Sewing Tips

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Sewing Tips

Sewing Tips

I just finished an article for a future newsletter on the website and as usual I had more tips than I had room. Here are a few “leftover” odds and end tips I thought some of you could use.

  • Use knitting needle guards or a small cork to protect the end of small scissors, especially when you are traveling with them.
  • Use a mesh bag (like potatoes or fruits come in) to put your yarn in when knitting.This is especially good when using more than one color because you can pull each color through a different hole in the bag.

  • If you are hand appliquéing and use beeswax to keep your thread from tangling, run the thread over the beeswax then press it with your iron. This embeds the wax into the thread so it all doesn’t come off with the first stitch. This really isn’t that hard. It doesn’t take as much time as you would think and it works so well. It doesn’t hurt your iron, but it does help the iron glide more smoothly.
  • When appliquéing, if you don’t have an appliqué sheetfor pressing several pieces together save the sheets you peel your computer labels from. Press your applique pieces to the shiny side.
  • If you use a guard glove with your rotary cutter, store your cutter inside the glove. That way you will always know where it is. I also keep my cutter in an old fabric eye glass holder.
  • I didn’t know for a long time when using a sewing “ham”the wool side is for pressing wool and silk and the duck side is for pressing cotton and linen. A sewing ham is an odd ham shaped thing which is used to press curved and usual angles especially in sewing clothes.
  • One thing I learned years after I had been sewing was that there is a right and wrong side to a needle.If you have trouble threading a needle, turn the eye around and try the other side. It’s amazing how well this works.
  • Holding a needle against a white background makes it easier to see and thread.

  • Instead of licking your thread, lick the needle itself and be sure to bring the needle to the thread not poke the thread into the needle. Try these things to see if it helps in threading your needle next time.
  • Use embroidery bobbins(those square white cards you wind embroidery thread on) to wrap regular thread on to carry for you projects. They are flat and take up very little space. I have used sewing machine bobbins for my portable sewing but I like these are even better.


These are a few ideas for now. I know many of your have some great ones, too. I do believe quilters, crafters and sewers have some of the coolest ideas. It always amazes the things they can come up with. : )



  1. says

    I do not sew by hand or machine any more but the other night a tip was remembered when I was sewing up the seam on some barbie outfits and a friend came over to talk with my husband and I.
    He saw what I was doing and he looked at the arm of the couch where he was going to sit. I asked him what he was doing and he said. “You have a needle and I was making sure you didn’t stick one in the arm of the couch like my mother used to do.”
    great advice to remember. Use the proper pin cushions to save peoples arms. The arm of a chair is handy but you tend to forget about the needle and someone ends up with bad puncture wounds.

    • Jeanne says

      LOL! What a wonderful memory of my mother you just brought back. I can’t tell you how many times I would sit in a living room chair and find a threaded needle or several pins sticking up. Her other favorite spot was the side hem of the kitchen curtains. Very handy for her, right over the sink. As a kid, I got poked numerous times just opening or closing the curtains.

  2. rose says

    jill my daughter bought a gadget called the buttoneer .. it “sews” on buttons without threading a needle .. it looks like a punchgun (not sure if thats the right term) and it has these plastic thingies that when u click the device (it looks kinda like a glue gun) the plastic thingie holds the button in place ..

  3. rose says

    also the store we went to (some fabric store .. i think it was joanne’s fabric store but i could be wrong on the name) .. they had a gadget that thread needles but the neatest thing about this was that it came with a magnifying glass .. i didnt really look at the directions but i remember the picture i saw ..
    grandma .. my mom used to do that too .. put the needle in the arm of the couch or chair ..
    the seamstress that works at the dry cleaners my son in law manages .. she puts a threaded needle in her shirt so its always handy ..
    i have also seen these pin cushions that are worn around a person’s wrist (like a bracelet) ..

    • says

      My mom worked as a seamstress at a dry cleaners too. There and at home she would always put pins and needles on the top of her shirt. We learned to hug her by carefully avoiding that side of her. HA!HA!

  4. rose says

    my grandma was a seamstress too .. .. my mom never liked sewing (even tho she could use a sewing machine .. and if anything needed to be hemmed, she would get out her needle and thread) .. but when i was younger, i loved it ..
    i told my hubby that when we move i am definitely going to look for someone to teach me how to hems, zippers and light alterations (to earn money) .. my sister used to do this when her children were little .. they had so many allergies and being a single mother she couldnt work and pay sitters and stay up half the nite taking care of sick children .. so she used to help a lady near her with the hemming and fixing zippers and light sewing …

  5. says

    I just found some free patterns for barbie clothes.
    I sew better by hand than machine so I was wondering if I could do them by hand.
    which stitch would make the strongest seams.
    the ones they show on youtube don’t seem to be the right type.
    any help would be appreciated.
    If I can’t do it by hand I do know how to sew with the machine.

    • says

      Also grandma I do a version of a running stitch (in and out in and out) and a back stitch. I do a running stitch for 3-4 stitches then take a back stitch. This gives me the speed of a running stitch but the strength of a back stitch. Does that make sense?

  6. says

    thanks that was the one I was looking at it was that or I was going to use a sort of modified chain stitch from embroidery.
    was getting desperate and then I remembered this post.
    relearning old skills is good I think. at least when I remember them.

  7. Susan says

    Happy New Year from an English reader (ok so it is 20 January but it feels like the first week of the New Year – it is going so quickly and this is the first time I’ve been to living on a dime this year). Saw Rose and Jill’s posts and had to add a warning. Tempting though it is please don’t put a threaded needle or pins on a shirt. I was told off very firmly for doing this by a friend who knew someone who had forgotten about the needle, pulled off her shirt and sadly the needle went into her eye. (She lost the sight in that eye.) Use a pin cushion and a needlebook. Your eyesight is too precious to take chances.
    Ok – just had to say that…

    A tip for threading needles. Thread lots of them in the daylight when it is a lot easier to see and you are probably less tired, then you are all set for an evening’s sewing. Use a lamp with a daylight bulb if you can – makes the job easier.


    • says

      Susan as I have said before we do love our English readers so welcome. I know exactly what you mean about it feeling like it is the 1st instead of the 20th.

      Yes you do have to be careful with needles and pins period. My buggy boo is when I accidentally lose them on the floor. That is one of the few times I panic over something. I go barefooted all the time and am afraid I or even worse the grandkids will step on one.

      Then there is the one about holding a pin in your mouth. My mom scared me to death with that one by telling me stories of people hiccuping and sucking it down their throat. Needless to say thanks for the warning we all need to be reminded every once in awhile.

  8. Susan says

    That’s sweet of you Jill – thank you. I know what you mean about losing a pin on the floor. We have carpet and I really think that if you have the choice then sewing in a room with hard flooring is much easier. Easier to find the missing pin and clean up all those bits of thread that really clog the head of the vacuum cleaner! Pins with coloured heads can help. (My poor husband stood on one of my pins – but no real harm done thankfully. He now always helps to look if I drop one!!)

    Following on from your tip about the white background helping with threading a needle, I have found that wearing something light/white helps me with sewing.

    Must go and get dinner now as have just noticed it’s approaching 6pm here.

    Hope 2011 brings you and your family better health and more time for sewing projects, love from Susan

  9. says

    I usually get my husband to thread the needle. He is pretty decent about it but he came home when he bought his sewing machine and had the little threader. I thanked him very nicely he showed me how easy it was to use and then laughed when I said thank you dear now can you find the needle.

    My arms are definetly not long enough anymore.

    I learned to sew and hammer years ago and to this day when I sew on the machine I have a pin in my mouth. I just can’t stop myself and things go better with it there.

    I also cannot hammer a nail without one being in my mouth.
    My children have all tried to break me of the habit but habit it is.

  10. Amy says

    When I drop a pin or needle while I am sewing, I get a strong magnet off of the fridge. Also placing your head right down next to the carpet and looking across the carpet for the pin instead of down at the carpet helps.

    I keep my needles in a plastic box with a magnet in it, this helps reduce the number of needles falling out if I happen to drop the box.

    When threading a needle for sewing on a button, fold your thread in half first, then thread the folded end into the needle and tie off as usual. This gives you 4 strands of thread instead of 2, and makes sewing on the button twice as quick!

  11. nancie says

    Be cautious about using fruit or veggie bags for storing and working with yarn. Many of them are not colorfast and will stain your yarn if they get damp or wet. I’m thinking of the bags for onion and oranges.

  12. says

    I do all kinds of needlework and am guilty of all the things mentioned. I would really like to know what folks do with their cable needle when not using it. (the mouth comes to mind) Ugh. I spend more time hunting it or picking it up off the floor, etc. I don’t wear front buttoned shirts so can’t stick it in a buttonhole. Ideas, please. Many thanks El

    • Jessica says

      Back when I was knitting a lot, I would use the “u” shaped cable needle rather than the straight one, and I would just hang it on the neckline of my shirt, or somewhere farther down my project.

  13. says

    I used to do a lot of embroidery and made a “thing” out of ribbon (maybe a yard long) that I put around my neck. On the right hand end of the ribbon was my stork embroidery scissors (since I’m right handed), and the other end, a small pin cushion. I also attached 3 plastic rings that I hung extra crewel embroidery yarn on. It’s very handy, and you’re not always looking for your scissors.

    • says

      That is a super idea Kay. Housewives years ago use to have what was called Chatelaines which were several different sewing tools and other small things hung from chains and they would clip them to their waist. I have always wanted one because I thought they were so cool. You idea is along that line.

  14. Melissa says

    I have a caution too. I left a threaded needle in the cushion of my sofa once and my cat swallowed it. It got stuck in the back of his throat and required the services of a vet to remove. The cat was okay after his “little snack”!

    • says

      Melissa that is one of my biggest fears – losing a needle or pin and it happens all the time. I especially hate it when it flips in the air and I can’t figure out where it has landed. I’ve tried using a magnet but that doesn’t always work. So afraid one of the kids would step on it with bare feet.

  15. Jessica says

    I have a pin cushion with an elastic band that I wear on my wrist. Possibly the most helpful sewing tool ever, because my ironing board where I do all my pattern pinning & cutting is in a different room than my sewing machine… I don’t have to worry about forgetting my pincushion when I’m wearing it!

    For anyone wondering, I got the pattern for it out of the book 101 One Yard Wonders.

    • says

      Love that kind of pin cushion too. You can also use Velcro for a band in place of the elastic. They both work great and just depends what you like the most but they are a life saver. I haven’t done it yet but I am thinking about get one of those cords that people wear at work and have their name tags hooked to (sorry I forgot the name of them) and wear that around my neck and clip my scissors to it.

      I wish too I had lived a hundred years ago and had one of those things it starts with ca and I can’t spell it but anyway they were things the gals wore clipped to their waist and they would have scissors, pin cushion, needle holder, magnifying glass and all sorts of cute little things hanging from it.

  16. says

    I was having such trouble threading hand needles and on the sewing machine. I finally broke down and bought a pair of 2.75 strength glasses at the 99 cent store. It was the best dollar I’ve ever spent! No more frustration because I can actually see the hole in the needle.

  17. annie says

    If anyone wants to make a Chatelaine check out for some easy directions. Guess you could make it out of ribbon or fabric. Years ago I made a rule for myself, “Never get up and go to another area of the house holding a needle or straight pin”. After losing a couple of needles while the kids were little I have learned my lesson. It just takes a second or two to put them where they belong and I was always afraid that one of the kids would step on a needle or straight pin. Just about everything can wait for a second or two. Plus look how much time you spend looking for that needle or straight pin. I didn’t know a needle had two sides. Guess that explains why sometimes a needle is easier to thread than at other times. Thank you for the tips.

  18. donna b. says

    yes, please be careful with all those needles and straight pins. My son ties his own flies for fly fishing and we never go without something on our feet. I’ve had too many near misses with a stray fish hook hiding in the carpet. It’s painful and downright dangerous —

    Also, Jill, I bought those self threading needles and now of course I can’t find them. will let you know how they work when I do try them, I know they’re in my room somewhere!

  19. Mary Jane says

    Here is a tip that may already be familiar to some of you. Keep a small sewing kit or basket by the phone, and put the hand mending close by. When the phone rings, and you have one of those rather long phone calls, you can do a little hand mending while you talk. Keep the needles pre-threaded, and the tasks simple like adding a button, or a few stitches of mending. I talk to a few ladies long distance, for an hour or so every week (I am kind of a sounding board), but was frustrated by how much time some conversations could take out of my day. Today, I set up a telephone station in my work room to hook a rug, when those long calls come. I have a cordless phone for the main phone, but can carry it to my work station. A hands free model would work well, too.

  20. Free says

    My mom used to keep a needle in her kitchen curtains, and so did I, until rusted in my white curtains (I lived in a very humid climate with no A/C at the time). I stopped doing that immediately, but am still guilty of putting it in the arm of my couch. Had one start to fall through, but luckily it was threaded and I was able to yank it back out. I really need to make a new pincushion. When I was in Home Ec I had one that went on the wrist. I loved that thing, even though I kept sticking myself because the plastic band that went on the wrist was narrower than the pincushion. Had that thing for many years before the plastic broke. I’m going to try to make one using an old sock top and plastic lid. Meanwhile, I will drape the arm with a washcloth so I don’t forget it’s there.
    I cut pieces of cardboard (cereal boxes, etc) and notch them to wrap thread around for travel kits. I also do this for scraps of yarn and crochet thread to keep them neat.
    Keep a wooden dowel with a magnet glued to one end with your sewing supplies for picking up stray pins and needles. Works great. Also, when I’m working on carpet, I usually lay an old sheet or towel down so that they’re easier to see.

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