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Saturday, 27 January 2018

Sewing & Crafting Tips & Tricks

Sewing and crafting tips & tricks...
Today's post is a collection of tips and tricks or hacks for sewing and crafting that you may or may not have seen before.

Unlike other random lists, however, I can personally vouch for these, as I've tried them all over the past year and they remain in my arsenal, so to speak.

If you're interested in other sewing tips, also check out this post from three years ago.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

My father-in-law was a surgeon, so when he passed away, we had a bunch of surgical tools at our disposal. I claimed this hemostat clamp. It's a handy item to have in a sewing kit.

A hemostat clamp is a worthy sewing tool to have...

It's not as long as I'd like it to be, but it's still been useful whenever I've needed to grab fabric in hard to reach areas, such as when turning skinny straps right side out. With the two handles locked together, it grabs and holds on tightly.

Sharpening Your Pins

Do you keep your pins in a box? When I first started sewing, my pins were always stuck into my store-bought tomato pin cushion. Then I was given a box of (better) pins and started to use those, directly out of the box.

Over the years, they've become dull. What a surprise... not! After all, they get poked into all sorts of fabrics that dull their points, just the same as the actual needle on a sewing machine.

You'd be amazed at the difference after you sharpen your pins!

It suddenly occurred to me that store bought pin cushions are generally stuffed with material that helps keeps pins sharpened, like ground up walnut shells. (Steel wool is apparently another great pin sharpener, but I don't think that many pin cushions are stuffed with steel wool.)

So one day, I sat down with my box of pins and stabbed each of them repeatedly into my tomato. (Maybe pick a day when you're feeling aggressive!) They have performed much better since.

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Multi-Purpose Cutting Mats

It's been many years since I first purchased a set of flexible cutting mats. At the time, it was for the purpose of using them as disposable cutting boards, but I've since found a use for them in the sewing room.

Not just for the kitchen...
You'll need to get the ones that aren't too stiff and are preferably clear so that you can see through them. The pack of two that you see here were $1.50 at a local discount store. They're a decent size, 12" x 15" each.

They're ideal for creating permanent templates for patterns. If you have something that you make over and over again, it's a great alternative to paper (although you can't pin them to your fabric). Moreover, if you have the clear version, you can easily fussy-cut your fabrics.

Here's an example, with one of my home-made ruler grips on it. (I made this one with a drawer pull after making the original set in the tutorial.)

A permanent template attached to my home-made grip...

Another sewing related use for these is as an alternative to cardboard or plastic canvas. (I don't readily know where to find plastic canvas.) Put this material under handles and in the bottom of bags for extra support, and unlike cardboard, it won't disintegrate when wet.

Remember my glasses case project?

Sunny Glasses Case crafted by eSheep Designs
A piece of flexible cutting mat plastic was used on the curved bottom part of this glasses case...

I made another one using this stuff instead of Peltex to add support to the bottom front panel. No difference in how it looks from the others, and I did not change the size of the template from the original pattern.

Repurpose Thread Spools & Straws

In this post from a couple of years ago, I shared a hack for how to use serger cones on a regular sewing machine. For awhile, I just used the long straw method, but I soon found a way to improve the hack with some of my old thread spools.

Reduce the size of the opening of your large serger cones with this thread spool hack...

Some serger cones have super large openings and will just not turn evenly no matter how long the pin. Push a standard sized thread spool up into the serger cone until it becomes wedged inside (it doesn't even have to be flush at the bottom), and then the straw can be used as intended. (There are actual products that serve this purpose; maybe search out serger cone thread adapters.)

Ensure Crisp Edges on Turned Items

I didn't really know how to title this one, but I'm not talking about frying eggs. This is about when you sew two pieces of fabric together and then turn it right side out through an opening, like when you make a patch pocket.

Before you turn something right side out, take the time to press the seam allowance where you've left an opening.

Press open the seam allowance at a turning gap before turning right side out...

This trick was last used in step three of my "Tute" in Ten ornament project last year. However, that item was round and a bit more tricky to accomplish. If you're dealing with straight edges like in the above, it's easy.

It's a small extra strep that gives you a much cleaner, crisper finish on the right side after you turn and topstitch.

Good Ol' Scotchguard

If you make it, protect it!
Another excellent find from my father-in-law's numerous boxes of stuff was a spray can of Scotchguard.

Since the very beginning of my current sewing adventure, I've been using it to protect the things that I've made. The product comes in a variety of formulations. This older one was meant to waterproof outdoor fabric, but I've been using it on my bags and wallets. Water beads up nicely on the surface afterwards. (Carrying a fabric purse when it rains can be a problem otherwise!)

When it runs out, I'll likely go with the Heavy Duty Water Shield version that's available now.

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Silicone Mat

Working with a hot glue gun? The first time I did so, it was quite a messy affair. (Hot glue doesn't come off a counter top as easily as one might think.) If you don't like the idea of glue dripping everywhere, search through your kitchen wares and see if you can find a silicone baking sheet. It makes a great resting place for a hot glue gun.

A silicone mat is a good thing to have if you do a lot of hot gluing...

The small mat above is a dollar store item for just this purpose. (For those who are not regular users of hot glue guns, just make sure to protect whatever surface you are crafting on with parchment paper or wax paper.)

Cheap Paper for Crafting

Interested in trying some paper crafting like origami or flower making? Shocked by what you have to pay for paper?

I was fortunate when I first experimented with making large paper flowers via a CreativeLive course that I had some coloured cardstock on hand. When I later made my own versions of large paper flowers, I found scrapbooking paper on sale at a good price.

Without sales, however, crafting paper can be expensive. So when I decided to make a couple of red, white and black flowers to hang on the wall of my sewing room last fall, I ended up opting for an unusual choice: wrapping paper. I got one roll at Michaels (where the prices of their other paper choices were indisputably high) and another at a dollar store for a total of $3.50.

My giant wrapping paper dahlias pop out of the wall in my sewing room...

Wrapping paper will always be white on one side, so you can get two looks out of one choice. What's even better is that you're not constrained by the dimensions of traditional paper.

After making these two flowers, I still have a lot of paper left for crafting or wrapping.

Any offbeat sewing or crafting tricks or tips that you'd like to add?

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