Top Sewing Tips

Sandra Betzina
From packing light to sewing with tricky travel-friendly fabrics, Sandra has excellent tips and solutions to help you get ready to hit the road.

Stretch-Proof Seams

A slinky knit A-line or gored skirt in a dark color is a great travel companion. Prevent darts, shoulder, neckline and crotch seams from stretching by sewing the seams through 1/4"-wide clear elastic. Slinky fabric garments will lengthen as they're worn, so hem them 11/2" shorter than the desired length.

Prevent wavy seams in knits by lowering the upper tension and lengthening the stitch. Always use a 75/11 HS needle for machine sewing knits.


Cozy Coat

It's no fun to be cold on a trip, but a heavy coat takes up a lot of room in your suitcase. Make an unlined mohair coat as a sensible alternative. Mohair is lightweight yet warm, especially when layered over other pieces. To prevent the coat seams from stretching as you sew, position a 2"-wide strip of silk organza between the presser foot and the mohair layers. Trim the seams to _", and wrap the organza around the raw edges for a clean finish.

For a Rainy Day

A lightweight raincoat with a hood is more practical than an umbrella for travel. Raincoats offer more protection from the elements and they pack easily. When you sew a raincoat, treat the needle holes with seam sealant. (Refer to More Fabric Savvy for more tips on how to sew on raincoat-appropriate fabrics.)

Dark Matter

Unless you're going to a tropical climate, leave whites and bright colors at home. Instead, take versatile dark basics in charcoal gray, black or dark brown that work with your footwear. Change your look with accessories, such as colorful scarves or a large tote. Leave precious jewelry at home for safekeeping, but take fun earrings and bracelets in bright colors to give a lift to your dark basics.

Get Packing

You'll definitely want to bring home souvenirs and treasures from your trip, but don't overstuff your suitcase. Bring a lightweight canvas zippered tote with you for the return overflow.

Shoe In


Since shoes are bulky and weigh down luggage, limit the number of pairs you take. Most likely, all you'll need is one pair of comfy feminine flats, one pair of dressy shoes and one pair of flat boots. All three pairs should be the same color-black or dark brown is most versatile-so they all match with one purse.

Press Release

Leave your iron behind when you're on a trip. No fabric travels better than sueded microfiber (also known as stretch suede or stretch moleskin). Sueded microfiber never wrinkles, it can be hand washed and air-dried, and it looks perfectly fresh without pressing. When sewing on sueded microfiber, always use a new 70/10 HJ needle. Serge-finish seams together, as flat-felled seams on this fabric tend to pucker.

Please Pleat Me

Permanently pleated separates are great pieces to take along on a trip. However, many sewers are worried that these garments can't be hemmed without getting a lettuce-leaf effect. Not so! For best results, cut off the excess garment length. Set the serger for a rolled hem with stitches that aren't too close together. As you serge the lower edge, place your finger behind the presser foot as when easing on a conventional machine (some stretching will occur). Roll up the hem and slip the garment into the ribbed part of a sock. Steam well around the sock and allow the sock to dry completely. Z

Sandra Betzina designs patterns for Vogue under the Today's Fit label,writes a fitting column for Vogue Pattern magazine, is the author of More Fabric Savvy, Fast Fit, Power Sewing Step By Step and Sandra Betzina Sews for the Home, has produced nine instructional DVDs and conducts week-long sewing retreats in San Francisco. For more information, visit sandrabetzina.com or call (415) 876-2434.

Appeared in:

June/July 2008 Issue

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