Six Things I Wish I Knew When I First Started Sewing

I have always been attracted to perfection.  But in all honesty it's been a love hate relationship.  At times it's prevented me from flat out being able to create anything.  And on the other hand it's motivated me to strive to learn how to create something perfectly.  Although I thoroughly enjoy the end result of a project, I only enjoy it if it's up to my standards of perfection.  So over time, I've made an effort to learn techniques and tricks to build a perfect piece of art from the ground up, block by block.  


Here are a few simple things that I wish I'd known when I first began sewing:

The Edge Stitching Foot (Adjustable)

1.   I really wish I started sewing with an edge stitching foot.  This foot sometimes has other names but basically, it guides the fabric in a straight line so your stitches stay straight and aligned with the edge of your fabric.  Some feet are not adjustable and they are also great but you might need more than one foot so that you have the option to stitch at different distances from the edge of the fabric.  

Hand Basting

2.  When I first started sewing I heard about basting but I was focused on the end result.  I couldn't wait to finish my project.  And so I avoided anything that might increase the time it took me to finish.  So a great many projects that were misaligned and seemingly irreparable, as well as a lot of precious time, was wasted.  Finally after several years of sewing I began to baste by hand.  And what a difference I noticed in my projects!  Pins just don't cut it (unless you have a sewing machine that can sew straight over them - but even then it doesn't always work).  A knowledgeable sewer insisted that if you used the running stitch and quickly moved your needle through the fabric it barely took any time at all.  I finally tried it and agree!  I am a baster now, through and through!

Bias Binding Foot

3.  Bias binding was my mortal enemy when I first began to sew.  I could never figure out how to catch both sets of stitches evenly on both sides of the binding.  Sometimes I even failed to catch the edge of the garment.  For some reason I avoided buying generic pressor feet.  I guess I thought they wouldn't work with my machine.  Eventually however, given the limited buying options for name brand feet for my sewing machine, I decided to give the generics a try.  And I was so pleasantly surprised!  The flimsy looking bias binding foot actually bound my binding perfectly!

Pattern Weights

4.  I've never quite made peace with pins.  Pretty much every time I use them I poke myself.  I also find it challenging to pin a pattern flush with the fabric without pushing the pattern off grain.  When I discovered pattern weights I never went back to pinning a pattern in place again.  Pattern weights are placed at key points around the pattern to hold it against the fabric.  


5.  Another reason to dislike pins is that like hand and machine sewing needles, pins can rip holes through the fibers of the fabric if they are the wrong point, are even slightly bent, worn or are old and dull.  Occasionally if I've had incorrect pins for the fabric I'm working with, with no other options, I've ripped holes or made runs and ruined garments out of desperation.  So the second I saw clips I new they were made for me.  I use them wherever there is a need to hold pieces of fabric together.  There are occasionally situations in which clips fall short.  For example, they can only be used on the edge of your fabric (for the most part).  

Knits are your Friend

6.  When I was a teenager I made my first sewing project by machine with my mother by my side, guiding me.  Though she had an expert understanding and my project turned out perfectly, as she taught me the meanings of terms, pattern markings, techniques and such, she insisted that knits would be my worst nightmare.  They stretch out under the pressor foot and seams pop when you're finished.  Just avoid them at all costs, she advised.  Me, having a pathological need to learn a subject inside and out, quickly became curious about broadening my horizon and exploring knit fabric.  Not to mention how great knit fabric is, how forgiving and soft to wear.  It turns out that there are just a few simple tricks and tools that will make sewing with knits on a regular sewing machine a piece of cake!

  • Walking foot: Essential
  • Zig zag, stretch or double needle stitch: Essential
  • Polyester sewing thread: Helpful, helps your seams stretch
  • Clips or ballpoint pins (if pins are your friend): One or the other is essential
  • Steam a Seam: Helpful
  • Proper sewing machine needle (Ballpoint or stretch depending on your fabric): Essential
  • A reference (Take a minute to read a little about knits. There are some great resources that could give you some simple advice beyond using these helpful tools): Helpful