These helpful sewing habits are good to get into now, because they will simplify your life, at least in the sewing room.
Use a new sewing machine needle when you start a new project
Sewing machine needles work really hard, and changing needles can make your machine feel brand new. I have had needles in my sewing machine for months at a time. My seams would start to look bunched and puckered, and I would fiddle with the sewing machine tension, thinking my machine needed to be services. When I changed my needle, the machine sewed through the fabric like a hot knife through butter. This is especially important when using light weight fabrics or anything with a satin finish, because a dull needle will damage the surface of the fabric. Now I change my machine needle constantly, but if changing your needle after every project seems excessive, try changing it after every other project. This really makes a huge difference.
Trim as you go
See all the little threads at the beginning and end of a seam? Get rid of them before you sew your next stitch. Trim them off every time you take that fabric away from the machine. Do this by cutting right up close to the edge of the fabric. If you don’t, they can get caught up under the next bit of stitching. These and threads are messy and annoying. Just say goodbye to them right away. Tape a little plastic baggie garbage sack to the edge of your sewing table really close to your hands so you can quickly throw them away.
Iron as you go
The iron is your best friend when you sew. For these projects, seams can be either ironed to one side or pressed open. When you iron, pay attention to the right side of the fabric. Press seams really flat with no folds. From the front, you should almost be able to see the stitching where the two edges meet. Use steam, especially for cotton. You can fix a ton of little bumps and mistakes with a good pressing. I have been known to spend more time shaping and manipulating with the iron than sewing at the machine.
Have your iron next to your sewing machine
This is a handy tip for speedy sewing. I set my ironing board up at a night angle to, and the same height as my sewing table, so I just swivel in my chair to iron, and then swivel back to my sewing machine. I never have to get up from my chair.
Keep a small pair of sharp scissors next to sewing machine
This is for cutting the little threads. It is really nice to have a small, dedicated pair of scissors for this task.
Hang on the thread tails when you start sewing.
Then they won’t get pulled down into the machine. Every time I get lazy and don’t do this, I get tangles and swearing ensues.
Practice sewing a straight line
Here’s a test: start a long piece of scrap fabric through your sewing machine using a straight stitch and then stop using your hands. The fabric should feed through by itself, and the machine should sew a straight line. This means only a gentle hand is needed when holding your fabric. Pulling from the back will cause uneven stitches and is way more work for you. The machine will feed the fabric through; all your hands should be doing is lifting it up off the table and guiding it through corners and turns. If your hands are doing more than that, you are messing with the fabric too much. And if your sewing machine doesn’t behave in the way just described, have it serviced.
When you start to sew, take a little back-stitch at the beginning and end of your stitch.
This is so when you are monkeying around with it, iron seams open and pinning – the ends won’t start to come undone. Back stitches make ripping out the seams a bit harder, but you won’t be doing that very often.
Make your sewing machine work for you
Your sewing machine is supposed to help you, not hinder you. Most basic machines come with special feet to make tasks easier, such as a zipper foot, buttonhole foot, walking foot, and sometimes a foot for thick fabrics.