Here are a few bad habits that are really easy to pick up when you start sewing. I can’t blame you if you find yourself with one or more of these habits… I have certainly been there. The sooner you start trying to correct these habits, the better your projects will be, it will be easier to work and you may just find yourself less frustrated in general.
Clip those threads – set up a little work station at your sewing machine leaving a pin cushion and clippers at all times. Since you have the thread clips right by you, make sure to clip threads as your sew! Believe me, this will safe a ton of time (not to mention a big mess) later down the road when you have to find all the threads again to clean up your finished garment. I like to have a trash bin right below my sewing table for this, but I have seen people just tape a plastic bag right to the front of the table where the bag will be between the machine and you (you can just brush threads right into the bag!)
Press, Press, Press! I know we have all heard this since the dawn of sewing. It is easy to drown out Mrs. Schaeffer in your middle school sewing class, and if you ask why… she might just quip back with “because I said so!” but seriously, this can not be stressed enough. Pressing (not ironing) makes a huuuuuuuuggge difference in your final project. Get into the habit of pressing each seam open right after you sew – it is so tempting to try to sew as much as you can while you are sitting at the machine. Seriously, just get in this habit and you can skip the gym with this sew/press aerobic exercise.
To pin or not to pin? I know when you are starting out you may want to use as many pins as possible, meanwhile some experienced sewists are comfortable enough and know some industry secrets to forgo pinning and basting. To be on the safe side I say pin away! This is very important especially for lining up notches. While you are sewing curves of different shapes, it’s easy to stretch as you sew. Even if you are sewing a straight line you may notice that you get to the end if you haven’t pinned and you have a little extra of your top layer fabric. This is because of creep… Your fabric has a mind of it’s own and some fabrics are much more finicky than others. The feed dogs work with your presser foot to move your fabric as it sews, but the feed dogs move at a different pace, a walking foot is quite handy to overcome this “creep” and may be needed with certain fabrics. I know it may seem easy enough to trim that extra hangover, but you will have a better fit and your grain won’t shift if you take an extra moment to pin your pieces together correctly.
Cut once – you would think that cutting out your shapes from a pattern shouldn’t be too difficult. I find that using pattern weights rather than pins will give you a more accurate cut. I usually use a few washers from the hardware store and honestly anything I have handy as a weight (tape dispenser, pin cushions, scissors etc.) Pinning your pattern to your fabric can actually cause the fabric to pucker making it harder to get a good close cut.
Even more important if you want an accurate cut is to make sure you leave your fabric on the table while cutting. The weights certainly help avoid this. I have seen many many many people pick up their fabric (with pattern pinned on) even just an inch or two to help cut around curves. It seems like a logical thing to do but if you are losing 1/8” on each piece and your bodice has 6-8 pieces… that will add up to quite a large difference.