The ability to sew accurately relies on being able to place the sewing needle exactly where you want it to go every single time. This sounds easy, but even the cleverest of sewing machines need the operator to guide them. The seven tips below are simple and obvious taken one by one, but the secret is to combine them all into your sewing routine, every time you sew.
- Know Your Sewing Machine Foot. To do this measure from your needle to the seam allowance you require and either mark the needle plate (with masking tape), or if it is around the feed dog, area find a mark on your foot or create a mark your foot that can be used to line up with the fabric edge to maintain the consistent accurate seam. Even if you have a ¼” foot, or variable guide foot, test out on fabric first. Even the most expensive or high-tech machines can be a little out. Investigating and measuring your feet is a one time activity that will bring a huge step in long term sewing accuracy.
- Use the Right Needle and Stitch Length. The right needle is always going to be a new or newish needle. Blunt needles will make larger and possibly uneven holes. The size of the needle is also important. For quilting cottons a size 70 or 80 needle is best and a ‘sharp’ or ‘topstitch’ needle are my favourites. The stitch length should be large enough to unpick – but not much bigger. I use a length of 1.8.
- Sharp, Thin Pins. Using thick or blunt pins will distort the fabric around the pin and in the sewing area. Buy good pins.
- Use Leaders and Enders.These are tiny pieces of fabric which are sewn over to begin the line of stitching and end the line of stitching, like chain piecing. These avoid the edges of the fabric being distorted by being pushed into the needle plate hole. When sewing points, the lines sewn are often across the bias grain of the fabric which will stretch easily and this is where starters and enders help avoid this. If you are new to leaders and enders then you can watch this video.
- Drawn Guidelines should be Fine and Precise. When sewing ¼” either side of a drawn guideline, for example with half square triangles, it will be much more difficult to be accurate if the drawn line is thick. Use an appropriate fine line marker
- Use Pins to Line up Layered Seams. To achieve quarter square triangles with perfect middle points the sewn seams of the half square triangles must be directly on top of each other. Test this out by pushing a pin through the top seam and checking that it reappears perfectly through the bottom seams. Do this in a number of places along the top seam, ensuring the pins remain vertical and reappear through the seam below, and then pin normally to ensure that the fabrics remain in this exact position.
7. Batch Sew. It is much easier to be precise when a task is repeated. By batching all the similar actions, I find that I get quicker, am more accurate and make fewer mistakes.
So that’s it! Simple but effective.