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Sewing Trade Secrets: 7 Tips

It seems like the longer you sew, the more tricks you pick up along the way. I love that “Aha!” moment when I read or learn about a new approach to a sewing technique. Sewing tips and trade secrets have definitely helped me sew better and more efficiently.

Sewing Tips

Here are some of the sewing tips and trade secrets I’ve learned along the way:

1. Ignore the seam allowance (sort of).

Most commercial sewing patterns use a ⅝” seam allowance. But using a ⅜” seam allowance, especially on curved seams, reduces bulk and can make setting in sleeves much easier.

2. Skip the pins.

When I was learning how to sew, I was encouraged to go to town on the pinning. But pins actually cause the fabric to lay differently, which can cause puckering. Instead, use pattern weights when cutting pattern pieces. When you’re at the machine, use your left hand to hold the fabric down, while holding both pieces of fabric in your right hand, providing a little bit of tension.

3. You can sew knits without a serger.

While a serger makes the job easier, it’s possible to successfully sew knits on a sewing machine. Just make sure you are using a ball point needle and use a zigzag stitch that will stretch with the fabric.

4. Make your own maxi piping.

It’s easy to make your own piping, but what if you need maxi piping, which is significantly stiffer than regular piping, for a home-decor project? Experiment with electrical wiring in place of cording. Just find a wire that’s the appropriate thickness and follow the same process.

5. Add a lint roller and a large magnet to your sewing toolbox.

A lint roller makes it incredibly easy to clean up all of those clipped threads. The magnet is helpful for attracting straight pins if you (or your cat, in my case) dumps them everywhere.

6. Get a real straight edge on your fabric.

Fabric cut off the bolt rarely has a completely straight edge. This can be really frustrating when you’re trying to line everything up perfectly. Fortunately, fabric rips straight. Just make a slight cut on the gross grain and rip away. This is also a handy trick when working with a large amount of yardage that the largest cutting table in the world wouldn’t be able to accommodate.

7. Use a folding template.

Seam gauges are great, but sometimes the whole process gets very fiddly. Instead, use a folding template, like this one. Just fold your fabric down to the appropriate line and press with your iron.

If you’re interested in learning even more sewing tips and trade secrets, check out Bluprint’s Sew Better, Sew Faster: Garment Industry Secrets. Instructor Janet Pray will give you the inside scoop on garment industry techniques that have been adapted for home sewing.

You might also enjoy these 5 sewing tips and tricks. Do you have any sewing tips or trade secrets to share? Let me know in the comments!



Many thanks for sharing. The folding template is about the greatest idea anyone has come up with in quite a while.

Judy McPherson

Where can I get a folding template? Love it!

Juli Williams

click on the words “this one” in the paragraph and it will take you to a pdf of the folding template and you get both the straight fold and the curved fold templates along with instructions on how to use them

Janet Dulin

Thanks for the tips. They are all very helpful. I love being able to print off the folding pressing sheet, but how do you keep the ink from running from the steam ?


Thanks for the ideas! I love the template and I can’t wait to use it.

Pam O-Kremer

When I have to ease two pieces of fabric of different lengths together, match the beginning and the end of the seam. Feed the seam with the longer piece of fabric on the bottom. As the fabric feeds through the machine, keep the end of the seam pinched in your hand, matched. Use your other hand to bend the two fabrics into an angle a ways ahead of the needle and feed dogs. The more ease needed, the sharper the angle. The feed dogs will ease the bottom fabric to match the length of the top fabric by the end of the seam.




Thankyou so much this template is a great idea.
Cheers from Australia

Lucia Brown

Thank you for these wonderful sewing tips and techniques. I’ve been using a folding template for awhile now and it makes a world of difference.

Mary Harrigan

When you start to sew on fabric, place your needle about three stitches from the top and back tack, saves the cotton crumpling up and getting snagged also for a nicer finished dart, before you finish the dart go 3 stitches before you complete the dart, move your needle closer to the edge sew 3 stitches straight down edge of fabric go off material and still sew 3 stitches to form a chain, go back on the dart just above the end of dart and sew a couple of stitches, this now secures your dart.
I use rope to do my own piping. Learned this at my pattern making course in South Africa.x

Amber Vargo

Best tips ever, ironing will save you time in the long run and a good steam iron is a worthy investment. Most items look so much nicer after a brief steaming.

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Amelie Miller

Many thanks for sharing your tricks, knowledge with us. It will be a great help to us.. 🙂

Ann Beall

The folding template is no longer there. Can anyone else post this?

Amit Shahani

Great timing! Thanks for the tips. I just bought this foot for my Pfaff machine last week and haven’t tried it yet.


Thanks for these tips. Especially the magnet one, having something just to clean up is just nice. I will have to add some pockets to my sewing machine bag when I can!


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