Bother or Don’t Bother? Some Sewing Tips

Inspiration from What Katie Sews has struck me twice lately…inspiration to sew up the terrifying-yet-chic clown suit, and also inspiration to ponder the sewing techniques and tools that are worth it or not after reading Katie’s Lazy Sewist Tips. Here are a handful of my own thoughts on what to bother with and not bother with. You’re sure to agree with some and disagree with others…let me know what you think!

Bother: Having a wrist-band pincushion
With your pins attached to your arm, you can never lose them somewhere in the chaos of your sewing area! Like faithful minions, they follow you wherever you go. (Which makes me think I should probably also get idiot strings for my reading glasses, because I seem to spend a good chunk of my sewing time looking around for where I left them last.) And as you sew you just remove pins from your seam and stick them back in the pincushion — no pins rolling off the table and hiding themselves in the carpet. But a word to the wise: when you begin a seam, check to make sure your pincushion is indeed on your wrist! More than once I almost did some unwanted amateur acupuncture on myself.

wrist_pincushion2

Don’t Bother: Pinning pattern pieces for cutting out
I bought 10 of these metal discs from the hardware store’s electrical section for about a dollar a piece and they’re all I use now to hold my pattern pieces in place on the fabric when I’m cutting out. Especially if you print out PDF patterns at home on regular paper, trying to pin that thick paper is sure to distort your fabric, not to mention your patience. Pattern weights for the win!

Using round electrical cover plates as pattern weights

patternweights2

Bother: Owning a serger
Not everyone will agree with me on this, as of course you can sew anything you want quite well without a serger, but I absolutely adore having one. I wasn’t convinced I needed one at first, but when a sewing studio was going out of business and selling some used ones at a good price, I figured it was worth snapping one up. It turns out I find sewing with a serger really satisfying, and I wouldn’t want to do without it. (Why do I get the sense that now that I’ve put that out there to the universe something will go horribly wrong with it on my next project??) Anyway, I sew a lot of knits so it’s very handy for doing stretchy seams, and I like finishing woven seam allowances with it.

Don’t Bother: Measuring seam allowances for patterns that don’t include them
Need to add a 5/8″ seam allowance around your pattern pieces? Eyeball it. It’s fine. If there’s one thing you get to know really well as a sewist it’s how wide 5/8ths of an inch is.

Bother: Having a high-quality pair of scissors that feel great in your hand
Enough said, amirite?
Related: having a high-quality seam ripper. ‘Cause if you’re like me you spend waaaaay more time using your seam ripper than you care to admit. 😉
Also related: having more than one high-quality seam ripper. Because no one’s invented a seam ripper wrist band yet.

Don’t Bother: Plowing ahead when you are tired, hangry, in need of a cup of tea, having a hard time with a procedure, and/or feeling like Sewzilla is about to pay a visit for any of the forgoing reasons
Don’t cave in to that voice in your head that says, “But you only have two seams and a zipper left to sew…just get it done!” I have learned that I will regret heeding that voice’s advice. That voice is Sewzilla’s auntie, and only has Sewzilla’s best interests in mind. Sewzilla always shows up if I heed that voice. And then I have to spend extra time with my high-quality seam ripper.

Sewzilla

This is Sewzilla. My husband hates it when she shows up. (Image cleverly doctored by Henry Warwick)

Bother: Pre-washing fabric
As someone who craves instant gratification there have been times when I’ve cut into fabric the moment I get it home from the store, but I have learned to throw it straight into the washing machine the moment I get home instead. I have seen fabrics that bleed like crazy so I’ve also learned to wash the fabric by itself (or maybe with some crummy old cat blanket) to spare myself the pain of accidentally dyeing my clothes an unwanted colour. I should note that sometimes I don’t pre-wash ponte knit. Because ponte knit is such a fabric-of-the-gods that it doesn’t even need pre-washing.

Don’t Bother: Trying to sew everything perfectly
I marvel at blog posts that depict close-up detail shots of sewing perfection. (You know, the ones that are often accompanied by an apology that there’s some small thing wrong with it: a slightly crooked top-stitch, or a seam binding that doesn’t quite line up properly at the corner, or some wrinkles in the fabric. Something you probably wouldn’t have noticed yourself if it hadn’t been pointed out to you.)  At first when I came across sewing blog posts like these, I figured this was probably the bar I was supposed to try to measure up to if I was going to be part of this sewing blogger community. But I quickly realized perfection is not my bag. Sweating details like that sucks the joy out of sewing for me. I do understand that for some sewists, striving for mastery of the skills is part of their joy, and I respect that. But if the cost of perfection is frustration and less joy, stop worrying about the imperfect details.

What about you? Does anything on this list resonate with you? What’s on your Bother and Don’t Bother lists?

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16 thoughts on “Bother or Don’t Bother? Some Sewing Tips

  1. I agree with all your points, except the expensive stitch ripper. In my opinion, it only needs to be sharp…cheap and new, and many of them work for me. Here there everywhere is a stitch ripper.
    I’m striving for perfection, … It is part of my fun. I usually am disappointed with whatever I in perfect thing I have made, but then I seem to slowly get over it as I start another project. I have excepted this is how I will feel ..disappointment, but future perfection, hopefully, fingers crossed. Happy thoughts about that.
    Lori…could you help me with a beginners knitting issue. What does…knit even for three rows mean? It’s in the yoke of a baby cardigan ..there is instructions “next row” where you end up decreasing 8 sets. Then it says ” work even for three rows”
    Do I do three rows of the instructions with the 8 deducted stitches,
    Or…3 rows of the garter stitch I’ve been doing as the main stitch for the pattern .
    On my own…I ended up with twice as many stitches as I should have..before the collar goes on. I have unwound the whole things, starting again. If you can help – thanks Joyce

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    • Hi Joyce! Agreed about the seam-ripper – high quality doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, but it definitely means sharp. Trying to rip out stitches with a dull blade is purgatory.
      Work 3 rows even means to continue on in the garter stitch (or whatever stitch has already been established) without doing any decreases or anything. Think of it as the mindless break in between more complicated rows. Nothing to do but knit! Only do the decreases on the rows where the pattern explicitly instructs you to do them. Hope this makes sense. Happy knitting!

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  2. Using pattern weights instead of pins is the greatest pleasure and time-saver, when paired with a rotary cutter. Unfortunately, rotary cutters required expensive blades. I’ve yet to find an effective blade sharpener.

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    • I hear you, Carol! I actually use scissors with pattern weights, even though it’s a bit tricky. Those rotary blades are expensive. And with bigger pattern pieces I find shifting the cutting mat around underneath is just as tricky anyway.

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  3. I love this. I agree with all points and appreciate that you like your serger for the same reasons. I thought it was a bit frivolous because I didn’t play with its stitches, but I still find it useful. I love sewzilla, my husband new exactly wha tI was talking about.

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  4. Yes, good scissors are a must. After years, I mean years, of trying to find the perfect scissors I came across the Kai brand. Get them. They cut like buttah! The ends can snip through five layers of denim like it was water. I kiss them every time I use them. They make cutting out a real pleasure.
    A magnetic pin holder is a good thing too. You can just fling the pins in the general direction and they are attracted…
    Yes, shrinking your fabric. I just bought some gorgeous cotton with lycra and it shrank alarmingly in both directions. I’ve never had this fabric before and maybe that’s inherent because of the lycra, I don’t know. I think I should shrink it a couple of more times before I start cutting. Usually once is enough but this shrank a shocking amount and I would hate to be surprised by the further shrinkage of a finished garment.
    Love your pattern weights. I’ll be off to the store this week to get some.
    Thanks

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  5. I pretty much agree, although I am still not 100% convinced about weights vs. pins. IF the pattern is simple or if the fabric is resistant to pins, then I’ll use weights. I still find I get more accurately cut pattern pieces if I pin, and I actually don’t mind that part of the process. I don’t wear the wrist thing though. Too sweaty. I use the ring pillow I made for my wedding as a giant pincushion. But somehow it’s always on the other side of the room!

    I also strive for near perfection, but if there’s a little oops, I don’t worry about it. Ever inspect your RTW garments’ seams and top-stitching? Definitely not perfect and no one is going to notice it unless you are taking a close-up for a blog post. I recently read a tutorial for making shirt collars in which the author advised the seamstress to measure and re-measure along the way as the sewing proceeded and shave off 1/16″ here and there as needed to true-up. If it looks good to the casual eyeball, it’s good enough for me.

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    • I think “Casual Eyeball” would be a good alternate name for this blog, lol! Or possibly Measure Once, Cut Twice. 😉
      You’re right about the RTW stuff…having a closer look at those made me not too worried about what the inside of my garments look like.

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  6. I agree with most of what you say. I didn’t know my overlocker (30 years old) could do a rolled hem until I took it to the shop to check something and the guy showed me and fixed it up free of charge. That was 13 years ago. I have my version of perfection… that’s not perfect or couture but perfect for me. Perfect for me is dependant on how much time I have, what the garment is, I mean pj pants aren’t afforded the same time as a ball dress or good stuff…. and although I do my best at the time, stuff for my son sometimes has to be made quickly and he’ll grow out of it before he wears it out. Here they wear uniforms to school, so there isn’t much needed either. (thank heavens for uniforms!)

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