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Jul 5, 2011

30 Sewing DOs & DON'Ts!

75 Sex Tips!  

55 Things You Can Learn About Him in 10 Minutes!!   

582 Ways to Get Rid of Belly Fat!!!

Readers, who doesn't love a list?  I know I do.  And they're just as much fun to write as they are to read.  Well, almost.

Anyway, I thought compiling a dos and don'ts of sewing list might be a good challenge, and I hope you'll let me know what you think.  Of course, this list reflects my experience; you are welcome to disagree!

With no further delay....

Peter's SEWING DOs

1. DO sew only projects you're excited about.

2. DO start an important project with a fresh sewing needle.

3. DO clean your sewing area and the bed of your sewing machine thoroughly (I use rubbing alcohol) before sewing with light-colored or white fabric.

4. DO give yourself a break between projects.

5. DO keep your sewing area clean -- or cleanish.

6. DO consider sewing with a vintage sewing machine, if only for the experience (you might prefer it).

7. DO keep a spare sewing machine (you'll stumble on a cheap one at a thrift store eventually).

8. DO pre-shrink your fabric if your fabric is apt to shrink in the wash.

9. DO press as you go.

10. DO learn how to maintain your sewing machine.

11. DO organize your sewing notions so you know where to find them next time you need them.

12. DO invest some time figuring out thread tension for your sewing machine.  (It's just two disks and a spring.)

13. DO create a dedicated sewing space.

14. DO learn from your mistakes.

15. DO share your sewing knowledge with others.


16. DO talk up sewing when you can -- young people need to know it exists.


1. DON'T sew when you're feeling exhausted.

2. DON'T rush.  Another day won't make a difference and you'll be wearing your project (hopefully) a long time.

3. DON'T sew for others unless the idea brings you joy.

4. DON'T buy the cheapest new sewing machine you can find at Walmart, Kmart, etc.

5. DON'T use cheap interfacing.

6. DON'T fall for every bell and whistle available on a new sewing machine; you'll never use most of them.

7. DON'T iron with a dirty faceplate.

8. DON'T beat yourself up if your garment doesn't come out perfect. 

9. DON'T sew under poor light.

10. DON'T put water in your iron if you're ironing a fabric that's water-stainable.

11. DON'T keep every last fabric scrap for the fantastic quilt you will (never) make someday.

12. DON'T forget to clean out the fuzz beneath your throat plate periodically.

13. DON'T overlook refurbished machines; they're just as good as new imo.

14. DON'T set unreasonable standards for yourself.

15. DON'T force yourself to finish a project you've lost passion for.


16. DON'T hoard -- anything.

So what do you think, friends?  Has this been helpful?  What would you include on your do and don't list I haven't included here?

Are any of my dos your don'ts or vice versa?

Jump in!


  1. I think I have now done all 32 on that list ...

  2. Brilliant, love your lists! Number 11 on your 'DON'T' list made me laugh out loud and blush at the same time...I soooo do that. Must stop though ;o)

  3. Great list! But you forgot DO read Male Pattern Boldness every day. (Oh and when are you going to give us the 582 ways to get rid of belly fat? That's a list I want.)

  4. Pretty good list, but I do hoard fabric and I recommend it if you have a garage with space for big shelves, Rubbermaid tubs, and a willingness to catalog it all. ;-)

    I also save my fabric scraps (within reasonable size limits), but I do use them for applique, doll clothes, etc.

    1. Yes, hoarding scraps is good.

      What if your favorite shirt lost a cuff in a freak accident and you didn't have the fabric to replace it because you threw your scraps out?
      Scraps are useful.

  5. Nice list, Peter! I should really force myself to follow no. 11 and 16 of DON'Ts. Although I don't sew quilts, I tend to store every little piece of fabric. But finally I find someone who says that throwing them away is OK. Thanks! :)

  6. DO make a muslin.

    DO post your results on Pattern Review. Your review may prevent someone else from making the same mistake or buying the same bad pattern.

  7. Ha. Number 11 in both DOs and DON'Ts strike a chord with me. I was recently made to move all my sewing clutter upstairs and now have no idea where ANY of my sewing notions are. It is driving me nuts.

    Part of that clutter includes bags and bags of scraps that I do believe one day will make a fantastic quilt or be wonderful for crafting, but for the fact that I don't quilt nor do I have a crafty bone in my body...

    It's all very well drawing up lists. Doing what they say is another matter altogether...

  8. Hm. I've violated most of those at one time or another. And I hoard fabric. I buy when it's on sale and inexpensive and then hold onto it until I find a use for it. I used to buy by the project, but my new habits make it so that I save money. And my button hoard (I just had to switch it to a bigger canister) has buttons in there that I don't remember when I got them anymore. My grandmother kept them in mason jars. Me, I have a rather large Christmas tin.

  9. I'd add to your 'do' number 8 -pre-shrink fabrics. Do the same to your iron-on interfacing if it’s firm. That way you won’t have to follow my example and replace cuffs and collars that bubbled outrageously at the first wash. (No, it wasn’t cheap interfacing, but it was heavy and cotton).

    I’ve got a ‘do’ related to this- consider renovating sewn items. Once a thing is made and you have enjoyed it for long enough, you may be able to alter it and get the pleasure of a new garment with half the sewing. I’m lounging in my dressing gown admiring its new cotton trim as I type. An hour spent ripping off the old bands and pockets and replacing them with a rather snazzy Japanese pattern cotton is giving me the double glow of ‘new item’ and of ‘virtuous make do and mend’ simultaneously. Calculating this plus cost per wear for something I made ten years ago, the faithful old thing is now paying me.

  10. I would also add to the "Do" list...Do take a class from time to time. No matter what level of sewing you are at, being in a class can really be a boost to your skills and your ego! There are a lot of classes to choose from at the sewing shows, or organize one yourself. Nothing is more fun than getting a bunch of sewists together....

  11. You have the same little table that Tamar Braxton has.

  12. Question.... Have you ever sewn consistently on a new machine?

  13. I've devoured the lists!! Thanks for making them, smart tips!

  14. Great tips. I need to clean out my sewing room and put everything back into it's proper place. Ugh. I don't keep scraps, and it's not hording. It's "collecting". I do try to finish every project before starting another project. It avoids having a room full of UFO's. And my fabric stash is swatched onto cards, with fabric length, width, content and location. It greatly helps with sewing plans and lets me know if I really need to buy that fabric that's calling to me.

  15. great list! i would like to add a couple: DO make a muslin (especially if you are sewing a complex pattern and/or expensive fabric!) and DON'T sew over pins! omg people who sew over pins make me die a small death every time :\ haha

  16. LOVE don't #3 - It took a LONG time for me to learn that one.

  17. Excellent list! I think the most important may be number 1 on the DO list - so many UFOs sir in my drawer because of a lack of excitement!

    Thanks for this list - I may have to print it and put it in my sewing space!

  18. How about adding, DO teach someone else to sew.

  19. Hahahaha. Yep, I've pretty much done every Do, and every Don't. It is interesting - for someone with ten sewing machines and how many pieces of luggage (and Ken dolls), you don't seem to hoard fabric. My Ken doll collection is quite trim, but I admit, the fabric is totally out of hand. :-)

  20. You know, I have to disagree with #1, actually. Sometimes you just *need* a boring "basic." It's a long term pay off thing. It may be boring, but then you wear it *all the time.*

    (Also, I really do actually use all the bells and whistles on my modern machine. I love all those bells and whistles. But, I did buy it refurbed.)

  21. Don't hoard? Don't hoard? What? Just how many sewing machines do you own Peter?
    (From someone who left behind six packing crates of fabric in another country.)

  22. These are wonderful dos and don'ts! I love the "don't sew for others unless..." something I tend to get sucked into and always hate. I agree with all of your dos and don'ts though I have to say that I don't stick to all of them myself. Hoarding fabric is a definite problem for me and I'm one of those who keeps my scraps! But today, I'm going to go through my stash and see if I can't get rid of a few things. Thanks Peter! xoxo, Sunni

  23. These are all great! I think my additions to those rules are: DON'T sew with a pattern where the picture looks odd on the model. It will look even worse on you. Also, DO know your own style when you are shopping. I have ended up with disastrous choices in fabric and patterns -- nothing wrong with them, just not my style.

  24. Isabel's DaughterJuly 5, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    Great lists Peter. I would add to buy the best scissors you can afford and keep them sharp and used only for sewing.

  25. I can relate to all of your Dos and Don'ts.

  26. DON'T buy bargain thread. This was told to me when I purchased my beloved Pfaff 25 years ago. Bargain thread has more lint to get caught in and gum up your machine. Bargain fabric, of course! Bargain thread, NO.

  27. Sensible list, thanks for it. + Do read sewing blogs, you'll learn a lot but don't spend more time at the computer than at your sewing machine.

  28. I can totally relate to this list, but I can't say I follow all of the advice. A "break between projects" usually means something like knit shirt with only 2 pattern pieces between lined coat and lined dress.

    I don't have a vintage or spare sewing machine, although I would totally get one for $20 if said machine could be found.

    I also have a slightly higher than WalMart quality machine... yeah. It is my first machine, so I think it gets a pass. And, actually, it has been working quite well so far, but I do think an upgrade may be in order when it bites the dust (hopefully not anytime soon!).

    As for hoarding fabric and keeping scraps... well. I do have a plan for the scraps, and no it isn't a quilt. So, can I keep them? And the fabric hoard... ummmm, yeah. That isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

    Also, don't even mention the pattern stash...

    On the plus side, it only took one project before I stopped with the bad interfacing, and I do use good thread! And I got a nice organization system for my sewing odds and ends, and updating the pattern organization is a priority for the near future.

    Other than that I mostly follow the DOs/DONTs list... so I guess I am in good company?

    Oh, I might add - if you use rotary cutters, DO buy as large a cutting mat as possible, and DO keep spare blades on hand at all times!

  29. Peter, here's my personal DO. Do learn how to enjoy hand basting. It's amazing how much it has improved the quality of my garments. For those who hate hand sewing, a little block of beeswax can make it so much more enjoyable.

  30. I agree with every single point. That doesn't mean I DO them (or Don't them, as the case may be) but I agree, with one minor point - #1. I'm not necessarily 'excited' about everything I sew; some things simply need to be done....but even those 'tasky' sorts of jobs give me pleasure, especially when they're done! :)

  31. Peter, great list!... if you would allow me to add one more it would be invest in a good pair of cutting shears and take care of them. And maybe invest in a safe to store them away from family.

  32. I really need to adapt your do/don't list. If I adhered to just a few of them it would really help me out.

  33. I'd like to make one addition to your ever-so-great lists....please please please never forget to use a press cloth above and below when fusing interfacing!!!! Keep the glue off your ironing board and also your iron! Yikes...better to have it stuck on your press cloth.

  34. DO be careful with rubbing alcohol on enameled machines, it can remove the finish!

    And DON'T unfavorably compare your abilities and finished projects to other bloggers. DO be happy with yourself and what you make :)

  35. I was scared of stretch fabrics, and now I am not.
    So a big DON'T for me was not to touch stretch fabrics, they are so hard, you need special needles,
    special stitching. Well for me, I didn't use any of the recommendations like teeny tiny zig zag stitching, or special stretch stitches. I have sewn quite a few dresses for my daughter, didn't do anything special and nothing has fallen apart, have washed several times, still intact and looking great.
    I love the drape that some of the stretch fabrics create.

    So my big don't is don't be scared of things that others say are tricky or difficult, you need to find it out for yourself.


  36. This is a great list! I think we are all guilty of doing some of the don'ts. Though being a fairly messy person.... I thought I did OK on your list. Thanks for posting, it's a great idea to think about your own sewing do's and don'ts!

  37. Peter, I think you nailed it. That's a great list but I'm not so sure about the hoarding. You never know what it might come in useful for.

  38. The lists with some addition of the comments are nearly perfect! It is maybe worth to print and hang at the sewing area!

    My 2 cents: DON'T buy sewing machine as a favor to someone.
    Sooner or later (specially if the person is a begginer) any problem that the machine presents will be related to your choice and you will feel commited to solve it or repair the machine.

  39. Great list Peter and I can relate to every one of your do's/donts...As a person who sews for many (and totally enjoy it), I definitely agree with #3 (good advice).

  40. I definitely agree with DO #16-- I am a young teacher at a high school, and whenever I talk about sewing with my students, they really don't understand the concept. I had to bring in a pattern to show them what I was talking about!

    The list is terrific. =)

  41. That is one well thought out list! It should be the sewer's bible as every rule is perfectly true. Although I think you are rather more pristine than me as I don't think I've ever used alcohol to clean my machine (I may have dripped some on it if having a glass of wine but I don't think that is quite what you mean). And hoarding isn't such a bad thing (as long as you hoard nice things).

  42. Summer, thank you for the last part of your comment. Comparing my sewing to rtw and my grandmother's stuff (she even made her winter coats) kept me from sewing on a regular basis for years. Also, when young don't let catty comments from friends about your sewn outfits discourage you. And when old don't hesitate to curse like a sailor when hearing them.

  43. *sigh* numbers 11 and 16 on the don't list....guilty as charged and i promise to make an effort to get much better because goodness knows I need to do something about hoarding 'stuff' and those ridiculous scraps that won't EVER be used LOL

  44. I admit to being a fabric hoarder and the bad part is I forget what I have. I love going through it though and getting re-inspired! I also save my scraps. I have so many sewing machines! I love the older singers like the 400 series and the 500 series. I learned to sew on an old Singer Futura now considered a piece of junk. I have several top of the line Bernina's which I use most of the time. I do find myself procrastinating if I'm unsure of a certain sewing skill i.e knit band neckline. I love these lists and I love your blog!

  45. The lists are great! I really have to work on the "Do's" As many of the other commenters have said, I'm guilty of many "Don'ts."

    I am a hoarder. I have moved fabrics from one side of the world to another. And I've inherited my mother's and grandmother's stashes as well. What's interesting, though, is in my mom's stash I've found fabric that was used in my dance costumes over 20 years ago. It's very nostalgic and fun to use the same fabrics I wore as a kid. And my grandmother has kept very practical fabrics (large swathes of felt).

    I just found your blog today, and what a treat! Thanks for the list!

  46. Thank you, its almost the weekend, living for the weekend and me and the Kemore are gonna kick it for sure.

  47. I just discovered your blog via Kathy over at Pink Chalk! Looking forward to reading more about your sewing adventures.
    In terms of my do's and dont's ... many are similar to yours ... except for your No 11 Don't ... I'm a quilt maker. I save every scrap and it ALL gets used!!
    Andi :-)

  48. Love all these tips!

    I so agree that young people should all sew at some point, I know I do and I am 20.

    Love your blog and keep up the great work.

    Check out my blog for some of my sewing and sketching!

  49. I like the lists! I must admit that #11 and #16 of the "Don't" list are big problems for me. I do quilt, and have used scraps for quilts. Also, I have found those little scraps coming in handily for fun twirly skirts for my girls, etc. So despite how much space they take up -- I just can't stop keeping those fabric bits!

    When I first graduated high school and was working my summer/winter breaks through college at fabric stores, I used to be quite judgmental about the sewists who would come in and buy fabric without knowing what they'd do with it, or commenting about all the other sewing that they should have been doing instead. It took a couple years for my stash to build up to that point! ;)

  50. Awesome Articles. Loved it.. I am too a sewing hoarder, old needles from the machine, every scrap, just incase.. love it.. It is so hard to throw it away!!

  51. Hey, how DID you know I was gonna make a quilt??

  52. It's okay to lay out and pin the pattern pieces on your fashion fabric at night but don't cut them out until the morning.


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