Sewing With Fleece the Easy Way | My Top 10 Tips

sewing with fleece

Sewing with fleece can be a lot of fun and there are so many things you can make with it, however, there are a few things that you might want to know that will make your sewing experience with fleece a little easier.

In this blog post, I’m going to go over my top 10 tips for sewing and working with this stretchy, and cozy fabric.

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #1- How to tell the right side of the fabric

The first tip that we’re going to go over is how to tell the difference between the right and the wrong side of the fabric. Sometimes this is pretty obvious. For example, when you look at printed fleece, the underside may be less vibrant but still can be kind of hard to tell.

With solid-color fleece pieces, it can be really tricky. When you’re sewing up a project and trying to put the right sides together, you’ll want to know which is the “right” side.

sewing with fleece selvage edge

Let me show you a SIMPLE HACK. Find the SELVAGE EDGE OF THE FABRIC. This is the edge of the fabric that has the manufactured finished edge. It looks like the photo above.

sewing with fleece stretchIf you take the non-selvage, the stretchy edge, and pull it, it will curl to the WRONG SIDE.

sewing with fleece non fray

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #2- Fleece fabric does not fray

The second tip and what I love about sewing with fleece is that the fabric does not fray. That means that you don’t have to finish the seam edges on your projects and it’s quite nice.

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #3- Use the correct needle and thread

When you sew on fleece fabric, you want to make sure that you’re using the correct needle and the correct size. You can get away with using a universal needle and honestly that’s what I use most, but you can also use a jersey needle or other ballpoint-type needles. This will keep the needle from putting holes in your fabric.

If you want more tips on needle sizes and needle types, you can download my FREE PRINTABLE SEWING MACHINE NEEDLE GUIDE, which shows you all the needle characteristics and how to use them.

Get the printable here.

I do recommend using a POLYESTER THREAD.

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #4- Nap

Fleece fabric does have a nap to it. The nap means the direction that the fluff or fibers of the fabric all go the same way. Corduroy fabric is a good example and is a little more obvious, but fleece also has this.

If I were to cut out a bunch of pieces and not worry about the nap, and they were going in different directions, your finished project is going to look funky and weird and it might even look like it’s a different color.

I’m going to show you on this piece of fleece and these pieces for a slipper pattern. Notice how the front of the sole piece and the front of the top slipper piece are facing the same direction on the fabric. You don’t want to flip the pattern so that the top goes in the opposite direction.

You may be tempted to save fabric, especially on pieces like this, to flip that pattern over and have it face a different direction, to save fabric. DON’T DO IT! If I have to cut out multiples of the same piece, you can flip horizontally, but not vertically. (I hope that makes sense).

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #5- Sewing machine settings

Stitch Settings: Using the correct sewing machine settings and stitching settings when you’re sewing with fleece fabric will make a big difference.

If you’re sewing an item that’s not going to get stretched, you can get away with using just a regular straight stitch, but you’ll want to adjust the stitch to be a little longer, say 3.5 to 4.

However, if you’re sewing a project that will be stretched at all, you will want to sew using a LIGHTNING BOLT STITCH or if your machine doesn’t have that lightning bolt stitch, just use a REGULAR ZIGZAG STITCH. Adjust the width to 1.5 so it’s a very narrow zigzag stitch. Set the length to be 1.5 or even shorter.

I do recommend testing out your stitches on a scrap piece of fabric before you start sewing your projects. Make sure that you’re using that zigzag or lightning bolt stitch on anything that’s going to stretch on your project because if you don’t when it is stretched the seam will pop and break, and you don’t want a hole in your seam.

sewing tips serger

If you have a serger, by all means, use it on your fleece projects. It makes the job so much faster and gives you some stretch to your seams and gives you a nice finished edge.

Another thing that you can do and I do recommend, is lowering the presser foot tension if your machine has that adjustment option.

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #6- Use long pins

Use long pins and use lots of them, especially when you’re sewing around curves or over lots of layers of fabric. If you use little short pins they sometimes can get lost in the fluff of the fleece fabric.

For blankets or items made for children, you don’t want those little pins to get hidden in the fluff.

I really like these long flower pins.

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #7- Sewing over bulky seams

When you’re working with fleece and several layers of fabric, it can get kind of bulky and things are going to shift. Here are a few tips for making this a little easier. (Watch the video for examples).

sewing with fleece hump jumperHave you ever seen this little Gadget? Most likely it came with your sewing machine. I have to be honest, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I even knew what this was strange item was.

It really is the coolest little device and it’s called a HUMP JUMPER. It levels off the presser foot when you sew over thick seams. It makes it so you don’t get those skipped stitches, and allows your sewing machine to ease over those bulky seams. They work really well when hemming jeans!

sewing with fleece diy hump jumperIf you don’t have one in your sewing kit, no worries. You can make one by folding a cereal box 3-4 times to make a rectangle as shown in the photo.

sewing with fleece bulky seamSlide it under the back of the presser foot just like you would the hump jumper. (Watch video tutorial for a demonstration).

sewing with fleece finger press

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #8- No pressing

Fleece does not need to be pressed. If you need to open up a seam or something, just finger press it.

sewing with fleece cleaning

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #9- Clean your machine

When you sew with fleece, you are going to have a lot of lint. Even when you’re cutting things out and especially inside your machines.

It’s important that you keep your machines clean. Take the brush that comes with your sewing supplies (or you can use a small paint brush) and brush out around the serger blade, the bobbin case and anywhere else you see lint.

Sewing machine repairman don’t advise blowing it with canned air or air compressors, which can lodge the lint even deeper into your machine.

It is a good idea to have your machine serviced and cleaned once in a while because lint does build up especially using fleece and upcycled sweaters.

sewing with fleece binding

SEWING WITH FLEECE: Tip #10- Use fleece for binding

I wanted to show you some ideas and tips on how to use fleece strips as binding. This binding can be used on so many projects.

Some examples are shown in the photo above with the BOWLING SLIPPERS, and PILOT & PIXIE CAPS.

sewing with fleece fleece bindingThis binding is so cozy, it stretches really nice, and it has a clean finished look. I SHOW THE TECHNIQUE IN THIS TUTORIAL.

I hope this information was helpful and that it makes your sewing with fleece a little easier.

I do have a new fleece pattern coming out soon, so make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter, so that you can be notified when new goodies and information are come out.

sewing with fleeceGet in your sewing room, get out your fleece and make something fun.

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Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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My Top 10 Sewing Tips for Beginners | Know Before You Sew

sewing tips

If you’re new to sewing or if you want to learn some awesome sewing tips, you’re in the right place. In this post, I’m going to share with you my top 10 sewing tips. Even if you don’t plan on being a professional seamstress, knowing how to sew is a GOOD THING!

These tips are not listed in any order of importance, so make sure you check out the whole thing! You can also watch the video tutorial at the end of the post.

I’ve been sewing for a long time (since junior high school) and have used these sewing skills a ton throughout my life. Not only did these sewing skills come in handy to help put me through college working in sewing factories, but I was also able to make a little money while working from home when my kiddos were little.

I used to sew dance and drill team uniforms while they were at school, and now I am able to share my passions teaching others to sew.

top 10 sewing tips

Over the years I’ve learned a few things and am excited to share with you my top 10 sewing tips. Of course, I have several other tips, (and I hope you’ve been able to catch them in my video tutorials and blog posts over time).

For this particular post, I’m going to focus on the ones I find most important. So without any further ado, let’s get into those sewing tips.

sewing tips machine

Sewing Tips #1 – You Don’t Need A Fancy Sewing Machine

You don’t need to buy a fancy and expensive sewing machine, especially if you are new to sewing. I went a LONG time without needing a sewing machine that had all the bells and whistles.

Let me tell you, there are some expensive sewing machines out there and all you need is a good solid machine with the basic stitches. I recommend looking into buying a USED MACHINE.

Check your local online local classified ads and the Facebook marketplace. Sewing machine repair shops will often have used machines that have been refurbished for sale.

sewing tips sergerAs you continue to sew, you can always upgrade to a different machine and even buy an overlock/serger machine, (which I do recommend you get if you can).

I’ve had many many different types and brands of machines over the years, and I have my favorites. I’ll go over some sewing tips in the near future on how to pick out the right machine for your specific needs.

Sewing TipS #2 – Become Familiar with Your Machine

Your sewing machine will come with a manual, READ IT! If you buy a used machine and it didn’t come with a manual, you can get online and find a copy of the model and make of your machine. You can also get on YouTube and find some great tutorials showing you specific things regarding your machine.

The owner’s manuals will show the parts, how to care for and how to use all the functions of the machine. It’s amazing the things I have learned when I have taken the time to actually read through this information.

I know, that when you get a machine, you are eager just to dive in and start sewing. Take the time to become familiar with it and you’ll save time in the long run.

presser feet youmakeitsimple.com

Another sewing tip I want to mention about your machine is that it will come with several different presser feet. I encourage you to get familiar with them and learn how to use them. 

I have a post and video tutorial showing you what the basic feet are and how to use them. 

Sewing Tips #3 – Get the Basic Sewing Supplies

When starting to sew, it’s nice to have all the BASIC sewing supplies. This isn’t going to cost you a lot of money and it will save you from being caught off-guard without an item that would really make the task a lot easier.

I have a video tutorial where I share with you a buyer’s guide and my loved recommendations.

YOU CAN WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

Here are some of those items I go over.

Sewing Tips #4 – Learn To Use A Rotary Cutter & Mat

Of course, this is optional, but I find this little tool saves a lot of time AND gives you really good results, especially when cutting straight lines. A rotary cutter doesn’t cost a lot of money and there are so many options out there.

I have a blog post and video tutorial giving you all the details on how to use them, what kind of mats and cutters are best, how to care for them, and some valuable safety tips. You can read the post and watch the video tutorial HERE.

Sewing Tips #5 – Take Care of Your Sewing Machine

Your sewing machine needs to be taken care of just like any other machine. It needs to be cleaned, covered, and occasionally tuned up. Even the best-made sewing machines will need to have a good service once in a while.

I recommend taking your machine into a sewing machine repair shop occasionally to have it serviced, especially if you’re having issues with your stitch! I do have a tutorial showing Common Sewing Machine Problems and how to troubleshoot the issue.

sewing tips threading

Most of the time, you can fix the issue with some of these simple things (Like re-threading your machine).

The sewing machine mechanic can give it a good cleaning. (You’d be amazed at how much lint and gunk can get into crevices that you can’t get to). It’s worth the money and will keep your machine running smoothly and make it last longer!

Your handbook will give instructions on how to maintain and clean your machine. With newer machines, they usually don’t recommend oiling anymore. Just check your manual.

sewing tips SEWING MACHINE NEEDLES

Sewing Tips #6 – Use The Correct Type of Needle

Most of the time you can get away with using a universal sewing machine needle if you’re sewing on cotton, cotton blends, or some kinds of synthetic fabric. Using the wrong type of needle can put holes in your material and give you a poor stitch.

For example: if you use a regular needle on a KNIT FABRIC, you will put holes in the fabric. If you use a thin needle on denim, you’ll most likely break the needle.

sewing with fleece needle guide

I have a blog post giving all these details AND I offer a free printable PDF that you can download that has a chart showing needle types, size, and what to use them on. YOU CAN GET IT HERE.

Another sewing machine needle tip I have is to use a needle sorter. If you’re like me, I put a needle in my machine and then I FORGET what type and size needle is in there.

There’s no way my eyes can read that tiny print on the needle telling what size it is. That is where this nifty little PIN CUSHION comes in handy. You can learn more about it here, and get the PDF iron-on printable to make your own.

Sewing Tips #7 – Keep Fabric Scraps Handy For Testing

I like to keep small scraps of fabric handy by my sewing machine for testing out new stitches and colors of thread. This allows me to test out the stitch length, width, and color of the thread.

You can also test buttonholes, and decorative stitches before sewing on your final project. It’s much better to make mistakes on a scrap of fabric than on valuable fabric that you’ve cut out and prepared for your project.

Sewing Tips #8 – Use Upcycled/Recycled Clothing As Fabric

If you’ve been following me, most likely you know that I LOVE upcycling. Re-purposing an item of clothing to make something else brings me so much joy, and I like the idea of recycling.

Not only do you save money, but you can also create some really cute, unique, and fun items that you don’t see everywhere. Most of my patterns and tutorials have options to use upcycled clothing.

Here is a post and video tutorial where I give several tips and ideas for thrifting and upcycling.

sewing tips upcycling t shirtsOh, the fun things you can make with an upcycle T-Shirt. Check out some of the ideas here.

Sewing Tips #9 – Be O.K. With Making Mistakes

Even the best seamstress will make mistakes. No matter how long you’ve been sewing, you’re going to make mistakes and have to unpick, and that’s o.k!

Once you understand and accept this, it won’t be quite as frustrating when you have to take out a few stitches or even start over again.

Sewing Tips #10 – Take Your Time & Have Fun!

When you are working on a project, I recommend setting up your sewing station, even if that is your kitchen table, and don’t rush.

I went many, many years without a sewing/craft room and I created a lot of items right there on my dining room table. You are going to make a mess, that’s what creative people do, and you can clean everything up when you’re finished.

If you sew in a rushed state, most likely you’re going to be stressed and more prone to making mistakes. Set some YOU TIME aside, and slow down and enjoy the process!

Check out my SEWING ROOM MAKEOVER HERE.

SEWING TIPS JAN

I hope you found these tips helpful! Please reach out if you ever have any concerns or questions and I will try to help out.

You can find my video tutorial on my YouTube channel.

My PDF sewing patterns can be found here on my site.

Have fun sewing!

jan3

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Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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How To Sew on a Button | Simple Hand Sewing Method

button

Everyone needs to learn how to sew on a button. Most likely some time in your lifetime you’re going to have a button pop off a shirt or some kind of clothing, and sewing it back on is super easy. In this post, which includes a VIDEO TUTORIAL, I’m going to show you how easy it is to use a hand sewing method.

Items & Materials Needed

  • Sewing needle
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Toothpick
  • Button
button

DID YOU KNOW?

Most button-up shirts include a spare button. (Yep, kinda like a spare tire). Look on the side seam of the shirt and there may be a single button sewn to the tag of the shirt. Pretty cool because it can be a little challenging to find a button that looks exactly like the ones on your shirt, even if you do have a big jar of buttons like I do.

All you have to do is clip off the button and sew it on where the other one came off. Let me show you how easy it is to do.

In case the shirt you need to replace a button does NOT have an extra button and you don’ts have a jar of buttons, here is a link where you can get standard shirt buttons with the basic colors. 

button knotting thread

How to Sew On A Button

  1. Double thread the needle and knot the end. (The video tutorial will show a slick tip on how to easily knot the end of the thread).
  2. Locate the spot where the button needs to be applied.

 

button 3 methods

TWO HOLE BUTTON

  1. Insert the needle from the back of the fabric up into one of the holes in the button.
  2. Stick the needle back into the other hole and pull it out on the underside. DON’T PULL IT ALL THE WAY YET. Take the TOOTHPICK and place it between the two holes, with the thread over the toothpick. Continue to pull the thread tight over the toothpick.
  3. Reinsert the needle back up into the first hole and repeat the process THREE TIMES.
  4. Insert the needle back up into the fabric, BUT NOT THROUGH THE BUTTON this time. The needle should be between the fabric and the button.
  5. Wrap the thread around the strands of thread 3 times to create a shank. Take a small stitch at the base of the shank and knot. Insert the needle back into the fabric close to the stitches and out the back. Knot the thread one more time and clip the thread.
  6. That’s it! Pretty quick and simple, right?

FOUR HOLE BUTTON

You can stitch a four-hole button a few ways. You can make a crisscross or sew two parallel stitches. Using the crisscross method, instead of sewing into the hole next to the one you just came up from, apply the needle to the hole at a diagonal.

Insert the toothpick in the same manner and make 3 passes on each diagonal. 

Create the thread shank just like you do on the two-hole method, and knot in the same manner.

SHANK BUTTON

Double thread a needle and know the end. Locate the place where the button will be applied and insert the needle into the back of the fabric just underneath where the button will go.

shank buttonThread the needle through the button shank and back down into the fabric close to the shank. Make 3-6 passes depending on how big the shank is. For large shanks, make six passes and for smaller buttons, three passes will be plenty.

Poke the needle back to the underside of the fabric close to the stitches. Take a little stitch on the underside and knot and cut the thread.

That’s it. Pretty simple, right? I hope this is a skill that you can learn and that it will come in handy someday, even if you don’t do a lot of sewing.

OTHER POSTS YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN:

7 Sewing Machine Presser Feet and How To Use Them

SEWING BY HAND | Most Important Stitches to Know

Sewing Machine Needles: Why Choosing the Right One Matters

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Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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Gathering Fabric With a Serger/Overlock Machine the Easy Way

gathering fabric serger

When it comes to gathering fabric, if you have a serger or overlock machine, you’re in luck because I’m going to show you how to do it the EASY WAY. All you really need to do is adjust a few settings and you’re good to go.

There are a few ways to create gathers or ruffles with your serger/overlock machine. I’m going to show you two ways and give you some tips to make the process real simple.

Gathering Fabric Method #1

The first thing you’ll need to do is adjust a few of the settings on your machine. Note: you can use either 3 or 4 threads

DIFFERENTIAL FEED: 2

STITCH WIDTH: 5.5

STITCH LENGTH: 4

I recommend cutting some strips of scrap fabric to practice sewing on. Different weights and textures of fabric will gather a little differently.

gathering fabric reg foot

This first method does not require a special presser foot. Just leave your regular presser foot on.

  1. Place the fabric under the presser foot with the fabric edge along the edge of your presser foot. You’ll be cutting off just a little bit of the fabric as you sew.
  2. Start sewing. Hold the fabric loosely and allow it to slide under the presser freely. Guide the edge of the fabric along the edge to keep it aligned and straight.

With the machine at these settings, the fabric will generally gather up to ½ the length that you started with. If you want the gathering to be tighter, simply find the needle thread (which is the thread between the looper threads), and using a seam ripper, gently pull on it to gather more.

What I love about using a serger for gathering fabric is that it not only gathers the fabric, but it finishes the edge so it won’t fray.

gathering fabric foot

Gathering Fabric Method #2

This method requires a GATHERING FOOT. Some machines will come with this foot, and other models don’t. You can purchase one separately. If you do have to purchase one, it is well worth the money.

This is what the gathering foot looks like. Depending on the model of your serger, they may look a little different, but most of them will have this little spring plate on the bottom. Remove the basic presser foot and apply the gathering foot.

gathering fabricYou can create gathers by simply running a strip of fabric under the presser foot as you did with the other foot.

The cool thing about this gathering foot is that you can gather AND attach the gather to a non-gathered piece of fabric. For example: if you want to add a ruffle to a pillowcase, skirt waistband, apron, etc., it makes this task a SNAP!

Gathering Fabric and Attaching

To practice, cut a strip of fabric say 20 inches in length. Cut another piece of fabric 10 inches.gathering fabric

  1. Place the long strip (ruffle fabric) under the presser foot and take 1-2 stitches only. Grab your short strip and slide it into that little slot on the presser foot until the edge is lined up with the ruffle strip.gathering fabric hand position
  2. Take a few stitches only so the needles grab both pieces of fabric. Adjust your hands so the left hand is holding the top piece of fabric and the right hand is holding the ruffle fabric.
  3. Continue to sew letting the fabric slide easily and feed into the foot freely. While you sew, keep the two edges of the fabric lined up with each other and in alignment with the edge of the presser foot. (It takes a little practice, but you’ll get the feel for it quickly).
gathering fabric and attaching

Tadah! Open up the two pieces of fabric and look how cool that is! Such a faster and more efficient way to go about gathering fabric.

So, if you have a serger/overlock machine, adjust a few settings and have fun making ruffles!

What if you don’t have a serger?

No worries. Stay tuned because I will be showing you how to easily create ruffles and gathers on a regular sewing machine.

Have fun sewing!

jan3

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Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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How To Pick the Best Elastic for Your Sewing Projects

ELASTIC VARIETY

There are a lot of types of sewing elastic out there and knowing how to pick the best elastic for your sewing projects will affect the quality and final results of whatever you are making.

In this post I’m going to go over:

  • different types
  • what each one looks like
  • how to use each one

There are three basic types:

Here are four specialty elastics

All are used in different applications and serve a specific purpose.

They come in all kinds of widths, from 1/4 inch to 3 inches and up. Your pattern will typically specify which width to use, but in general, thinner ones are used for things like swimwear and necklines, while wider ones are used for waistbands for skirts and pants.

TYPES OF ELASTIC GUIDE

Here is a table showing the different types  and when you can use them.

Print this out and display it in your sewing room for a quick reference. 

DOWNLOAD AND PRINT THE PDF

chart
BRAIDED ELASTIC

BRAIDED 

Elastic Description

  • Parallel ribs
  • Narrows when stretched
  • Looses stretch if sewn into
  • Rolls more easily

Uses

Sleeve and Neckline Casings

 

KNIT

Description

  • Cross woven
  • Soft to the touch
  • Does not narrow when stretched

Uses

Waistbands (pajama bottoms, men’s briefs, skirts)

Lightweight-medium fabrics

WOVEN ELASTIC

WOVEN (Non-Roll)

Description

  • Horizontal & vertical ribs
  • Firm
  • Does not narrow when stretched
  • More durable

***Tip: use a stronger needle when sewing into it

Uses

Waistbands of pants and skirts with heavy fabrics, houseware items, outerwear

LINGERIE

Description

  • Decorate loops on the side
  • Soft to the touch

Uses

Underwear, bras

SWIM 

Description

  • Does not rot or perish
  • Heat resistant
  • Chlorine resistant

Uses

Swimwear, leotards

FOLD OVER 

Description

  • folds in half
  • soft against the skin

Uses

Leotard, underwear, headbands, hair ties, DIY watch bands

CLEAR

Description

  • Thin and clear

Uses

Gathering knit fabric, shoulder seam stabilizer

Extra Tips 

 

Picking the Right Type

  • First, consider if you will be sewing through the elastic or placing it in a casing. Remember, the braided and woven elastic doesn’t do as well being sewn through.
  • Knit or braided types are better for lighter fabrics, while woven is better for heavyweight fabrics.
  • Use specialty elastics like lingerie, fold-over elastic, and clear elastic for your projects that have special requirements.

Picking the Best Size Elastic

  • Pick the size based on the size of the casing or insertion area and the location on the garment the elastic will be.
  • Neckline elastic needs to be much thinner than waistband elastic, for instance! Your pattern will most likely recommend the width needed.
  • Don’t cut it lengthwise. You’re much better off just getting one that is the right width.

Cutting the Length

  • Test stretch your elastic to check how much it stretches and if it recovers well.
  • You may need a shorter length of braided elastic to accomplish the same stretch as a knitted elastic.
  • Thinner elastics stretch more than wider ones, so take this into account when cutting your length.
  • Use a safety pin to join elastic and test before cutting.

I hope you foun this helpful.

Please send me a note if you have any questions while choosing the elastic for your projects.

Have fun sewing!

jan3

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Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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A Beginners Guide to Rotary Cutting / Helpful Tips and Tricks

rotary cutting

When it comes to sewing and crafting, rotary cutting makes the task on hand so much easier and quicker. Here are some helpful tips and tricks you might want to know.

In this post I am going to go over:

  • Different types and sizes of rotary blades
  • Rotary blades
  • Changing the blade
  • Cutting mats
  • Rulers
  • Cutting curves
  • Cutting on knit fabrics
  • How to square off fabric pieces with the ruler and rotary cutter
  • Safety tips and useful accessories

Benefits of Using a Rotary Cutting Device

  • Get a clean straight cut
  • Quick cutting
  • Easily cuts multiple layers of fabric
  • Makes cutting shear and delicate fabric much easier
  • Cuts precise fabric for quilting cuts
rotary cutting cutters

Rotary Cutters

There are many different types and brands of rotary cutters out there. I’ve acquired and tried several different types of cutters over the years. Some have been great and some, not so much. Alternative cutting edges include blades for pinking or scalloping, which are interchangeable and less expensive than buying a special pair of shears.

Rotary cutters come in several different sizes. The most common sizes are 28mm, 45mm, and 60mm.

  • 28mm: cutting strips, squaring fabric, cutting curves and intricate pieces
  • 45mm: straight cutting, strip cutting, squaring blocks, can cut through multiple layers at once(up to 8 layers at once), cuts a variety of fabric types including thicker/heavyweight fabrics
  • 60mm: straight cutting, strip cutting, can cut through multiple layers at once(up to 12 layers at once), cuts thicker/heavyweight fabrics with ease

The 45mm cutter is the one I use most frequently and would recommend for your first rotary cutter.

Rotary Cutting Safety

Before I go any further, I want to emphasize how important it is to be cautious when using a rotary cutter. These blades are VERY, VERY SHARP!

You’ll want to make sure your fingers are out of the way of the blade.

Always cut away from your body. You may be tempted, when in a hurry to cut toward you, instead of flipping the fabric, but DON’T DO IT!

Apply the blade cover when not using the cutter. (I will admit, and my viewers catch it), that I don’t always follow this rule. It has come back to bite/cut me, a few times.

I really, really like this rotary cutter because it has an automatic retractable blade. When you cut, you’ll squeeze the handle and when you’re finished cutting and release it, the blade retracts. Its ergonomic handle is very comfortable to use and is one of my favorites!

 

How Do You Know When to Change the Blade?

Rotary cutting blades need to be changed occasionally. It just depends on how much you use it. You can tell if after cutting it leaves uncut sections or just doesn’t cut well. Don’t hesitate in changing it for a new one, because a new blade will make your cutting experience so much better, and safer.

How to Change the Rotary Cutting Blade

Each rotary cutting device will be a little different, but they’re all pretty similar. If you have an Olfa cutter, you can go on their website and find the different types of cutters and see how to change the blade. BE VERY CAUTIOUS when handling the blade.rotary cutting changing blade order

  1. Disassemble the cutter by first unscrewing the nut. ****Very important! As you remove each component, set them down in the order you remove them.
  2. Remove the metal washer and the plastic washer next.
  3. Pull the handle off the stem that holds the blade and set it aside. (I will go over what to do with the old blade in a bit).
  4. Carefully remove the old blade from the stem and replace it with a new blade.rotary cutting blade change
  5. Place the handle back onto the stem followed by the metal washer with the curve FACING UP like a cup.
  6. Next, place the nut back onto the stem and tighten until the front disk begins to spin. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN!
rotary cutting used blades

What to Do With the Used Rotary Cutting Blades?

As I have mentioned a few times, these blades are super sharp and you don’t want to just throw these babies in the trash. I recommend writing on the blade with a sharpie pen “USED” and placing it back into the case it came in. This way when you fill the case with used blades, you can just throw the case away.

The used blades come in handy when you want to make cuts on paper, cardboard, or other material that you wouldn’t want to use a nice new blade on.

Another tip: Write the date on the new blade, so you can have a reference for how long the blade has been on there.

Rotary Cutting Mats

Let’s go over the mats now. Using a rotary cutter requires a special mat underneath the fabric to protect your table and a special blade. (Don’t try using a rotary cutter without a cutting mat)!

Just like the cutters and rulers, there are A LOT of different kinds, brands and colors of mats out there. There are plastic mats, self-healing mats, and PVC mats. The most popular and known mats are the self-healing mats.

What is a Self-Healing Mat?

Self-healing cutting mats work by ‘absorbing’ the cut from a blade. The mat is made from many tiny particles that are pressed to create a solid surface: one that is not rigid like glass or hard plastic so that the ‘cut’ of the blade can be absorbed amongst those particles.

When you run a blade over and over in the same place on a self-healing mat, you’ll see that the damage becomes more pronounced as the cut makes more of an impact each time. Little fibers get stuck down in the cuts and eventually, you’ll have to replace the mat.

I have found a new kind of mat that I love! It’s called the BIG ROTARY CUTTING MAT. It’s made of PVC and is NOT self-healing.

rotary cutting mats

What is the Advantage of a PVC Mat?

  • Although it isn’t self-healing, it is quite durable and comes in all kinds of sizes up to 40” x 72”.
  • This mat is not supposed to warp and comes with a 5-year guarantee.
  • The company is a family business and is based in the USA. I like supporting local businesses.
  • Your rotary cutting blades will stay sharp longer.
  • You don’t have to put as much pressure on the blade.
  • It’s reversible and can be flipped to an all-white mat.

I have several sizes of these mats, but I LOVE my 36” x 60” mat. It fits really nicely on my sewing table where I sit my sewing machines.  When you cut on this mat, it will make little raised surfaces, but no worries. They send a little plastic scraper that you simply scrape over the surface to smooth it out, good as new.

Rotary Cutting Rulers

If you want to make straight cuts, which I’m sure you’ll want to do, you’ll need a ruler. This ruler needs to be made of durable plastic and there are a lot of different styles, widths, and colors out there.

They range in different widths and lengths. I would recommend getting a basic size to start with. I like this one. It’s 6.5 inches x 24 inches. 

rotary cutting ruler

Rotary Cutting Tips

Rotary cutters are great to square off a piece of fabric if you’re making a quilt or something that needs a square edge. (Watch the video tutorial where I demo exactly how to do this).

There is nothing more frustrating than to make a straight cut and have the ends not cut through all the way. TO AVOID THIS ISSUE, start cutting before the edge of the fabric and cut a few inches off the end of the fabric.

You can buy little accessories that make cutting a little easier. This BIG Mat Company has several different items.

I really like the ruler stabilizer. It is a little plastic rectangle that you can apply to the end of your ruler to act like a T-square or you can apply it anywhere on the mat as a straight edge. It’s really quite helpful.

***When cutting a straight strip, press firmly on the ruler and KEEP YOUR FINGERS OUT OF THE WAY!

I hope this was helpful and that you have fun cutting and creating.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any great rotary cutting tips to share with us.

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Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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4 Basic Sewing Machine Seams and Seam Allowance Tips

seams and seam allowances

In this tutorial I am going to go over the basic sewing machine seams and give you some seam allowance tips.

What are seams?

Seams are the building blocks of a clothing item and are the points of connection between fabric pieces. As a beginner seamstress, the first thing you will learn how to do is sew a basic seam. (Sew two pieces of fabric together).

There are several different types of sewing stitches that you can use to make up seams. Be sure to check out my SEW SIMPLE SERIES, A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO SEWING, where I show you all the basic stitches, seams and guide you through several easy sewing projects. (PATTERNS INCLUDED).

seam allowance

What is a seam allowance?

Whenever you sew seams, you’ll have some kind of seam allowance. This is the distance from the seamline to the raw edge of the fabric, which allows the fabric pieces to be durably connected without fraying or coming unsewn.

 

Here are some basic seam allowance “facts” and “rules”

  • The width of the seam allowance depends on the type of fabric and the seam finishing technique used. A thicker, bulkier fabric requires a larger seam allowance while thinner, lightweight fabrics work well with a narrower seam allowance.
  • The most commonly used seam allowance measures 3/8” to ½”.
  • Some seam allowances are finished to ensure seam durability and prevent the raw fabric edges from fraying. Fabrics like knit or polyester do not need to be finished. Here are some simple techniques to finish seams (NO SERGER NEEDED).
  • After the seam is stitched, the seam allowance should always be ironed down in a specified direction in order for the seam to lay flat (you’ll see a demonstration of this in the sewing tutorial video below).
    All conventional sewing machines have a seam allowance guide to the right of the sewing machine needle. In order to sew each seam at the proper seam allowance, the raw edge of the fabric is aligned with the appropriate seam allowance guideline according to the required seam allowance length. In my tutorials, I usually give some great tips on things you can do and use to make following these guides easier.
  • Most patterns will give you the SEAM ALLOWANCE requirements and measurement for that specific project. If it doesn’t, use the standard 3/8 inch seam allowance. (This by the way is just the edge of your normal presser foot).

BASIC 3/8 INCH SEAMS INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place the two pieces of fabric you are working with together, matching edges and pin in place. Use the 3/8 inch guide on the top plate of your machine to line up the edges of the fabric, or if your presser foot edge is at that measurement, you can just use the edge of the presser foot as your guide.pressing seams
  2. Sew the seam. Open up the seam allowance and press flat using an iron.

FLAT FELLED SEAMS INSTRUCTIONS

A flat felled seam is basically an overlapping seam that’s sewn flat. When the seam is complete, there are no raw edges showing. It’s used frequently in menswear because it’s extremely durable and sturdy and provides a neat finish. If you’re wearing jeans, take a look at the seams. They are almost certainly flat-felled. Use a flat felled seam on shirts or trousers, which see a lot of stress, and you’ll get a durable finish.

Here’s how to go about sewing a flat felled seam.

  1. Pin fabric with right sides together. You will be using a 5/8 inch seam allowance. tape seam allowance guideI like to place a piece of masking or painter’s tape onto the sewing plate at the 5/8 inch mark. This will help you see more clearly and help you guide the fabric along as you sew.pressing seam allowance
  2. Instead of pressing the seam open, you’re going to fold the seam allowance to one side and press.flat felled seam stitching
  3. Flip the fabric over to the right side. Now sew a straight line on the side that the seam allowance is pressed to.1/8 inch seam allowance
  4. Sew 1/8 inch from the seam line fold. TIP: Most presser feet will have little notches indicating 1/8 inch marks. This is nice to use this feature when sewing this seam. Simple line the fabric up with that right 1/8 inch guide and sew away.

FINISHED FLAT FELLED SEAMS INSTRUCTIONS

trimming seam allowance

  1. Sew the seam with a ½ seam allowance. Before pressing the seam, take your scissors and trim away ¼ inch from the right seam allowance.pressing seam allowance
  2. Fold the uncut seam allowance over the cut seam allowance and press in place.
  3. Now fold the top seam allowance under ¼ inch encasing the cut allowance. Press in place.
  4. Topstitch in place along the folded edge to secure in place.

FRENCH SEAMS INSTRUCTIONS

French seams are perfect to use on lightweight, sheer fabrics, or lace. I like using this seam when I make pillowcases. The seam encasing all of the fraying fabric edges inside a tiny seam allowance of 1/4″ (5mm). French seams can be great to use if you haven’t got an overlocker (serger) and want to create a perfect finish to your project.

  1. When sewing a French seam, you start by placing WRONG SIDES OF THE FABRIC TOGETHER, instead of right sides together.French seam 1/4 inch seam
  2. Sew the first seam using a ¼ inch seam allowance. Then, fold the fabric along the seam line, so the right sides of the fabric are together and the stitching is at the edge of the fold. Press well, so you are working with a sharp crease at the fold on the seam. You may want to pin the fabric edge, especially if you are using a slippery fabric.3/8 inch seam allowance
  3. Now sew another seam using a 3/8 inch seam allowance.

     

  4. Press the finished seam to one side or the other.

Play Video

There you have it, 4 basic seams for you to use.

HINT: my SEW SIMPLE COURSE COMES WITH INSTRUCTIONS AND MEASUREMENTS FOR ALL SIZES OF PILLOWCASES.

OTHER BLOG POSTS YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN:

7 Sewing Machine Presser Feet and How To Use Them

Unpicking Serger Stitches the EASY WAY

SEWING BY HAND | Most Important Stitches to Know

Have fun sewing my friends!

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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Sewing With Plush Fabric | Tips & Tricks

Sewing With Plush Fabric

Items made with plush fabric are the coziest things ever; however, sewing with plush fabric can be a little tricky. In this post I am going to give you some great tips & tricks that will make the sewing process a lot easier and save you a lot of grief!

What Is Plush Fabric?

The fabrics that are considered “plush” are:

  • Faux Fur                 
  • Fleece
  • Minky (also known as “Cuddle” fabric
  • Velvet
  • Chenille
  • Velveteen

These fabrics usually have a “nap” to them. If you run your hand up and down the fabric, they’ll be smoother in one direction and may even look a shade different in color.

plush fabric blanket

What do you do with plush fabric?

These cozy fabrics make really nice toys, blankets, pillows and jackets. It’s not just for babies! We, adults, deserve to have something COZY! 

The fabric is available in solids, prints, embossed and double-sided. Embossed Cuddle is a favorite. You get softness plus a subtle design that pops up from the nap, such as the classic dimple as well as hearts, stars, paisley, and more. Next time you’re at the fabric store, check and see what they have available.

You can buy the fabric by the yard, or you can upcycle a throw blanket or item of clothing (like I like to do). The bunny in the photo below was made from an upcycled fleece jacket.

PLUSCH FABRIC BUNNY

Sewing With Plush Fabric Tips & Tricks

  • Things are going to get messy! Plush fabric sheds when cut; use a rotary cutter to minimize fuzz. After cutting, place pieces in a dryer with a damp washcloth on low heat for about 10 minutes. Keep a lint roller, masking tape, and vacuum handy.

plush fabric stretch

  • This fabric has some stretch to it. It stretches on the crosswise grain but very little along the lengthwise grain (parallel to the selvages). If you are sewing two pieces of fabric together, it’s important to line up stretch with stretch and the grain with the grain, or you’ll get twisting and uneven seams.

plush fabric pinning

  • Use a lot of pins! This fabric will do a lot of shifting from the time you pin until the time you actually sew, so place a lot of pins to hold things in place. I love these long, floral tip pins. It makes them easy to see, so you don’t accidentally leave pins in your projects. 
  • Attach a walking foot, if you have one. If you are going to be sewing on these types of fabrics, it’s well worth the investment. Most sewing machines have one available if it doesn’t come with one. It makes a huge difference when sewing on the fleece, Minky, upcycled sweaters, etc. *If you don’t have one, be sure to hold the bottom layer of fabric a little more firmly when sewing. What happens is, the bottom fabric gets fed through the machine more quickly and you’ll get uneven sewing.
  • If you’re sewing a different type of fabric together with the plush, place the plush fabric on the bottom when sewing.
  • Use a ballpoint needle, 90/14 (Ge my NEEDLE GUIDE HERE).
  • Set your stitch length to a longer-than-normal stitch (3-4) to keep seams from puckering.
  • Do not use an iron. The fabric can melt!
  • Use a slightly bigger seam allowance. I like to use a ½ inch seam allowance when sewing on plush.
  • Using a rotary cutter will give you a cleaner cut edge.
  • If sewing together with a different type of fabric, especially cotton, be sure to wash the cotton piece first! Plush fabric will not shrink, but the cotton will.

Sewing with plush fabric is really not that bad once you get the hang of it. I wished I would have known this stuff before I attempted my first plush fabric project.

I have a video tutorial showing you how to make a plush self-binding blanket, and I go over these tips in it. WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE.

You may also find the fleece binding tutorial helpful.

Check out my sewing patterns HERE.

I hope this was helpful and that you’re now ready and excited to make a fun baby blanket or teddy bear.

Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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How To Assemble and Organize PDF Sewing Patterns

PDF sewing pattern assembly youmakeitsimple.com

In this post, I am going to give you some tips on how to assemble and organize your PDF sewing patterns. Using digital PDF sewing patterns can:

  • Save you money
  • They are easy to access and archive
  • Open up a lot of online sewing pattern choices

In a previous post, I showed how to download and print your PDF patterns. Now I’m going to go over how to put them together and store them.

Play Video

I used to have a drawer full of miscellaneous patterns that were pinned together and it was a mess. Then I tried storing them in small white envelopes, and then I put those in a pretty white box with a lid, but that didn’t work so well for me.

Because the envelopes were small, the bundles were BULKY and it took a lot of time to get the cover to look nice. I’m going to show you how I organize my patterns.

Let’s go over how to assemble your PDF sewing pattern

If you’re lucky, the pattern will have a diagram guide somewhere on the pattern on how to put the pages together. Some instructions are more complex than others, depending on how many pages are included to form one pattern piece.

After you have printed out the pattern, there are a few things to look for before assembling the pattern.

Materials & items needed

  • Any special cutting instructions
  • Seam allowance
  • Size indicator/chart
  • Special tools or equipment needed
  • Fabric and thread recommendations
  • Presser feet or sewing machine attachments needed

Suggested Items Needed To Assemble and Organize PDF Patterns

 

Before doing anything, make sure the pattern has printed the correct size. Most patterns will have a test square to measure to see if the pattern has printed true to size. VERY IMPORTANT!

Using the diagram from the instructions, line up the sheets of paper in the correct order.

On my patterns, I use a blue box on most patterns to indicate the connecting points on the sheets of paper. To reduce bulk, cut off one side and the bottom of the sheet (on the blue line). I like to use an Exacto knife, but you can just use scissors.

Attach the sheets together by using clear tape or masking tape.

Make sure things are lined up correctly and then cut out the size you need.

The beautiful thing about digital patterns is that, if you are going to make up the same item but need a different size, you can just print the pattern section again and cut out that size needed.

Storing & Organizing PDF Sewing Patterns

There are many ways to organize your patterns. Find the system that works best for your situation, sewing space, and is to your liking.

This is the way that I find works best for me.

 

I use simple manilla envelopes that measure 9 x 12 inches and have a clasp. You can get it at a good price HERE.

Instead of printing a separate sheet for the cover, I just glue the front sheet of the pattern to the envelope. It will have the title of the pattern, and usually a photo. It’s pretty simple and straight forward.

Then I store them in these cardboard magazine organizers. I suppose if you wanted to get real fancy, you could buy the more sturdy plastic organizers.

If you have a ton of patterns, you can sort them in different containers with the categories written on the boxes. (i.e.: BABY, TODDLER, HOUSEHOLD PATTERNS, WOMEN, etc.).

I hope that was helpful and inspires you to take advantage of the goodness of digital PDF sewing patterns and gives you a few ideas on how to get them organized.

GET MY PDF SEWING PATTERNS HERE

Happy sewing and organizing!

 

 

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Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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How To Download and Print PDF Sewing Patterns | Step by Step Tutorial

PDF sewing patterns youmakeitsimple.com

Being able to purchase a PDF sewing pattern online is a good thing. In this post, I am going to show you some tips on how to download and print PDF sewing patterns step by step.

Where to find PDF sewing patterns?

There are several places to find printable patterns online. Some common places are Etsy and on private sewing websites.

You can find my sewing patterns HERE.

Where to locate your purchased PDF sewing patterns?

Email: Most places will send you an email with a link to a download page, or they may direct you straight to a download page for an instant download. 

Can’t find your email? I get this a lot from customers saying they can’t find the email or they don’t know where to find the pattern. 98% of the time, the file is in their spam folder. So check there first. Another issue could be is that the email you have on that account has changed or you’re looking in the wrong email account.

spam folder PDF sewing patterns

CHECK YOUR SPAM FOLDER!

Etsy: Etsy digital shop purchases can always be located by going to your Etsy account.

Click on your account

Choose “purchases and reviews”

There you will find all your purchases. Click on the digital purchase and it will direct you to the download page where you can then click on DOWNLOAD. It will download the PDF to your computer.

Private Seller: If you purchase the pattern from a private seller, you may need to register on their site or create an account. Once you do that you’ll have access to the files forever once you log in. All sellers handle their PDF files differently but most likely this will be the process.

How many times can I download the pattern?

This depends on the seller. Some have unlimited downloads and some will only let you download so many times. (I find this to be rare).

PDF sewing patterns
Play Video

How to save PDF Sewing Patterns

Once you download the pattern, you’ll want to save it somewhere that you can easily find it. Here are a few suggestions.

What you’ll need to download and print the PDF Sewing Pattern

  • Some kind of PDF viewer. I recommend Adobe Acrobat and you can get the FREE download here.
  • Printer
  • Paper
  • Desktop computer or laptop

 

Printing the PDF Sewing Pattern

Just a few things to note:

  • Before printing, check to see if there are any special printing instructions. Some patterns will come with a separate PDF with printing instructions.
  • All printers are different and will have different printer ques.  
  • Most patterns will have you print at 100% or at ACTUAL SIZE. Make sure the “fit to page” or “page scaling” is turned off and not clicked.
  • Check the paper size. (Most likely the pattern will print out on letter or A4 size).
  • TEST SQUARE. Most patterns will have some kind of test square that you will measure to make sure the pattern is printing the correct size. Locate the test square and print that page only! (This will save a lot of paper in case it is not printing correctly).
  • Measure the square and make sure it measures what it is supposed to and then proceed to print the rest of the pattern pages.

That’s it! Stay tuned for some great tips on how to assemble and store PDF sewing patterns.

Here are some other sewing posts that you may be interested in.

I hope you’ll give some PDF sewing patterns a whirl. 

 

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Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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7 Sewing Machine Presser Feet and How To Use Them

presser feet youmakeitsimple.com

Have you ever gone through the sewing machine attachments that come with your sewing machine and wondered, “What the heck is this used for?” I certainly have! In this post, I am going to walk you through the 7 most basic sewing machine presser feet and how to use them.

Whatever type of sewing machine you have, it will come with some basic presser feet attachments. Some of them may look very intimidating and seem complicated to use. NO WORRIES. By the end of this tutorial, you are going to be all ready and hopefully, excited to tackle any sewing project.

What are presser feet?

Presser feet are small attachments that are added to the machine to help feed the fabric through the machine while you sew. There are many types of presser feet and each does something different to make the sewing task easier.

janni tips

Make sure to use presser feet that are compatible with the model of the sewing machine! Some feet are universal and can be used and several models of sewing machines, but others are not. When you purchase a new foot, it will tell what models it can be used on.

 

7 Basic Presser Feet

Play Video

Standard Presser Foot

This foot is most likely the foot you’ll be using for most of your sewing projects. It’s used for standard and decorative stitches.

  • Straight stitch
  • Satin stitch
  • Zigzag stitch
  • Overcasting
  • Other fancy stitches
  • Zipper Foot

Most machines include a zipper foot. There are several types of zipper feet and different ways to attach them. Depending on the setup of your machine, will determine how you attach it.

It’s pretty obvious what the zipper foot is used for, but how does it work?

Most commonly a zipper foot has gaps on either side of the foot. Depending on which side of the zipper you are sewing you position the zipper tape under the relevant side of the zipper foot. You stitch along one side of the zip then repeat for the other side.

The gaps in the foot allow you to sew close to the zipper teeth on either side of your zipper. If your sewing machine is capable, you can also adjust the needle position to more precisely place your stitching.

You can also use the zipper foot to attach trimmings and that have a tape, just like you do with a zipper. A zipper foot can also be used to apply piping. (There is a piping foot, which makes the task even easier

Overcasting/Overedge Foot

This foot is wonderful if you need to finish the raw edges of fabric but don’t have a serger or overlock machine. There is a little bar in the center of the foot that works to wrap the thread around the edge of the fabric for a neat finish and to prevent fraying.

There are usually a couple of options for overcasting stitches on most machines. You may need to play around with the length and width of the stitch to get the result you are looking for. I always recommend practicing on a piece of scrap fabric first.

You can watch the video tutorial where I will show you in more detail how to do the overcast stitch on your sewing machine.

Play Video

The overcasting stitch can be used even if you have a serger. It comes in handy for quick, small, and hard to reach places.

Blind Hem Foot

This foot is a nice option if you want to hem a pair of pants, curtains, skirt, or other items that you don’t want to be able to see the seam and you don’t want to sew it by hand.

The foot has a gap down the center and the right side of the foot is wider than the left side. The left side is also slightly raised compared to the right side because once the fabric is folded correctly there will be three layers of fabric to fit under the left side of the foot (two layers of the garment fabric itself plus the hem allowance), but only one layer on the right side

You can watch the detailed blind hem video here

Play Video

As I mentioned before, take a piece of scrap fabric and test it out there before sewing on your project. It takes a little tweaking to get the stitch how you want it.

Select the blind hem stitch on your machine and position the foot with the right side of the foot snugly against the fold in the fabric. The right side of the foot will act as a guide as you sew making it easy to sew accurately and ensure the stitches are falling correctly.

As you sew the stitches will be straight and then it will jog over to just catch the main garment fabric as it joins it to the hem allowance. You may need to play with the needle position to get your stitches in the correct place.

You will see a minimal amount of stitching from the right side, especially if you are using thread that is the same color as your fabric.

Buttonhole Foot

This foot can look intimidating, as at least it did for me until I used it. There are different types of buttonhole feet and some are fancier than others. I’m going to show and demonstrate how to use a one-step buttonhole foot. Most machines will come with at least a sliding or adjustable foot, which is similar to the one-step.

The one-step buttonhole attachment looks similar to the sliding and adjustable buttonhole feet, but it also has an area at the back of the foot where you can insert your button. You slide the foot until the button is fitting snugly in the gap then engage a lever or similar on your machine (instructions for this feature will be in your manual). This allows the machine to measure the button and stitch out the correct sized buttonhole in one simple step. I LOVE IT!

Practice on a scrap piece of fabric first. It’s actually quite fun making buttonholes!

Button Foot

You can always just sew a button on by hand but if you’re not a fan of hand sewing this foot could be a very welcome addition to your sewing kit! This foot allows you to sew a 2 or 4 hole button, and in different sizes, depending on the size of the button you are using.

Some machines will have a special setting for applying a button. But if it doesn’t NO WORRIES!

Simply set the stitch width according to the gap between the holes on the button and set the stitch length to “0”. The machine does all the work. If your machine does not have the special button setting, when you complete the stitching, move the needle position to the left or right and set the width to “0” and take several stitches in the same hole to knot the thread. Or you can just manually knot the two threads on the underside.

Viola!

Applique Foot

An appliqué foot is shorter in length than most presser feet and has a wider area for sewing all kinds of decorative stitches. The foot is shorted in length which makes maneuvering curves and angles easier.

The front of the foot sits on the fabric to maintain the required pressure; however, the back of the foot is raised to allow stitches and fabric to feed through easily.

Simply attach the foot to your machine, select an appliqué stitch of your choice, and sew around your chosen design quickly and easily. One of my favorite stitches to use is the blanket stitch.

There you have it. I hope this was helpful and allows you to feel more confident and familiar with those foreign-looking attachments that come with your sewing machine.

janni tips

It’s always a good idea to read through the manual that comes with your sewing machine. There may be some good tips in there to help make your sewing experience a lot easier.

 

 

For those of you who would like a little more direction and tips on all the SEWING BASICS, be sure to check out my SEW SIMPLE COURSES. Find out more about them HERE.

OTHER SEWING POSTS YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN:

Sewing Machine Needles, Why choosing the right one matters!

Unpicking Serger Stitches the Easy Way

Have fun sewing, and remember to KEEP IT SIMPLE!

 

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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Unpicking Serger Stitches the EASY WAY

Sewing on a serger/overlock machine is wonderful, but when it comes to unpicking serger stitches, you may find yourself overwhelmed and dreading the whole process.  I used to feel this way until I learned this slick and easy way to unpick; and I’m going to show you how it’s done. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been sewing or how good you are at it, there ARE going to be times that you’ll need to UNPICK! However, once you learn this technique, it won’t matter, because it is so easy to do.

A serger stitch will either use three or four threads to form the stitch: two looper threads and one or two needle threads. In the photo above, I have used a different thread color for each stitch to show you what it looks like. (four-thread stitch).

Before I learned this trick, I would grab my unpicker and try to unpick each stitch. There were little cut threads everywhere, and it took FOREVER! It was so frustrating! I seriously can’t believe and went so long sewing on a serger without knowing this little trick. It makes the process so quick and you don’t have all the cut threads to collect and dispose of.

UNPICKING SERGER STITCHES-HOW TO

The only stitches you are going to pull out are the needle threads. The photo above is a four-needle thread stitch. The RED thread is the left needle stitch, the TAN thread is the right needle stitch, and the blue thread is a looper thread.

1. Take the unpicker and with the point grab the red thread and pull it and cut it. Go down the seam another 1-2 inches and cut the needle thread again. BE CAREFUL NOT TO GRAB THE LOOPER THREADS, this will cause the seam to lock up and the threads will not pull out as easy. Get ahold of one of the tails of the thread you just cut and ease and pull it out of the fabric. (Sometimes you can do the whole seam in one go). Continue this process until you’ve removed that left needle thread completely.

2. If you are using a four-thread, you’ll need to remove the right needle thread as well. Finding the right needle thread can be a little tricky if you are using the same color of thread as the fabric. (A trick to finding the stitch, is to take your unpicker tip and glide it down the little v shape that the looper makes and it will slide right into the right needle stitch). It may seem like a lot of work, but trust me, it goes quickly and you’ll love the results.

3. Here’s the fun part! Once the needle threads are removed, all you need to do is grab the looper threads and give a little pull, and voilà! It will unravel like a dream. There won’t be all those little threads to gather and you’ll be on your way to re-sewing your seam.

I hope this saves you some grief while sewing. Be sure to leave a comment if you have some great sewing tips for us!

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Here are some other sewing blog posts you may be interested in:

OVERLOCK STITCH | NO SERGER NEEDED 

SEWING BY HAND | MOST IMPORTANT STITCHES TO KNOW

Have fun sewing and UNPICKING!

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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OVERLOCK STITCH | No Serger Needed

Do you want a finished overlock stitch for your seams but don’t have a serger? NO WORRIES! I am going to show you how to finish your seams using four different methods and there is NO SERGER NEEDED!

Ideally, it would be nice to have a serger in your sewing tool kit, however, not everyone can afford one or has access to one. Maybe you’re just getting into sewing and haven’t ventured into the serger world yet.

There are still several ways to get a nice finished edge without using a serger. I did it for years and these few stitches I’m going to show you work really well.

Why do you need to finish seam edges?

If you are sewing on a woven fabric, the seams WILL eventually fray, especially after washing. You don’t want your seam to come undone after all the work you put into a project. Depending on what you are sewing, you can use different methods. I will show you several different ways to finish the seam edges. Even the most basic sewing machines will have these stitches.

Sewing Machine Overlock Stitching Alternatives

ZIGZAG STITCH

This is a stitch when sewn along the edge of the fabric will keep it from fraying.
SEWING MACHINE SETTINGS: Width 4-5, Length 1-2
You can either open up the seam and sew each side of the seam allowance separately or sew them together. This depends on the project you are sewing. If the pattern has you open up the seam and press, sew separately. This is good for light to medium weight fabrics. (cotton prints, linen, etc.)

ZIGZAG STITCH with ADDED STRAIGHT STITCH

SEWING MACHINE SETTINGS: Width 0, Length 2.5
For added strength and a more finished look, you can sew down along the inside edge of the zigzag stitch. You will see this type of seam used on jeans, and projects that with heavier weight fabrics and seams that need more stability.

OVERLOCK STITCH

This is an actual stitch option on your machine. It looks like a zigzag with a straight stitch on the side. It will obviously take a bit longer than it would with a serger, but it does the job.
THIS STITCH WORKS REALLY WELL ON STRETCHY FABRIC! When using this stitch on stretch fabric seams, the seams won’t pop open when pulled. A narrow and short zigzag stitch will also do the same thing. LOVE IT!

You can use this as your seam stitch and the overlock seam. However, since the seam is small, your seam allowance will be very small. You’ll have to take that into consideration and trim the seam allowance first.

Most machines will come with a special OVERLOCK FOOT. You can see what it looks like in the photo above. This foot will help guide the fabric so you are sewing right along the edge where you’re supposed to. It works really well.

SEWING MACHINE SETTINGS: Width 4-5, Length 1-2

SLANTED LADDER STITCH

This is another sewing stitch option that most machines will have. It is also good for stretchy fabrics.
SEWING MACHINE SETTINGS: Width 4-5, Length 1-2
You can play with the length and width to get the stitch you want.

I recommend getting some scrap fabric and practicing with these stitches. You’re going to love it.
Please send me a note if you have any questions.

Have fun sewing!

Other posts you may find helpful:

Sewing By Hand, Most Important Stitches to Know

DIY Bias Tape

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Have fun sewing and remember to keep it SIMPLE!

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

DIY Cut Off Shorts | 4 Simple Hemming Methods

cutoff short options

Making a pair of DIY cut off shorts is a snap with these 4 simple hemming methods. This is a great way to recycle and save a lot of money! As you know, I like to upcycle and re-purpose items.  Clothing is one of them.

Cutting off a long pair of pants and making a pair of shorts is one of the simplest upcycling projects there is. I am going to show you FOUR different ways to hem your cut-off shorts.

I recommend watching the video tutorial which will walk you through all four of these methods step-by-step!

Play Video
  • Cut Off & Fray
  • Rolled Hem
  • Cuffed Hem
  • Trouser Hem

What you’ll need to make a pair of cut-off shorts

  • Pair of pants

Pants of all kinds can be used. Jeans are one of my favorite things to cut off. So if you have a pair of jeans that have holes in them, don’t throw them out, make SHORTS!

If you don’t have a pair of pants you want to cut off, thrift stores, consignment shops, and yard sales are great places to pick up an inexpensive pair of pants.

  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine (optional)
  • Pins
  • Needle & Thread (optional)
  • Chalk pen (optional)
  • Seam gauge
  • Iron

How long do you want your cut-off shorts?

Whichever way you choose to hem your cut-offs; the first thing you’ll need to do is decide HOW LONG YOU WANT THEM.

The easiest way is to take a pair of shorts that you already have and like the length and use them as a template.  Or you can simply try the pants on and carefully apply a straight pin at the DESIRED LENGTH. DO NOT CUT OFF AT THIS POINT!

Once you’ve decided how long you want your shorts, it’s time to decide how you want to finish the edge.

If you are using an existing pair of shorts as a template, simply lay the shorts on top of the long pair of pants you are cutting off. Line up the CROTCH SEAM, NOT THE WAISTLINE. (Some pants have a longer waist height than others). Make sure the waist is lined up horizontally so you get an even cut.

Depending on what hem style you are using, you’ll either be cutting off at the DESIRED LENGTH or ADDING TO THE LENGTH.

CUT OFF & FRAY – Cut off at that length.

ROLLED HEM  –  Add ¾ inch

CUFFED HEM  – Add 2 inches

TROUSER HEM – Add 1 3/8 INCHES

1  Cut Off & Fray

The “cut off & fray method” is the simplest and quickest way to finish a pair of shorts.

  1. Cut off one pant leg at the DESIRED LENGTH.
  2. Fold the pants in half and line up the top of the waist.
  3. Use the already cut pant leg as a guide to cut off the other side.

You can leave the fabric unfinished and just the fabric fray out. I recommend sewing around the leg with a straight stitch ¼ – ½ inch from the cut edge. This will keep the fray to a minimum. This is a preference only.

2  Rolled Hem

Using a seam gauge, measure ¾ inch from the DESIRED LENGTH MARK. Make sure the top of the waist is even and straight. Use a chalk pen or disappearing ink pen and draw a cutting line.

Cut off one pant leg.

Fold the pants in half and line up the top of the waist.

Use the already cut pant leg as a guide to cut off the other side.

Fold the edge up 3/8 inch and press. Roll up another 3/8 and press.

Pin in place.

Topstitch just inside the fold all the way around, starting at the inner thigh seam. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.

Repeat on the other pant leg. Finished cut edge by using a serger, or the zigzag stitch of a single needle machine.

Fold the edge up, wrong sides together, 3/8 inch, and press. Roll up another 3/8 and press.

Pin in place.

Finish cut edge by using a serger, or the zigzag stitch of a single needle machine.

Fold the edge up, wrong sides together, 3/8 inch, and press. Roll up another 3/8 and press.

Pin in place

Tack the cuff in place so it does not come undone while laundering. To do this, simply sew along the side seams of the cuff using the sewing machine or you can do this by hand.

4 Trouser Hem

This hemming method is a good one to use if you want a more finished look. Dress pants and trousers with a lighter weight fabric work well.

  1. Using a seam gauge, measure 1 3/8 inches from the DESIRED LENGTH MARK. Make sure the top of the waist is even and straight. Using a chalk pen or disappearing ink pen and draw a cutting line.
  2. Cut off one pant leg.
  3. Fold the pants in half and line up the top of the waist.
  4. Use the already cut pant leg as a guide to cut off the other side.

Fold the cut edge up 3/8 inch and press.

Now fold another 1 inch. Press and pin in place.

There are a few ways to finish this hem. You can topstitch with a single or double stitch or you can use the BLIND HEM STITCH. The blind hem stitch can be done by hand or by using the sewing machine. You can watch the blind hem video tutorial HERE.

There you have it; four different ways to make a pair of cut-off shorts from an upcycled pair of pants. It’s pretty simple and straightforward. Let me know if you have any questions.

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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SEWING BY HAND | Most Important Stitches to Know

SEWING BY HAND | Most Important Stitches to Know

 

Knowing how to sew these 3 basic stitches will allow you to mend and create items that maybe you thought you couldn’t because you don’t have a sewing machine.

Although there are several other hand sewing stitches and techniques, I am only going to show you the basting or running stitch, stretch stitch or herringbone stitch, and the backstitch.

Items Needed:

  • All-purpose thread
  • Scissors
  • Needle

(I recommend getting a variety set of needles to have handy for different projects). For basic hand sewing, use a sharp or a milliner. You can get more technical with eye size and point types, but for now, just choose one that is mid-sized.

  • Thimble (optional)
  • Needle threader (optional)

 

I recommend purchasing or making your own little sewing kit. What I love about this one is it comes with everything you’ll need, even my favorite fabric clips and small scissors. It comes with several colors of thread for those small mending projects.

Threading the needle

You can either use a single or double thread. I use a double thread for most projects. Don’t get the thread too long or it may be prone to tangling while sewing. A good length is around 16 inches after doubled.

 

Knotting the thread

Each seam, unless you are just basting, will need to start and end with an anchor stitch. This is where you knot the thread so it will not come undone. For most projects, you can just make a knot at the end of your thread.

To do this, simply take the ends of the thread and wrap it around your pointer finder then roll the thread between your fingers. Gently pull the thread and it will create a little knot. Then you’re ready to begin. To make a knot at the end of the seam, pull the needle to the backside and take a TINY stitch, leaving a little loop.

Wrap the needle around the loop once and pull the thread. Thiswill knot the thread.

If you don’t want the bulk of a bunch of knots when you’re sewing by hand, you can use an anchor stitch. Simply take a tiny stitch and then another tiny stitch right by it. Then start your stitching. You can end a seam the same way.

SEWING BY HAND stitches that are important to know

 

Basting stitch/running stitch

The basting stitch/running stitch is great for temporarily holding pieces of fabric together or for quick seams that don’t need to be real sturdy. This stitch can also be used to gather fabric for ruffles or easing in.

 

Take the needle in and out of the fabric with ¼ to ½ inch long stitches. Take several stitches at a time by popping the needle in and out of the fabric before pulling through.

 

Stretch stitch/herringbone stitch

This stitch has several names. I like to call it a hand stretch stitch because it works so well with stretchy fabrics. (The seam won’t pop and break like a straight stitch will when sewn on knit fabrics).

You can also use it for hemming and decorative embroidery and quilt making.

 

Drawing two horizontal lines with a washable pencil or chalk will help as a guide while sewing by hand. Work the stitch from left to right, making little back stitches and crossing over at a diagonal to the other line.

 

backstitch

The backstitch is one of the strongest, most adaptable stitches. This stitch mimics the straight stitch you would see on a sewing machine and is good to know for simple mending jobs and other small projects. Also good to know if you plan on sewing your own clothing by hand.

 

To keep your seam as straight and as tidy as possible, it’s helpful to mark the line of stitching with a thin pencil line. You can us a sharp pencil, chalk pen, or washable ink. On straight seams, use a ruler.

 

Push the needle into the fabric where you want to start the seam. Bring the needle back through both layers of fabric just in front of the previous stitch. Push the needle back into the fabric between where the needle came in and out of the fabric to create the first stitch. These stitches can touch each other, as you see here, or you can space them a little farther apart.

 

Continue this pattern until you are at the end of the seam. Push the needle to the back side and take your anchor stitch and knot in place.

 

Pin your project to a firm bolster or pillow. This will allow you to sew a lot faster.

I hope this makes sewing by hand a little less intimidating and helps you understand how to use these three basic stitches.

 

Play Video

The running stitch could come in real handy to make the NO SEW FACE MASKS stay in place longer. Real simple to do!

Have fun sewing!

 

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