sew sew…

17 Oct

…i’m going to start this by saying, i’m no expert when it comes to sewing. but, i do sew almost everyday and i’ve made a business out of it for the last few years – i think about it a lot, and fabric is my go-to medium of choice. that said, i just thought i would offer up what i know –  just a few tips that i have learned along the way… (you know, say you want to drag out your machine and whip up some christmas-present-mittens, but you just can’t quite remember where to start…)


i sew with a Bernina Activa 220. before i got this machine, i had used several others…an inexpensive basic version like you would have in a home-ec room, a really old beauty that belonged to my grandmother, and an older style Bernina. i decided to invest in a better machine because my work was starting to count on quality, and i was really getting tired of having the time consuming problems that seem to happen over and over again with older machines. at the time, this machine was the most expensive thing i had ever purchased (and no, i had never owned my own car), so it was a little scary. but i love this sewing machine – the digital screen, the controls, the quietness, the ease of sewing…totally worth it for me.

if you already own a machine (you know, the one getting dusty in the basement…) and you want to start using it more – it is probably worth it to get it serviced and cleaned by someone who knows what they are doing. otherwise, it’s really important to know how to clean your machine, and to do it often. i try to do this about every week, or whenever i finish a large amount of work. thread and lint get all stuck in there and if not cleaned out, will eventually make their way deeper into the machine and cause bigger problems later…

needles and thread

when i first started sewing, i used to buy packs of needles at the dollar store. that was silly. i had no idea what the numbers on the packages meant, only that they were cheap ($) and really cheap (they broke alll the time). i discovered the value of good needles – which you can get at any fabric/sewing store. the most basic needles for working with cotton will have the numbers 12/80 on the package – these are the american/european sizes. the only other time i switch to different needles are for sewing stretchy fabrics (like jersey or sometimes fleece), and when i sew leather. these packages are clearly marked. using the right needle actually makes a big difference…(ps, i toss needles anytime i finish a group of work, say i’ve made 15 pairs of booties, or anytime they start to dull)

oh yeah, and buy good quality thread too – because really, this is what is holding your sewn goodies together. i can say i committed the dollar store sin once again in the thread department. again, that was silly. these days, i mostly use white thread (it just makes things easier) – the Guterman brand. i always make sure to have an extra spool that i can use to thread my bobbin so i don’t have to unthread the rest of my machine. and speaking of threading your machine – even the tiniest mistake will throw your machine for a loop and render it  unusable. so learn how to thread your machine.

i have found that anytime my machines are being silly (skipping stitches, needles breaking, sounding clunky or loud) it is because of 1)needing to be cleaned 2)using the wrong needle, or a dull needle 3) being threaded incorrectly….simple fixes.



these are the things i use most…scissors: i love these ones and prefer them to big shears, mostly because i am cutting a lot of small pieces on a regular basis. tiny scissors: a must in my books. seam ripper: oh, the mistakes we make. needles: cuz sometimes you need something to stay put. tape measure: erm…you know, for measuring. needles: for any hand sewing or embroidering details (hey, all those little non-structural details are where you can use that bargain thread that you have in all the colors…)


fabric, etc

i use a mix of new fabrics (mostly quilting weight cottons), fabrics that are found at the thrift store (lovely in their uniqueness and vintagey good looks, but be careful that they don’t smell like a basement. often, that smell doesn’t come out), and recycled goodies (sweaters, mostly). i like to know what fabrics are made of – and if i find something i love but i’m not sure, i judge it on softness…

most of my notions (i love bias tape!) like zippers and buttons and bits of this and that, i get from the thrift store. you can often find things in their original packaging and that stuff is cheap! (the good kind). the only thing i consistently buy new is elastic…old elastic loses it’s stretch and won’t last.

patterns: these are available most easily as downloadable files that you can buy or find all over these here internets. you simply print them out and follow instructions. i find, say, people making and selling patterns on etsy will make it much easier for you and stay away from sewing language that isn’t necessary anyway. once you have an idea of how things are constructed, it’s pretty easy to make patterns from items or clothing you already own…


so – you can do it…sewing isn’t scary. go whip up those mittens!

thanks for making it this far – for taking a little tour of the goodies in my studio and for letting me share.

ps – this post was brought to you by  my wee studio helpers. they are the cutest:

happy sewing all!




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