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Top 20 Sewing Tips for Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced

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These top 20 sewing tips will give beginner, intermediate and even advanced sewists the best results and take some of the frustration out of sewing!

No matter if you are a beginner or have been sewing for a couple of years or more you’re bound to find something useful in my top 20 sewing tips. But, before I share my sewing tips, I wanted to share a little about my background in sewing.

I have been sewing since I was a little girl. Like a lot of people who sew, my mom was my inspiration and my teacher. She could literally take someone else’s dress and turn it into a top and shorts for my sister and me.

I watched her rip clothes apart and use newspaper to make patterns. She altered clothes for people and even ran an at home business called “Anna’s Sewing & Alterations.” She was self-taught and thoroughly enjoyed sewing.

Unfortunately, my mother passed away very unexpectedly when I was 18 years old. So, most of what I know and learned about sewing came out of books that I borrowed from the library and lots of practice. (You know, back before we had home Internet access.)

I also got really good at reading sewing patterns. Did you know there’s all kinds of information on a printed pattern? Who knew that sewing pattern manufacturers actually want you to be successful in your sewing journey! In fact, you’ll find “read the pattern first” as one of my sewing tips.

My Top 20 Sewing Tips

top 20 sewing tips

Tip #1: Pre-wash fabric

Pre-washing your fabric serves a couple of purposes. One, it will pre-shrink the fabric. This is especially important in sewing garments. And, secondly, it will remove any excess dye.

Simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions (found on the end of the bolt of fabric) for water and drying temperatures. Wash and dry your fabric accordingly. Then use a steam iron to press and remove any wrinkles.

There are a few exceptions to pre-washing fabric. You don’t need to pre-wash fleece, microfiber, home decor fabrics or anything that won’t eventually be machine washed.

>> Here’s a great article on Bluprint about how to pre-wash fabric.

Tip #2: Sew a Mockup

When you are sewing a garment from expensive fabric, you should try sewing a mockup first using inexpensive fabric. You’ll not only discover any adjustments you need to make, but save yourself a lot of money and frustration.

>> Here’s a YouTube video from Morgan Donner on why you want to use a mockup in your sewing.

Tip #3: Follow the Grainlines

Pattern designers and manufacturers include lines with arrows on patterns that indicate the direction the pattern should be pinned and cut from the fabric. The grainline typically runs parallel to the selvedge.

>> This YouTube video from Made to Sew explains what is a grainline.

Tip #4: Press as You Sew

Press as you sew using a good steam iron – first press the seam flat (just like it was sewn), then press open from the inside of the fabric and again from the outside.

Tip #5: Finish Your Seams

To obtain professional looking results and to keep your seam edges from fraying, you’ll want to finish your seams and use a good steam iron. There are a number of ways to finish your seams from using pinking shears to sewing a simple zigzag stitch to using an overlock serger.

Tip #6: Trim Your Seams

Reduce bulk by trimming your seams:

  • For seams that aren’t pressed open, cut one side of the seam allowance narrower than the other. This not only reduces bulk, but it prevents ridges from showing on the right side of the garment.
  • Clip or notch curves. Convex curves (outward curves, like collars) need to be notched. Simply cut a series of small triangles into the seam allowance. When the garment is turned right-side out, the curved seam will lie flat. Concave curves (inward curves, like necklines and armholes) need to be clipped. Cut a series of short cuts into the seam allowance so the seam can spread open when turned right-side out.
  • Clip ends of seam allowances diagonally when any seam will be crossed by another seam.
  • Clip corners three times: first, cut straight across the diagonal corner. Then cut both of the corners that you just created by trimming the corner.

>> This YouTube Video from Sewing with Cinnamon explains how to trim your seams.

Tip #7: Trim Your Threads Immediately

Get in the practice of trimming your threads immediately while sewing. Just finished sewing a seam? Grab those small pair of scissors that you keep handy by your sewing machine and trim the threads.

Tip #8: Use Directional Sewing

Directional sewing is when you intentionally sew in a specific direction, following the grain of the fabric. Use directional sewing to prevent stretched out seams. Sew from the widest point to the narrowest and from the highest point to the lowest.

>>This YouTube Video talks about the importance of directional sewing.

Tip #9: Moisten the Needle

When you’re trying to thread your sewing machine needle, try moistening the back of the needle instead of moistening the thread. Simply moisten the back of the needle and insert your thread. It’s like magic!

>> Here’s an article from Threads magazine with more needle tips.

Tip #10: Raise Presser Foot

When threading your sewing machine, make sure your presser foot is in the up position. This releases the tension and ensures your thread will be in the right spot.

If you try to thread your sewing machine when the presser foot is in the down position, you’ll find tension on the thread. This can cause friction, thread breakage and other problems that you don’t want.

top 20 sewing tips

Tip #11: Use Temporary Adhesive Spray

Temporary adhesive spray is your friend. It comes in super handy when sewing multiple layers together, quilting or in applique.

Tip #12: Use a Point Turner

For sharp corners, you a point turner that was made specifically for that purpose. If you use a wooden skewer or the end of your scissors, you risk poking a hole right through your fabric.

Tip #13: Wonder Clips

Believe it or not, I just discovered Wonder Clips a couple of years ago. They are so easy to use and much quicker than pinning everything for sewing.

Tip #14: Make Templates

You can save a lot of time by making templates for patterns you’ll use again. I use them for bowl cozies, Christmas stockings and zipper pouches. You simply draw or trace your pattern onto cardstock, recycled pizza boxes or file folders, cut them out and simply trace around them. (I like to use Frixion Erasable Pens for this purpose.)

It’s a lot quicker than pinning down a pattern every time!

Tip #15: Use Good Scissors

I have scissors in my sewing/craft room that are “for fabric use only”. You’ll want to have a pair of good quality scissors that you use for fabric only.

You’ll also want to keep a small pair of scissors by your sewing machine. Perfect for snipping all those threads!

Tip #16: Use Good Quality Thread

I used to use the cheapest (least expensive) thread I could find. I thought I was really saving a lot of money by buying bargain thread. Only the cheap thread didn’t work very well in my sewing machine. It would break and shed and split.

Just save yourself a lot of aggravation and use good quality thread for all your sewing projects. My favorite thread is Gutermann.

Tip #17: Change Your Needle

Change your machine needle regularly. I’m pretty guilty of not changing my sewing machine needle often enough. Manufacturer’s recommend changing your sewing machine needle every time you start a new project. That may be a little excessive, but you’ll definitely want to change your needle anytime you change the type of fabric you’re sewing.

A sharp and straight needle will save you a lot of frustration and produce the best results.

Tip #18: Use a Rotary Cutter

I use my rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat all the time. I don’t know how I ever got along without them. They make cutting straight lines so fast and effortless.

Tip #19: Read the Pattern First

Read the pattern first. I just can’t stress this enough. Read the entire set of instructions for your pattern before you begin the project. There is a lot of information contained within the pattern. You invest a lot of time and money into your sewing projects. Don’t skip on reading the pattern.

Tip #20: Use Long Pins

Long sewing pins are great for more sewing projects than just quilting. They are quite simply, easier to use and easier to remove.

My Favorite Sewing Tools

I shared with you my top 20 sewing tips and it would only be befitting for me to share with you some of my favorite sewing tools that help me to achieve the best sewing results:

Sewing Tools

Sewing Equipment

There you have not only my top 20 sewing tips, but also my list of favorite sewing tools and my favorite sewing equipment. By the way, you can read more about my Rowenta Steam Iron recommendation here.

And see more of my favorite sewing and crafting supplies in my Amazon shop here.

Do you have a favorite sewing tip that I didn’t include in this list? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Just leave me a comment below!

Til next time…

Pam Baker from The Birch Cottage

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