Wednesday, September 18, 2013

6 Sewing Mistakes I learned the hard way

I've been sewing for almost 3 years now, but I still consider myself a beginner in many ways. I have so much more to learn and master. But as someone who has tried various "short cuts" and done things the wrong way (so many times), I hope I can at least save someone some time and frustration by learning from my mistakes. These will come as no surprise to those more experienced, but I hope I can save someone who is just learning a great deal of frustration. I'm 90% self taught (thank you internet), and these are some great posts I wished I had come across much earlier than I did.

I've compiled a list of the 6 mistakes that I made early on that caused me the most frustration:

Mistake 1) Not using the right needle

Who knew that there was that big of a difference between a stretch needle and a denim needle?! I mean it's sharp and has a hole for thread right?! It turns out, the right needle can make or break your project. Once I learned to use a stretch needle with knits, they were so much easier to work with.

Sew Delicious has a post on choosing the right needle:

Mistake 2) Not using enough pins,  and not using the right tools to keep your fabric in place as you sew 

When I first started sewing I thought pinning was for weenies. I can totally hold the fabric as I sew, or use just a scant amount of pins, easy peasy. Well, I could hold the fabric together but not evenly and not while trying to make sure I am keeping an even hem. Also, you cannot use regular pins on satin (apparently they have special pins for use on satin...I learned this the hard way) because it can cause it to run or the holes will remain visible. When using materials like PUL or rip stop nylon, pins will also leave holes, and when using PUL for it's water resistance, holes are kind of a bad thing.

A couple great posts on pinning your fabrics:
From: Threads
When trying to go through multiple layers, I find that I cannot pin the layers without it shifting around somewhere. This is where things like wonder clips come into play. I know people love these, but so far clothespins have worked for me just as well. Clothespins are also sold at the dollar store. I dunno about you, but I'd rather save my money for fabric.

Wonder clips

Mistake 3) Cutting your pattern pieces haphazardly

I know plenty of people cut their pattern pieces with scissors successfully. I am not one of those people. I initially scoffed at the idea of buying a rotary cutter for 14.99 when I had perfectly good scissors. (see: saving money for fabrics). But let me tell you, nothing has made a bigger difference to my sewing than using a rotary cutter and self healing mat to cut out my pieces rather than scissors. This is because I was so inaccurate when cutting with scissors. I know you aren't supposed to move the actually pattern while you cut, but I guess I'm awkward because I found this virtually impossible. Also I had to use so many pins, I felt like just the process of pinning down the pieces to the fabric was frustrating.

I now use my rotary cutter, mat, and whatever I have handy for pattern weights (I start with candles and rocks from my table centerpiece and move on to silverware if I need completely bootleg but it works) and I feel that I am usually more precise in my cuts.

For those of you who aren't ready to dive into buying a cutter, mat and straight edge, Simple Simon and Company has a great article on how to properly pin and cut fabrics with scissors:

For those ready to speed up the process with a rotary cutter: 

Mistake 4) Not using the right stitch on your machine.

So, I used to think that the zig zag stitch was just for decoration. I  used one stitch and one stitch alone...that's all I thought was needed. When sewing knits, I was confused why my stitches kept popping out. It turns out, they aren't just for decoration. I know this may seem pretty obvious to most others, but it wasn't for me. When I learned why and when you would use stitches like: zig zag, stretch, overlock and why you should increase your stitch length when top stitching my life got a little easier.

Here's a great post about the different stitches and when to use them by Whipstitch

Mistake 4) Not trimming your seam allowances or pressing your seams

This seemed like such a time waster, I mean really, you don't see it anyways in such things like bags. Let me tell you, the difference in how crisply you can press an items with the bulk of the seams trimmed out is amazing. You get a lot more professional looking results when you take out the excess and press the seams as you go.

Here's a couple of great tutorials on how to properly press seams:

In her book Sew Serendipity Bags, Kay Whitt suggests rolling a towel and placing in in the hard to get seams to get the pressed cleanly and it has worked very well for bag making. 

A great way to clip curves by A Fashionable Stitch

Mistake 5) Not using the correct interfacing for your project and/or not applying the interfacing according to the manufacturers instructions.

I used to think interfacing was fairly interchangeable, and that it only took a quick press of the iron to get it on properly. I thought it just needed to be somewhat attached. 

The results: sloppy looking bags, wrinkles, and difficulty wrestling way too heavy interfacing through my machine.

Sew Sweetness has 2 great posts about interfacing:

Interfacing 101

And one specific to bag making:

Mistake 6) Not prepping your fabrics appropriately

It seems that not pre-washing your fabrics is an offense so horrific that you deserve to be put in stocks and stoned. But....

Sometimes I break this cardinal rule. 

I always, always pre-wash if its something I plan on laundering on a regular basis, like a garment. However, I rarely pre-wash fabrics I'll be using for bags or accessories. Even if I do throw these in the wash (which I have) any shrinkage hasn't been noticeable. 

However, I have learned that IS imperative to press your fabric before cutting. I used to skip this step, and wondered why sometimes I would have pieces that drastically differed from what the pattern indicated. I'm dense sometimes and didn't realize that all those wrinkles that I thought I smoothed out were making a huge difference!!

Tilly and the Buttons has a good post about prepping here:

There are so, so many more mistakes I've made but I found these 6 as the most common ones, and the ones that caused me the most headaches as I learned. I hope I can help someone from the same frustrations!!

Happy Hump Day!

No comments: