Friday, June 4, 2010

The best tips every serial sewist needs to read. Brought to you by... YOU! And me. But whatever.

Pin It Okay.  So for the SMS giveaway I decided that rather just having you all leave some random comment to count for an entry, I wanted to know what you thought was the best sewing/crafting/quilting tip ever.  I have to tell you, having 514 comments (woah!) was amazing, and there were some pretty spectacular tips in those 514 comments.  I did get emails from some of you that for whatever reason, you weren't allowed to view the comments (I still don't know what was up with that).  Soooooo I've decided to do a compilation of the tips, throwing my two cents in here and there as well!  This could be really handy (and also get pretty long so I hope you've got a cold drink and a snack).

I want to start off with my favorite tip that always, always ALWAYS help me in my piecing, so here we go.

1.  Whenever you're putting your settings together for your quilts, lay it out on the floor where you have plenty of room.  Then take a picture.  The picture will help you see inconsistencies in color distribution, and will help you see blocks or pieces of blocks that may be turned the wrong way.  It will also help you to have a reference when you're sewing it all together so you don't inadvertently turn a block in the wrong direction.

2.  If you ever come across a pattern that has instructions for you to do something you've never  done before, use Google, YouTube, EHow and of course, craft blogs for articles, photos and videos.  It's a really easy teach-yourself tool.

3.  Use fork pins to align your seams.  {I've read about this, know people that do it, and have thought about trying it many times but have never actually done it}

4.  Have a magnet around to gather up dropped random pins!

5.  Use a Gypsy Gripper when rotary cutting to help keep your ruler from slipping.  {I've sold many of these in the shop, but I prefer to use the OmniGRIP rulers that are textured on the under side to help keep from slipping.  Either way is excellent!}

6.  When you start making a lot of mistakes, it's probably because you're tired and/or frustrated.  Take a break, walk away and come back to your project refreshed.  There really are days when you just weren't meant to sew.  Trust me!

7.  Keep a tub underneath the sewing table for save-worthy scraps to sort by color or size later, a trash bin next to the chair within arm's reach, and a little bowl next to the sewing machine to put threads and fabric bits.{I actually do this, and save all of my non-worthy scraps too, to make animal cushions for the animal shelter}

8.  Sew the opening shut, backstitch the ends, and then rip out the middle before turning. {Why didn't I think of that?????}

9.  Hang all of your sewing notions and tools on a peg-board, in a pocket hanger, etc. so they're all stored in the same place and you know where to find them at all times.

10.  As daunting as it seems, if you know you'll be working on a project for a while that will require a lot of stitching, go ahead and wind 4 or 5 bobbins before you start.  It's much better than having to stop what you're doing to re-wind!

11.  Thrift shops, antique stores and garage sales are all great places to find vintage remnant fabrics, sheets or clothing that can be ripped apart and made into something new.  Great way to build your stash!

12.  IRON, IRON, IRON!!!!  {I have to say that I UH-NEVER "iron", I "press", which makes a huuuuuuuge difference in quilting.  If you don't know what the difference is, please email me!  But yeah, pressing is extremely important}

13.  Even five minutes here and there adds up to a whole lot of sewing time.  You can quickly trim tails, press a couple of seams, do some measuring, etc. while water is boiling for dinner.  =]

14.  Keep a computer in your crafting room.  {This can be good and bad.  While it's convenient to have the computer there to read tutorials, print pattern pieces, and google search the best way to hand-sew a binding, it can also lead to a lot of procrastination!}

15.  Iron-on vinyl.  'Nuff said.

16.  Stick little adhesive sandpaper circles on the backs of your rotary cutting rulers to prevent them from sliding around on the fabric.  {I actually don't like doing this.  If I ever need to move my ruler just a smidge in one direction or another, those little sandpaper stickies stretch my fabric in a wonky way.  But they really work well for some people}

17.  Walking feet can make a world of difference.  They aren't just used for quilting these days, but also for machine attaching binding and sewing on jersey knits!  {Since the walking foot for my machine is in the area of $170...  I don't have one}

18.  Another tip from me, Mary Ellen's Best Press is seriously the best thing since the quarter-inch-foot.

19.  You'd be amazed at the amount of time chain-piecing can save you.

20  Sew everything that you are making for the first time using the longest stitch that you can. so when you have to tear it apart to fix that darn mistake, it is way easier.{Brilliant!}

21.   If your stitching looks like crap, your thread keeps breaking or shredding, etc. try changing your needle.  It can make a world of difference.

22.  Have at least two of everything.  Pin cushions, scissors, marking pencils, measure tapes, rulers.  Seems unecessary but is really a time-saver!

24.  A lot of people mentioned always having a seam-ripper close by.  I would add, have a good seam-ripper close by.  I only use this kind.

25.  Always check your seams when you start out before sewing/piecing an entire project.

26.  Keep peroxide and BandAids in your crafting room!

27.  Don't be cheap by trying to use your rotary blades until they just won't cut anymore.  Dull blades stretch fabric and give your horribly inaccurate cuts.

28.  Wash and press your fabric before you start.  {This is a matter of opinion.  I do not pre-wash.  I like the sizing of new fabric keeping it stiffer for cutting and piecing.  Different strokes!}

29.  Use a lint roller to pull out leftover threads after ripping a seam.  {Scotch tape works too!}

30.  Friends don't let friends drink and quilt!

31.  When pinning and locking seams, pin on the side that will be the last to go under the needle.

32.  Clip your tails as soon as you're finished sewing your seam.  It's a great habit to get into and much easier than clipping them ALL once the top is done {or skipping clipping them all-together}

33.   Finish what your start.  Seems simple enought, right?  {I always finish what I start.  I obsess about it.  I don't sleep.  I eat and breath whatever my project of the moment is.  Crazy?  Perhaps.  But I have no UFOs!}

34.  Annnd another one from me...  If you get gunk on your iron from fusible webbing or other adhesives (or maybe you ironed something you shouldn't have), pour some salt on a piece of paper and iron the gunk off.  Excellent!

35.  Iron seams OPEN! It makes it so much easier to match seams on most blocks.{I typically only do this on certain blocks/quilts because it takes so much longer.  But the absolute best thing for pressing seams open?  The Clover Mini-iron.  It's SO much easier than using a full sized iron!}

36.  Rubber shelf-liner is a super awesome way to keep your foot pedal from ending up all over the place while you're sewing!

37.  Accept that you will make mistakes.  Leave the tiny ones.  Fix the big ones.  Or you will never be happy with your finished produce.

38.  In reference to above, and words I live by, THE BEST THING IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST THING!!!

39.  Fabric at WalMart is $3.00 for a reason.

40.  Always wash your hands  before you sew!

41.  Gross but true:  Your own saliva is the best way to remove blood from something you've bled on.  True story!

42.  Ziplock bags and a Sharpie are very important!  Best way to store all of your cut pieces for projects when you've cut everything out from the start.

43. Always read all of the instructions start to finish before beginning a new project.  {I'm guilty of not... always... doing this...}

44.  Quit talking about all the things you want to make and just make them!  {Easier said than done, huh?  Haha!  Get it?}

45.  Getting a good iron (like an Oliso) can make a world of difference in your results.

46.  Using some form of starch on anything cut on the bias will save you a lot of headaches.

47.  I'm going to end this list now because I'm super tired!

If I didn't include your tip, it's not because it wasn't spectacular, I promise.  I just sort of picked them at random and then started scrolling back through.  Anyway, I think 46 tips is enough to get you all going!  Feel free to include any other fantabulous tips you may come up with in the comments section!


  1. Great tips! Some of these are really funny. I've used alot of them except the do-hicky ones. On that note, let me add -Everyone should have a jeana-ma-jig! Even quilters. Thank you for listing these.

  2. Wow, thanks for compiling this great list!

  3. #39 Made me LOL! I totally agree!! :D

  4. #39 was another that I just threw out there... =D
    What the heck is a jeana-ma-jig?! *Googling*!

  5. Thanks for listing all these tips, very useful. I will remember number 20, I have spent too many hours seam ripping!

  6. You had me laughing and scratching my head too. :)

  7. Thanks for all these tips!

    You know how the manual says to put a drop of oil on your bobbin case every so often?

    Well, when your thread is breaking and your machine sounds putt-putty and you are getting frustrated --

    change your needle, like you said

    open up the bobbin case and blow out the dust (you can just blow on it!)

    and oil it like the manual says!!


    Also, start with your needle down. (this is for old clunky machines -- I don't have a super-zowie one!)

    Love all your advice -- thanks again!