Tips & Hints - Learn Sewing, Quilting & Embroidery

We are delighted to share with you these tips submitted by our customers. Thank you to our smart and savvy customers who sent in these tips!

General Sewing

After a great meal at P.F. Chang’s, my sister and I couldn’t just toss out the nifty plastic chop sticks! We are using them in our sewing projects often. Just used one yesterday to push out the points of pillow covers. Submitted by Cathy Bruckman

I use a 3 x 5 index card to track all the fabric info (manufacturer, name of line, color, price, where & when purchased) & a fabric swatch. Then I know where to try to purchase more of a fabric, or I can search online for it. I also use the cards to “pull fabrics” for a quilt before I pull the actual fabrics. The cards can easily be carried in a purse or recipe card file box& used to match & coordinate fabrics.

Quit your job so that you have more time to sew! (I haven’t been able to do this, but I want to.)

Use a piece of moleskin along the right side of your needle to keep a straight, even and consistent ¼” seam allowance.

Keep my magazines around for good ideas. I cut thin strips of post-it notes to make the pages, color-coded according to the project; i.e. yellow for appliqué, blue for paper-piecing, etc. That way, I can find projects I’m in the mood for easily.

Wrap “pre-wrap”athletic tape around bobbins and open spools of thread to keep them from unwinding.(pre-wrap athletic tape is not sticky, it is like ultra sheer foam on a roll)

Make pillow cases for gift wrap. I made a pillow case for each of the Christmas gifts last year. Always measure accurately. (You know, measure twice, cut once!)

Keep an empty band-aid box or aspirin bottle to put your broken pins and needles in. This will make it safer when tossing them in the trash.

For safe disposal of “Sharps” or other needles: take a large child-proof prescription pill bottle. Heat a big nail to red-hot (hold it in a vise grip) and puncture the center of the cap. Use the bottle for bent pins, needles, etc. The big bottles also hold small used rotary cutter blades.

One of Ellen Anne Eddy’s great tips to pass along: when ‘stick-um’ gets on your Teflon ironing pad, use a kitchen scrubby to clean off the residual so it doesn’t get on the iron or the ironing board cover. Works great!

Stick a Velcro dot on your seam ripper and a corresponding dot to hold it on the side of your sewing machine-easy access to seam ripper!

For dealing with a “walking” foot pedal: to keep the foot pedal in place, just stick a small piece of the hooked Velcro to the bottom of the pedal and your pedal stays in pace-works great with carpet. A person may have to have stuck a loop Velcro to a wood floor to have this trick work on wood floors.

To reduce the area your fleece is taking up in your stash, put your fleece in a vacuum storage bag and squish is down. You can get twice as much in one spot.Use a new coffee filter for stabilizer when late at night and the stores are closed. This works great for machine embroidery, button holes, any time a stiffer stabilizer is needed.When threading a needle to use for hand sewing or machine sewing, wet the eye of the needle, not the thread.Wash an old mascara brush out (just let it dry naturally), to get rid of all black mascara. Use your new, clean brush to reach hard to get at crevices in bobbin case and shuttle.

Garment Construction

When making pants for children, reinforce seams and stitch a second layer over knees instead of making knee patches later.


I recently completed a quilt for my grandson’s wedding gift, using the Yellow Brick Road pattern. With a few extra blocks, I made pocket on which I also attached a label. Then I took 2″ x 3″ pieces of each fabric in the quilt, basted them on another extra block (30 pieces) and inserted them in the pocket of the label block. If this quilt is ever in need of repair, there is a piece of each fabric available to help preserve this precious gift.
Before I take my blocks off the design wall, I will label them with a sticky note or pin and paper R1, B1; R1, B2 (Row 1, Block 1; Row 1, Block 2) and so on. Then the second row is R2, B1; R2, B2 (Row 2, Block 1, etc.) This way, I won’t sew the blocks in the wrong order or accidentally rotate them because I can read my note.

Prewash your quilting fabric with Synthrapol or Retayne to prevent fading and color bleeding.When cutting strips for a project, you’ll often find you have extra fabric. Depending on the amount, additional strips can be cut: multiples of the same size, or a variety, in ¼” increments or in a size often used. Using a tie holder or hangers, the strips can be organized according to color and widths. After time, you’ll have an inventory for making miniature log cabins or other strip piecing techniques, already pre-cut. –submitted by Pat A. Bowhuis

To turn a nice corner, I use a wooden skewer on which I have filed the point down a bit. You can use both ends to push out the point on the corners.

When finger pressing quilt pieces, use a teaspoon or a tablespoon to press the seam flat. When piecing a bargello quilt design, I used 2 different color threads in the bobbin and in the top of my machine, so I could easily pull apart segments to sew in the correct order. Use a nut picker to close safety pins; also can be used as a stylus. I get very tense in my shoulders and neck when machine quilting—so every time I start up again after pausing, I say to myself “Needle down” and I hit that button; then “Shoulders down” and I relax my shoulders. Wash an old mascara brush out (just let it dry naturally) to get rid of all black mascara. Use your new, clean brush to reach hard to get at crevices in bobbin case and shuttle. When foundation piecing: rather than paper, you can recycle old dryer sheets (which are stable in both directions). It is lightweight, and adds to the security of the stitches, since it does not need to be removed. Keep a sticky tape lint roller in your sewing room to clean up loose threads from your quilt. A new clean toilet brush is helpful for picking up thread off the carpet.

Don’t throw away those leftover pieces of quilt batting. They might be just what you need for another project. Simply lay the pieces together side by side and zigzag them together. The sewing will not show through and they will lay flat because they were not overlapped. Tip from Helen K. of Holland.

Machine Embroidery

I take a clean egg carton and cut off the top cover. I number each egg cup. When I embroider, I put the first thread in the #1 spot, the second in the #2 spot, and so on. Then if I need a thread, I know which one it is, and all my threads stay neatly together without getting mixed up.

Change your needle more often than usual when embroidering dense designs.

When hooping put an extra layer of cut-away stabilizer (or fabric) on both sides of the hoop (away from the design) this will keep the fabric much tighter in the hoop.


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