Introduction:When I teach new people to sew, there are a few tips and tricks I share to help them feel more confident and in control of their stitching. I thought I'd post them on the blog today - depending on how long you've been sewing, these tips might induce an "oh wow!" or a "duh, obvs!", but even if you are an experienced stitches there may be one or two useful reminders here for when you need to sew something with an extra dose of precision. I'm generally pretty chillaxed about sewing personally, but sometimes it's good to take a bit of extra time and care!
There some cases when sewing with single stitches is almost crucial for a very clean and accurate job, like when you start your stitch, when you go in difficult corners or when you move from a thin surface to a thick one. In these situations going on with the pedal foot might damage the fabric or break the needle and that is why it is strongly suggested that you use the hand wheeler. Some machines have a needle up or down button which works the same way: press it once and the needle goes down, press it again and it will go up. You need to do this slowly and carefully.
As you probably know, the seam allowance guide lines on the needle plate tell you how far you're stitching from the edge of the fabric - keep the edge of the fabric lined up with these guides to sew with a consistent seam allowance. If you find these lines difficult to see - or if you are using an old machine that doesn't have them at all - highlight your most used line (usually 15mm / 5/8in) with a strip of tape or a coloured label. Looks pretty too!
Sometimes you won't be able to use the seam allowance guides to help you sew accurately. If you are under stitching a facing to the seam allowance, for example, you want to sew a line a couple of mm away from - and parallel to - a seam line. In this case, you can use the seam line itself as a guide. Many sewing machines have a stitch setting which shifts the needle 2-3mm to the left (it's often the second stitch option after the regular straight stitch); other machines allow you to shift the needle either left or right by various increments. With your needle shifted to one side, line up the seam line with the central groove of your presser foot. Keep it aligned like this as you sew, and you should end up with a nice, accurate stitching line exactly parallel to the seam line. Lovely stuff!
If you're sewing slippery fabric, or if you're sewing together two or more pieces of fabric that don't lie flat on top of one another - for example, if you're sewing a gathered piece to a non-gathered piece - then using lots of pins will help you get a neat result. Sometimes, however, lots of pins can have the opposite effect - use too many pins, and they will stop the pieces lying flat against each other. So for basic assembly, keep the number of pins to the minimum you need to hold the pieces in place. A related tip is to pin perpendicular to the edge with the pin heads sticking out so they don't distort the fabric.
This might sound like cheating, but if you are preparing to sew a corner, or perhaps an even more complex shape such as scallops, try drawing the stitching line onto the wrong side of the fabric (or interfacing) to help you see where exactly you need to pivot or turn your stitching. On the collar piece in the photo above, I've drawn the stitching line of the corner on the point where need to pivot, 15mm (5/8in) from each edge. Remember to use a chalk pencil or washable pen so the marking comes out afterwards!
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