Sew Tip: Presser Feet that Measure

I recently talked about measuring your projects accurately before cutting them, but just as important is measuring while you’re sewing.  I found that purchasing a couple of feet that I can use to measure my seam allowance while I’m sewing has saved me hours of tearing seams out that don’t fit together correctly.  These are the ones that I use almost every time that I sew:

My first purchase was the foot on the far left, a 1/4″ presser foot.  This is perfect for those projects, like quilt blocks, that always use a 1/4″ seam allowance.  I often use this foot, even if I’m not sewing a 1/4″ seam.

The second foot, right next to it, is also a 1/4″ foot, but it is clear and has a guide on the right side.

This one was a recent purchase.  It’s great because it allows you to see what you are doing, and the guide actually keeps you in line with the fabric.

You notice that you can only do a straight stitch with the 1/4″ feet.  There is only a round hole for the needle to go down through.  If there are times that you are sewing something where you’re not on the edge of the fabric, I have found that using the foot without the guide works better, because the guide doesn’t slide over fabric well, and will bunch it up.

The third foot is for sewing a 5/8″ seam.  It is clear and has the edge guide.

This foot is great if you are sewing a pattern that has 5/8″ seams. It allows you to see where you are sewing, and still keep the seam width steady.  This one also allows you to do zig zag or other types of stitches rather than just a straight stitch.

I have found that these three presser feet have been well worth the investment.  They have saved me hours of tearing out uneven seams.

Thanks for coming by!


Sewing Tip: Making Ruffles

Ruffles are making a comeback.  I am seeing them added to pillows again, on top and along the sides, to bedding, shower curtains, window coverings, slip covers, just about anything in the house!  I have a tip that I have been using for many years, that has helped me gather material to make ruffles easier to handle.

What you need:  a sewing machine (that will do a zig zag stitch), your material for your ruffle, thread and a crochet cotton or similar thread.

First I cut my material for my ruffle.  I double the width of the ruffle that I want to end up with, and add another 1″.  So for my ruffle, I am cutting a 5″ length of fabric so that I end up with a 2″ ruffle.

Fold your material in half, right sides together.

Press with your iron, so that the material stays in place and lies flat.

Take your crochet cotton (or whatever thread you are using) and lay it along the raw edge (what will be the upper edge) of your fabric.  Have it overhang the end about 1″.

Center the fabric and thread under the middle of your presser foot.  I make sure the outside edge of the presser foot lines up with the edge of my fabric.  The folded edge of the fabric should be on your left, and the edge where the fabric raw edges meet is on the right. Set your machine on a zig zag stitch.

Zig zag stitch over the cotton thread, continuing until you reach the end of your ruffle material.  Note:  Make sure that you don’t catch the larger thread with your needle thread.

Leave about 1″ of the crochet cotton overhanging at the end, so that you can hold it in your fingers.  Do not back-stitch at the beginning and the end of your sewing.

Grab onto the thread on either end, and using your other hand, start to pull the fabric back so that it gathers together.  I push the gathers toward the center, then take the thread on the opposite end and do the same until the entire length of the ruffle is gathered.

Now your ruffle is ready to use on any project.  It stays ruffled because the crochet cotton holds it in place.  It makes it easy to adjust without your threads breaking as well, and holds well when you are attaching it to your project.

This method works especially well when you are making long ruffles or are using heavy fabrics.

I hope this helps you!  Thanks for stopping by!

Sewing Tips: Measure Twice, Cut Once

I thought that I will start posting a series of sewing tip posts, hoping that some of the sewing techniques that I have developed over the last 30 years or so may be helpful someone who is just learning how to sew, or may be a reminder for those of you who have been sewing for some time.  Some of the tips will only be a few lines, other times a story (lol!).

I am sure that you have heard the saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” Nothing can be more true when it comes to sewing, and saving yourself the possibility of many hours of frustration and tearing things apart.

I don’t use patterns too often to make most of the things that I sew.  I have learned that in order to save myself a lot of frustration and time tearing apart seams, I measure, pin and measure again, and then cut.

These are the tools that I use the most.  An extra long tape measure, my rulers for rotary cutting (I have many, many shapes and sizes.  This one I use nearly daily), my water-soluble marker, pins, my small rotary cutter (again, I have several different sizes) and my cutting mat.

My example will be my table runners, since I am currently making quite a few. Depending upon the size of the runner, the cutting mat and the tape measure are both crucial for measuring.  I use the mats to get a general idea of my length and width, and I generally add a couple of inches on my original cut.  Because I know that ticking doesn’t always cut nice and even and can distort a slight bit, I’ll add on a couple of extra inches. Since I need to make sure that the stripes are even, this has saved me from having to abandon a piece of fabric and start over again. After my initial cut, I measure again with the tape measure. I sew one end, measure, then sew the other end.

It’s hard to measure a length very long without my extra long tape measure.  Sometimes I also use two cutting mats, but I am always verifying the measurement with my long tape measure.  This is where I also use my water-soluble marking pen. I only pin and sew one side at a time, always stopping to measure the width after sewing each side.  This helps me keep the stripes straight and consistent.  I use the same process when I am sewing each end.

When I am getting down to the basics, the small ruler with the sliding adjustment is indispensable for me.  It really keeps me on track, making sure I am consistent and evenly hemming the sides.

And although I haven’t mentioned it yet, the plate on my sewing machine is also a valuable measuring tool, making sure that when I am hemming and doing topstitching, I am keeping my sewing lines even.

Using these tools, and double-checking my measurements before I sew, and during sewing, keeps me from having to start over or getting frustrated because my project isn’t coming out as planned. It make take a little longer to get my project sewn, but this process is a time saver in the long run.

I hope this helps you too.