sewing small talk: what sewing tips do you ignore?

Hello friends!

It’s been a little quiet over here as we’re wrapping up summer vacation and working on the fall patterns. In the meantime, it looks like many of your children have already started school, but here school doesn’t start until the second week in September.

So let’s get back to our usual sewing small talk!

Here’s today’s question:

What sewing "rules" or tips do you usually ignore?

Want to know my dirty little sewing secret? I usually just staystitch in one go rather than stitching in the same direction on each side of center. In other words, I don’t do this:

staystitching directionI simply staystitch in one direction, and I’ve never noticed a problem with it.

Your turn!




  1. I almost never backstitch at the beginning or end of a seam, since seams beginnings/ends are almost always covered by a next seam or hem. Never noticed any problem either…

  2. I think I’m the opposite – I tend to add in more steps than are in the instructions! I’ll staystitch a neckline even when it’s not specified, sew up to 3 lines of gathering stitches or 2 for easing when instructions sometimes say only 1, hand-baste things before sewing on the machine, etc. When clipping or notching a curved seam allowance I treat the 2 layers separately and stagger the cuts. Also, so many patterns leave out essential steps like grading and finishing seams, understitching, etc. Knowing how to get a better finish than the one specified in the pattern is one of the pleasures of accumulating sewing experience for me! That said, I love simple patterns and jersey fabrics that don’t require too many finishing steps. And I might start staystitching in one pass now…

    1. Carol

      And I bet all your things are beautifully made ❤️

  3. Addie

    Ha, except for when your patterns indicate those directions, I also stay stitch in one line.

    I have found that hemming short sleeves before inserting them in the round is much easier. I don’t do this with full length sleeves because it’s too hard to judge the length but it works great when they are short.

  4. Liz

    I don’t always use the iron, sometimes I just finger press. I tend to hand-stitch bias tape down on necklines as I can’t keep it flat with a sewing machine despite all the tips I’ve followed online. But otherwise I pretty much follow the “rules”, perhaps it’s time to rebel!!

  5. I only stay stitch in one direction, too.

    I always finish my sleeves complete before inserting them.

    I do all other finishing before inserting my sleeves.

    I will do as many seams and darts as possible without intersecting others before I go iron them, instead of ironing after each step. Of course that means I don’t necessarily follow all steps in order, because what fun would that be?

    My theory is: Whatever works for me!

  6. I sew over pins all the time (sometimes I break a needle, but it’s rare).

    I always staystitch in one direction (except maybe if the fabric is on the bias or extra tricky).

    I usually clip instead of notch where indicated unless the fabric is super bulky.

    I cut my notches going out away from the seam allowance the way I was taught as a kid and don’t notch in seam allowances, which is apparently an amateur move, but why fix something that isn’t broken?

    I group steps for convenience rather than always following the order of operations in the pattern.

    I sew knit garments, including necklines, entirely on my serger and coverstitch, and rarely use my sewing machine (except for pockets or the facings on the maritime/sailboat top).

    Other things I add complexity – I almost always use interfacing on facings, even when it’s not called for (including the waistband of the badminton skirt I just made!). I always coverstitch my knit necklines down for a nice flat neckline finish. I grade seams and understitch every time (but I don’t notch, lol).

  7. Paula Moore

    I usually don’t staystitch at all.
    I sew over pins.
    I seldom read the directions unless I am stuck.
    Maybe that’s why my Mother always said I didn’t listen.

  8. Anne

    I rarely staystitch. When I do, it’s in one pass.

    I don’t often read the pattern instructions.

    If I’m going to finish seam allowances on the serger, I usually do this before sewing the seams (just be careful not to trim away your seam allowance or to trim it away evenly).

  9. Cindy Cooksey

    I don’t always finish my seam allowances, especially if it’s a tightly woven cotton fabric that is unlikely to fray.

  10. This blows my mind, because it was your instructions that taught me to stay stitch this way! I feel like I now have permission to not do that anymore. I sometimes skip understitching, depending on whether my facing is the same fabric as my outer fabric.

  11. Kim Dimond

    I probably don’t change my needle as often as I should. I’ve been known to sew over a pin or two and yes my stay stitching is not multi directional

  12. Annette

    I sew over pins. I’ve been doing it for 55 years and no problem. Small fine pins.

  13. Deb

    1. I always stay stitch, but in one direction.
    2. If a garment is not lined, seam allowances are always finished.
    3. As much as possible, I do buttonholes when garment is flat (before side seams are done).
    4. I don’t follow step sequence given in patterns.
    5. First row of machine basting is 1/8” in from seam allowance line.
    6. I stitch over pins. Hard habit to break!
    7. No one is allowed to use my fabric scissors except me, ever.
    8. I line dress bodices with a coordinating fabric.
    9. I don’t cut out pattern notches; I just use Frixion pens to mark them on my fabric.
    10. I always under stitch, even if pattern directions don’t say to.
    11. I either notch or clip, depending on the type of curve it is.
    12. Press, press, press. And then do it again!

  14. Jayne E

    I don’t stay stich, I use iron on tape, after cutting out before removing the pattern, just iron on the taper to wrong side, perfectly matching the shape of the pattern, its transformed my neck lines.

    1. Sandy

      I like this idea! Not sure what you mean exactly about “iron on tape”. Like Wonder Under, or is it more like iron on hem binding (do they even make that anymore? I have a bunch of vintage sewing notions from my mom, and the hem tape happens to be in the box)?

  15. Linda (ACraftyScrivener)

    Oh wow, such a load of rebels, lol! I do follow the staystitching `rules’ (but maybe I won’t now!), but I NEVER follow cutting layouts or look at amount of fabric needed, as I am short and often the fabric needed is way too much.

  16. Marleen

    I don’t staystitch unless expressly directed to.
    I don’t iron, finger press and hope for the best.
    Don’t change my needle as often as I should.
    Try to do too much is too short a time, ie make trousers for my kids while he is napping…

    I do top stitch outer seams of trousers before sewing inseam and crotch.
    I do insert sleeves, hem them and bottom edge before seeing side seam in one direction…
    I do insert zips before sewing any other seams in jackets / skirts as after 30 years I still find these tricky

  17. Holly

    I sometimes ignore all the instructions. I usually start my project by figuring out my seam finishing on a scrap. I also try my buttonholes, snaps, or things like welt pockets.

    I hate surged clothing. I think it looks and feels cheap. I just finished a Wicksten jacket out of light weight linen. It’s a reversible jacket. So, I decided on mock fell seams. I pinked them all after stitching. I added steps to get the jacket I wanted. I hand sewed the collar.

    I’m going to make it again, out of velveteen. This time I am going to add interfacing to the hem and sleeves. I’m also going to cut the hem a quarter inch shorter on one side to make it roll to that side.

    I’m doing the Breezy Blouse again. Last time I made it out of wool gabardine. This time I will make it out of linen. I’m going to zigzag Bias tape to the hem instead of turning twice. I’m using a 7 for the shirt, and 5 oz per yard linen for the bias. I prefer to cut them in long strips than use pattern pieces. I hand stitch them.

    When sewing a zipper, I baste it in, and then sew from the bottom up on each side, never in a U shape.

    Instead of backstitching, I always set my stitch length to zero, tap my foot control twice, and then set my stitch length to 2.5., ditto on the other end.

    If a garment has a lining, I make that first and skip making a toile. If it fits, hurray. If it doesn’t, I can begin again. Lining fabric is cheaper.

    I never use the cutting layout. They always waste soooooo much fabric. Facings can almost always be cut out of scraps. I like cotton lawn or handkerchief linen for cuffs and under collars.

    I never buy cheap interfacing. I go to Fashion Sewing Supply and buy the good stuff, preshrunk.

    Sewing is a process. I like to enjoy each project, and not rush to the finish. I like to shop my stash. Sometimes that means I am using a fabric not intended for that pattern. Sometimes that means dyeing a fabric I am no longer in love with. Okay, who bought that red, white and blue, unbalanced plaid wool? A simple shirt may take a few weeks or a few days. I like to learn new things, so I tend to add complexity, while tossing out silly instructions.

    I am a known pattern violator. I will take the sleeve from your Bistro shirt and stick it on a Blanc T-shirt. I will steal the pockets off of a ready-to-wear and put them on my project. I took an old quilt and turned into a Tamarack Jacket. I made a second one out of old linen napkins. Of course that meant I had to make new napkins out of a linen tablecloth.

    In the end, do what works for you and enjoy it.

  18. Nicole

    I never follow pattern cutting layouts.

    I don’t iron seam allowances open first if they then have to be ironed to one side (darts, French seams etc).

    I don’t trace stitching lines if they’re marked by notches or dots at either end.

    I’ve never had my sewing machine professionally serviced (I would if it gave me problems and I couldn’t resolve them myself, but in 7 years that hasn’t happened).

  19. Nicole

    While we’re on the subject, though, what’s the point of staystitching in more than one direction? I do it, but I’ll probably stop now!

  20. Nicole

    Oh! Forgot one – if I’ve made the pattern before and I know I can get away with it (thinking mostly of the Sailboat top, or any top pattern made in a knit), I don’t bother with the gathering stitches on a sleeve cap.

  21. Maria

    I never make a muslin. Always go straight to the fabric I want to use.
    I didn’t even know you are not supposed to sew in one go the neckline!
    I only follow rules for the things I have never done. Once I reach a point in the making of the garment that I consider I know how I stop following the directions.
    I never buy the amount specified
    I haver never used the buttonhole foot to make buttonholes.

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