Three important techniques every sewist should know

Today's post is a guest feature courtesy of the fabulous Claire from Penguin and Pear and she is bringing us essential techniques for sewers. She has brought together a fabulous Facebook community for sewing bloggers, and her own blog is always full of useful tips and reviews. Check out her blog (which includes my own guest post on essential summer dress patterns) and social media from the links below...enjoy!

Three important techniques every sewist should know

Three important techniques every sewist should know
The amount of information out there for people new to sewing is immense and it is hard to pick out the stuff you definitely need to know versus the stuff that is nice to know (or, indeed, unnecessary). That’s why today I am bringing to you three mini-tutorials on sewing techniques that will help you to become a professional dressmaker:

French seams
A french seam is a classic way of finishing the edges of a garment off. It takes a little longer than other methods but the effort required leaves a professional finish. When you complete a french seam there are no exposed edges – inside or out! Here’s how:

Pin your fabric wrong sides together.

Sew a seam 3/8th of an inch from the edge of the fabric

Trim the seam down so you are close to the seam line but don’t touch it (about 1/8th away is fine)

Press the seam flat, then fold over so the edge is right sides together and give a press (pin if necessary).

Take your garment back to the machine and sew 1/4 of an inch from the edge of the fabric. This line of sewing should be a larger width than your first line of sewing. Both seams should add up to 5/8th of an inch together. In cases where you have a different seam allowance you can change the widths of each seam to allow for this.

Give the seam a final press

Other ways to finish a seam
Zigzag – once your seam is sewn, zig zag the edges of the seams to stop fraying.
Pinking – once your seam is sewn, use pinking shears to trim the edges, leaving a zig zag shape.
Overlock – This requires a speciality machine and is not necessary but if you have access to one you could serge the seams to stop fraying.
(There are lots more ways but these are the obvious ones)
2. Darts
A dart is a technique that is inserted in a garment to give it shape. Darts are usually inserted around the bust area, around the waist area and in the back area. I recently saw a pattern that called for them in the men’s crotch area too, so they are versatile and will transform the shape of a garment. While some people struggle to complete darts, there is no need as they are easy to do:
On your pattern piece mark on the wrong side of the fabric with an erasable marker the point of the dart and create two notches for the legs. Join these up to form a triangle.

Fold the dart in half, right sides together, and pin together. It is important at this point to ensure the lines on either side of the dart line up together so put a pin through the line on one side and check the other side to see if its come out on a line, if not adjust. Do this for the length of the dart and also pin the tip of the dart to show you where to finish.

Begin sewing at the dart leg, backstitching to secure. Follow the line you drew until you reach the tip of the dart.

Slowly sew off the fabric at the tip, allowing a stitch or two on the edge of the fabric as you do so. This will ensure a smooth dart and stop any puckering. Leave a longish tail of thread and snip. Tie the two threads together in a double knot and snip close.

Iron the dart, ideally with a tailor’s ham so that the dart is facing down towards the waist, or to centre back.

3. Hems
There are a number of ways to finish a hem but in my opinion a rolled hem is the neatest of them all. Buying a rolled hem foot can cost money that would be better spent on fabric, and even if you have a speciality foot, mastering it can be something else all together. Below I will show you a fail safe way of achieving a rolled hem without the need for any special equipment:
Sew a line of basting stitches 1/4 of an inch in from the hem edge (lining up your foot with the edge should give you this width).

Fold the fabric wrong sides together at the hem with the stitches just showing and press into place.
petite10Sew another line of basting stitches on top of your first line of stitches. Fold the fabric again wrong sides together and press into place.
petite11Cut away any excess fabric being careful not to snip into your garment.
petite17Reduce your sewing length to 2.6 and sew a final line of stitching. Press to finish.
Other ways to hem clothes
Double fold – fold the hem under twice by the amount desired, press and sew.
Bag it out – sew the shell and the lining together and then turn right sides out and press
Overlock – serge the edge, fold under, press and sew
Blind hem – use a blind hem foot to sew a line of stitching you cannot see from the outside.
Thanks for reading! If you have a preferred way of achieving one of these techniques please leave a comment below. For more tips and tricks and general sewing chat please check out my blog at, You can also catch me on InstagramPinterestTwitter and The Foldline.
Three important techniques every sewist should know

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Welcome to Sewing and Other Stories; my journeys with sewing and knitting; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm also the designer behind West Beach Knits knitting patterns and I host a Knitting and Sewing channel on YouTube where you can see all of this in person. Come have a look!

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