***I often buy old garments at garage sales or consignment stores just for the fabric so I do a lot of ripping and altering. Single sided razor blades are great for this task since you don’t have to be delicate, but whether using a razor or a seam ripper, they get dull pretty quickly. Try using an emery board to sharpen them. It’s usually pretty easy to find one when you need it, and it does the trick quickly, even on the inner side of your seam ripper.
***I tend to use my favorite tissue paper patterns over and over, simply changing necklines and sleeve styles to make various designs, but the tissue patterns tear so easily. I love to take the thinnest (and therefore least expensive) fusible interfacing and iron it on to the pattern pieces. They last forever this way and I save bucks by re-using them instead of buying more.
***I’ll buy fabric sometimes because it’s on sale and I love it, or sometimes (more often than I’d like to admit) I’ll find the perfect piece for an exciting project, then never get around to it, so the fabric goes on a shelf or gets used for something else. So, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing down the care instructions on the end of the bolt when I purchase the fabric. Carry a small notepad in your purse, write down the care instructions on the label while your fabric is being cut, then pin it to the top so you’ll have the info handy whenever you get around to using the piece.
***The time I get to spend sewing usually comes at night, after the kids have gone to bed, so I’ve taken to only buying pins with large glass or plastic heads. They’re so much easier to see in dim light, and they’re easier to handle too – so consider trading your standard pins in for some if you have any trouble with arthritis or your eyesight.
***Unfortunately, this is one I learned the hard way – if you’re making a garment out of several different fabrics (say an expensive cashmere coat with a poly/cotton lining), make sure beforehand that all the various fabrics and threads have similar care requirements.
***Always pre-shrink your fabric before cutting out your design. Cut all raw edges with pinking shears or serge the edges before washing to keep the fabric from unraveling.
***I used to keep all the stray or extra buttons I collected in a tin container near the sewing machine. For some reason the tin has become a kid magnet, so instead of dealing with another trail of scattered buttons, I’ve taken the hint from manufacturers and started sewing the extra buttons inside the garment.
***Like most people, I’m not one “standard” size all over, which makes it difficult at times to figure out what size pattern to buy. The rule of thumb is to pick the most “important” measurement for that particular garment and buy the pattern size that most closely conforms. For example, when buying a slacks pattern, the “main” measurement is the hip since that’s the hardest area to alter. You can more easily adjust other attributes like the waist and length. With tops or jackets, the bust measurement is the most important since it’s easier to alter the shoulder and waist areas.
***A great way to eliminate that annoying gap between the waistband and the top of the zipper is to make a habit of buying zippers that are 1” longer than a pattern calls for. Stitch horizontally across the top of both sides of the zipper and clip off the excess before adding the waistband to eliminate unnecessary bulk.
***A really cool trick if you’re making a fancy garment, something nicely tailored, or a jacket or vest where the front might drape open, is to finish the back side of your buttons with a bead. Sew on your buttons as usual, then with the last two to three passes of the thread, stitch a small matching bead on the inside of the garment.