There is a subtle yet significant difference between your creations looking homemade and handmade. Whilst we are always proud to declare ‘I made that’ to anyone who might be interested, the reality is you want people to be genuinely amazed at the revelation, rather than giving you a ‘yes I can tell’ kind of response. When you go to the time and trouble of creating handsewn items, you want your talents to be shown off to the highest standard possible, and its the finer details of the sewing process that can let you down.
Thankfully, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your finished work has the aura of ‘wow’ about it.
Pressing and Ironing
Get the ironing board out, set it up in an accessible space and use it every step of the way. Press your pattern pieces. Pre-wash, dry and press your fabric. Press every seam, in every direction. Yes it can seem laborious, yes we all sometimes flirt with the idea that ‘maybe it won’t matter if I don’t press this little bit’…Just do it, it will pay off in the long run. Everything is easier to do, more accurate, and ultimately looks so much better by the finish. And to help with those more tricky aspects of sewing, its worth buying a tailors ham, it really makes pressing shaped areas so much simpler.
Make a Toile (or Muslin)
It is so worth making up a quick version of your chosen project in a cheap fabric (calico is the usual choice). It doesn’t have to be all neat and finished to perfection, just something to give a good idea of the fit. You can make any necessary adjustments by pinning as needed, and then transfer this back to the pattern before making up the final piece. It avoids the disappointment of your final garment having that not-quite-right look about it, and is far easier than trying to adjust the finished item without looking odd. Sometimes its worth doing this several times. It may take extra time, but the finished result is always worth it.
One of the first workshops I did when I began re-training in dress-making was by the fabulous Michelle Pye, and it was all about interlining. Now my younger self was itching to discover the secrets of pattern drafting, to master the boned bodice and get to grips with all those couture finishes I’d been experimenting with. So applying different types of interfacing to different types of fabric for a whole day was, well what can I say, it was kind of dull. But brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Because, as a result, I have never made anything without an appropriate interlining, and therefore have never experienced the disappointment of a finished garment looking shabby, or not sitting right, or being too flimsy. Interlinings give your garments substance and structure, in fact they can change the characteristics of the fabric altogether. Its the reason I was able to make my own bridesmaid dress for my sister-in-law’s wedding out of lycra (the only fabric I could find in the exact colour of the other bridesmaids – I was 5 months pregnant at the time so was never going to fit into their shop-bought outfits). You can buy interlining in all manner of thickness and weights depending on your projects. You can hand-baste it in place or get fusible versions that iron in. Whatever your project, it is worth finding the right interlining to use.
Your Choice of Scissors/Shears
Every dressmaker needs dressmaking scissors, used for the sole purpose of cutting fabric. And nothing else. Repeat, NOTHING else. You can pay anything from a little to A LOT for these, so find a pair that is right for you and your budget, but do get some and do keep them well hidden and hard to get to (I once read a suggestion to put them in a draw-string bag, in a jar, in a cupboard). The point being, you do not want anyone to get into the habit of just grabbing them when they need scissors for cutting this or that because yours are easy to find sitting at the top of your sewing box in the living room (or similar). Dressmaking scissors are sacred, and the reason you can cut fabric accurately and easily where sub-par scissors will just make a hash of it. Your notches will match beautifully, your corners will come together in harmony. Well-cut pattern pieces are a thing of beauty, and lead to much easier sewing together. But this can only be achieved with good quality scissors.
Take Regular Breaks
Times flies when you are having fun. And also when you ‘just need to finish this last little bit before…’ In reality, its usually that ‘last little bit’ that sends you over the edge and causes all manner of unnecessary seam ripping and starting over. Regular breaks stop the aches and the bad posture creeping in, and prevent those silly mistakes that come when you are tired. Because once that little pucker has appeared, or that seam has gone slightly awry, sometimes there is no going back, and its a little niggle that will live on your otherwise perfect garment for ever more. Stop before you get too tired, and come at it fresh.
You might also want to consider your choice of pins and sewing machine needles – you can read all about those in my blog post ‘Which Sewing Machine Needle Should I Use?‘ and ‘10 Types of Sewing Pins (and when to use them)‘.
If you love to sew, why not sign up to my Creative Sewing Challenge? You’ll receive a new prompt each month to inspire your sewing. Sign up below, or find out more here.
Thanks for dropping by my blog lovely sewers, as ever I hope you’ve found something useful and look forward to your visit again soon. Feel free to share my pin on Pinterest…