Thursday, January 3, 2013
Sew Bad: 13 Sewing Habits That You Need to Break
It’s 2013. And in honor of unlucky number 13, I’ve decided to start the year with my 13 bad sewing habits that you need to break. Now.
13. Biting off more than you can chew. When I really got into sewing, I began with basic pillows that my sister Barb helped me with. They were really easy to make. I continued on with a few simple projects here and there. Then I saw embossed velvet scarves and decided to make them. Yeah. Velvet. With Satin backing. Could I have picked two more difficult fabrics to sew? I was guilty of bad habit thirteen. I was way over-confident and totally in over my head. I did figure it out and the scarves were beautiful. But I am surprised that I even stuck with sewing after making them. So learn from me: know what you can do and what you are capable of. You’ll be happier and your projects will go faster and with less frustration. Calculus comes AFTER Algebra for a reason.
12. Using the wrong needle. I never gave much thought to needles. I can’t believe I put that in writing. Needles are designed to make sewing easier. Really. Learn more about needles from Quilt Bug. And for Pete’s sake, change your needle.
11. Sewing on a machine that you constantly fight with. Sewing is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. If you constantly fight with your machine, get a new machine. I know there are lots of people out there who don’t want to invest in a hobby until they know if they like it. Buy a cheap machine and you probably won’t like sewing. Here are my suggestions for buying a new machine.
10. Using the wrong thread. Ever try to make cookies with margarine when the recipe calls for butter? The same thing goes with thread. Stop using the pretty, shiny embroidery thread for regular sewing. Read here for more information about thread.
9. Pivoting when you should back stitch. When you come to a corner, back stitch. Corners are tension points and when you pivot, you have a weak seam. Sometimes that’s fine; most of the time, it’s not. Learn more about back stitching.
8. Sewing and sewing and sewing and sewing. My point? Clean your machine. Oil your machine. Get your machine serviced.
7. Using a cheap iron. OK, some of you might defend using this bad habit. But really, invest in a good iron. It will be hotter, have better steam, and make sewing a lot easier. My friends loved the T-Fal irons that were in my studio. But I really love my gravity-feed iron. Love it. It was worth every penny. Super hot. Constant steam. Filtered water. I bought mine on eBay.
6. Using cheap scissors. Use your coupon (I use the JoAnn and Hobby Lobby apps!) and buy a pair of Gingher scissors. Then get them sharpened when they get dull. They are pricey, but you’ll have them forever. And you’ll waste less because you’re cutting will be more accurate. And use them to cut fabric and only fabric.
5. Using the wrong foot. Most machines come with a variety of feet, so why are you using only one? Take the time to learn about feet and what they can do. You’ll be surprised by how easy some sewing can be with the right foot.
4. Using the wrong stitch length and width. Bulky, thick fabric calls for longer stitches. Basting calls for longer stitches. Top-stitching calls for longer stitches. Don’t be afraid to adjust your stitch length. This goes for the width, too, when you zig-zag.
3. Using the wrong pins. Sure, the cute pins are cute,… but they are a pain to use. Pins should go into fabric like a hot knife through butter. They come in all different sizes – my favorite pins are glass head pins (they don’t melt!). They are super-fine and really sharp. What? You ask? There’s a difference? Here’s a quick lesson on pins: like needles, there are pointy (sharp) points and ballpoints (for knits – which don’t go into woven fabrics very easily). And they come in different lengths and diameters. I have a variety of pins that I keep separated. I use what the project calls for. Learn more about pins from Threads.
2. Telling yourself that you’ll remember. I was guilty of this. I would be sewing and on a deadline. I’d make a minor change in the pattern and think, “I’ll remember that.” But I don’t. So now write it all down. I keep note cards next to my machine where I write settings (stitches, stitch length, tension, etc for particular techniques). I also write all over the pattern; I draw pictures. I even take pictures. I make samples. Then I put those pattern notes and samples, along with the pattern, into a ziplock bag and store it. The next time I make it, it’s a breeze.
1. Not using the experts. I know that there are a lot of bloggers out there who can’t wait to share what they’ve made. The only problem is that they might be wrong. I thought I knew a lot about sewing until I started hanging out with a Palmer-Pletsch trained sewing instructor. Wow. And one day we were looking at a cute project online. It had a zipper. My friend said, “Cute …but she’s using an invisible zipper.” I didn’t even notice it until she pointed it out (UPDATE: the blogger was using the wrong zipper!). So if you hang out with people who know more than you, you’ll learn a lot. But be careful, just because someone has been sewing a long time doesn’t mean that they are skilled.
I've managed to break these bad habits! So do you have any bad habits that you’ve overcome?
UPDATE: I've added 14 more in honor of 2014!