Sewing Tip/Trick of the Day

This category contains 14 posts

Tip of the day/Ironing board caddy

Hello, been awhile, been off for nearly a year due to (chronic) illness. Slowly coming back and getting back into the Stitch of things. Here’s a wee post…

Been flummoxed today by health stuff, which counter-intuitively means I need to keep *gently* moving, if not enough focus to work. Decided ideal thing is to tidy work room after last 2 weeks sewing/crafty binge. Now every time I do this, I get frustrated by how much stuff ends up on ironing board. Tonight I had Blinding Flash of the Obvious; it’s all there because I use things all the time. So a few scraps of fabric later, and behold, the “Insta Ironing table Stuff I Need pouch”! Simply safety pinned to end of board so can take off if need to fold it up. (Also made me feel like I did something useful with my day :-)

DSC00003_ds DSC09999_dsPin cushion made by cutting a foam hair roller in half. Giant paint brush I use for turning point in delicates, and brushing velvet/fluffy naps when ironing. Think I may add a wee flap of fabric to go over pins, so no risk of catching fabric when swooshing it onto board.

Cheap, cheerful, easily removable, and not sure why I haven’t done this by now!


Trick of the Day- pressing sticky stuff (fusible)

Today is just a mini-tip, as juggling patterning & holiday gift making and paperwork.

I’ve a love/hate relationship with fusible. Love how it makes life easier, tames the tricksey fabrics, but hate what it does to irons/ironing board. Most of the time, I really can’t be bothered with cutting it exactly to match pieces as it wiggles out of shape. If you don’t though, then there’s risk of junking up ironing board/cover. Now in the shop we used nice bits of left over cotton, but I find that kind of wasteful, and if the fabric scrap is creased, that gets transferred to what I’m fusing.

So here’s a cheap & incredibly simple solution: greaseproof/parchment paper. Put underneath fabric and fusible, it’s flat, doesn’t burn, doesn’t stick like normal paper and re-useable.  Fusible glued piece just peels off easy peasy, so you can just lay a big hank of fusible on top of the small fabric piece without having to have cut it exactly beforehand. So simple, so, why haven’t I done this before ;-)

pressing paper


Trick of the Day- Altering big crochet/lace woven garments

So today’s trick is from an alteration job. Taking in a crocheted tunic with a big open weave pattern. As usual, this is just how I approached it, and I am sure there are other/better ways, but here’s how I did it. This works for chunky knits and big weave lace as well!

1. safety pin how/where it needs to be taken in. Straight pins will just fall out of fabric, so safety pins are the way to go. Then I marked with chalk on inside (wrong side). after you mark, take out safety pins. They’ll only catch on sewing machine and pull piece out of shape if you leave them in!

2. Next take a nice thin ribbon or cotton tape and cut off length of garment/piece with a couple inches to spare on either end.

3. wrap the excess ribbon over the start, and find a solid area if possible to stitch onto near your marking line (mine has a jog-in as was under the arm & client wanted excess taken out)

4. Stitch! On this one the weave is so open I had no problem matching up the pattern on both sides as I went.

5. *tip* to be sure that you are not pulling the garment out of shape, if you have the old seam and it is stable, put one finger of guiding hand on the old seam and maintain a light tension on it, this helps ensure am not stretching the pattern out.

6.When you reach the end/bottom of your garment/piece, again wrap the excess ribbon around and under. This provides nice strong stable base and top of piece. I then ran a second row of stitching 1/8 in (towards outer edge of garment) just to be sure, that way where you may have been stitching into open space, you may actually catch some lace, or if it *is* a truly empty space, you are reinforcing the ribbon anyways.

7. Now to our trusty overlocker machine. When you are lining it up, you want to be sure that a) you are *NOT* letting the blade cut into the ribbon you have sewn, which will weaken the ribbon. and b) the overlocker needle will be just catching/stitching *into* the ribbon.

8. and voila, your finished seam. Now turn your garment right side out and the ribbon should be hard to see nad no worries on the crochet unravelling. ( Sorry I forgot to take photo of it from the right side, client came to pick up top) It will probably look a bit wonky on the outer edge especially if it is a bulky crochet like this one was, but it’s all nice and tight in the overlocking and seam is reinforced by the ribbon.

That’s all the news from the wonderful world of alterations for this week. The weather has turned cold here in London, so now’s the season a lasses head begins to turn towards knitting. Which I am *pants* at, but I do it anyways. (but don’t expect any tips from me on knitting, beyond Use circular needles. Always. especially if you are like me and knit on the train/tube/metro and don’t want to whap people next to you as you knit ;-)

Tip’o’the day- Embroidery thread storage

It’s been a month of big projects & I’ve been trying to turn back to old uncompleted small projects to wind down my brain/distract when too tired to work well. Which means all those unfinished embroidery/knitting bits. Either I have an invisible cat who has been frolicking in my thread bags, or I’ve been really cavalier about tossing threads back into it.lalalala.  So instead of actually embroidering, I spent a few *hours* untangling floss.*sigh*. I Don’t like those plastic thread caddy/winders much as not really portable, plus don’t have the money really buy one.

So instead I thought, hmmm, binders full of women, uhm, I mean threads. Wandered to local stationary store, bought a binder and instead of regular clear plastic sleeves, got the photo sleeves which have 4 pockets per page.


Cheap& Cheerful way to store Embroidery Threads

Et voilá, a compact way to store embroidery floss which also lets you clearly see the colours/organise by colour or project and easy to transport (just grab a blank set of pockets,put in only the threads you need,roll and rock!). Plus you can add regular sleeves to put in transfers/patterns into same book. That’s my cheap and cheerful storage solution for the day :)

…and put away on the shelf for easy storage, just be sure to put open end of pockets up!

Silly make-up product review- Fake nails

This is a completely silly post, but hey, it’s my blog. Sometimes I want to actually kind of ,oh , look nice for a party/event. However wardrobe/stitcher hands (at least mine) are constantly ravaged by materials tearing off nails, hands dipped in chemicals, cleaning agents, etc. I never get to have nice nails. The other day I tore one down to painfully beyond the quick when tearing silk, more proof of the strength of silk ;) So I picked up some fake nails from SuperDrug both to protect nail and for party. Now usually it’s a bit of a faff, I have tiny hands, so have to cut even short nails down to practical for working, then the finding a good hours time to paint/let dry. I’ll wear them a day, then inevitably needle or pin nick them, or be washing fabric and the varnish is ruined.

I saw these new nails from Cosmopolitan which are solid colour. Usually solid colour ones look tacky/boring colours, but these caught my eye as they have gradiated tint, so looks like actual painted nails.

hard wearing no varnishing fake nails for crafty chicks/make-up artists.

In applying I found it a bit tricky to tell the nail bed end from tip, till I felt how the nail bed end are wonderfully thin and soft ( a day later & no irritation on curticle area as so thin there). Cutting them down also revealed the colour goes all the way through the acrylic which led to the happy discovery after a full day in the workshop. After sewing, washing fabric in bleach and general dinging, hardly any marks on nails! The shine wore off a bit, but these babies will be able to stay on quite awhile with out having to worry about retouching paint! Win!

So this is my first silly endorsement of a beauty product; recommend it to any crafty/rough ladies or men who occasionally want femme hands ;-) Would also just generally recommend them to make-up artists, as the not needing to varnish would speed up fashion/film/stage shoots. Not a huge range of colours but nice ones.

The only caveat is to NOT use the pink gel glue included, pink gel takes a long time to dry & is also harder to take off. Get some regular or express nail glue instead.

Tip of the Day: Shop Rules I thought were silly, but have saved my sanity

Okay, I admit it, I have been accused of being a bit “anal” or “OCD” in the workroom. (though that can’t be applied to midway through a project when the enitre house becomes de facto “Miko’s workspace”. Apologies to my partner who has suffered through Toe-Catcher balls of thread in carpet, Tribbles made of machine fluff and zillions of tiny multi coloured triangles which point all over the house from dagging curves.)

Once upon a time when I was apprenticing/working in ballet I had a Costume shop manager who had many, many rules. At the time, I it drove me crazy, her always saying to Do or Not Do something, but as time rolls on, some of these she forced into habit have repeatedly saved my sanity and my projects. Most are old hat to most readers, and may seem Uptight, but they are great habits. So not to be preachy, but maybe to help, here are my top 10 Workshop Habits worth instilling in automatic…

1.Reset your work area. New project? Tidy area, helps cleaning but also can help make one think of all the tools/things will need on new project.

2. Machine sewing; when starting to sew, especially on home/non-industrial machines, crank needle down in place through fabric, always start sewing from needle down position. Keeps from fabric slipping, lets you check “bite”.

3. Machine sewing; again at start, always hold top/needle thread so you don’t have the “Aaaargh” of it pulling through and having to rethread. Plus maintains good tension on thread.

4.Trim dangley threads as you go. Yes, it’s kind of a pain, but less so than having to go and trim everything after piece is sewn. I know for myself when I am lazy and don’t do this, many is the time when a dangling thread got caught up somewhere else and either messed up stitching/pulled fabric off. Plus it’s good way to make sure haven’t accidentally caught up fabric in sewing.( though I will sometimes leave threads uncut on basting/ any areas I need to come back to, seeing them dangle is a reminder to finish something.)

5. Turning corners: before you lift presser foot to turn fabric on a corner, make sure again needle is down and play the crank a bit to be sure fabric isn’t pulled into feed dog.

6. On sewing table; keep all sharp things/scissors/pins/pens/markers on right side of machine and fabric/project on left. Because finding a scissors nipped your super expensive fabric or a pen leaked is so very *head-desk*. (This was probably the thing my boss used to Tsk me for the most, and the most saving grace habit to have learned.)On one table I use a cloth on right to toss things onto, so as not to have annoying clicks, plus peripherally gives me a “landing zone” to subliminally remind me. On another, I have my giant  Ofla mat under machine which delinates the “No sharp/mark-y crap” zone.

7. Fussing with a piece? Snipping a bit of excess or pulling a pin out of fabric? Take your foot off the Gas! (peddle) ( used to have a demonic industrial that somehow seemed to store power and would run on a bit on it’s own even if I thought I wasn’t applying any pressure to peddle.*sigh*) (also saves from stitching ones own fingers. Yep, I’ve done that.)

8. Changing your bobbin?  Take a few extra seconds and use machine brush or a nice stiff bristle paint brush to clear out bobbin case, bobbin seating in machine and feed dog every time. My, the lint builds up fast and can mire things up! ( I  think my Pfaff was a cat in a prior life, she likes to hack up fluff balls of always the most opposite colour into stitching if I don’t brush her first ;-)

9. New Project= fresh needle. The number of times my stitching/thread problems have been resolved by getting a fresh needle  (Usually after faffing about wasting a half hour on checking bobbin tension, rethreading etc.) is embarassing ;-/

10. Done for the day? Not coming back to the exact same point of stitching? Then reset your machine to “neutral” ( in my case, straight stitch at 2.5). So no zigzaggy surprises when blithely sitting down next time. Especially in shared machine workshops, not setting machine to neutral was a huge nono.

Anyhow, so that’s it so far. These wee snippets come to me sometimes when I catch myself trying to break them, and I always pay the price when I do ;-)

Tip of the Day- Perils of online bought fabric-hiding selvedge/roller marks inside French seam

So everyone loves eBay/Amazon for ordering fabric cheap, but sometimes it has it’s perils beyond the obvious colour/material not being exactly what we wanted. One problem that has come up with a friends alteration order is that the lovely burnt velvet organza she ordered has a nasty flaw; there are slubs & puncture marks from the burning/stretching process all along both sides of the material. This is a common problem on voile/organza/burnt & lace fabrics. on harder fabrics (cottons etc.) these roller tack marks are usually very close to border (w/in 1cm) but on more delicate fabrics, they often have to use a wider barrel 2 row pronged roller to stabilise the fabric in production.


So a a good tip is to remember if you are ordering fabric w/out touching/seeing it in person, it is always best to take the width of the fabric and SUBTRACT 2″ (8cm) to be sure your pattern pieces fits.This should allow for the largest size stretcher roller marks. If you need 45″width and the fabric is exactly that, especially on a delicate fabric, odds are you will be at least 1-2″ short due to the selvedge edging/tack marks.  In this case, there was enough fabric to account for this. Since is is an organza which unravels easily, I decided rather than a more traditional seam (stitch plus overlock which would have shown too much and added bulk) to do a french seam. French seams are wonderful, and recommend using it on all delicate fabrics which unravel or shred easily. It’s really not any more bother than than stitching +overlocking.  For those who don’t know how to do so it’s easy!

First check what your seam allowance is, for example 5/8. Chalk/pencil or wax mark the 5/8 stitching line on WRONG side of fabric first, will save you fussing. Instead of sewing a seam with the right sides of fabric together at 5/8, flip the fabric so you have the WRONG sides of fabric together (i.e. you are seeing the “right/nice” side of fabric) and sew seam w/a small stitch (2-2.5) with needle at center and edges of fabric just at edge of sewing foot.  Now carefully cut along you stitch line on the outside of your stitching line between stitchline and edge of fabric…ImageNow press out the seam and fold so the RIGHT side of fabric are now together along your stitching line, what you see is the little short cut edges are now sandwiched between the main fabric. All you do to finish is sew along your 5/8 chalk/marked line and you have a lovely french seam with the raw edges neatly hidden and stitched up safe from unraveling :)


This worked really well as you can see the roller damaged part of fabric is now closed into the French seam.


I know some of the pro’s here will shake their heads at doing such a wide french seam, as normally we use it stitching *very* close to the inner cut edges, but I found this was a good way to deal with both the slubs/marks and also not have to worry about the organza unweaving itself. Wanted to show it’s not *just* for finiky fine seams ;)

Tip of the Day-Cheap thread storage solution

My home work room is *very* small, and I was getting tired of the overlock & back up threads piled up in boxes or taking up table space. I looked at “proper” storage/sorters but found they were all a bit expensive and would take up too much space. Then I had an idea… I bought an overdoor shoe sorter! It works wonderfully, one large overlock spool per section and a bunch of regular spools fit each shoe cubbie. Best of all, if you have lots, you can stitch them to a clothes hanger and hang in cupboard/wardrobe in a nice, easy to see way, plus there is no thread tangle-dangle from mixing them up!

So that’s my simple storage tip for the day.

P.S.- This months UK Burda Style (04/12)magazine is probably the best this year for free patterns; lovely bias dress, blouses, pencil skirt and bolero/wrap tops. Was a good splurge!

Wee tip for helping stitching seam allowances

Hello, been away for a bit, trip to Japan, and then my old employer rolled into town, so busy working for them over the late winter. Just a quick little tip for stitching seam allowances. I know sometimes my eyes get tired, or lighting bad in the evenings and seeing the seam allowance guide on machine can be hard. Worse is when my attention wavers & I wander over to a different guidleine on the plate :( So an easy help is to use a contrasting piece of electrical tape, or low tack painters masking tape directly on the plate. I like to use a long piece which extends over the arm, so it guides lining up the fabric *before* it gets near the needle. So simple, but such a help! If you have a project with multiple seam widths you can add another colour tape, or simply move it easily as electrical tape doesn’t stick too hard & leaves no residue on your machine.

easy line up on seam allowances!

Ironing out my bad back…

Perhaps not an official tip, but still helped me. Been having a bad back week, but w/3 projects on the burners couldn’t really stop. None of my work tables is at a great height, being standard Ikea type desks. Especially with the huge amount of hand sewing I did last week (160 metres pick hem) I needed a work surface I could sit or stand with depending upon back. Not having the money for a fabulous hydraulic table (ah the table at Ballet, I miss you so) I fell upon my ironing board. SO simple, so obvious but such a back saver as can adjust to height and move easily about from room to room, plus I can pin into it, extra Useful points there. I love adapting things I have for more use ;)

So another free/no cost solution to a simple problem. Beyond partners slightly put upon expression at having sitting room invaded by an iron board. If I could somehow disguise it as a Mac computer, I’m sure he’d love it then…

Tricks of the day-A Nappy Issue-velvets, shaggy & fake fur

A friend had a question about dealing with sewing other fabrics onto velvet, running into problems with velvet nap/cushiness, shag and slipping, so here’s a few thoughts on dealing with velvet, fake furs and yarn shags. ( yes I know there is a bad joke in there about slippery shags in there somewhere ;)

1. SHAVE!- if you are sewing flat/appliqué onto these, a good trick especially on edges is to shave the fabric. (For yarn/big shag/long fake fur, clip down w/scissors instead). Then you can use good old fashioned men’s hairclippers, or for more delicate areas/silk velvets; a lady bikini clipper ;) to shave down the area you are sewing onto. This takes down the bulk in all seams whether top/flat or for standard face to face sewing. A cheap disposable razor works well on fine velvets, or if you are very steady of hand, a plain shaver razor/box cutter razor.

2. ZigZag- I like to go over long seam/edges with a tight wide zigzag stitch, this tamps/holds down the nap/yarn/shag and gives a better gripping surface for stitching onto.

3. Hairspray- Good old fashioned Elnet is one of my favorite tools, non marking, low tack, non staining on most materials. If I’m stitching on rightside of fabric I may spray just a bit on the edge to better hold the top fabric, or the underside of the top fabric. Hair spray doesn’t seem to gum up my needles overmuch, though I still recommend passing needle through the sand filled “strawberry” on most tomato pin holders, or changing the needle after.

I also use it if I am backing a slippery fabric or ribbon with cotton, much less sticky than a fusible to hold cotton to slippery fabric just long enough to sew.

4. iron on lace binding/interfacing fusible- on top/right side just at seams,/edges to hold down cushiness/excess. Not my favorite as is tacky/sticky & expensive.

Working from home/own studio-Traps & timekeeping help

Like many, I work from home when I don’t have access to a studio. Generally, I love working from home, the lack of commute, being able to wear Hello Kitty sweats w/out public embarassment (well, I am older than she is ;) playing my own music. There are the downsides; mainly lack of social contact, not having someone else to keep me on track/on time, too easy to be distracted by home life or use doing the laundry as a way to avoid my less preferred sewing tasks.

There are some tasks which I find myself preferring to do in front of the telly. A Dangerous trap indeed. When doing boring/repetitive things like large amount of handsewing/basting, or sorting beads, it’s lovely to have the noise and some stimulation in the background. A particularily engrossing programme though slows me down. So to keep from too much distraction, I like to watch films/tv series which I have watched before, enough to entertain, but not something I feel I have to actively watch. Also when doing so I actually subtract 20% off my time log to account for slowness.

Which leads to my next new big helper; time keeping. Up until recently I have been *horrid* about time keeping, but a recent commission has made me seriously face up to it. I have a project which, as I go along, I am finding I seriously misjudged how long it would take to complete. Oh, I was fine as far as basic timeframes for the quote; fittings, shopping time for materials, pattern draughting etc. but then some of the custom details on the dress suddenly skewed it enourmously. Enough so that I essentially am no longer “paid” from my original commission quote. (in this case it’s for a friend, it was my error/oversight, so happy to swallow the “cost”, plus she’s taken me to so many theatre shows I’ve been more than compensated in kind ;) The old quote about 90% of the job takes 10% of the time and 10% of the job takes 90% of the time is definatly true with craft/sewing projects ;)

So I needed to find a way to track SPECIFIC tasks. This is important for the future to be able to better give quotes and NOT undersell oneself! I thought to myself it would be lovely if I had a list of just how long it takes to do any given task.

I had been using a timesheet, and that’s good, especially if you have one nearby in all the places in the house you tend to do work. But  I need to use studio, sitting room, dining room ( for cutting big fabrics) and laundry. That’s a silly number of timesheets to try to collate, or drag a clipboard along w all the other things.

Time to turn to technology, I have an Android phone, and I have found a good application which lets me log in & out quickly, calculate cost of time, and label each login/out so I can see exactly how much time I spent sewing X’s pleats, or drawing a pattern. This info you can also email to yourself, or make into a CVS file to send to your computer, making it so much easier to create a final timeshet for a project and in my case, a database on how long it *REALLY* takes to do any aspect.

you can find it on Android Market here (it’s called Chronos timekeeper) : https://market.android.com/details?id=com.kopysoft.chronos&feature=search_result

iPhone seems to have a similar app named simply iTimesheet. I can’t rate it being an Android gal ;)

So if you have a smartphone, and hate filling in timesheets, I highly recommend using this, it’s a real help.

It may seem a silly thing to make a post about, but I know myself, and my colleagues all have a very bad habit of under quoting ourselves. I think it’s important to do this though, and it also makes it easier to show the client exactly what they are paying for and have them really cognizant of how much work truly goes into the beautiful project you are doing for them.

Sewing Trick of the day- Gaping blouse/popped buttons

(This post is from a problem I have, and s friend has as well & was looking for solution)

Way back in the 80’s when I was a teenager & selfconscious of my shape I remember my Gran being horrified at the shapeless poet’s/men’s blouses I would wear. Yeah, I could claim it was the fashion, but that excuse doesn’t work so well these days.

Problem is I am VERY curvy, and most blouses (if anywhere *near* form fitting) have a nasty habit of gaping & showing peek-a-boo flesh between buttons, or embarrassing buttons popping free in the middle of interviews or wearing a rucksack on the tube.  So here is an easy fix.

NOTE: this only works if you can still get blouse on over your head buttoned up, if it is too fitted I have another suggestion at end of post. So button up and try before sewing. If it is a creased blouse, be sure to iron it before you start the fix.

1. decide how far down “unbuttoned” you want it to be from top, mark with chalk.

2. Mark bottom, I usually don’t sew all the way down, leaving the bottom button/s free for more casual days, or hip ease.

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Sewing tip of the Day- Pleats, securing them invisibly

Sewing Tip of the Day (and no, not going to Acronym it down to STD ;P)
here’s some pics of tip for securing pleats, such as for kilts or any large square pleats.
1.(pic 1) mark a lot! I tend to chalk (not wax, if you use wax marker or a rubadub the lines will disappear as you steam press, nooooo) every inch (or half inch, depending upon pleat size), alternating slash and solid lines. This makes it easier to keep track of folding points.

2.(pic 1)Pins! Lots! – for pleats you can’t pin enough, alternate placement in each row as in pic. if you pin always in the same place on rows, you endup with unsupported “bands” of pleats which will gape open when you move fabric around. Be sure to magnet sweep area for pins after so as not to abuse feet of partners or pets ;)

3. (pic 2) Secure back of pleats; you can do this all the way down, but if you do, you lose the “swing” of the pleats. I usually just secure from waist down over hips and top of bum area. So on the WRONG side of pleats (inside)
-whip stitch is fine
-try to only grab one to a few threads on the “flat” side and as much as you like right on edge of the actual pleat fold. Be sure needle passes through as right angles/perpendicular to pleat. it’s easy on whip stitch to let it go at an angle, but this lets the pleat drop. Don’t stress if you can’t pick up minimal threads, generally, if you pleated well, it will be hidden on the “right” side of fabric.

4. (pic 3) the result is invisibly secure pleats. They still have “play” the illusion of being not stitched down.If you don’t like the “flappiness” you can always top stitch them down as well. For traditional piece (pre-industrial/sewing machine age/kilts) generally don’t.

Hope this was of use :)

Miss Miko

July 2018
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