What is sewing to you? A hobby, a passion, creativity, therapy? Whatever the case may be, we all share the love of sewing and want to spend as much time sewing as we can. But unfortunately, all of us lead very busy lives and often struggle to find time to sew. In the past year, I have collected a few tips and tricks from various sources and have developed a few of mine as well. I want to share a few things with you with the hope that some of them might be of some use to you as well.
My simple rule of sewing
Since I don't have too much time to sew, and I want quick results, I generally limit my sewing projects to the ones which take not more than 2 sewing sessions. Quick tops and other coordinates which are easy to sew and yet look very professional. For this I turn to my favorite pattern company Kwik Sew (http://www.kwiksew.com). Most of the kwik sew patterns can be constructed in a matter of few hours, leaving you with a perfect garment which you can sew over and over again.
Of course as I am sewing more and more I crave for better results and new sewing techniques so every now and then I do spend some time on a difficult project which sometimes takes the whole weekend!
Before you go to the sewing machine
Time spent on sewing the garment is really nothing compared to what it takes to get to that stage. To save time I always cut out a few garments together and neatly keep the pattern pieces in a zip lock back labeled and insert the pattern envelope in there too. That way whenever I am ready to sew them, I don't have to waste time looking for the pattern and the instructions. Everything is right there in the bag.
Rotary Cutter and Rotary cutting mat: This is such a time saving tool! Cutting fabric with rotary cutter is precise and super quick!
Tube Turner: If you do a lot of tiny tubes and loops, Fasturn is the thing for you! I simply love the fact that I can quickly turn tubes inside out with this handy tool. There are other tube turners also available.
Bias tape maker, for quick bias bindings. I have never liked the store bought ones. They are stiff and dont necessarily match the fashion fabric.
Tailor's ham: for pressing darts and shaping necklines and other curved areas. I use it in almost every sewing project!
Water Soluble Stabilizer: Want quick and easy way of stabilizing something without adding bulk? It washes away with water very easily.
Fusible tapes for stabilizing curved and straight seams. This is such a time saver! No need of staystiching and doublestitching. Just fuse the tape to the stitching line even before you go to your sewing machine.
And of course my tracing wheel and chakoner chalk marker. I use them to mark pattern lines on the fabric.
There are so many notions out there that sometimes it can get very confusing as to which ones to use. It really isn't necessary to buy all of them, but some of them can really speed up your sewing! Some of my favorite notions are:
Thread: Keep a spool or two of thread in colors you normally sew with. Also wind a few bobbins in those colors.
Zippers: One or two zippers of each type in a few different colors.
Elastic: Depending on what your sewing needs are keep a few widths of elastics from 1/4" - 1 1/4" in stock.
Interfacing: Buy interfacing in increments of 3 yards and preshrink it all. Simply immerse it in a tub of hot water and let it sit there until the water is cold. I wrap it on the shower curtain rod to let it dry.
I am not much of a stasher but it's still a good idea to keep a few things on hand to save yourself an unexpected trip to the store in the middle of your project!
Sewing Machine Needles: Keep a stock of sretch and universal needles handy in all the sizes you normally sew.
Wooly Nylon: Using Wooly Nylon in the bobbin thread results in stretchy hems and necklines on knit tops. Hand wind the a few basic colors (Red, White, Black and Blue) on bobbins and keep them handy.
Steam-a-Seam: This is a double sided fusible tape and can be used to fuse hems and zippers in place before topstitching them.
Time Saving Sewing TechniquesForget the pins! On long seams like pants and side seams of tops and dresses you don't need to pin. Just put two pins one at the start and the end, start sewing the seam. As you sew, pleat the rest of the fabric and hold it between your fingers and release the pleats as you sew. While sewing inseams, remember to keep the back against the feed dogs. The Back crotch curve is slightly more on the bias and will not stretch if you do so.
Seam Allowances: Instead of using 5/8" seam allowances, alter your pattern to have only 1/4" or 3/8" seam allowances. No need to trim the extra seam allowances! Of course if you have not tried the pattern before, and are not sure of the fit, you might want to wait till you test it. When it comes to seam finishing its not necessary in garments which do not ravel or fray. Most knits do not fray.
Let the Feed Dogs do the work: When sewing tricky parts of the garments such as sleeves and princess seams (which require ease stitching) keep the piece which needs to be eased in towards the feed dog and sew them using the ease stitch method (put our finger behind the presser foot and let the fabric bunch up. Release and repeat. By using this technique you will find that in most cases a separate ease stitching on the garment piece is not required.
Sew continuous seams: Repetitive seams like shoulder seams can be sewn continuously without removing the garment from the sewing machine. Sew one shoulder seam, backstitch, lift the presser foot and insert the next shoulder seam and stitch. Remove from the sewing machine and clip between the two shoulder seams.
Press Hems and Necklines before sewing the garment. I picked up this invaluable tip from Rennie Ashby. Now just before I go to the sewing maching I mark and press the hems and necklines. It's much easier to measure and press when the garment is flat. This is such a time saver!
Use the same pattern to create different looks. Your creativity and imagination is the key here. Basic wardrobe building patterns like straight skirts, pants, turtleneck or hooded tops can be used over and over again with a few changes to the pattern. Once you have tested the pattern, don't be afraid to mix and match pieces from different patterns. For example a hooded jacket can be easily converted to a hooded pullover if you cut the front on a fold! Use pockets from different patterns to change the look. This is will save you time and money! And the final garment will always fit you because you have already tested it!
The techniques mentioned above may not seem very significant, but believe me they will speed up your sewing without sacrificing the quality of the garment sewn! Always remember, what matters most is YOU! You need to come up with your own rules and techniques which save YOU time and make YOU happy!