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Sewing Hors d’Oeuvres

Since social media moves fast and things often get completely missed or quickly buried in the constant flow, I’ve decided to assemble some of the miscellaneous sewing tips I’ve shared on Instagram and publish them together in a single blog post. That way it’s a little easier for you to link, find, and reference later.

So whether you missed them before or just forgot about them (some of these are over a year old!), I hope you savor these quick tidbits! Enjoy! =)

Copy-Instead-of-Trace-PatternsYou might recall that I like to trace sewing patterns (especially the vintage ones) to preserve the original. But I also like to use my printer to copy the pieces that are small enough to fit on a page or two.

Sharpening-Hole-PunchYou can sharpen any kind of metal paper-punch by punching through aluminum foil. Punching through wax paper also helps if a punch is sticking.

Interfaced-Sewing-PatternMy friend discovered that fusible interfacing ironed to the back of a favorite and frequently used sewing pattern makes it much more durable.

Cutting-Fur-FabricWhen cutting fake fur fabric, cut from the back and cut only the backing. That way you aren’t cutting any of the long fur and you can easily cover the seams in the end.

Sewing-Fur-FabricAfter some trial and error, I recently determined that pins on the bottom help when sewing fur fabric. Sew with a zig-zag stitch so it’s easier to pick the fur on the front to cover the seams after.

Spray-n-BondSpray-n-Bond is my new favorite thing! It was the only way I could appliqué stretch crushed velvet on top of another layer of stretch crushed velvet without it shifting all over the place. It even made using a walking foot unnecessary!

Removing-Beads-from-Seam-AllowanceRemove beads from the seam allowance by smashing them with a hammer. This will keep all the beading threads intact so the beads you leave on the outside don’t become loose and fall off as easily. (Protect your eyes! Wear safety glasses when pounding beads!)

Easing-with-PinsEase with pins. (You don’t need to use gathering stitches to help with easing!) I do this all the time and with all ungathered sleeve caps. Pin both ends, then pin the midpoint, and keep pinning the “middles” until you have the ease distributed evenly.

Gathering-Zigzag-Over-ThreadWhen you need to gather tightly or are using a thick fabric and you’re afraid of breaking a thread when you pull the gather, zig-zag over nylon or upholstery thread (or even dental floss!). You can then pull the stronger thread without fear of it snapping off mid-gather. Just be sure to secure the other end to the fabric or knot it to another row of gathering stitches.

If you have a presser foot with a hole for stitching over cord or trim as pictured above, it’s even easier.

Baste-Stitchline-for-GuidelineSew a stitchline to follow when seam allowances are different widths or uneven. This is especially helpful when attaching bias tape without pins. (Larger stitchline at far right was for basting two layers of fabric together.)

Use-Cone-Thread-Without-Thread-StandA domestic sewing machine rigged to feed cone thread without a cone stand. You can use a roll of tape or a mug to hold the cone.

Topstitching-Stitch-GuideCreate a topstitching guide with painters tape for things like a fly-front zipper. (It took me until the third pair of pants to remember this trick!)

Serging-Tail-FinishWhen you have a serged edge that isn’t crossed by perpendicular stitching or serging, tuck the thread tail under the serging using a large needle to prevent it from unraveling.

How-to-Flatten-Plastic-BoningYou can flatten curly plastic boning by ironing it and using steam. Just make sure to iron it in the fabric casing or under a piece of fabric to prevent melting.

Sewing-Button-with-Thread-ShankUse a small knitting needle under a button when you need to sew a thread shank. Makes for an even and pretty shank once you pull the knitting needle out to wrap the thread.

Sewing-Snaps-on-CenterSnaps have holes in the center for a reason! Mark a center dot on your fabric and pin straight through for perfect placement while sewing.

Handsew-with-Loop-Instead-of-KnotAnd finally, my favorite way to handsew, especially buttons – put both ends of the thread through the needle eye and catch the loop after making the first stitch. No knot!

This is particularly helpful when sewing on net or loosely woven fabric when a knot won’t catch and stay.


Do you have any favorite quick sewing tips to add? Share and/or link to them in the comments!

Tracing Sewing Patterns

I promise that my Easter dress post will be next! I’m presently weeding through all the photos for it. =)

In the meantime, I feel I need to write a post about pattern tracing and the wonderful paper I recently discovered since so many sewcialists have been asking me about it over on Twitter. Seems that everyone was looking for the perfect way to trace patterns at the same time and I just happened to find the answer right before they started asking! (Weird how things like that happen…)

I have always tried to trace sewing patterns especially if they are vintage patterns! That way I can alter and make design changes without losing the original, and I can keep all the sizes when a pattern is drafted in multiple sizes all nested together.

(I also cheat a bit and use my printer/copier/scanner to make copies of many of the small pieces. And I’ve even been known to copy the big pattern pieces in sections and tape them together.)

My previous pattern tracing method involved rolls of craft paper (white or brown). Craft paper is best for pattern drafting from scratch, but it is a pain when you want to trace something because you can’t see through it. To trace a pattern, I would have to place my pattern on top of the paper and use a tracing wheel to punch little dotted lines into the paper. Then I would need to go back and mark over the dots with a pencil. It was like tracing everything twice and it took for-ev-ER!

So I started hunting for a roll of thinner paper that was more see-through.

I couldn’t find anything sheer enough in wide widths in my local craft stores. Thus, I began searching online.

First, I found this 36-inch wide roll of vellum tracing paper by Pro Art brand. I added it to my wishlist and received some for Christmas. It is wonderful stuff, but it’s a bit pricey and only comes in a 5-yard roll, which doesn’t last very long. I plan to use it for patterns I need to use a million times. (It’s actually what I used to trace the vintage pattern I started with for my Easter dress, and you can see it in this post.)

My search for more affordable tracing paper continued.

And then I found it! Same brand as the tracing vellum but it’s actual tracing paper. I didn’t see it in my original searches because you have to click the 12-inch wide roll link to see that you can get it in all sorts of widths. Pick your width up to 36-inches and pick your length from 8 yards to 50 yards! (I like the 36-inch wide.)

Here’s a photo I posted to Instagram when I first got my roll (you can see how nice and sheer the paper is):

It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted – affordable, thicker than tissue; thin enough to see-through; relatively strong so it doesn’t rip too easily; and marks well with pencil, pen, or marker! Just what every serious sewist or sewcialist needs. =)

If you ever have a sewing dilemma, feel free to leave a comment, ask me by email or find me on Twitter – I’d love to help out if I can!

Sewing Tip: Fusible Interfacing Shortcuts

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks frantically sewing some custom cheer uniforms for a local football team’s dancers. It was a lot of crazy detail work in the end and I’m just glad it’s over now. (Thank you to all my new Twitter friends for “cheering” me on during this project!)

During the uniform madness, I did manage to take a few pictures and mentally note some sewing tips I have for interfacing.

Before I continue with my shortcuts, let me just point out that this is NOT a post about which type of interfacing is best for different types of fabrics. That would require a whole post or two on just that topic and there would still be experimenting required for each individual project.

If you really want a good overview and chart about interfacing, my favorite go-to sewing book is Vogue Sewing. It is for sewing what The Joy of Cooking cookbook is for cooking, and includes information about all the sewing basics you would probably ever want to reference. If you want just one sewing reference book on your shelf, it is the one I would recommend.

That being said, I do have some interfacing tips, especially if you are making cuffs and collars.

If you’ve ever followed the instructions included with a sewing pattern, you’ve probably cut your fabric and interfacing separately using the pattern pieces. And then, you’ve probably had the fun task of trying to line up the two in order to fuse the pieces together.

And the edges of the two layers always shift around don’t they? Super annoying.

There are two ways to prevent the shifting and fusing frustration.

One way is to cut only the interfacing pieces using your pattern. Then you fuse those to your yardage of fabric and then cut your fabric around the fused interfacing. This works best with the non-woven or non-knit interfacings because they hold their cut shape better.

The second way is to block-fuse (or pre-fuse) large strips of interfacing to your fabric before cutting either of them with your pattern, essentially creating a large piece of backed fabric.

I had 11 collars and 22 cuffs to make for the cheer uniforms, so I took it one step further. Not only did I block-fuse my interfacing, I traced my cuffs and collar pieces directly onto the interfacing using a pencil.

I did not include seam allowance on my pattern pieces, so the pencil line was my actual stitch line. This meant I was able to rough cut my pieces without measuring any seam allowances and then stitch directly on my pencil lines.

Cuffs were traced on the pre-fused interfacing and then roughly cut out and pinned back to back with another unmarked piece of pre-interfaced fabric.

After stitching, I trimmed my seam allowances down and clipped the curves.

This was the first curve I clipped and I was so tired that I goofed – I didn’t need to cut V’s around a curve going this direction. I made the others by just cutting single clips once I realized my mistake.

Then I ironed all my seams open with the help of my point presser with clapper to make turning easier and to insure crisp edges.

Ironing seams open with the point presser.

I followed the same steps for the collars with only one difference because I clean finished both the inside and the outside of the Mandarin style collar. (For this project, I chose not to finish my cuffs in this way mainly because of bulk & the need for speed.)

Before stitching the front to the back, I basted the bottom edge of the collar on the stitchline and pressed it up. This makes it easier to attach to the neckline later because one half is already neatly turned inward.

Bottom seam basted and pressed up on half of the collar
before both layers are stitched together.

And after I made my pile of cuffs and collars (oops! forgot to take a photo of the pile), I was able to attach them to all the uniforms.

One uniform top with cuffs & collar attached.

And one last interfacing tip. There’s a really easy way to clean any fusing residue off your iron. Grab a used dryer sheet from your laundry room and simply iron over it a few times. It should remove any glue & stickiness left on your iron and it will smell like clean laundry. =)

If you ever have a sewing dilemma, feel free to leave a comment, ask me by email or find me on Twitter – I’d love to help out if I can!

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