Wise up Wednesdays: How do I start a sewing project?

Have you ever sat down to start a sewing project, turned on your machine, and then discovered that there is no way this is going to work?  You’ve failed to cut out one of the pattern pieces, and there is no more of that fabric? You didn’t check your collection of zips and now you don’t have one of the right length? Or the thread that you thought was sat waiting for you ran out on your last project?

Sound familiar?  The time you spend preparing for a project can save you so much time in the long run.  These are my top tips for preparing to sew.  I’m going to be putting together more in depth posts on each of them in the next few weeks.

  1. Prewash your stash (and your new purchases too)
  2. Read through the fabric and notion requirements (and tick them off when you have them assembled)
  3. Match your fabric choice to your pattern.  Does the pattern need drape or structure, woven or knit?
  4. Cut out your pattern pieces, leave them labelled and tick them off the pattern guide.
  5. Skim through the pattern instructions and make sure you understand any new techniques. Practice if required!

Wise Up Wednesdays- Your most important tool?

I think for most of us, one of the most important tools in our collection is the trusty seam ripper.  No matter how experienced or careful you are, mistakes happen!


How many is too many though? The humble seam ripper is one of those tools which in my experience anyway seems to roll under you machine, get put down somewhere funny and disappear!  This is why I believe there can never be too many in your arsenal!  I usually have one in my sewing machine, one with my pins, another in my tray of tools and one floating around somewhere on the desk!


You might be surprised to learn however, that not all seam rippers are created equal, nor do they last indefinitely.  Over time, the little cutting surface does blunt and if you have had yours for a while, it might be time to start thinking about replacing it.



I am particularly liking this clover unpicker at the moment.  Being blue, it does seem easier to find, and the slightly larger size also seems to help with that too!


How often do you replace your tools?  Do you have any tricks to keep your most used tools where you can find them?


As an aside, this is the last Wednesday post that I have planned for a little while. I thought that I would give myself a break over the summer, especially as I am off on holiday to Italy at the weekend.  Don’t worry though, my regular Sunday posts will continue, and I have a couple of things written and scheduled for while I am away too.  Hope you all have lovely holidays planned- I’m certainly looking forward to mine!

Wise up Wednesdays- Why might you want a seam gauge?

This is one tool that I really cannot live without.  It is always close at hand when I am sewing and pressing because accuracy really does matter!

IMG_2065So why is this tool so much more convenient than a ruler, or tape measure?


The key is in that little red wedge.  This is able to slide up and down the gauge to a selected measurement. It is easy to move, but it does stay in position by itself.  This makes this such a handy tool for measuring seam allowances, needle position, and marking buttonholes.

Where it really comes into it’s own though is in pressing up hems.


Because the little wedge stays in position, it is really easy to use to measure a section of hem as you press it into place.  You get a consistent measurement, and can just roll the hem into place.  The wedge marker just butts up against the folded edge of your fabric.  Perfect!

There are a couple of bonus useful features too.  The one I use most often is the point turner.


This is a little rounded point, designed tor turning out corners without puncturing back through yous stitching.  I know there are lots of improvised alternatives such as knitting needles, or chopsticks, but I have found this little point great because it is already near at hand and it does turn out collar points beautifully.

Do you use a seam gauge in your sewing or do you measure another way?  Are there other tools that you couldn’t sew without?

Wise up Wednesdays- Fabric Marking Tools

Whatever it is that you sew, from time to time you will need to make measurements or markings on your fabric, but you almost certainly don’t want them to stay there once you are finished sewing!  I have used a whole range of different tools for this job, and I have a selection to share with you today.


A common and simple option is some form of chalk pencil.  These can be rubbed out and removed by using the little plastic ‘comb’ on the back of the pencil.


They come in a few different colours- I have white for marking on dark colours, and blue for lights.  The advantage of these is that it is just like writing with a pencil.  You can keep it sharp, it doesn’t stain, and doesn’t rub off too quickly either.  The disadvantage is that the marking line may not be as clear as you might like when sewing.  You can also use a tailors chalk triangle in a very similar way.


Another similar option is a powder chalk or Chaco liner.  Again, I keep a couple of colours to make marking on a variety of fabrics and colours easy.


These have a little metal ‘wheel’ instead of a nib which transfers a small amount of the powdered chalk as you draw with it.  It can be easier to use than a pencil because the wheel helps the liner to move over the surface of the fabric without bunching and pulling it.  Again, the chalk line can be brushed off when you are finished.  I have found that sometimes the line does need to be transferred a couple of times because sometimes sections get skipped which might mean a less accurate marking.  You can buy chalk refills for these in loads of colours though!


Next up, is the water erasable pen.  This does tend to be my tool of choice.  It is easy to use and the marking is nicely pigmented and long-lasting while you are using it.IMG_2078

Then, when you are finished you just wash it out.  I know that some people will use these pens with caution on pale coloured fabrics in case they stain, but I have never had any issues with trying to get the colour back out when I am done.


The final option is an air erasable pen.  This has many of the same properties as a water-erasable pen, but it removes itself over time with contact with the air.IMG_2082

I don’t use mine all that often because the colour does tend to fade quite quickly, meaning that if you mark you fabric one day, and then come to sew another, the markings will all be gone!  It can be useful though if you just need a short term mark, when aligning buttonholes for example at the end of a project.

Hopefully it is helpful to see what the markings from these tools actually look like.  What is your preferred method of marking onto fabric?


Wise up Wednesdays- Scissors

Today’s tips come about scissors.  I’m sure all of you have a whole range of different cutting tools.  These are the ones that I use.


Paper scissors:  Even before I get to my fabric, I use these paper scissors to prepare PDF patterns and cut them to the right size.  I’m sure you all know to keep you fabric scissors for fabric only, so it is essential to have some paper scissors conveniently located so that you aren’t tempted!


Thread snips:  I keep these nearby when sewing to tidy up loose ends and threads.


Small scissors: of the tools here, I think these are used the most.  They are so versatile. They can be used to tidy up threads, trim down seams and generally just trim or notch anything that needs it.


Fabric Shears: I think every dressmaker deserve a decent pair of fabric shears.  They need to cut smoothly through several layers of fabric and have a long enough blade to make long clean cuts.  Comfortable handles are also useful if you are doing a lot of cutting, or cutting anything particularly heavy.  Make sure everyone in your house knows that using them for paper is banned!


Pinking shears:  I love these to quickly trim back seams, particularly on curves seams where you will need to clip curves.  On a shallow curve, pinking the seam  might be enough without having to clip in close to your stitching.  They can also be a speedy seam finish because the cutting on the bias helps discourage fraying.


Which scissors or tools can you not live without?

Wise up Wednesdays- Pinning and clipping

I keep two types of pins in my sewing kit.  Firstly, ordinary sharp pins, but I prefer mine to have glass heads so that I can’t melt them if I touch them with an iron.


Secondly, I have some fine ballpoint pins which I keep to use on particularly delicate fabrics and on jersey.  They do have a habit of slipping out so I definitely have to handle things carefully once they are pinned with these.


Finally, I have some quilting clips.  These are great for anytime that pins are not your friend.  Fabrics which might ladder or mark, waterproof fabrics or leather, net and fabrics that pins just fall back out of.  Even anything which is a bit thick and bulky for pins can be clipped easily.


I keep my pins in little clippy boxes.  They need to be big enough to get your hands in and out easily.  Especially as I don’t like to stop sewing to remove my pins, I need to be able to find the pot while still watching the needle!


My clips stay safe in a little drawstring bag.  These are so simple to make, and I always have plenty around to be used to wrap small presents or store odds and ends.  I use a tutorial by Pam at Threading my Way which is super simple to follow, and creates a neat finished pouch.  They are great for using up scraps or co-ordinating fat quarters!


Wise up Wednesdays- An Introduction

Hi, this blog has been growing steadily for the last few months and I would like to thank everyone for reading and commenting. I really love seeing people interacting with it.  Today I am starting to expand the blog a little more.  On top of the usual Sunday posts I am going to be beginning a series called ‘Wise up Wednesdays’ which will include some ‘how to…’s, tools and techniques.  The first post is going to be landing next week so please let me know what you think of this new series and let me know if there are particular things you want to see in it.  Is there a skill that you’ve always wanted to know about, a tool that you’ve seen and you don’t know what its for or a sewing machine foot that you have never touched? Let me know and I will try to give you an answer!