Do you sometimes feel like sewing could be much faster if you ignored the more tedious aspects of it? All that you want is wear your finished garment, but all these steps stand between you and immediate satisfaction—pre-washing your fabric, stay stitching, clipping thread tails… Enough, already! Dear fellow sewist, I hear ya.
But I urge you to be patience and not skip any of the steps below. They guarantee a much higher success rate than simply rushing through construction to get to the end. These steps will help create garments that fit better and last longer. Not too bad for just a little patience, huh?
Pre-Washing Your Fabric
Pre-washing is a very important step that ensures that the garment you sewed will fit you after the first wash. Some fabrics—like my beloved rayon—are notorious for shrinking a lot. When you prewash your fabric, you give it an opportunity to shrink before you cut your project. You also have a chance to remove any dirt or residue that might be on the fabric.
Yes, it is a pain that you cannot go from the shopping bag to the cutting table, but this bit of delay will pay off in clothes that fit you wash after wash.
Stay stitching is a line of stitches that you sew inside the seam allowance to prevent fabric from stretching. It is usually found in necklines and curved or diagonal seams. Stay stitching helps with areas of the garment that tend to get stretched or distorted.
Think of stay stitching as a guarantee that your pattern pieces will match when sewn together. It is one little line of stitches that will pay off tenfold when it is time to get your collar and neckline together.
Interfacing is an extra layer that you add to parts of a garment to give them stability, structure, and durability. You will see interfacing required for collars, button plackets, waistbands, cuffs, and hems. Interfacing can be woven, non-woven, or knit; it can be sew-in or fusible; and it comes in different weights. The type of interfacing will depend on the fabric, the project, and your own preference.
You may be wondering: Okay, so I am going to buy the cheapest interfacing I can find and be done with it. Not all interfacing is create equal. I stay away from non-woven interfacing when sewing garments. It looks and feels like paper, and it makes the fabric it is fused to feel less like fabric and, well, more like paper. Woven interfacing is more expensive, but it works so much better.
Clipping Thread Tails As You Sew
Clipping thread tails is common knowledge. No one wants to find a stray thread tail during an event or a work meeting. Having encountered many myself, I instituted a clip-as-you-go policy when sewing. This policy helps me keep my garments nice and neat inside and out.
I like to use a thread snip to nip thread tails in the bud. They are small enough to get into even the tightest corners. If you don’t have one, no problem—dedicate a small pair of scissors to this job. Just make sure that can get pretty close to your seam lines.
Finishing Raw Edges
There are two main reasons we finish raw edges: 1. To stop fabric from fraying; 2. To give raw seams a professional finish. There are many techniques for finishing seams. Some finishes require a time investing. French seams, for example, take a bit more time to sew but are a great way to work with sheers and delicate fabrics. Other methods require a small investment—buying a pair of pinking shears to trim the raw edges or a few yards of bias tape to create Hong Kong seams. If you have the budget, you might consider investing in a serger for serging raw edges.
The most important thing here is to know how the fabric you are using will handle wear and tear. Knit fabrics don’t need to be finish as they don’t fray; I finish my knit garments to get a professional look. Fabrics that fray a lot like silk and linen will need a different approach—French seams, bound seams, or serged edges. No matter the fabric, finishing the raw edges will help your garment last longer and look nicer.
Understitching is a technique used to prevent a facing or lining from rolling out from the inside of the garment. You sew the seam allowance of the garment to the facing or lining with a line of stitches parallel and very close to the seam line. There is no visible stitch line from the outside—the facing or lining stays tucked in and hidden.
Yes, understitching adds time to your garment construction, but it is a technique that will pay off. Your garments will have a professional finish, and you will not have to deal with the annoyance of facings trying to make an appearance.
Pressing Your Seams As You Go
First, let’s make this clear: Pressing is NOT ironing. When you iron fabric, you move the iron back and forth in a gliding motion. When you press, you move the iron up and down, pressing and holding the iron for just a couple of seconds against the seam. The pattern you are sewing will have directions as to how to press your seams, open or to one side.
Pressing your seams serves many purposes. It melds stitches into place, making them “disappear” into the fabric. It helps your garment lay flat as it pushes the fabric away from the body. It helps manipulate the fabric into shape—when you are pressing darts or princess seams, for example.
Pressing seams as you go is a great sewing habit to cultivate. It ensures that you will not forget to press any seam, and it will prevent ripples, waves, or distortions to your project.
Not the Glamorous Side of Sewing
So, you did not get into sewing for the excitement of understitching. All these techniques, however, combine to produce garments that look beautiful inside and out, last longer, and fit better. Each of these steps helps create clothing that can rival—and many times beat—the quality of ready-to-wear garments.
If you would like a little more information on any of these steps, leave a comment below. I’ll make sure to cover one—or all—of them in future posts.