Top Sewing Tips

Sandra Betzina

How To
Sewing Solutions

from Sandra Betzina


Pattern Preservation
Preserve favorite patterns by pressing them onto fusible pellon interfacing or waxed paper. Place interfacing sticky side up or waxed paper shiny side up on a pressing surface. Place the pattern wrong side down over the interfacing or waxed paper. Using a dry iron on a medium setting, press the pattern to the interfacing or waxed paper, working from the middle out. Don't press too close to the pattern outer edges. Trim away the excess interfacing or waxed paper along the pattern cutting line. Secure the pattern edges by pressing around the perimeter of the pattern.

Pop, Go the Stitches
Prevent popped stitches in pull-on pants and skirts with the following method. When sewing down elasticized casings on knits, use hand-wrapped woolly nylon thread in the bobbin and all-purpose thread on the top. Set the machine for a narrow zigzag stitch (1.0 mm wide, 2.5 mm long). Stretch the casing slightly from front and back as you stitch.

Storage Solution
Pattern storage has been made easier with the availability of two-gallon plastic zip-top bags. Tape the front and back of the pattern envelope to the inside of the bag. Because the bags are so large, minimum pattern folding is necessary.

Read the Label
Difficulty locating the pattern you want among your stash?
After storing patterns in two-gallon plastic bags, label legal folders with the pattern number. Locate the pattern you want quickly by referring to a master sheet, which you create with the pattern number, brief description and a quick sketch. You can even add a fabric swatch to make identification even faster.

Watch & Sew
Get a 9" portable DVD player for your sewing room. Not only can you take advantage of instructional DVDs, but you can also watch movies as you sew for long periods of time.

Bag Lady
Want to use up some of the fabric in your stash? Cut a 2" square from each piece in your stash. On the fabric wrong side, write the fabric width and amount on blue painter's tape. Throw the scraps in a zip-top bag. Reorganize the fabric on shelves by color or by type, such as knit, pant or skirt woolen, cotton, rayon, stretch woven, silk, coating, sheer, etc. Take the bag of swatches with you when shopping for fabric, patterns and accessories.

Size Matters
Working with multisize patterns can be confusing unless you're careful because dots are labeled with a size that's on a different cutting line than your pattern size. Dot markings are L" in from the cutting line. Once you've identified the cutting line for your size, count out the number of lines away from the center to make sure you're using the same size throughout. Use a highlighter to trace over your size cutting line. Draw on your pattern alterations in a different color. Mark the dot markings for your size and with the second color pen.

Tape Tactics
When cutting out a pattern piece, write the name of each pattern piece on blue painter's tape and place it on the fabric wrong side. Painter's tape has a nonstick surface, which can be written on easily. The tape adheres to the fabric-it won't slide off like a label-and it doesn't leave a residue when removed.

Fur Facts
When stitching long hair faux fur, use L" seam allowances and a long stitch (4.0 mm). After stitching, obscure the seam by pulling hairs out with a knitting needle from the fabric right side. On the seam allowances, shave the fur close with an electric shaver. Hold the seam allowances open and flat against the fabric backing with Wonder Tape or an overcast stitch, catching only the backing in the stitch.

Marking Darts
For a quick way to mark a dart, make clips at the end of the dart legs and make a chalk mark or a tailor's tack only at the dart point. When sewing darts, never backstitch on the ends because backstitching creates bulk. Instead, slightly shorten the stitch length; sew the last H" and run off the ends. It's not necessary to tie the threads when using a small stitch.

It's a Stretch
When sewing on knits, prevent popped seams by stretching the fabric slightly from front and back when sewing the seams on a conventional machine, using a 75/11 HS needle and a narrow zigzag (1.0 mm wide, 2.5 mm long). Follow this by serging the seam allowances together, trimming off G" as you serge.


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 or call (415) 876-2434.

Sandra's pattern picks from her Vogue Today's Fit label.
Visit to view and order Sandra's patterns.


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