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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sew Bad: 13 Sewing Habits That You Need to Break

sew bad 
It’s 2013. And in honor of unlucky number 13, I’ve decided to start the year with my 13 bad sewing habits that you need to break. Now. 




13. Biting off more than you can chew. When I really got into sewing, I began with basic pillows that my sister Barb helped me with. They were really easy to make. I continued on with a few simple projects here and there. Then I saw embossed velvet scarves and decided to make them. Yeah. Velvet. With Satin backing. Could I have picked two more difficult fabrics to sew? I was guilty of bad habit thirteen. I was way over-confident and totally in over my head. I did figure it out and the scarves were beautiful. But I am surprised that I even stuck with sewing after making them. So learn from me: know what you can do and what you are capable of. You’ll be happier and your projects will go faster and with less frustration. Calculus comes AFTER Algebra for a reason.

12. Using the wrong needle. I never gave much thought to needles. I can’t believe I put that in writing. Needles are designed to make sewing easier. Really. Learn more about needles from Quilt Bug. And for Pete’s sake, change your needle. 

11. Sewing on a machine that you constantly fight with. Sewing is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. If you constantly fight with your machine, get a new machine. I know there are lots of people out there who don’t want to invest in a hobby until they know if they like it. Buy a cheap machine and you probably won’t like sewing. Here are my suggestions for buying a new machine.

10.  Using the wrong thread. Ever try to make cookies with margarine when the recipe calls for butter? The same thing goes with thread. Stop using the pretty, shiny embroidery thread for regular sewing. Read here for more information about thread.

9. Pivoting when you should back stitch. When you come to a corner, back stitch. Corners are tension points and when you pivot, you have a weak seam. Sometimes that’s fine; most of the time, it’s not. Learn more about back stitching.

8.  Sewing and sewing and sewing and sewing. My point? Clean your machine. Oil your machine. Get your machine serviced. 

7. Using a cheap iron. OK, some of you might defend using this bad habit. But really, invest in a good iron. It will be hotter, have better steam, and make sewing a lot easier. My friends loved the T-Fal irons that were in my studio. But I really love my gravity-feed iron. Love it. It was worth every penny. Super hot. Constant steam. Filtered water. I bought mine on eBay.

6. Using cheap scissors. Use your coupon (I use the JoAnn and Hobby Lobby apps!) and buy a pair of Gingher scissors. Then get them sharpened when they get dull. They are pricey, but you’ll have them forever. And you’ll waste less because you’re cutting will be more accurate. And use them to cut fabric and only fabric.

5.  Using the wrong foot. Most machines come with a variety of feet, so why are you using only one? Take the time to learn about feet and what they can do. You’ll be surprised by how easy some sewing can be with the right foot. 

4. Using the wrong stitch length and width. Bulky, thick fabric calls for longer stitches. Basting calls for longer stitches. Top-stitching calls for longer stitches. Don’t be afraid to adjust your stitch length. This goes for the width, too, when you zig-zag. 

3. Using the wrong pins. Sure, the cute pins are cute,… but they are a pain to use. Pins should go into fabric like a hot knife through butter. They come in all different sizes – my favorite pins are glass head pins (they don’t melt!). They are super-fine and really sharp. What? You ask? There’s a difference? Here’s a quick lesson on pins: like needles, there are pointy (sharp) points and ballpoints (for knits – which don’t go into woven fabrics very easily). And they come in different lengths and diameters. I have a variety of pins that I keep separated. I use what the project calls for. Learn more about pins from Threads.

2.  Telling yourself that you’ll remember. I was guilty of this. I would be sewing and on a deadline. I’d make a minor change in the pattern and think, “I’ll remember that.” But I don’t. So now write it all down. I keep note cards next to my machine where I write settings (stitches, stitch length, tension, etc for particular techniques). I also write all over the pattern; I draw pictures. I even take pictures. I make samples. Then I put those pattern notes and samples, along with the pattern, into a ziplock bag and store it. The next time I make it, it’s a breeze. 

1. Not using the experts. I know that there are a lot of bloggers out there who can’t wait to share what they’ve made. The only problem is that they might be wrong. I thought I knew a lot about sewing until I started hanging out with a Palmer-Pletsch trained sewing instructor. Wow. And one day we were looking at a cute project online. It had a zipper. My friend said, “Cute …but she’s using an invisible zipper.” I didn’t even notice it until she pointed it out (UPDATE: the blogger was using the wrong zipper!). So if you hang out with people who know more than you, you’ll learn a lot. But be careful, just because someone has been sewing a long time doesn’t mean that they are skilled. 

I've managed to break these bad habits! So do you have any bad habits that you’ve overcome?

UPDATE: I've added 14 more in honor of 2014!
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36 comments:

  1. Not spending enough time doing what I love. Because I enjoy sewing so much I act like it is a special treat to be doled out only when I'm perfect in everything else.

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  2. This is great! Where is this coupon you speak of? :)

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    Replies
    1. Either Hobby Lobby or JoAnn Fabrics has 40% off coupons. I have their apps on my phone so I never forget them!

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  3. Thank you! I'm guilty of all of these. I've been sewing a long time, but I really want to get more skilled and professional.

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  4. I am a professional seamstress and been sewing for 40+ years. I went to school etc... The big mistakes I see out there are failure to press properly as you go, crooked seams, bad fit. And some of these quilts out there I have had opportunity to view in person...matching seams and pressing properly are #1 problems. I read one blog recently that someone wrote not to be concerned with this as you could mask with the quilting project. Ugh! !! Here is a tip for all sewers...your project should like as nice on the inside/back as it does outside/front. Take pride in your workmanship! :-)

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    1. I totally agree! I saw a picture on a well-known blog - the project was great, but the tension was off. It looked like something I see with a loosey-goosey drop-in bobbin. Yikes!

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    2. @ anonymous, I think this may discourage new sewers. They are allowed to make mistakes and not be perfect. Once they learn, the next will be better.

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  5. Well done! I teach sewing classes at my machine dealer's store and these are all things I try to impress on my students to make sewing easier, less frustrating and FUN!
    But I'm still guilty of #2 - I love your idea of keeping note cards next to the machine- I'm going to try that.

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  6. What's wrong with an invisible zipper?

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    1. I'm confused about that too. Maybe it was sewn like a regular zipper, instead of how an invisible zipper should be sewn?

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    2. Oh...DAH! I need to make that clearer. Sorry about that! It was the wrong zipper and the wrong zipper technique for the project.

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    3. though don't be afraid to mix up the zips - just make sure you use the right technique, and it has the proper strength you need.

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  7. This is an excellent list!! Thank you for sharing!

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  8. This is great! I struggled with a crap Kenmore machine for too long before getting a nice Elna from a reputable Quilt Shop/Dealer. Now I enjoy the limited time I have to sew even more.

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  9. One bad habit I've broken is sewing when I'm tired. I now STOP at 9pm. After that, mistakes happen.

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    Replies
    1. Definitely. I know that when I make a mistake, it is time for at least 20 minute break so that I can go back and fix the mistake immediately and have a fresh mind. Otherwise I am likely to be fussing at a misstep for too long and chewing up my project.

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    2. Sewing when tired isn't *too* bad, but for the love of mike don't *cut* when tired! At least seams can be unpicked....

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    3. I can relate to that. A family member of mine was going through some personal issues that had me distracted. I sliced the very tip of my finger off with a rotary cutter. It was a small bit of skin, but painful enough that I remember it. So that's some good advise!

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  10. not to have a favorite TV show on, behind my back, when I am using a rotary cutter.

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  11. Oh...isn't that the truth! HA!

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  12. One I learned multiple times, make sure the thread on your bobbin is threaded right and has proper tension. Nothing frustrates me more than smooth sailing and then the tell-tale 'bump-click' of a rats nest forming on the underside of my quilt!

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  13. Thanks for posting this! I am guilty of some of them, but some I didn't even know I was doing!! Off to clean my sewing machine now :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Anna! And I think your machine will be thanking you!!

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  14. I agree with the high-quality machine.. however I have two high quality machines and they make me NUTS! I did better with a cheap-o brother than with either my Viking OR my Janome! I'm really about to take the Viking back.. *sigh* very frustrated.
    But as for sewing tired- AMEN! stop when you're tired! and NEVER sew on certain medications.. like cold meds. you'll just end up tearing it apart and re-doing it anyways!

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    Replies
    1. Good point Elizabeth! You really need to find a machine that works for you. I started with one brand, then traded up, then bought a totally different brand (for embroidery). Three years ago, I invested in my current machine - a brand I never owned. It's really a personal thing - I really needed to sew on a bunch of machines to figure out what the best "fit" was!

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  15. I love this article, and I know what you mean about using a good machine. I have an awesome machine but she is 30 years old. One of the reasons she has lasted so long is she gets regular services and goes in for an annual check up. Now that the parts are just wearing out I have got a new machine but letting go of my "Nellie" is hard to do! We have made a lot of projects over the last 30 years!

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  16. I used to hold pins in my mouth, but after reading an article about a woman (Annie McCarthy) who inhaled a pin while sewing, and had to have surgery to remove it...I'll never put pins in my mouth again!

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  17. I would say number one is the only one I am guilty of. I didn't have access and learned by trial and error. It rarely occurs to me to ask for help.

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  18. I'm just beginning the last week or so. Thanks for all the tips. They make a lot of sense. I will be looking into it more when I have some free time next week!

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    Replies
    1. Wonderful! And welcome to the wonderful world of sewing!

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  19. A big faux pas I do is think that I have enough thread on my bobbin to pull me through the project. Often times, I run out mid-seam and that is super frustrating. I need to rid myself of that terrible habit!

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    Replies
    1. So true! And I always seem to convince myself that it will work and it rarely does! Thanks!

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  20. the bad habit that i keep doing again and again are the serious one. point number 2 and 13. i get stuck because the minor change that i forget to noted down. and doing the advanced pattern that got me stuck.
    thank you so much for the tips :D

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  21. My bad habit is forgetting to engage the safety on my rotary cutter after I'm done with it. Have cut myself many times putting a hand down on it by accident, usually while watching TV while working. Ugh.

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