PrillyCharmin's Sewing Tips
10 Quick Tips to Improve your Sewing
Copyright 2009 Cynthia Stevens

1. IRON AS YOU GO... Don't be lazy about ironing! If you iron your pieces as you go, your garments will improve 100%. Be sure to use a STEAM iron. You don't need to buy the biggest and the best. Any cheap steam iron will last for years. And use distilled water in your iron at all times, or else your iron will spit out chunks of lime when you least expect it.

2. TRACE IT... Trace your dolly patterns onto the fabric. Don't try to cut around the teeny pieces. If you trace around the pieces using dressmaker chalk or light pencil, then your pieces will be much more precise and the fit will be more precise as well. When I cut the fabric out, I cut inside the tracing lines so I won't get pencil or chalk on my dolls.

3. PRACTICE FIRST... If you are using a new pattern, make a practice outfit first. Iron the practice garment, and put it on the doll. Analyze how it fits. Is it too short, too long? is the sleeve too big or bulky? Is the bodice too wide? Make note of all necessary adjustments and write it down. Tuck your notes in with the pattern so you can remember next time you use it. Once you get the hang of working with your favorite patterns and your favorite dolls, your dolly garments will stand out in the crowd because the FIT is perfect.

4. GATHERS... Be sure to gather the sleeves and gather the skirt, BEFORE you stitch them to the bodice. Do you know how to gather? Set the sewing machine to a long straight stitch. Sew along the edge of the piece that needs to be gathered. Grab one thread from this line of stitching, and pull on the thread to pucker up the fabric. Continue to gather the fabric until it's the right length. If you're sewing a skirt to a bodice, arrange the gathers evenly around the skirt. If you're gathering a puff sleeve, then arrange most of the gathers at the top of the sleeve but don't bunch it all up at the top either. ---- If you want to do an even better job of making gathers, you can stitch TWO rows side by side and gather BOTH rows of stitching at the same time. This makes even better gathers that are very evenly spaced. Try it and you'll see the difference.

5. VELCRO... Never use stick-on velcro because the adhesive doesn't work on fabric. It makes a sticky mess, sooner or later. Never use glue or a hotglue gun to attach velcro or doodads. Whenever possible, you should stitch all buttons, ribbons, rosettes and velcro to the gown (by hand or with the machine.) Hot glue is for crafters, not seamstresses. It doesn't take much more effort to sew on velcro than it does to glue it. BTW, soft velcro is more desirable for dolly garments. You can also buy narrow velcro for dolls. These specialty velcros are available at online shops.

6. THREAD... If you're having a terrible time with your thread, then change to a different spool of thread and change your sewing machine needle, too. I don't buy cheap thread anymore, it's not worth it. I threw away a generic brand spool recently because it snarled constantly. When I changed to a different spool of Coats and Clarks white, I had no more problems. The needle can also cause these frustrations.

7. TENSION... If you're not sure how to adjust the tension on your machine, ask someone to show you. It would be worth it to take the machine to a sewing repair shop just for this lesson. And it probably wouldn't hurt to have the machine serviced while it was there. You absolutely must have some confidence in your sewing machine. And you must be able to make these little adjustments for yourself.

8. SCISSORS... Buy some good scissors in several sizes (small medium and large), including a good pair of mediums size dressmaker shears, which are the kind that lay flat on the table when you are cutting. Your scissors should not be too big and bulky for the fabric you are cutting. On the other hand, if you are cutting heavy fabric such as denim then you need big scissors. This is an investment: buy several sizes of good sharp scissors, including some small trimmers to keep handy while you are working at the machine. Your scissors don't need to be expensive to be good. In fact, I appreciate my Fiskars-clone scissors more than my name brand Singer shears. Sewing scissors should never be used around the house for cutting paper or household projects. Paper will dull your scissors. HIDE your sewing scissors from the rest of the family! Let them know your sewing scissors are off-limits.

9. COMFORT & CONVENIENCE... Portable machines are awkward to work on. Buy a used cabinet or portable sewing table if you can. Set up a permanent sewing space so it's CONVENIENT for you to do a little sewing and mending whenever you need to. I have never packed away my sewing machine ever. A sewing machine can always fit into some corner somewhere: they're not that big. Then it's always ready to use, immediately, when I need it. Otherwise you'll never be able to get serious about sewing because it's too much work to set up and tear down again.

10. NEEDLES... Don't use the same sewing machine needle for everything. Needles come in various sizes. A 60 needle is for the most delicate fabrics. A 70 needle also handles lightweight fabrics. An 80 needle is considered an all-purpose average size. A 90 needle is for heavier fabrics and denims. (However, in order to sew effectively on denim or canvas it's best to have a machine with a heavy-duty-power setting. Together with a good needle in the correct gauge, you can sew through anything that will fit under the presser foot.) And finally, don't try to "save" needles that seem to be damaged. If the point has been chipped off or it's slightly bent, then change the needle. There are times when it's good to be frugal, but not with sewing machine needles.

Copyright (c) 2002, 2012 Cynthia Stevens All Rights Reserved