also sewable, so can act as a muslin, but I prefer to keep the pieces pristine to minimise the amount of work needed to re-use the pattern next time – tracing patterns is my least favourite thing! Using this method, I can reduce the amount of time my expensive, original tissue patterns spend out of their ivory tower.

  130. Laura says:

    Wow great tips here!
    I can sometimes go for ages between bouts of knitting so, to ensure I don’t forget what I’m doing, I make notes on a scrap paper and safety pin it to the project. Even if I mislay the pattern I’ll still see where I was. Also – a good substitute for knitting markers is brightly coloured embroidery thread. Doesn’t get snagged ever on the work and nice and soft to handle.
    As for sewing, I’m a beginner. But I try not to be afraid of any technique . Youtube is an invaluable resource for anything you want to know.

  131. I had a revelation when I started using a wood block for pressing. I couldn’t believe how just putting a piece of wood on a freshly pressed seam would make any difference, but whoa was I wrong! I always use this now, in sewing and in just regular ironing, and my seams look crisp and lovely 🙂

  132. Ute says:

    I am too much of a novice to give any sewing tips, but I discovered collarless safety pins by Merchant & Mills last year, which make lovely and very handy stitch markers (even when you’re knitting with very thin yarn). I also use them to mark points in the fabric where I decreased/increased or where anything else exciting happened … That way I don’t need to write down lenghty notes whilst knitting. Until recently I never knew that collarless safety pins even existed, but I have come to love them with a vengeance!

  133. Sheree says:

    My tip is similar to the one given by Alexandra. Ikea sell a very thin chopping board. It comes in a pack of two for about £1. Long time since I bought them, so maybe more expensive now. These fit a plastic crate I have, perfectly. I wrap each piece of fabric around a board and stack in the crate. The crate is then kept on a shelf (behind doors). I can pull it out and see all my fabrics at a glance.

  134. Well, I am relatively new to sewing but I just finished my first coat and I feel like a million bucks! So here is my tip: use your feet! And I mean your sewing machine feet. I bought a set of different feet for my machine (invisible zipper, roller foot, straight stitch, edge stitch) and I cannot believe the huge difference they made. For example: I use the roller foot for thicker fabrics that my machine cannot hadle too well on its own and the straight stitch foot for very thin and slippery fabrics that were impossible to sew before. Also, keep your ironing board close by!

  135. Cat ^..^ says:

    My tip is to make sure you write notes on the pattern of any adjustments you have made or would like to make next time. I always think I will remember but have often found myself solving the same problem twice.
    I also listen to audiobooks when I sew which is my idea of heaven. Often I will wear a dress and the story will come floating back!

  136. Wee Fi says:

    Three things that I find makes a big difference to my finished project are – my over locker, Taylor’s ham (and iron) and bias binding. I’ve just finished my latest frock with bias binding on the hem, it’s a gorgeous finish!

  137. I force myself to read patterns and instructions from start to finish before I start a project so I know ahead of time what I am getting into!

  138. sissiri says:

    I’ve become completely addicted to using a French curve/quilting ruler and rotary cutter and mat for nearly all my projects. I prefer using patterns without seam allowances (lots of Burda here) because it makes them easier to alter and with the help of the ruler it is really easy to add seam allowances as you cut.
    I also leave scissors lying about the room (no kids or pets!) so I won’t have to reach far for one when I’m moving from the sewing machine, to the floor, to the ironing board, and back. 🙂

  139. Geo P says:

    I put the skeins on my bent knees to wind them into balls and make small loops out of contrasting yarn to use as markers. I did use safety pins before, like another commenter said, but they are quite rigid and it’s not easy to knit the stitches next to them.
    Sewing wise – my huge cutting mat (A0) makes fabric cutting so much easier. I bought one off ebay, no name, less than £20 shipping included.

  140. Natalie Crossan says:

    The only tip my Mum ever gave me was to be completely focused on it and hum a tune (it increases your productivity aparently!)

  141. Virginia says:

    Well it’s a cliche, but seam rippers are incredibly useful unfortunately! And inherited embroidery thread to use for tailor’s tacks is such a fast and easy way to do them, got that tip from Craftsy’s Shirt class by Pam Howard.

  142. Samantha says:

    It’s more of an organizational tip than a sewing tip but I’ve found that writing on the pattern envelope whatever size and view I’ve cut it out and any alterations I’ve made really helps with saving time and nerves when going back to patterns. Also, I try to transfer any alterations I do back onto the original pattern pieces so they’re there the next time. Also, I find having more than one pair of good scissors, especially one with short blades (but regular size handles) and another with long blades is really useful for tricky cutting places.

  143. ripper says:

    Oo, great tips here! Was just reminded how useful the Ravelry community is – when stuck with a tricky pattern, there are other people’s notes, blog lunks, chat.

  144. Rachel Meddoms says:

    Thank you, for the fab tips. Last year I bought some really slippery fabric for a blouse. The first lot I scrapped because it frayed, moved out of shape as I cut and got caught in the sewing machine. A friend suggested soaking the fabric in plain gelatin which has been dissolved in water ( 4 thin small sheets for 1litre of water), use a towel to pat dry, dry flat or over hang straight, it drys to feel like grease proof paper, iron between two it’s of cotton to stop sticking. You are then ready to cut without any slipping or fraying. The machine sewed the fabric like a dream. I doubled folded the hem, then ironed before sewing. Once complete wash out to return fabric to the slippy lovelyness. I love my new blouse and I am fearless about slippy fabric.

  145. Caroline says:

    A good light! I have one similar to yours from IKea.

  146. buntyw says:

    My best purchase in recent years has been a daylight lamp, especially useful at this time of year!

  147. Sarah says:

    I wonder if finger pressing is a bit like using a clapper to hold the fabric down? But quicker.
    I have a couple of tips:
    1. Very bright daylight balanced bulbs. Daylight balance means they give a more blue-coloured light than your normal bulb, more akin to daylight – so you can see your colours better. Mine was bought by my boyfriend for working on his car but was sold as equipment for hydroponic cultivation of medicinal herbs…
    2. If you take over another household table to cut like I do it can be really helpful to keep your pattern, scissors, chalk, pincushion etc on a tray. That way you can scoop them up & get them out of the way at short notice, or if you don’t have time to do it then someone else can move it all without losing bits!

  148. Janie Shuey says:

    Wow, lots of amazing tips here. I recently took my scissors to a knife sharpening shop and would recommend this. The woman who owns the shop recommended buying high quality scissors and keeping them sharp.
    Janie

  149. Always make a swatch when knitting and don’t underestimate the value of blocking your finished work. Sewing is measure twice; cut once. That tip saves me every time.

  150. marina mcpherson says:

    I read as many sewing and craft blogs as I can. You will learn something everyday. While mentioning that Karen have you heard of the very tragic death of Vanessa Cabban “doyoumindifiknit” so sad.

  151. Janome says:

    Match your project to your mood. I spent too long sewing complicated things on evenings when I needed a quick fix or making things I knew would work in my wardrobe when I actually needed to learn something. It’s more about the process, than the product. Armed with this hard-earned, totally obvious nugget of common sense, I now enjoy all my sewing. Ditto for matching your project to your level of patience, blood alcohol.

  152. Randi Cook says:

    keep a magnifying lens or young person near by to aid with the threading of the needle!

  153. Sarah Oswald says:

    Anything that I make I go through the materials list and make sure I have all things needed so I dont have to stop what I am doing and search for items that I need because I have them all together.
    sally0630@frontiernet.net

  154. Pingback: Blog Writing Tips 2 – The Art Of Conversation | Did You Make That?

  155. Anne-Marie says:

    A bit late to comment but here goes: I recently bought a folding baby dressing table in a second hand shop, and a sheet of MDF board 1000×1600 in the hardware shop. Painted it, added two strips of wood on one side to hold it in place on top of the dressing table and voila, the perfect height work table for tracing patterns and cutting out fabric. Anne-Marie

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