Simple tips even a beginning garber can use:
Use sharp scissors: Sharp scissors make sharp lines. Use sharp, fabric-dedicated scissors for cutting fabric. (They don’t have to be special fabric scissors, but they have to be YOUR fabric scissors.
– I have 3 pairs of fabric scissors that I bought in a set from Hancock Fabrics (RIP). I most typically use my midsize scissors. I don’t actually find the small scissors to be functional (it feels like tiny little elementary school Fiskars), and the longer scissors can be unwieldy.
– People joke about using fabric scissors on paper. I assure you, it’s srs bzns. (Insert “Show me who used your fabric scissors on paper, and I will dispatch him forthwith” meme.)
Color catchers: BRUH. Color catchers have SAVED MY PROJECTS. BRUUUHHH. I can’t sing their praises enough.
– Color catchers are these magical dryer-sheet-like things that you throw in the washer along with your fabrics and detergent. I try to use these any time I am washing new fabric, especially bold colors and reds. Reds stereotypically bleed (remember Rachel bawling to Ross because her whites became pinks?), so ALWAYS use a color catcher when washing reds with something else! (This includes a finished garment that uses multiple colors. My company colors are maroon and white. Color catcher every time.
– They look like this! When washing new fabric, use two! (Thanks to Sir Thalen Tannon for the tip!)
Use the appropriate needle for the project: I’ll go into greater detail about this in an equipment/tools post later, but make sure you’re using the appropriate needle for your project. Not all needles are created equal, and your project will turn out so much better if you use the right kind and size!
Change your needle often: This is a “do as I say, not as I do” piece of advice: change your needle often! Some people recommend to change your needle as often as every 8 hours. Since that’s not really how I usually measure my sewing time, that can be hard for me to gauge. I at least try to remember to change it when I start to hear my needle punch through the fabric. Once you figure out that’s why your sewing is making that sound, you can learn to change the needle. (Insert video of this sound if I can get it.)
– Generally, changing the needle can fix a bunch of other problems, too. If you notice your machine is skipping stitches or doing something weird you can’t diagnose, try rethreading your machine and putting in a new needle.
Use the proper tools: *group associated topics here*
Be prepared: *group those under here*
Iron your fabric: JUST DO IT. I hate it, too. It really does make a huge, noticeable difference, though, and it really does make things easier.
– Side note: make sure you keep your iron clean and use the appropriate heat setting! I mostly work in cottons and linens, so I’m full blast all the time, but make sure you account for any synthetic content.
Wash your hands: Before you start or pick up work on any project, wash your hands. Wash your hands ESPECIALLY before embroidery. It’s so easy to accidentally transfer skin oils, pet oils, ink, paint, or lunch onto your project.
Set up your workspace: Give yourself a logical workflow. Make sure all of your materials are gathered. Make sure your work surfaces are clean (not just cleared off—run a washcloth over them to make sure you didn’t miss an errant ketchup spot or bit of leather dye or something).
– I’ve worked in tiny cramped spaces (inside my tent the day of an event–*cough cough*), as well as larger spaces all my own. You can make any size space work if you’re organized. (I don’t mean organized all the time—that’s madness! But take 10-15 minutes before you get started to organize your space for the next few hours, or whatever. It’s worth it.) This includes adequate lighting!
Clip your threads: Oh my cheesus, clip your threads. Then, wash your new garb piece (with a color catcher!) and clip your threads again. Garb judges never get as picky over anything so easily fixed as unclipped threads. (Do not burn them off. This isn’t the military.)
Read through your whole pattern before you start: Trust me, I’ve seen some patterns that have omitted some pretty big steps in the materials list or overview. Reading through the pattern also lets you know what you might need to practice before you get started or might indicate any assumptions the author of the pattern might have made about your expertise.