1. IRON. AND THEN IRON SOME MORE
This may be one of the more boring tips. But if you want your dress, blouse or whatever creation you’re working on to look less homemade, this is key. It works! Iron as much as possible when you’re in the sewing process. When you have sewn a seam, e.g. a side seam (the seam down the side of a dress), press the seam allowance completely open with the iron – and iron it on both sides of the fabric. Make sure you get all the way out to the seam, so that it lies completely flat.
It’s also a good idea to iron when you need a facing to lie neatly and flat. When you need to fold the hem of the dress it’s also very helpful to iron it before sewing it.
2. CUT THE FABRIC IN THE CORRECT GRAINLINE DIRECTION
Grainline direction is something many don’t consider important. If you are left with a piece of fabric where all the pattern parts only fit if you place them across the grainline, it can be very tempting to skip it. But it’s only in very few cases this will end up well. When the fabric has the exact same amount of stretch and structure in the grainline direction as well as perpindicular to the grainline, it’s ok to place the pattern parts both with and in a 90 degree angle to the grainline. However, you should never place the pattern parts diagonally to the grainline – unless of course the pattern tells you to do so.
The grain line is indicated on the pattern as an arrow. This arrow must be in the same direction as the direction of grainline of the fabric when cutting out the pattern parts.
If you’d rather watch a video about it, you can watch our guide here.
There are several reasons why the grainline is important.
First of all, woven fabric has a different amount of stretch, depending on the angle you pull the fabric. The angle with the least stretch (often none), is the grainline direction. Perpindicular to the grainline, there’s typically a little bit more (or the same), and 45 degrees across the grain line (diagonally), the fabric becomes stretchy even though it’s woven. This is called mechanical stretch.
If you don’t cut according to the grainline, the dress may end up stretching in an unwanted way. You make recognize it from cheap t-shirts ending up completely out of shape after just a single wash, right?
Secondly, the way a dress is constructed in relation to the grainline direction is important for the drape of a dress. Therefore it can make a big difference to the drape, if the fabric isn’t cut as intended in relation to the grainline.
The easiest way to find the grainline is to find the selvage, which is the edge of the fabric the factory makes. So it’s at a 90 degree angle to where the fabric is cut off.
If you are sewing with fabric found secondhand, there’s rarely a selvage to look for. Instead you can pull in the fabric and find the direction with the least stretch. That is the grainline.
3. WASH YOUR NEW FABRIC BEFORE SEWING
Many types of fabric shrink after wash – sometimes up to 15-20%. And if you buy new fabric, it won’t be washed prior to your purchase. This means that if you are sewing with the fabric without washing it, it will shrink after you’ve finished sewing your dress. Therefore the size will end up smaller than the pattern you went for. That’s why it does pay off to wash your fabric; just like you’d wash your clothes. Often it’s noted on the fabric how it’s supposed to be washed.
4. INVEST IN AN OVERLOCKER
The last tip in this round may not be for beginners. An overlocker is a bit of an investment that usually costs from 400 Euros and up.
If you want to read more about pros and cons af an overlocker, we made a Journal post on just that subject. You can read that article here.
An overlocker makes sure the fabric doesn’t fray, and will make the inside of the dress look professional. It cuts off the edge of the fabric, while closing the edges off with stitches usually consisting of 3-4 threads. If you don’t have an overlocker, you would normally zig zag the edges to prevent it from fraying. However, it can be difficult to get zig zag stitches to look nice and neat. Especially if you’re sewing in a thin and light fabric. If you’re a beginner, start with zigzagging; this will be sufficient for a start.