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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #1

If you have been a follower of this blog for a while you know I have been on a theme about how those of us who have sewn for a while know a lot of little things that make our sewing easier, and our garments better, that newer sewers, working from patterns of varying detail don't have yet.

The difference between good and really good sewing IMO  so often lies in the number of little tricks the sewer knows, rather than some overall educational scheme.

Even now, after having sewn for at least several lifetimes, I often pick up some new trick and slap myself in the head with a "why didn't I think of that?"

When you sew it is the little things that matter, and you never stop learning.

The idea of passing on knowledge, even little bitsy bits of knowledge, has also been my mind.

At one point I thought, maybe I should write a book, but there are a lot of new general sewing books out there, and to be honest I am not going to get another one put together unless I give up my family, job, and my own sewing.

That is not going to happen. And I do suspect my mind fires too randomly for a structured book at the moment.

So I have had an idea.

This is it.

Pretty simple.

I am going to post a short little sewing hint every day until I run out of them.

This maybe next week, or maybe not.

Feel free too to send some of your own hints in and I will put them up here too.

Now most of you experienced sewers out there know more than I do, or already know many of these hints, but my intended audience are new sewers.

So in no particular order here we go:

Hint #1:

Children under the age of five tend to have inseam, hip, waist, and head size within and inch or two or each other.

I verified this when I once had to keep a whole pizza party entertained waiting for the pizza to come out and all I had to work with was a tape measure in my purse.

Why does this matters?

If you are sewing a pull over top for most children make sure the head opening is large enough. Way too often the neck openings are graded like adult clothing with the necklines smaller.

It is not unusual to have a four year old with a 21" head and a 21" inch chest. How many women do you know with 46" heads?

See how high level the information I am going to share with you is?

Another one tomorrow.

I mean that.


Jodie said...

HI Barb! This is a great idea. I'm teaching a high school fashion studies class and I must say pattern instructions are terrible some days. As some possible tip ideas you may want to include something about putting in zippers first as so often instructions call for them to go in last.

kathysews said...

Elmer's school glue washes out easily and when applied to fabric that is then ironed, it will stick it to another fabric long enough to sew it in place. Appliques, binding (I use this all the time to apply the back side of quilt binding and hold it in place until I sew it on without using any pins), putting pockets where they need to go, rick rack, piping...

Angela said...

Great idea!! I'm not a newbie, but have tons to learn. And hearing the basics repeated can never hurt :)

Anonymous said...

This comment sort of relates to what you've just written. Many years ago I saw an interview with a Scotsman who lived with the Inuit people. When he went up north an Inuit woman made him a suit of clothes – seal fur, I imagine, and wolverine, just from taking the measurement of the circumference of his head. Now what magic do the Inuit know? I want to know!
Vancouver Barbara

Jacq C said...

This is a great idea - really looking forward to your tips.
I'm not en experienced sewer myself but I've helped a few of my daughter's friends get started. The conversation I've had with all of them is about realistic timescales. There seems to be a hurry to master something, TV shows where someone knocks up a perfectly fitting skirt in 1 hour. That won't happen, certainly not to start with. New sewers can put unnecessary pressure on themselves thinking it all has to happen fast. So my tip would be to have a realistic timeframe and enjoy the process of picking our your fabric, ensuring you mark all your notches etc - the prep will make a difference, especially for a newbie. 😀

A Rebelde Sem Casa said...

I don't know if this qualifies as a hint but make friends with your iron! and by proxy, learn the difference between ironing and pressing seams

Anonymous said...

I just wish I had been a fly on the wall at the pizza/tape measure party!


theresa said...

Another tip for sewing for children is to make the pocket openings large enough for an adult's hand. The reasoning is so the parent can remove whatever (lizards, rocks, toys, etc) the child has left in the pocket when it's time to do the wash. I saw that tip in a book somewhere and cannot remember the author.
Theresa in Tucson

Kate said...

How about arm length for this group? I upsized a sweater pattern for an infant to a toddler, and I got stuck when trying to figure out appropriate arm length. I know they have short little arms. Couldn't find much generalized info like this great tip when I looked. Thanks so much for sharing these! I've been sewing a while, but I'm self taught and I love reading tips from experienced sewers.

kim nath said...

I absolutely love that you are doing this! I am what you referred to as an experienced seamstress but I am always eager to learn new or different ways of doing things.

Sharon said...

This will be so interesting to read. Even though I have been sewing for many years there is always that "oh wow" moment. If I think of a tip I will let you know.

Nethwen said...

Thank you for these tips. (I read, but seldom comment.) In high school, I learned to read a pattern and basic sewing things like always prewash, but not the details that make sewing easier.

When I picked up sewing again, I realized that for a pattern to fit, I would have to make so many alterations, I might as well draft my own. I'm so envious of the people who can take a bought pattern, make two or three adjustments, and sew something that fits at least as well as RTW. Maybe I just need a class on making standard patterns fit petites and my life would be simpler?

The good part of sewing for years without patterns is that I make things in the way that makes my life easy. Might not be the "right way," but it works. For example, I always sew in sleeves before sewing side seams and can't fathom why this isn't the standard instruction. And I finish necklines as soon as possible and put in zippers or other finishings as early as possible.

My biggest "aha!" moment? When I decided to apply the seam finishes before sewing an intersecting seam, not finish the seams after the entire garment is completed.

Anonymous said...

I love this idea because the wisdom of experienced sewists is priceless.I consider myself an experienced sewist but am always open to learning something new.

Thank you in advance!

Belinda said...

Absolutely fabulous! Nearly split my pants (obviously I had not calculated the ease needed for laughter) at the thought of the woman with 46 inch head. You are a joy, thank you for sharing!