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Sewing tips from a professional dressmaker

Sewing tips from a dressmaker

Fiona’s mother Philippa Bray was a professional dressmaker by trade who has been sewing for over 55 years!  In that time she has picked up many useful sewing tips so we asked her to share her top ones with us.

Pressing fabrics

Your iron is as important as your sewing machine – pressing makes the difference between something looking homemade or looking professional.  If you do anything where one seam crosses another line of stitching you should press before stitching again.  It’s also worth pressing your hems before stitching to ensure a neat finish.  I’d recommend getting a steam iron. Find pressing tips from Philippa here

I sew my bias binding the opposite way to most people. I start by stitching from the back and then finish with a top stitch to ensure it looks good from the right side of the fabric.  This avoids the need for hand stitching your binding.

How to use sewing pins

If you pin at right angles rather than horizontally, with the pin heads to left if you are left handed or the right if you are right handed you’ll find it much easier to remove the pins whilst the fabric is going through the machine.  Don’t stitch over your pins as this can be dangerous – it could break the needle or pin resulting in the ends flying up towards your face.

When you unpick any sewing, pull out all the old threads before you stitch again because it’s really difficult to pull out threads once you’ve stitched over them.  Plus it makes your sewing look cleaner and tidier before you start work on it again.

How to use a seam ripper

Your seam ripper has more than one use.  As well as using the sharp end to unpick your stitches you can rub the red ball over any small holes in your fabric, perhaps where your pins were. It brings the fibres back together again closing the hole.  Also don’t forget that seam rippers do go blunt so do remember to replace them regularly.  Certain threads like nylon threads will blunt them quickly.

When adding a zip to a garment, put the zip in before you construct the garment.  Fitting a zip to two flat pieces of fabric is much easier than when it has been shaped or has sleeves added etc.   You will also be dealing with two much smaller pieces of fabric this way too.


Make sure that before you start you gather together everything you need for your project to save time. It’s also useful to keep certain basic supplies near to your machine: scissors, snips, pins, seam ripper, tape measure, and a bin for scraps and threads.

Enjoy your sewing!