Celebrate your new sewing hobby and take it to the next level!
The year 2020 was filled with losses—jobs, businesses, and very tragically, loved ones… It was a dark and confusing year that will undoubtedly stir negative emotions for a very long time.
While restaurants and small businesses went under, sewing and crafting industries exploded. During quarantines, people who longed to learn the art of sewing, but never had the time, were forced to stay home. And all at once, they had a whole lot of time. Many took the plunge and bought domestic sewing machines. It took months for manufacturers to meet the demands.
If fabric and sewing machine sales are an indication of where the industry is headed, it might be a good idea to buy stock in the multi-billion dollar quilting and sewing industry. This is a hobby that’s “in,” and it looks like it’s here to stay.
It warms my heart that so many newcomers are enjoying the hobby that I’ve come to love. I feel blessed when I get to share a small slice of that joy. Some of you may know my story; I started sewing when my oldest was just a few months old. I was desperate to find relief for my son’s extreme eczema, so I bought some organic cotton fabric and dusted off an old machine. My first attempts at apparrel were, let’s say, less than desirable. But through trial and lots of errors, I gained confidence. My sewing skills improved exponentially. In that spirit, here are some tips that I’ve learned over the years. Maybe these tidbits can help take you to the next level, or reaffirm that you’re on the winning track.
- STEAM PRESS every stinkin’ seam:
As I was learning to sew, I wanted my projects done yesterday, especially with littles running around. I thought pressing was an extra step for finicky types who had a lot of extra time. I begrudgingly took a fellow quilter’s advice one day and started pressing my seams. WHOA! Like magic, pressing with a very hot steam iron changed the appearance of my seams and significantly improved my accuracy. It’s certainly visually more appealing to press as you go, which can be an inspiration to finish your projects. And now that it’s part of the process, it doesn’t feel like work anymore.
- Quilters, measure those borders:
But why do I need to measure my quilt when I can just cut some strips, sew them onto the sides of the quilt and then cut off the excess?
Why do you have to measure your borders when you can just cut some strips and sew?
Because your borders will be floppy and sloppy, and your quilt won’t be square—and that’s the hard truth. Your long armer will be forced to get very creative to make your quilt as square as possible, or she’ll have to rip the borders off, measure and resize them, and then sew them back onto the quilt. That’s an extra charge you’ll probably want to avoid.
Start by measuring the longest sides of the quilt. Cut your borders exactly to that size. Pin and sew. With time and experience, learning to miter your quilt borders makes a beautiful finished product, but for now, simply sew the two sides first, left and right. Once the side borders are attached, measure the top and bottom. Cut those borders exactly to size and sew. Measuring and precise cutting will save you much grief, I promise!
The feed dogs on your domestic sewing machine take in fabric faster on the bottom than on the top. Pinning helps the fabric stay put and significantly improves accuracy. I don’t pin a lot now, not because I’m cocky, but because I know my machine and I’m comfortable sewing with different fabrics. I have learned to grip my fabrics while sewing; I keep the top and bottom fabrics pinched between my fingers to reduce uneven feeding. But there are things I always pin: Minky Cuddle and LUXE fabrics, and I always pin my quilt borders. ALWAYS!
- Push through:
I know you’ve heard it: “…finished is better than perfect.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked at projects midway and thought, “Oh boy, this isn’t going well.” Here’s a news flash: no project looks good half-finished or from the back side with all those ragged, raw edges exposed. The key to a lot of things in life is to simply see the project through to the end. Once you’re finished, the project will most likely surprise you and look far better than you imagined. Most importantly, the lessons learned and the pride felt from finishing your projects are good for the soul.
- Invest in the tools of the trade:
I started with an inexpensive Kenmore sewing machine. In less than a year, I invested in a high-quality, domestic machine. I fell in love with Janome. The stitch quality, its seven feed dogs, and the metal “innards” help to produce excellent stitch quality. Just as important, the Janome’s heavy duty motor ensures that I can chew through thick layers of fabric without a hiccup. I don’t like to be limited in the projects I take on, so a powerful motor is important to me. No, Janome didn’t pay me to say that. I just like their machines.
- Find tools that make your new love easy and accurate:
It took me years and loads of greenbacks to find the right tools. Aren’t you glad I suffered through it so you don’t have to? For scissors, I tried Fiskar, Ghinger, Oxo…and several pairs of each brand. None seemed to stay sharp enough or the scissors felt clunky and bulky. Then I tried KAI. Bingo! I found my scissors. They’re sharp and feel good in my hand. They’re made in Japan and work better than any scissors I’ve tried to date.
Find a good size, self-healing cutting board and a rotary cutter you like. I love the Olfa Splash brand— quick blade changes with superior cutting precision.
Wonder clips. Love these! I still use regular pins for some things, but if I can use Wonder Clips, they are my go-to. Brilliant invention!
Threads. Threads really depend on your preferences and your project. I have a couple of brands that I use constantly. I really like Superior Threads. It’s a very popular brand and many long arm quilters swear by the brands’ So Fine and Omni threads. My staple threads are Superior’s Fantastico and Magnifico. I love the slight sheen. The volume is just right, not too beefy, not to quiet. And they don’t produce a lot of lint. Super nice threads and my machines love them.
- Try some quilt kits
I’m a big fan of quilt kits. Designers have done a lot of the work for you. You get to just cut, sew and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Plus, you’re learning from the designers, even if subliminally, color coordination and pattern design. We sell lots of quilt kits in our studio, and no matter how many quilts I’ve done, I always learn something new from each one I try.
- Go easy on yourself:
Remember when I said finished is better than perfect? It’s true. Don’t sweat the small mistakes. If you find yourself having to rip out several seams in one sitting, put the project away for a day or two and come back to it. Sewing is FUN! Making it into something that has to be perfect will most certainly suck the joy from your newfound hobby. Perfection, or good enough, depending your personal standards, will all come in due time.
A good gauge on whether or not to rip a seam: If you make a mistake and it screams at you every time you look at your project, rip the mistake and sew it again. If no one, including you, will ever notice it, carry on and finish strong. Ripping seams for the sake of perfection alone never made anyone better at sewing. So if it’s not going to bug you, leave it be and move on.
Embrace your new found love and your little slice of “me” time.
Welcome to the sewing obsession!