Sewing Tips: How to Sew Like a Pro

In this post: Have you ever wondered how to sew like a pro? Get my top sewing tips that anyone can use when sewing home decor or personal items. 

I believe that everyone, no matter what, has some sort of story. My story begins when I was about twelve years old. My mom enrolled me in sewing lessons at our local Singer store.  That summer, I spent many happy hours in the back of that store leaning over a sewing machine. I went back for several years until I was old enough to get a summer job. I learned how to sew everything. I made dresses, pants, skirts, and even a snazzy plaid blazer.

Fast forward a few years. I am now a wife, mother, and homeowner. I picked up sewing where I had left off, but now I was making curtains, Halloween costumes, and doll clothes. As my children grew, and I had a little more extra time, I designed a line of girls jumpers. I peddled the jumpers at local shops and an occasional craft show. I made absolutely no money and, after a few years, I took a job at my children’s school as the office secretary.

During the years I worked at the school, my life was full. I had a job, two very active kids, a husband, and a house that needed work. My sewing skills were again resurrected to make curtains, pillows, and bedding. I covered old cushions and chair seats. I was always working on something. Back then, I didn’t really consider myself a creative person. I knew what I liked and had a limited budget. As a result, I had to figure out ways to get the look I saw in magazines on my own. I know now that this is what creativity is all about.

Fast forward again to eight years ago when this blog began. About the same time, I opened an Etsy shop and sold handmade home decor items. I had to gather everything I had learned in the past to make this shop a success. I loved every minute of owning that shop until it closed in March of 2016. In this post, I am sharing my best sewing tips and tricks from a lifetime spent sitting at a sewing machine. 

To read my Etsy shop story, click {HERE.}

*Affiliate links included. Click HERE for my disclosure statement.

Sewing Tips: How to Sew Like a Pro

how to sew tip trim all threads

Trim All Threads

One of my pet peeves in life is loose or hanging threads on ANYTHING, but especially on soft home furnishings. (I have a thing about tags too. They get cut off right away!) Clipping threads will give any project a clean and professional look.

sewing tips finish all seams

Finish Off All Seams

To take the items I was making up a notch, I knew that my interior seams needed to be finished with a serger. My dad and my husband bought me one the first Christmas after I opened my Etsy shop.  I have to admit now that I’m spoiled and will probably never make anything again without serging the seams. BUT…if you are sewing for yourself, pinking shears or a simple zig-zag stitch will finish your seams perfectly.  

*Note: all my favorite sewing tools will be linked at the end.

how to sew point turner pillow cover

Turn Sharp Corners

How to finish pillow corners is for the most part a matter of taste. Designers and decorators sometimes round the corners. Personally, I like a crisp, pointed corner. To get the job done you need a tool called a point turner. Don’t use the tip of your scissors or a letter opener! Anything metal could slice right through your fabric. One of my best sewing tips is no matter what you are sewing, if there are corners, use a point turner. 

how to sew prewash fabric

Prewash Fabric

All fabric purchased off the bolt, even 100% cotton and linen, has a stiffness to it before it is washed. Sometimes, this stiff finish makes it difficult to iron out wrinkles. I hate wrinkles in fabric when I’m trying to sew. Washing your fabric before you begin to work with it eliminates this stiffness and makes it so much easier to iron. Plus, if there is any shrinkage, it happens before you sew your project and not after. One thing though…please don’t wash 54 inch decorator fabric. Most is dry clean only and some of it has a soil resistant finish. 

how to sew use long pins with a ball head

Use Long Pins with a Ball Head

If I had to pick my top three can’t-do-without sewing tools, one of them would be straight pins. Straight pins have come a long way since I was a girl learning to sew. They used to be tiny, maybe an inch long, with really no head to speak of. My favorite pins now are long, at least 2 inches, with colorful ball heads. Easy to see, easy to use, and long enough to go through just about anything! I also highly recommend a magnetic pin holder. Mine is called a Grabbit and I’ve had it so long it’s like an extension of my right hand when I’m sewing. I could not live without it!

sewing tips make templates and trace

Make Templates & Trace

Sometimes using a pattern piece, pinning and then cutting, is very time-consuming. I have found that actually making a template, tracing, and then cutting is so much easier and quicker as well. I make a template for every pattern piece I use out of old cardboard boxes. I lay the template on the fabric, trace, cut and am finished in the time it would have taken me to just pin the pattern piece. I have several sizes of square templates for my pillow covers. I also made templates for the Christmas stockings I designed for my Etsy shop.  I’m a believer in time-savers and this one is huge.

sewing tips buy good scissors

Get Good Scissors: One Big & One Small

Included in that top three can’t-do-without sewing tools is, of course, scissors. My advice is to always have two pair. A large pair for cutting fabric and a small pair for cutting threads. I buy Fiskars and would never buy anything else. I get them at JoAnn fabric when they are on sale or I have a coupon…or sometimes both! Sharpening scissors is really a thing of the past. My sewing machine shop will do it but they actually send the scissors away. When my scissors wear out, and it doesn’t happen very often, I simply replace them.

how to sew use good quality thread

Use Good Quality Thread

If you’re wondering what number three is in that top three can’t-do-without list, it’s thread. Good thread. My all time favorite thread is Gutermann. Way back when I began actually selling what I made, I stopped buying the inexpensive thread. It just wasn’t worth the hassle of broken thread in my machine. Or knots. Or annoying fuzz. Not only is Gutermann thread easier on your machine, it’s much easier on your temper!

sewing tips sewing machine needles

Change Your Machine Needle Regularly

Needles wear out, so change them on a regular basis! They don’t have to break to be bad. I admit that I am not very good at this one. I am guilty of waiting until a needle breaks to install a new one. When your machine is running well, and that includes having a good needle, everything is easier. 

sewing tips never cut paper with sewing scissors

Never Cut Paper with Fabric Scissors

NEVER use your fabric scissors on paper. There is no quicker way to dull your scissors than to cut paper with them. As tempting as it is sometimes, just don’t do it.

sewing tips use a steam iron

Use a Steam Iron

When it comes to sewing tips, this is perhaps the most important.  In my opinion, based on years (more than I’d like to admit) of experience, pressing as you sew is what gives your piece a professional look. When you sew a seam, press it. Use a hot steam iron and press after each step. Not only will the end result be SO much better, the steps will be easier as well. You will save time and energy if you work with neatly pressed pieces of fabric. Here’s the best part…the feeling of accomplishment is amazing when you finish that last pressing and your project is ready to use. That moment for me is pure fun and no matter how many projects I have completed, it just keeps getting better. 

How to Sew: My Favorite Tools

sewing tips how to sew like a pro iron pin with text

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