Ready Set Let’s Sew

To make sewing fun, fast and productive it’s important to be organized. I hope the following instructions are a help to all you new sewers.  It doesn’t take expensive machines or material to do a great job.  Just enjoy.

I have white thread in my serger most of the time and a plastic cutting sheet underneath to catch the oil that is used all the time.

Have your supplies like scissors, seam ripper, pins and needles all in their place.

Clear off your cutting area so you can lay out at least 1 1/2 yards of material.  I can lay out 2 1/2 yards and that really is plenty for most projects.  The 2 cutting mats you see are really nice to keep grainlines, foldlines and sewing on the bias lines straight.




I fill 3 ring binders with plastic page pockets to store my patterns.


Below is my quick fix to using those large serger cones of thread.  Why buy matching thread when I already have the right color on a cone?  This is a large cup with a small round hole for a large drinking straw.  I have a small spool of thread in the bottom and I drop my serger cone in on top.  Then I pull up the thread through the hole in the top and it feeds directly over to my machine. Yes!

Getting Started

I have taken an old pattern that I have sewn many times and laid it on top to check for the right size for me.  This is the back arm hole. Notice the 2 v notches. Their always on the back of a sleeve.

Above is the waistline and the center fold.  Match your measurements to the pattern envelope

Center Front lines and Center Fold lines, one you cut and one you don’t.



Below is the most important notice on all patterns.  

This pattern has 5 inches of extra material (EASE)for each size.  Some  only have 2 1/2 inches. Companies are all different.  I cut a size 14 for this one, and cut a 16-18 for others. At least find a blouse to check the width if you don’t have a used pattern.  The MOST important measurement is between the upper fold just above the armpit of one arm, and across to the top of the fold at the other arm.  Be precise, 1/2 inch matters when finding your right size.

Below is a pattern I made from pattern tissue and a favorite blouse I bought.

I added a size to the shoulder and took a black marker and copied the lower part of the blouse.  To the right you see it all laid out. then I have enough left over to line the top.  Smart layout saves money. This is 60 inch wide and folded so the ends meet in the middle. I cut the sleeve last so I could open the fabric all the way out and fold in half to get both sleeves.  This is 1 7/8 yards.

Check the print so you are cutting with the print going in the right direction on ALL pattern pieces.  Sounds silly but been there done that.  Those little dots of color are printed on the selvage to help in buying matching fabric.  Cut off and save.

Some of the BEST cotton for blouses is found in the 90 inches wide quilt backing. It is only printed on one side but simply makes a garment look lined. This blouse has been wash many times.











Getting my machine ready

Wind at least 2 bobbins for your project. They should be tightly wound. I buy “bobbin thread” on a large spool.  Check out the feet that came with your machine.  You need one that will allow a full swing zig zag. and a wide hole plate under the needle. Mine presser foot has a No. 2 on it.  Choose a new needle to go with the weight of your fabric.  I like a size 12 needle for most blouses and a 14 – 16 for Levis.  There are Jersey needles for super stretch fabric.  That flat T piece of metal is my screw driver for the needle screw.  Needles usually go flat side to the back but some are to the side.  Make sure your presser foot is up when pulling the bobbin thread up through the plate. NOTE: If you purchased a used machine, go on line and check which bobbin came with your machine.  If you have a machine that needs to be oiled, Do it AFTER you finish a project so the excess oil does not get on your material.

Handy Hint: most sewing feet fit almost all models.  Just look at the type you have.  Garage sales can save you lots of money.  Even an old junk machine at the Goodwill is a real find if it still has the feet.

Getting ready with some tips and tricks to practice

Slip under some scrapes of fabric and do some test stitches to make sure you have the right thread weight to the size needle.  If your thread scrunches up behind the needle, your thread weight is to thick for your needle.  You will need a basting stitch, maybe a 3.5, a regular stitch maybe a 2.5 and practice a zig zag or edge finish stitch.  I always needed to do this one till I got a serger.  If you need a zipper foot, practice on one you have cut out of a scrape garment.  I always make a test button hole on a scrape of fabric before I start.  Do you need a bias tape maker or your Ruffler foot?

I think were almost ready, It’s like a Thanksgiving dinner, lots of prep, but so worth it.

For a really nice finish, practice finishing off your seams. Here is my finished off ruffle on the sleeve at the bottom, my underarm seam and then the bust dart.

Below is a Bias Tape Maker.  I sometimes lay a bonding web down the center inside the tape as I am ironing when the material won’t iron flat, Like this one.

First I added a tiny piece of tissue for the first few stitches  then when I got to the shoulder seam I pushed a pin through the intersection, where the threads meet, before I started to sew the basted shoulder seam. Stop 2 stitches  before you run over the pin, remove pin, work the hand wheel by hand for a few stitches then continue to sew.
At the neckline it’s important for the intersection to be right on or it will mess up the top stitching.
Stitch just to the right on the inside of the facing. Top stitching is then done when the facing is folded to the inside.

Below are some tips for sewing thin stretchy lace

When sewing stretchy lace always start and finish a seam with some tissue to keep the lace from being “eaten” by the feed dogs. I do a little basting especially at the beginning and end and under the arms.
With the RIGHT sides together. Sew with a 3.5 stitch length, cut away to 1/4 to 1/3 inch and turn to the wrong side.








Turn fabric to the WRONG side and smooth out your seam. Now when you sew a narrow seam the raw edges will be incased on the inside. I use a pin to slide between the 2 layers to keep a neat edge.

Wrap Dress

This is a wrap-a-round reversible dress.  Be very careful to let your fabric hang for a day before cutting out.  Cut very carefully.  If say, you cut the front 1/4 inch shorter than the back, you will have a wrinkle at the hemline or your dark layer will show.

It is better to follow the checks when sewing a seam. It looks better than having the top of the tie 1/4 inch longer on one side.
I sew from the bottom up to the top of the tie, then when I step one stitch off, leave the needle down and pivot to sew on around. That makes the tie flow evenly from the dress bodice.
Remember to clip the neck line BEFORE you turn the whole dress.
As you can see, the clipping makes everything lay flat and I follow the top of the stripe for 1 1/2  inches so the neck line looks level. Also BEFORE you sew your bust darts, make sure you baste the point so both darts end on the same stripe, side to side. Checks are so easy to sew, but visually you may need to adjust seams a little.

Gathering = Finish the edge first, sew two rows of 4.0 stitches, gently pull the bobbin threads up to gather and twist around a pin. Then sew a regular stitch down the center.  Test your fabric to see your needle does not leave holes when you remove any stitches that show.  You may need to sew on the inner row of stitches.

Mending Bras

When the bonding comes loose and the foam is exposed, place the new bonding strip inside next to the knit and iron. Good as new.