Tag Archives: tips and tricks

Top Tip: Pre-cut interfacing strips

If you make alot of waistbands or button plackets, you may like this! (That is if you’re not already doing it!)

You know those fiddly little tasks in sewing ? The ones that make you go “ugh” and slump your shoulders when you reach that point in  make? Well cutting long narrow strips out of floaty lightwieght interfacing is one of those for me. Specifically we’re talking waistbands and button plackets. Invariably my sheet of interfacing is an odd wonky shape from where I have cut out pieces for previous projects. And I’ll have oddments of interfacing that are too small to be of use but will come in handy “one day”. Which I find  quite  messy and a little bit wasteful (as I probably won’t end up using those pieces anyway), and makes it tricky to find the right spot to cut your piece of interfacing from.

It occurred to me when I was cutting some interfacing for  a waistband the other day….why not cut a whole lot of it in one go?
Sewing tip pre cut your interfacing stripsI generally cut the same width of waistband on every make as I have found a width that is comfy on me. So I always need the same width of interfacing. So I just cut a load extra and rolled it onto an empty masking tape roll to store for future use.

Easiest way to do it for me was to fold my interfacing several times and mark out my strips in the right width….then cut…and you have multiple strips ready for future projects…and no waste!Sewing tip pre cut your interfacing strips

Sewing tip pre cut your interfacing strips


Makes me wonder if there is a product like this already out there? Rolls of interfacing strips in various weights. Like wundaweb but only sticky on one side? In any case…I won’t have to be faffing with interfacing strips for a while 🙂Sewing tip pre cut your interfacing strips


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Perfect Pinning (+ a giveaway!!)

Pins. It’s just as simple as sticking them through the fabric right? Well, not quite. Firstly, there’s the type of pin you use. Right tools for the right job applies to pins as much as it applies to any other sewing tool. Some pins are longer/sharper/finer depending on the type of fabric and project you are undertaking. Some excellent info about pin types and their uses here, here, and here….pinning tips

Then there is the question of quality. As with many tools, not all pins are created equal. The best pins will slide smoothly through your fabric without snagging and without force; and they will last you many years without becoming blunt or rusting if used and stored correctly. My personal bug bear are cheap pins with plastic heads. Ack! I only ever use glass headed pins. They tend to be of better quality and most importantly, if you’re pressing around them, they don’t melt if you accidentally touch them with the iron! (I learnt that lesson early!)

But what about how to pin? It’s one of those things that, when I first started sewing, I assumed was a no brainer.  Stick it through the fabric. Job done. Right? Well no. There’re subtleties to pinning, as with any sewing technique. Little things. But things that collectively, can incrementally improve your sewing. So I thought I’d share a few of my “personal pinning protocols” (shameless opportunity for alliteration seized, ha!). Little things that I was taught when I first learnt to sew and stick to still…and the logic behind them…pinning tips

This is the way I pin the most. Always within the seam allowance. So if my pins do end up leaving holes (some fabrics render this likely) then they are not visible on the outside of the garment. It also means that I can leave my pins in place until the very last second as they pass to the side of the presser foot rather than the middle of it. So shifting of fabric is minimised. I will also always pin with the points facing towards the presser foot. It makes them easy to pull out as you go. (If they were facing the other way…well…cack handed!)

pinning tips

When sewing some seams, you’ll be required to stop at a given point and back stitch and/or switch to a different stitch length. (Think preparing a seam for zip insertion for instance). I always mark this point with a different coloured pin, pinned at right angles to my other pins. It just gives me a visual aid and a precise marker as to where I want that needle to stop.

pinning tips

When pattern matching is important I will pin at right angles to the seam that I am sewing. When sewing stripes for instance, I will pin stripe on top of stripe at regular and small intervals.  Pinning at right angles “locks” the fabric more effectively than pinning in a linear way. The difference on a plain and/or stable fabric is negligible. But even minimal shifting will be visually really obvious on stripes. I will also employ this method of pinning on more slippery fabrics. There is an argument for always pinning this way all the time. But I tend to employ it when I want to ramp up the accuracy and precision on seams where the slightest shift would be really obvious either visually or where accurate alignment is vital. (easing in collars, sleeves, necklines etc) If I can get away with just using a few pins, pinned vertically and spaced far apart then I will always default to that. Heck, I have been know to dispense with pins altogether. Some projects are more forgiving than others. But sometimes, when it absolutely has to be accurate, this is the method I go for.

pinning tips

Now I am right handed. And my pin dish sits to the right hand side of my machine. So actually the way that I have pinned in the previous photo is actually a bit illogical.  Because I end up pulling the pins out with my left hand, passing them across to my right hand (or worse, holding them in my mouth as I go!) so I can put them in the pin dish to the right hand side of me. It’s actually a tad cack handed for me. And I have no explanation for that. Used to bug my sewing teacher no end, lol! When pinning at right angles it would make more sense to have the heads facing to the right like this. Just saying. But the cack handed way in which I do it is now so ingrained in my muscle memory, it’s unlikely to change now!

How you pin isn’t just about the direction of pinning of course. It also has to do with how you hold the fabric when you pin. This is how I would automatically put my pins in when I first started sewing. I’d pick the fabric up and stick the pins in like so…pinning tips

That is until my sewing teacher walked up and slapped my hand! (Old school she was!) I will preface this next bit of advice by saying that, as with most rules, there are exceptions. There are times that you can get away with doing this and times you when it will affect the accuracy of your pinning. Depending on the fabric, as you pick it up like this, the layers can shift. On trickier, more slippery fabrics, the more you move them, the more they shift….

pinning tips

As a rule, if you can keep your fabric flat like so…

pinning tips

And pin on the flat, then there will be less chance of layers shifting and therefore, more accuracy across your project.

Talking of keeping things flat…pinning tips

Pins are not always the final step when you absolutely must have a completely flat and secure fabric sandwich before you pass it through the machine…zips are the most obvious example of a situation where it’s vital that everything lies flat and secure before you put a permanent line of stitching in there…

pinning tips

If you’ve ever questioned why you ought to baste a zip rather than just pin it…just look at the photo above and the effect that pinning can have on your seamline, compared to how flat the fabric edge is on the basted section! Now I’m not saying baste everything. Life (and sewing time) is too short for that! But when it absolutely has to be accurate, you’ll be pleased you added in the extra step. Promise!

So, if all of that has you wanting to up your pin game, then here’s a treat for you. The pins featured in this post (above and below) are Hiroshima pins. Japanese pins of superior quality. They come in the most gorgeous packaging (I’m such a sucker for packaging)…hiroshima pins
hiroshima pins


And they are like miniature works of art in their own right. In order below are tulip hiroshima glass headed patchwork pins, Akari pins and Shizuku pins…pinning tipshiroshima pinshiroshima pins

Aren’t they STUNNING! They are part of the newly expanded range of hiroshima pins now available at Beyond Measure. Grace has the most exquisite taste. And she is very generously offering one reader the chance to win 4 packs of luxury Hiroshima pins of their choice.

To be in with a chance of winning simply subscribe to Grace’s newsletter here. Additional entries for facebook and instagram follows. Then leave a comment here to let me know how many entries (ie what you’ve followed/subscribed to). Giveaway is open internationally and closes at midnight GMT on Sunday 26th February.

Good luck and happy pinning!!

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Overlocker tips: Burying thread tails

I have a few overlocker related posts in the works. Burbling away in the background. One in particular is quite exciting to the geek in me. And if you follow me on Instagram you may already know what that one will be about 😉

I’ve noticed a few “new overlockers” popping up on my feeds courtesy of another Lidl/Aldi deal. And because I have a few knit projects going on I thought it would be perfect timing to take a few pics as I go of the various little techniques involved in using an overlocker, for those of you who are new to this magnificent piece of kit. Be sure to check out these posts too if you’re a little nervous of your “beast”, and you’ll have it tamed in no time. But trust me, (because I’ve been there) it is very much worth your time, getting to know your machine properly at the start. You’ll feel so much more at ease when you come to sew a garment that you care about getting right, with fabric you care about not wasting, if you take a little time before hand to get to know, and have a play with your machine on scraps/samples first. And these posts (covering anatomy, threading, and tension settings) should give you a good jumping off point.  Just click on the image to view each post….

Anatomy of a serger/overlocker How to thread your serger/overlocker Establish the correct tension settings for your serger/overlocker

But in the meantime I thought I’d share a finishing tip for thread tails. Just as with sewing a standard seam, you’ll have thread tails to secure and finish. Firstly, there is no backstitch option on an overlocker obvs. So I always knot to secure, close to the stitching…burying-overlocker-threads-1



Thread the tail onto a yarn needle…burying-overlocker-threads-1burying-overlocker-threads-1



Pass the needle through the looper threads for about 2 inches…burying-overlocker-threads-1burying-overlocker-threads-1


Then pull the complete tail all the way through…burying-overlocker-threads-1burying-overlocker-threads-1

….and snip the excess close to the stitching.

how to bury overlocker thread

That’s it. Thread tails neatly buried 🙂 For an even neater finish you can pass the tail/needle under the threads right on the edge of the fabric (where the upper and lower looper threads meet & wrap round eachother) & inbetween the two layers of fabric of the overlocked edge. So they are sandwiched and invisible. I do that when I’m feeling particularly conscientious 😉  This piece is a neckband. If I’d buried the tails on the reverse of this, then it would be invisible on the finished garment once the seam is pressed to the inside and topstitched down. Depends on how neat you want to be of course. If you’re anything like me that’s often mood related, lol! Whatever you do though, this has got to be better than a dangly tail!


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Top Tip: Washing your Swatches

We all know that pre washing our fabric meterage is a good idea if not pretty much essential. It takes care of any shrinkage that may occur before we make our garments because, lets face it, the last thing we want is to go to all the trouble of crafting the perfect garment; only to find that the first time we wash it it shrinks! Gah! Been there! BUT, do you pre wash your swatches people? Like, before you even decide to buy that fabric?

top tip - washing fabric swatches

The reason I ask is that  I have taken to doing just that.  I don’t know if I am alone in this, so chime in because I’d love to know! But here is my reasoning. When a fabric is produced there will sometimes be a “finish” or “coating” applied to the fabric at the production stage. This coating  is often temporary and designed to protect the fabric whilst it is on the bolt, and during transit etc. Upon washing, the coating dissolves and this can subtly, and sometimes dramatically, change the way the fabric feels and behaves.

Well, I want to know that before I decide if a fabric is right for a project. I also want to know how much a fabric creases, how much the colour runs and how much it picks up fluff during the washing process. Because depending on the answer to those questions, I am either going to wear my finished garment. Or I’m not.  I have a set of rules for a garment to make into regular rotation in my wardrobe. I have to be able to machine wash it and hang it to dry and have the majority of creases drop out without having to iron it. If a fabric does crease excessively then I think twice about buying it. If I like it enough, I might elect to make a simpler garment where ironing won’t be too much of an issue. But I have to really like it. I’m firmly in the “life’s too short” camp when it comes to day to day ironing.  Fluff magnetism (yeah I gave it a name) is also a deal breaker. I have a pair of black jersey harem pants that I love but never wear outside the house because the fabric attracts dust and fluff like a demon and it looks like my legs have dandruff! Not cool! Life is also too short to defluff a garment every time you want to wear it. So it follows quite simply, that I’m not going to choose to make my garment from a fabric that doesn’t meet those criteria.top tip - washing fabric swatches

So, here is what I have taken to doing in an effort to find these things out before I get to the meterage, or worse, the finished garment stage! When the swatches arrive, I cut off the section containing the fabric details and set them aside. The remainder….goes in the wash with my laundry! Any little surprises about how a fabric responds to my “laundry lifestyle” are then out in the open and I can decide if that fabric is really right for my garment AND my lifestyle!

(and just in case you ask, because yes, those fabrics are gorgeous, they are these and these 😉 )

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