This article has been written by Sarah Flynn from FairyFace Designs, a brilliant quilting blogger.
Sewing accurately is the key to making items that look “handmade” rather than “homemade”, and for giving your project a really nice finish. It might not seem that important, but taking that extra few minutes to do things right rewards you so much when you are at the final stages – matching up parts and seams – and it gives your finished project that extra polish to make it look really special!
Here are my top tips for getting your sewing nice and accurate.
If your fabric is cut right, it’s half the battle. A rotary cutter is brilliant for accurate cutting, as is a good quality cutting ruler. I love my Creative Grids ruler – it doesn’t slip and slide and the marking system is really versatile and useful. Lines on cutting rulers can be heavily marked – i.e. they are thick rather than thin. So, when I am cutting, I usually use the outside of the line as my guide, rather than the inside. It’s only a thread or two difference but it definitely gives a more accurate cut.
Maintaining a consistent seam allowance is one of the fundamental skills of sewing, particularly for patchwork piecing and it makes much more of a difference than you would think to how your finished item looks. Blocks will be straight, seams will match up and your seam ripper will sulk at how little you are using it!
Investing in a specialist ¼” foot for patchwork piecing is a really good idea and I wouldn’t be without mine.
Using painter’s tape or coloured tape to mark seam allowances on your machine is another (cheaper) method of making sure your seams line up.
My biggest issue in sewing a consistent seam is making sure the end of the seam is accurate as it is easy for your fabric control to slip a little as the last bit feeds through. My solution: humble tweezers! Pick them up in your local shop or chemist and put in your sewing basket. Then use them to control the feed of fabric at the end of your seams and ta dah – lovely accurate seams!
I don’t pin my fabric when I am piecing small blocks, but I do pin when I am piecing anything longer than about 6-7”, and I always pin when I am matching seams.
I have a fail-safe system for pinning my seams to make sure my points meet. I match my fabric at exactly the right point, and I pin as close as possible to the meeting point on both sides – usually its about 1/8” on either side of the seam. Then I leave my pins in when sewing it. I know that this is not recommended by sewing machine manufacturers, but I have been doing it for years and I think I have only hit the pins and broken my needle twice in all that time. It gives lovely, accurate points.
Pressing with a Dry Iron
I love steam and my instinct is to steam the hell out of everything. But steam is not your friend when you are pressing fabric. It will distort your seams and make them look a bit curvy or crooked, particularly if you iron your fabric rather than press it. No quicker way to ruin your hard work, believe me. I have done it too many times. Use a dry iron when you are pressing and press rather than iron.
Sewing Zips Accurately
Rather than sewing around the zip pull and having a little wobble in your lovely accurate sewing line, there is an easier way.
Pin your zip in place. Sew it to your fabric using your zipper foot until you get close to your zip pull. Then put your needle down and lift your zipper foot. Unpin from the zip pull to behind your presser foot, then unzip your zip back past your presser foot. Repin the zip to your fabric nice and straight and sew to the end.
You’ll have a lovely, accurate zip seam! This can be a bit trickier to do when you have your zip sandwiched between two layers of fabric, but it is possible and with a bit of practice you will be a pro! You can just do the reverse if you are starting at the zip pull end.
I hope you found these little tips useful – and don’t forget to pop over and say hi at my blog FairyFace Designs.