A hack is a “solution” or “work-around” and in sewing, I could do with all the hacks I can get to know. I am what someone would call a “Klutz”. Everything that could go wrong goes wrong, when I start doing something – including sewing. So solutions are always in demand for all the problems that pop up.
Discovering new workarounds to complicated steps is not laziness – it is smart. So whatever precisely a hack means – solution or workaround – You are very much welcome, Hack. For keeping me sane and sewing.
So here are some of the tricks and hacks I know. You can find more of them among the posts on the 100s of different sewing techniques you will find here.
Sewing Hacks & Tricks
Alternatives to pinning. There are some fabric which will mark if pinned with pins, so use alternatives instead- papper clips or bobby pins or binder clips are gentle on clothes. Tapes also work. The scotch tape can be used instead of pins with delicate fabrics. It can hold down pleats – just pleat and use the tape on the top edge and even on the back of the pleats to keep it pressed and in place. It works better than pins. Baste stitching on the seam allowance very close to the seam line is used commonly in couture sewing.
Use safety pins instead of pins when you are making muslins or just trying on for fitting. They do not poke and hurt you, like the pins but serve the job of the pins very well.
Before starting a project check the strength of the thread you have. If you have a weak thread and you finished the whole project without knowing this you are in store for ripped seams pretty soon. Sometimes threads go weak if it has been stored for long. Keep it dust free by storing it inside a container away from sunlight and moisture and continue sewing to use it all up.
Can you imagine a sewing life without the seam ripper? I do not know what I would do without it or them. You see, I have more than one at all times. A dull seam ripper would take all fun out of sewing. Using the seam ripper is bad enough, using a blunt seam ripper is horrible. Keep two handy. Do not interrupt ripping seams just because you do not have a sharp one. (This is horrible sewing advice I know. Try not to rip the seams is more like a good sewing advice. But I like to face reality and ripping seams now and then as you sew is a given)
A sharp razor blade can be a handy addition to the seam ripper family. A sharp cut may be all that you need at the juncture of the seams, at times, but ensure that you do not cut the fabric, and keep it out of reach of kids
Desperate to remove pencil marks from fabric after you have marked some design. In normal circumstances it is ok to mark designs for embroidery on fabric with pencils – you can just embroider over it. But sometimes you cannot, like you have decided to scrap that design altogether, then how to remove the pencil mark?. Do not panic; just rub the pencil mark with a damp tshirt fabric. Knit fabric somehow removes pencil marks like magic.
Ear buds are a great help in cleaning the sewing machine. Check out the post on sewing machine maintenance for more details. They also serve as brushes for fabric painting.
Fabric organization is a necessary skill to master for matrimonial peace at home. I have this big pile of fabric stash which seems to grow every time I am in the vicinity of a fabric store. It is their fault completely. They are not supposed to store these irresistible fabric pieces and let me in. I am ecstatic but this does not breed matrimonial harmony at home. Find everything you can to keep your fabric stash organized. Small shoe boxes are great for segregating small fabric scraps according to color. Yes, I do not throw away any of the fabric scraps. Now you know why I am talking about matrimonial harmony in a sewing blog
Keeping your sewing space clean and tidy is another necessary thing I should do but never gets there. I do have the bin next to the sewing machine and a small bowl and the small fabric bag which hangs from the sewing machine to put all scraps but after every project, the whole area is a mess. The sweeping brush and small handy vacuum cleaner helps in the clean up afterwards.
Get those pesky threads away. After a project, you may find many small threads all over the garment or on the surface of your work table. Just wrap some packing tape on your finger and pass it along the garment; these annoying nit bits will be pressed to the tape and afterward you can just throw it away.
How to hide your sewing mistakes. An embroidered patch is a very handy thing to have. All your sewing mishaps can be hidden by a patch.Learn how to make an embroidered patch here. Use embroidery itself straight on the garment to hide them easily. Beads, sequins, buttons and other such embellishments are all handy to have to cover your mistakes.
More serious problems call for alterations. Check out the post on the most common alterations you may need to do after you have done sewing.
If you are using water-soluble pens for marking, after the work is done, never put the cloth straight to the washing machine. The heat in the washing machine when drying will set the ink. Remove by rubbing with wet cloth before washing
Just when you think you have it all in place your sewing thread decides to tangle. When hand sewing, tangles and knots are highly frustrating and discouraging too; You can avoid this sewing hassle by using a little beeswax on the thread on the needle. This will help the thread pass through difficult fabric faster without knotting.
Keep a sketchbook handy at all times in your bag; in your free time while sitting in a doctors waiting room or some place like that make sketches of ideas of clothes or embroidery designs in the book and maybe even color it with colour pencils. This will make it real for you and serve as an inspiration. All the designers do it.
Lining fabric – finding them at the right time you need it is difficult. Sometimes you want to sew something and the matching lining fabric is not available – this is frustrating. As a solution, I always buy some lengths of (3-4 meters) grey or beige lining fabric and keep them in my cupboard. If you have grey or beige these could be used as lining under most colours whenever you feel like sewing (not for white and pale colours, though; You need offwhite or white for this)
My favorite fasteners are hooks and tape, also known as Velcro. So easy to sew on and so easy to take on or off. So if you are a beginner sewist who is dreading sewing because of the fear of sewing fasteners, remember there is velcro. For simple openings with not much strain, this works alright. You can cut it into small pieces that suit the space you have and machine stitch them quite easily
Nailpolish is not just for the nails. This has been proven many times over. I have read so many tips for using nail polish in many ways. You will find a use for it in sewing too. One good use of nail polish is as a seam sealant. If you have sewn buttonholes with hand stitches you will be apprehensive as to whether the whole thing will come off unraveling. To secure thread apply nail polish on the thread. It will seal the thread and make it more secure and strong. Use it similarly on your seams anywhere you fear the thread will unravel.
You can even repair small holes on fabric with the nail polish as it has some adhesive property. Not a permanent solution, but it helps.
Old sewing tips work all the time. Learn some basics of sewing like recognizing the fabric for what it is with a burn test and finding the grainline of fabric by pulling a thread, making your sewing machine tension work with simple adjustments and basically learn how your sewing machine work etc. These and some others are things you learn as you sew. They come handy many times over. You ought to know tips like sewing sheer and Lightweight fabrics without frustration with a shorter stitch ( <2 in my machine) than for other fabrics, and keeping the sewing top thread and bobbin thread to the back as you sew and starting a seam with the shortest stitch to avoid backstitching and clipping and trimming seam allowances wherever possible to get the best results. Find More dressmaking tips like this here
Prewashing the fabric is a prerequisite to sewing – be it bedsheets, pillows or garments. Handwashing is the best thing but machine washing is quicker. but every time I prewash the fabric cut from the store in a machine, the end frays a lot and the whole thing gets twisted and look horribly wrinkled. What I have started to do is to sew the ends together and make a tube with about 1/8 inch seam allowance and wash it in the machine in a delicate cycle. After the washing is over, before drying starts, I put towels inside the machine along with the fabric – this somehow reduces the wrinkling. Then take it out and cut out the seam stitched ends. The whole fabric looks new without the usual frayed ends.
Quit negativity and start sewing. Do you know that you ought to read at least 4 pages from any inspirational book every day? I agree with this. You are exposed to so much negativity all around – in the news, around your neighborhood, in your houses; the wise words you read may prove to be your salvation. You can now sew and read together at the same time. In lieu of written books look out for audiobooks and podcasts.
There are some mind-numbingly boring things to do in sewing – even a person with as much love as I have for fabrics, clothes, and sewing I get bored when I have lots of the same kind of work to do – this is when all the audiobooks you downloaded or those lovely podcasts you have bookmarked comes to be of use.
Remove stubborn creases in the fabric. As you press fabric if you find a deep wrinkle which would not go with normal pressing spray some very diluted vinegar and press. The crease would flatten easily.
Simply wetting fabric is magic when pressing and ironing. Just spray some water and then make sure that you have the water everywhere; iron and you will see that ironing will be lot easier / no wrinkles in no time. When you are turning a hem you can wet the turn under edge before pressing them in place – this works for even the smallest edge. The crease will stay. If you find the turning of the hem difficult, make a basting stitch along where you want the fold and then turn under just above this stitch. Then press in place.
Stabilizing the edges come with the sewing turf. Fabric edges are always stretching, like the necklines, napkin edges you cut oh so square and is now out of shape. Being careful in handling is the first step. Then stay stitching. Stay tapes are also sewn on the edges to make them stable.
Twill tape can be used instead of stay tapes to stabilize hems and pocket top edges. Cotton twill tapes are readily available, cheaper than stay tapes and work almost the same way. Do not forget to prewash.
Threading your sewing machine is not the most enjoyable thing about sewing. And doing it repeatedly many times over everytime your bobbin runs out of matching thread -I would say enough and go off in a fit of temper tantrum. But I do not. Because I always wind a minimum of 3 or more bobbins (4-5 is best) everytime I start a garment sewing project. I bought a 20 pieces bobbin set for this purpose, so that I have spares
The same goes for threading the needle multiple times. But you have to do it – that is a sewists life. To make it easier, cut the thread end in a diagonal sharp cut. Wet the end of the thread and the back of the needle eye, keep a white paper behind the needle to get a clear view of the hole and try to thread through the needle eye now. It will now be easier for you. A machine with needle threader is what many people swear by.
Use leftover soap slithers to mark your patterns on dark coloured fabrics – this works for making markings on the front of the fabric . No fear of the colour of the marker staying. A quick wash afterwards will remove the soap. Ensure that the soap is white and without too much perfume. Water colour pencils in white are also good for this purpose.
Various storage solutions are available for storing your sewing notions – none work better than your old recycled containers. If you have tic tac bottles they can be used to store your needles and pins. Buy several and your breath will smell fresh and all your stray needles have their own sweet containers. Just give labels to each container. Keep a magnet in an old bowl to keep all the pins together as you remove it from the fabric. I have prescription pill storage containers for storing my stray beads and sequins
When I leave my beautifully sharp scissors out in the open my husband and kids find very creative uses for it – like cutting tags, paper, shopping crates and what not. Before world war 111 erupts or I lose my sanity I have decided to hide them. Well, this is not a hack, but a scissor bag is a project you need if you go through these horrifying experiences in life. After this genius trick, none ever finds it. Yay.
Xmas is not the only time for spring cleaning. If you use your sewing machine regularly you will need to clean it regularly too. After sewing flannel or any piled napped fabric, clean the machine because the fabric lint in them can make your machine slow down after a period of time. The sewing machine will start developing hiccups. Check out this post on the commonly seen sewing machine problems and their solutions
A camera lens cleaning tool – dust blower is good to have to blow away the dust settled in your machine
Your vanity box is not the only place for a pair of tweezers; they work as well in your sewing kitty. They help you to pick those small beads, help in sewing machine maintenance, pick up those stray threads. Just make sure that they align properly at the ends.
Ziplock bags; They are organizational giants. Even the smallest ones work for keeping your sewing cupboard tidy. I use them to store all kinds of knick-knacks, beads, buttons, sewing machine feet and big ones are great for storing ribbons and trims. All organized and in their places without taking too much space
Though the title of the post says Best, I know these are not the best sewing hacks and tricks. Best is yet to come. You may be a sewing expert or even a beginner and may know one or more better tricks – I hope you will share those in the comment box below