5 Sewing Tips from The Midnight Atelier!

sew along header

As we prepare to start sewing our Dimpsy Ts’ on Monday I though we could discuss some hints, tips and tools of the trade to make Sewing easier so you can concentrate on the good bit… Sewing up the perfect Dimpsy T!

1. The right equipment.

I cannot stress enough how having the best pair of scissors you can afford, good thread and everything you need close at hand and ready to use make the whole process of garment construction easier, neater and more professional. I like to use these Scissors, they’re not very expensive and they’re re-sharpenable so they will last you a good long while! I actually have a couple pairs because darn of they don’t get lost under fabric and I hate to get held up! Take scissors to your local Cobblers to have them re-sharpened for around £5.

Good thread is a must, don’t cut corners here! I like to use Moon Thread as again it’s relatively inexpensive, there’s 1000 meters on a spool (woop!) and it is excellent quality. Using cheap, Vintage or old thread is dangerous for your Sewing Machine. If you hold a line of the thread up to the light you will be able to see if it is ‘furry’ or not… if it looks like there is a dusty haze around the line don’t use it! The dust will come off in your Sewing Machine, get stuck to the oil in there and dry it out which causes the machine parts to rub against each other and seize up. Not good!

A few other things I can recommend, and which will make sewing up a project a little easier so you can concentrate on the details are having enough Bobbins, pre-loaded and ready to go (I thread up two or three for any projects so- you guessed it- I don’t have to stop!), a heavy Pin Cushion with lots and lots of lovely Pins- I’m a bit of a Pin Geek it would appear and I like long, thin Glass Head Pins. They’re fine enough to use on a variety of Fabrics and you can do things like sew and iron over them! Merchant & Mills have some amazing Pins, well worth checking out. The heaviness of the Pin Cushion is important to me as well, I hate it when you pop a Pin back and the Pin Cushion skitters away from you! I have several made from Vintage Glass, an added advantage being I can use them as Pattern Weights too!

2. Great Prep

how to make tailors tacks

I’m sure you’ve all gotten as fed up with Cutting Out as I have- I like to get to the Sewing as quick as possible! however; I seriously believe that if you get the Prep right everything else will run smoothly. Pin each and every corner of your Pattern to the fabric- within the Seam Allowances if it’s delicate- then at about 5 or 6cm intervals. Rest your Scissors on the table as you cut, they are ‘flat’ along the bottom for a reason, this will increase your accuracy and allow your arm to rest as you cut. If you hold the fabric in the air and cut you run the risk of the Pattern shifting despite how carefully you have pinned.

Pin all pieces first, cut everything out, then snip your Notches and make your Tailors Tacks. Pinning all pattern pieces means that you will know if you don’t have enough fabric before you cut. As you’re pinning check all of your Grain Lines are parallel to the Selvedge or the fold of the fabric. If your Grain Lines are even off a little it can really effect the hang and wearability of the final garment.

Another fantastic tip is to make sure you have everything you will need to sew to hand. Getting up and down to grab pins or a tape measure is annoying, slows you down and breaks concentration… I also have a bit of an old fashioned ritual in that I make sure I have a cuppa and give the Pattern a good read from start to finish then make a list of what I want to do… if it’s a Pattern I have self drafted, or a Pattern I have adapted, or need to adapt this really helps. If you are a new sewer this will give you a chance to flag the bits you may think you will have issues with, google them or ask your question on social media so that when you get to sew them you have some tricks up your sleeve to get through it!

3. Pattern Ponderings

pattern picture

 Unfortunately many of the Sewing Patterns we see and fall in love with, thinking they’ll look perfect on us, need some love and adjusting before they get sewn up. One way to manage this is to make up a Toile however; whilst relatively inexpensive this can get tedious, Toiling every single piece of clothing you want to make!

Another way to manage this is to adjust the Pattern before you make it up. The best piece of information I can impart is this: every Pattern company has their own set of standard Measurements and often they are up to two sizes smaller than clothes you would buy on the high street. I am often telling students that if they buy a 16 on the high street, they’ll need to cut an 18-20 from the Pattern. Which can be exceptionally demoralizing! I came to terms with this years ago, and also tell everyone that a beautifully fitting piece of clothing looks better than cutting the wrong, or smaller size ever can! Another thing to remember about Pattern Sizing is this: most Pattern Companies cut to a B Cup. I’ll repeat that (because I’m still stunned!)… a B Cup, Ladies. If you are anything like me- and the many, many people I have taught to sew, you started to make your own clothes because of high street fit issues so this isn’t all that helpful. To manage this you may need to do a Front Bust Adjustment, and I discovered this great Tutorial from Colette a while back. Whilst you’re over there, check their Patterns out as they cut to a C Cup and, being American, their sizing is generous.

To adjust the Pattern the best thing to do is make up a Toile, fit then transfer your adjustments to the Pattern. Invariable the adjustments you make will need to be managed on the majority of Patterns you make up and you will get used to making them on the Sewing Pattern before cutting your Fabric. I have a few notes on this subject here

If you’re feeling adventurous you can even learn how to create your own Sewing Patterns here, in Pattern Month!

4. Swift Sewing

When you’re working do things like pin all of the pieces together that you can, then sew them all, then neaten and iron them all in batches. This will enable you to work faster and, I have found, neater. It also helps first time or new Sewers to become used to and familiar with the various techniques without stopping to pin the next bit, and breaking concentration. I find this helpful as I can make things up for myself in my spare, in-between hours which is brilliant if you work full time. It stops me from getting annoyed that it might take me too long to create myself a new garment and demoralized when I can’t finish what I want very desperately to wear! 

Having said all of that the Dimpsy T makes up in a couple hours so you’ll be able to make up several!

 5. It’s all in the details

MCCALLS Herringbone Stitch

Ensuring you stick to the Seam Allowances, neatening Seams as you go, Understitching, Ironing and unpicking if you go a little wrong are all things you should get used to as you sew up a handmade wardrobe. As you sew more, they almost become second nature! One of the things I am obsessed with is finishing, and I’ll do some of the finishing details by hand if I think this will look better. Hand stitching down Facings, hand Hemming and making small details like the Dimpsy T’s Handmade Loop Buttonhole make your finished garment so much better, and infinitely more unique.

The instruction book that comes with the Dimpsy T has information on every aspect of this!

I hope you have found my musings useful,

Happy stitching!