crafts · Sewing

Breaking the rules: sewing

Rules, Break Them

I used to be utterly terrified of breaking sewing rules.  As I’ve gotten more experienced, I’ve noticed that there are some I regularly break – and it doesn’t bother me a bit!  I thought it might be fun to list the sewing rules that I don’t follow.

1. Directional Sewing – I’ve read a few books that recommend stitching seams in a certain direction.  I did this for awhile, but then I forgot, and I don’t notice any difference.  To be fair, I do sew with a walking foot on 90% of the time, so that might have an effect on my results!

2. Interfacing – I don’t always interface when a pattern says I should – it all depends on the weight of my fabric and how I feel it will handle.  I almost never interface knits, even with a knit interfacing, because I just don’t like the results (I left off the interfacing on the wrap dress I just finished, and it’s fine!)  When I do interface, I never use fusibles, which I know makes me super old-fashioned.  I don’t even usually use fabric sold as interfacing – I usually go for lawn, muslin, or silk organza.  I can’t buy nice fusibles locally, and it wasn’t worth it to me to buy them online when I’m so happy with the results of sew-ins.

3. Always cutting knits in a single layer – only if I’m matching patterns, or the knit is horribly slippery (usually lightweight rayons and bamboo knits.)  I use a rotary cutter for cutting them, and I haven’t noticed anything being off grain since I stopped crawling around on the floor cutting (and my knees thank me!)

4.  Obsessing about grainlines – I mean, I try to get things on grain when I cut them.  If it’s possible I will snip and then rip one end.  I iron carefully, and I make sure there aren’t any ripples in the fold (a sure sign of being off grain.)  But I used to make myself crazy about everything lining up, which isn’t always possible or even accurate (selvedges can stretch.)  Also… never try to rip the edge on a twill weave.  I spent hours once trying to true up a cotton twill, which was never going to happen since twill can’t be ripped to find the grain!

5.  Easing in sleeves – I usually remove the ease in a sleevecap.  I just hate easing them in, and I haven’t noticed any issues with removing the ease – so that’s what I’m doing!

6.  Following the order of operations in your pattern – I have an older sewing book that talks about the factory method vs the home sewing (and, in the book’s opinion, better) method.  Apparently the factory method was to set the sleeves in flat, and construct the entire front and back of the garment separately, then seam from the hem to the tip of the sleeve in one pass.  The book didn’t convince me, since I thought “Wow, that sounds like a good idea” and started sewing everything that way.  I find it easier to make adjustments to the side seams when I don’t have an intersecting waist seam to deal with.  I always baste up the sides for fitting purposes before sewing that seam, and that is working really well for me.  Sometimes I do set the sleeves in the round – it depends on the fabric.  Knit sleeves are totally fine flat.

7. Zippers – I don’t use regular zippers – I always replace then with invisible ones.  They are so much easier to install, and prettier to look at!  I never use a zipper in a knit, though patterns often call for them.

8. Grading seam allowances – I almost never do – only on the bulkiest of seams, and only if I notice it looking bad.  I do trim all the seams, but even with the tiniest scissors I have constant accidents trying to grade them.  I finish most of my seams by serging (or trimming for knits.)

9. Paying attention to recommended sizes – I almost never make the size a pattern tells me to make, based on my measurements.  I like less ease in my clothes, so I measure the pieces and then make a decision.

On the other hand, there are some rules that I never break:

1. Ironing – I am obsessed with ironing seams.  I have both a tailor’s ham and seam roll, and use them all the time.  Each seam gets three to four presses – flat, open on the wrong side, open on the right side, and then to one side (if called for.)  I think ironing makes a greater difference to your sewing than almost anything – there is just no way to get to those seams once you’ve crossed them with another!

2. Prewashing fabric – I was everything at least once, sometimes twice, before I cut.  My rule is this: I treat it worse than I will ever treat the finished garment, so I won’t have any surprises later.  That means all cotton fabrics get washed and dried on hot.  Rayons and polys get warm (though none of these garments will see more than cold in real life – I only wash clothes in cold water.)  I sometimes prewash more than one fabric at a time in order to save water, but to avoid running colors I throw in one of those Shout Color Catcher sheets – those things are miraculous!  I mean, I wouldn’t try that with red fabrics or with denim, but for most fabrics it works quite well.  I have a front-loading washer, so YMMV – I find the front loader is, in general, much easier on clothes than my old machine.

3.  Don’t backstitch on darts – I used to hate sewing darts, because I learned to tie them by hand, but then I saw this video from Threads magazine.  I do all my darts that way now, and it’s wonderful – so quick and easy!

4. Don’t sew over pins – I threw the timing all out of whack on my old machine that way – and it’s still not fixed because I decided it was time for a new machine.  So I guess that’s more one I don’t do anymore.

So there’s my list!  I’ve never been good with rules (good thing I work for myself, yes?)  so it’s not surprising that I’ve loosened up.  Does anyone else break these rules? Do you have any suggestions for more rules I could break?  Because I am always up for that!