Wanna Be a Sewing Master? First You Gotta Nail These 9 Skills

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Sure you know how to sew everything from totes and PJ pants to outfits for dolls (extra credit on that last one). But if you really want to sew like a master you need to crush the following skills. Let's do this.

1. Pressing

Pressing is different than ironing: It sets and blends stitches for nice, crisp seams. Just place your iron on the fabric, leave it there for a few seconds, then remove it.

2. Staystitching

When you're sewing curves, puckering is your enemy. That's where staystitching comes in.

To staystitch a curve, set your stitch length to 1.5 and make sure the stitch is one-eighth inch from the sewing line. Staystitch any curves as soon as you can after cutting and make sure not to move the fabric around too much; even a little can cause distortion.

3. Clipping corners and curves

Seams can get bulky when you have lots of corners and curves, and that can make it tough to lay your items flat. But if you clip a corner at a diagonal as close to the seam as you can, you’ll get a crisp corner when you turn it right-side out.

The same principle applies to curves: Remove some of the bulk for a flatter seam. Curves that look like mountains should be notched while curves that look like valleys should be clipped.

4. Seam finishing

After you sew a seam, finish it to prevent raveling — that way, the inside of your clothes look as nice as the outside. Usually, you can pink the seams with a pair of pinking shears to finish them. But check, because it all depends on your fabric and garment.

5. Hemming

Well-done hems give clothes a polished look, whether you sew a rolled hem or a blind one. Just make sure the type of hem is right for your pants or shirts.

6. Rotary cutting

A rotary cutter can be your BFF as you sew — you'll be amazed at how much faster you can cut out a pattern. Keep your rotary blade sharp and stock up on extras that can be swapped in when one gets dull. Then get a cutting mat so you can keep surfaces from getting nicked.

7. Fussy cutting

This is an easy way to create appliqués for clothes or cushions out of patterned fabric.

Here's how: Roughly cut around the motif you want, leaving plenty of extra room. Next, trim the motif, making sure to leave space to sew your seams. Then place the motif on the fabric, using a spray adhesive to keep it in place as you sew a satin stitch around it.

8. Bar tacking

Bar tacks reinforce areas that get a lot of stress, like pocket openings. These can either be sewn by machine (with a zig-zag stitch) or by hand (with a whip stitch). They are usually one-sixteenth to one-eighth inch in width and one-fourth and three-eighths inch in length.

9. Dog-earing pockets

Dog-earing is bad for books, good for patch pockets! Adding small triangles to the corners reinforces the pocket and prevents it from pulling away from your pants.

Simply stitch a short diagonal line in the upper corners after you have attached the pocket, making sure to backtack a couple of times.

Great work, sewing superstar!

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