Free Stuff Friday! Give us your best sewing tips!

We’re looking for some fresh, unique sewing tips and tricks. Give us your best sewing tip or handy dandy trick for your chance to win a collection of Vintage Chic Stackable Reproduction Vintage buttons from JHB! From the responses, we’ll randomly select one winner. Your tip could also be published in an upcoming issue! Please leave your tip in the comments section below. Good luck and happy Friday!

Vintage Chic v1 1 232x300 Free Stuff Friday! Give us your best sewing tips!Vintage Chic v1 2 232x300 Free Stuff Friday! Give us your best sewing tips!


 Free Stuff Friday! Give us your best sewing tips!
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48 Responses to Free Stuff Friday! Give us your best sewing tips!

  1. Rick says:

    How about choosing a machine !
    I am amazed how sometimes people choose their sewing machine. Before you do, hold on a little bit a think it over.. are you a beginner? or a complete fan with 10 machines at home? here some hints for those who are beginners!!!
    - reflect a moment on what you are going to do with your machine! are you the type to just do some hemming for the children on their trousers and the odd curtain here and there? Or ready to get it on and start on dresses and such? The kind of machine you’ll need will depend on what you do with it. Needless to say that if you do the occasional hemming and repairing you will not need 200 different kinds of stitches on an embroidery machine of 900 dollars.
    - the golden rule: the more options you’ve got on a machine.. the more the machine will break and need repairing.
    - also, buying a machine of 60 dollars/euros at a discount shop “made in china” will always be just that. A cheap machine which will last you a year or two… really, save yourself the trouble and don’t do it.
    - check all your buying options! sometimes it is much better to find a second hand machine (friends? family? colleques?) !
    - check it and look inside! found a good machine from Grandma? great!!! did you find a good one in a store? great! but wait!!! open it up, check the bobbin section. is it metal or is it plastic? no surprise whatsoever, any part that looks cheap and breakable WILL break (preferably just when you are finishing the jeans for your son who is waiting for it). Can you take the top part off ?(probably not in the store I suppose but handy for the second hand ones) do so!!! arm yourself with screwdrivers and such! One day you will have to clean it out anyway so might as well start right away. Check it. A second hand machine all metal inside with no plastic parts is usually the best!!!
    - No need to be superhuman, cleaning a machine out and oiling usually makes it work again (I used to have little knowledge of ordinary household machines, but in time Ive learned and “repaired” many over the years just with the vacuumcleaner, some brushes and machine oil). The outside of a secondhand sewing machine is easily cleaned with some cleaning alcohol.
    - So lets get started, if you buy your machine in a speciality store.. what are your options? will they give you lessons? Can you bring it back the moment you are in trouble? If you pay cash.. will they give you some extra needles, bobbins, the odd pressure foot? I’ve done some hard bargaining and gotten everything I want!
    - Try to see who can help you with sewing, if you have a friend who has experience ask them to come over, get nibbles and snacks and let him/her help you! Getting a good clue about how to thread and such can really be a wonderful “if only I knew this earlier” moment.
    - last but not least; if you are a real beginner start simple!!!! a straight skirt is what I give my friends to do for a first item!

  2. Rick says:

    - for storing my scissors/pencils etc I use an old plastic dishwasher cutlery holder, also because it has a handle it is easy to move!
    - Lacquer chopsticks for turning corners in fine fabrics
    - I always have a little container of chalk at hand! (the same stuff used on skirt hemmers) , the only stuff to get your sewing machine oil out of precious (silk) fabrics! prepare paper handkerchiefs, put your fabric with oilstains on it, cover thick (go for it!!) with chalkpowder, cover again with paper handkerchiefs, put a book on it) leave it overnight!!! yes! it is a miracle!
    - always, always!!!, take care of your sewing machine!!! clean it out! oil it! pamper it! Change the needles often! it will save you enourmous amounts of money!!!
    - a big can of glue spray! available in all sorts and shapes, wonderful to place your fabricpieces on top of eachother. Don’t go overboard however!
    - cheap pillows provide me with anti-allergic stuffing which is washable and much cheaper than the bags you buy at speciality sewing stores.
    - I use old bedsheets for lining in costumes, soft and easy on the skin! my local Hotels provide me with their old bedsheets which are normally tossed away! a good hot wash and they are perfect! also great to use as a cheap “try-out” fabric.
    -last but not least: a teflon pressure foot for my machine! what a joy! fabric just behaves better underneath your machine! Also got myself a “ruffler pressure foot” I am still completely flabbergasted how easy it is to make ruffles and gatherings! A metallic strip pushes the pleats in the fabric! Easily found on internet!

  3. susan says:

    since I’m still new to sewing have not done it for many years and even then was not all that great . I use caned air to keep the dust and all the other stuff out of the bobbin area.

  4. Kim Greaves says:

    I sometimes have a hard time putting pins in fabric, either because it is heavy fabric or silk. I thought about different weights so I went down into the hardware store and bought a handful of large washers. They work great and I can string them on yarn or even an shower curtain ring to keep them together. They work great.

  5. Diane Iazzetta says:

    I use old tissue boxes placed next to my sewing and cutting area to put my discarded threads and “snippets” in.

  6. Helen H says:

    I could not sew without my floor magnifying glass. My son in law put it on an old, heavy floor fan base. I just pull it close when I need to undo those those tiny stitches. Sure easier on the eyes.

  7. Kathy Witt says:

    I go to garage sales and goodwill stores and purchase old clothing with unique buttons that I can use in my sewing–much less expensive than purchasing buttons from a retail store. I also get buttons that cannot be found in retail stores.

  8. Pingback: Free Stuff Friday Winner! | Sew News

  9. I use my rotary cutter to rip out seams…..cuts the tread a lot easy and faster…..

  10. Sarah Bosch says:

    Gross-out alert!

    If you prick your finger while sewing something pale colored, believe it or not, the best thing to get the blood to come out of the fabric is to rub some spit into it! The enzymes in your saliva break it down quickly.

    (BTW, it is theater costume shop “belief” that bleeding a bit on the costume you’re making is good luck for the actor who will wear the costume! )

  11. Jo says:

    When you sew hemming tape or iron on patches sometimes little bits of glue get on your needle. Most people throw these out but no need – grab some cotton wool pads (not balls, it sticks and gets everywhere) and some lighter fluid, little dab on the pad and it wipes off. A good quality washing up liquid also works but takes a few wipes. No need to bin anymore needles.Also if you get the loose powder kind of iron on glue on fabric, run it through the washing machine on a 40degree wash with either good quality washing up liquid or Stardrops – this dissolves the glue. As a reverse tip don’t wash anything with iron on patches in Stardrops if it gets stained as it will lift the patches off.

  12. Lori Sepanik says:

    Remove the handle from a lint roller and place the sticky roll on a paint roller, for a tight fit you may have to add a clean tube on roller before adding the lint roll. This is great for cleaning the rug from all the threads and prevent your vacuum from getting the threads wound on the wheel assembly.

  13. Ann F says:

    I cut the tops off my knee highs and use them to keep my embroidery spools from unwinding.

  14. Maggie Warren says:

    The round and rectangular plastic ‘cans’ that juice mixes come in (think Crystal Lite) are wonderful for carrying rotary cutters to class. The cans, along with the ones that ready-made frosting come in, are also great for disposing of ‘sharps’ – needles and blades. Just remember to securely tape the lid closed before disposing.
    Regarding old spools of thread, they can sometimes be salvaged by an overnight stay in a storage bag in the freezer.

  15. betsey karl says:

    i use pipe cleaners to hold a spool of thread to the bobbin filled with the same thread. in this manner, i don’t have to go digging for that bobbin that i “just knew” i filled.

  16. Don’t laugh. I’m a newbie. But here is my tip.

    Do not baste a quilt on carpet. Use a hard surface.

    ;-) LOL

  17. Jean says:

    I use cotton swabs to clean the lint out of my bobbin case. Works like a magnet for lint and dust.

  18. Carol Gartrell says:

    For a cheaper alternative to horsehair (for hems) or light interfacing for waistbands, use stiff netting, which is way less expensive.

  19. rozevelyn says:

    My best sewing tip is to get a clip with a pullout string on shirt pocket. Then attach your scissors for quick and easy clipping. I never have to look for my clipping scissors as they are always clipped to my shirt chest.

  20. Suzanne Ripple says:

    I love basting glue, and bought special small tips to control the flow to get it just were I want it, I use it for hems, bindings, anywhere where I want something to stay put. I even use it to make my quilt “sandwich”, it is so much easier that pinning. If I make a mistake I can wash it out and start over.

  21. Tamara Kemp says:

    When my metal zippers start sticking, I just take a bar of soap and run it along one side. Now my zipper goes up and down without any trouble.

  22. Shop for wall-mounted spice racks at yard sales or flea markets and use to store and display thread spools. Cut soda straws the length of two spools to stack the two securely. A multi-sectioned desk organizer works wonders for storing scissors, screwdrivers, seam rippers, marking pens & pencils. The one I found fits nicely in the file drawer right next to my sewing chair.

  23. Beth says:

    For hems or casings that are stitched down, use the blind stitch hemmer foot. Stitching on the wrong side of the garment, line the knife edge up with the edge of the hem and move the needle over a few clicks to the right. Then stitch the hem down keeping the knife edge hugging the edge. Your hem or casing will then be stitched perfectly evenly. My 4-H kids call it the magic foot because their casings and hems on their pj pants are then blue ribbon quality.

  24. Darlene Jacolik says:

    When making a large quilt with machine applique, I cut out the pieces block by block, storing each set in a labeled zip lock bag. Then I can sit down at the machine and complete each block quickly and effieciently.

  25. Pat H. says:

    Bless all those who load us up with their auntie’s old threads. But use them only for basting. Thread will dry rot on the spool.

  26. Maggie C says:

    When threading a needle place an oppisite color of fabric behind the needle Example: for white thread place a dark color piece of fabric behind the needle. This will make the eye easier to see and easier to thread.

  27. Andrea F. says:

    When applying ribbon or other thin, delicate trims to a sewing project, I use a temporary fabric glue to “baste” the trim before sewing. It makes seeing the trim very easy to sew straight.

  28. Diana says:

    Sometimes it seems overwhelming to try and face all the steps to sewing a garment, quilt or other project. So I break it into all of its pieces and think of it in its pieces so it seems easier to accomplish (pattern preparation, cutting the fabric, etc.). Once my fabric is cut out, I set a simple goal everyday – to just sew one seam. With one seam a day, that t-shirt is finished in a week, that jacket is finished in 2 weeks. Usually, thought, one seams turns into two or more seams and a huge feeling of accomplishment for exceeding my goals.

  29. Marcy Maurer says:

    I use freezer paper to make templates to machine quilt around simple shapes. They can be reused many times.

  30. Doris says:

    I plug in my iron (sewing machine or serger) to a power-strip that also has a lamp plugged in. When I turn off the switch I know my iron is off.
    I use old mugs as scissor holders- just put a bit of fleece in the bottom of the mug to protect the scissor point.
    I also love using chop-sticks.
    They are great for stuffing pillows or toys(getting into small corners), they help push out points, and I also use them to hold fabric when I don’t want my fingers too close to the sewing machine.

  31. Barbara says:

    I use a lint roller to clean up threads off my sewing table, ironing board, items I’m sewing, my flannel back, wall mounted design wall, picking up needles or pins that I’ve dropped, for reaching that bobbin that fell and un-spooled, lots of different things that rolled under the table.
    I use an empty Rx bottle with a hole in the cap to collect bent needles & pins.
    I keep a small jewelers loop in my sewing drawer to read needle sizes.

  32. LauraM says:

    Some helpful hints when gathering:
    - always break the gathering stitches at seam allowances for more manageable lengths
    - when sewing the gathering stitch, have right side of fabric facing up. then you’ll be pulling up the bobbin threads when doing the gathering. The bobbin threads pull easier than the top thread
    - sew your gathering stitches on 4/8″ and 6/8″ seam lines. Then your 5/8″ seam stitching will run between the gathering stitches. The gathering lays smoother, and it’s easier to remove the gathering threads afterwards

    My 4-H kids have found these hints very helpful, as four of them have made the popular tiered gathered peasant skirts.

  33. LauraM says:

    I always use wonder tape for basting zippers and patch pockets. It holds it perfect and can be sewn through. The tape dissolves in water.

  34. Barbara says:

    When I have to do a lot of gathers, I do a zigzag stitch over knit-crochet thread in the seam allowance. This saves lots of time and broken threads.

  35. wanda tucker says:

    i was always having trouble keeping the last threads of my machine from sewing back into fabric ,after you finish sewing something and you cut it loose from machine , the thread that was there from bobbin and needle i wouldnt remember sometimes to hold it when i started to sew again ,so heres a great thing to help take DOUBLE SIDED TAPE and put on back of machine and when you cut fabric loose pull the threads and stick them to tape ………..i hope this helps alot ,it helped me alot ,thanks

  36. Eileen says:

    This seems hard to believe, but when I am ready to thread a needle, I cut the end of the thread at an angle. It slips right through the eye with nary a lick. Try it, you’ll like it!

  37. Laura P says:

    I can never seem to find my lint brush or get all the thread and dust out of the bobbin case. I “borrowed” a paint brush from my son’s watercolor kit….it’s soft, pliable and picks up better than the brush that came with the machine. It is also has longer brushes so it reaches better.

  38. Linda says:

    I keep a small tool set by my sewing machine. I use the hammer to gently coax thick quilting seams into submission, the snips to cut off the shanks of buttons, the needlenose pliers to pull a needle through thick material, ect. I am always finding new uses for the tools.

  39. Sharon Thomas says:

    When my granddaughter wanted me to shorten a pair of jeans, but leave the embroidery, I made a pleat above the embroidery on the outside. I’ve put in as many as 4 pleats, removing one at a time as she grows. Now I use this method whenever I have to shorten pants, even my dress pants!

  40. Judy Baxter says:

    I use the non slip shelf covering to whole slick fabric of unruly fabric in place while sewing. I place it near the presser foot. Works great.

  41. Cheryl E says:

    I found a new trick … when putting elastic through a casing.. put a safety pin on both ends… one to pull the elastic through and the other one at right angle with the elastic, so when you get it pulled through , your second pin keeps in from going all the way and you losing it… wish I had learned this sooner… the second pin holds it out of the casing.

  42. Linda C. says:

    Change your sewing machine needles! After sewing items with iron on interfacing your needle gets gummy and does not sew cleanly. After spending too much time trying to figure out that it wasn’t the tension or the bobbin I now put in a new needle. Problem solved.

  43. Victoria Butler says:

    I got tired of looking around for my various scissors so I mounted a magnetic knife bar near my machines and now they are readily accessible. I also put a seam ripper, screwdriver, and seam guide there.

  44. Bridgit Montgomery says:

    My favorite tip lately: I have to sew lots of patches on Boy Scout uniforms as my entire family is active in Scouting. Since the uniforms are nylon, it is very hard to get the patch to stay put long enough for me to stitch it in place-they slip and end up crooked.

    My tip was to use a school-type glue stick (I use the purple one so I can see it) and run a strip of glue on the back side of the patch then place the patch on the uniform and put something heavy on it (I have a plastic cutting board that I use then stick my sewing box on top). I place all the patches and leave them to dry overnight then can sit and sew them the next day. I can either hand- or machine- stitch in no time flat and they look perfect when I am done. Best part is that the glue does not gum up my sewing machine like some of the other products I have used and I can easily remove the patch if needed and it leaves no residue.

    I recently had to sew patches on 4 new shirts that I managed to complete in under an hour – the last time I had to sew patches it took me an hour to get 1 patch on straight! I sewed 34 patches and got them all right the first time. I wish I had known that trick when my kids first joined Boy Scouts – I would have used that for all of their patches.

  45. Marian Lockman says:

    When finances are tight and I want fabric for crafting I hit the local thrift stores on half price day. I buy clothes in XXXL sizes and use the fabric. I also buy leather and suede skirts for the fabric. I pay about 2.00 per item and get enough fabric for several items.

  46. To finish any decorative hem or trim, use a 1/2 inch or more ribbed ribbon folded over the edge for a unique and easy way to finish any outter edge.

  47. pattie gibson says:

    those hard flexible plastic things that come with bacon make great stencils for quilting and patterning.

  48. Jackie says:

    I have made a working corset pattern using a t-shirt and duct tape. All you have to do is put the t-shirt on your model, wrap her middle in duct tape, and draw on where the corset would sit on her. Label the pieces, cut them out, and you can make a custom fitted corset for anyone.