Monday, May 17, 2010

Sew, Clip, Press!

I've been eyeing this book for a couple months now (after reading a review on Threads), so I was super excited to find a used copy at Fashion Design Books last Friday. I've made it my mission to read it from front to back and thought I'd share some tidbits with you as I go. Let me tell you, I am loving this book so far. The chapter on stabilizers kind of blew my mind, but more on that later. In the second chapter, one of the things that caught my eye was the authors' SEW, CLIP, PRESS method. (Yes, it's capitalized like that EVERY TIME.) Here's the idea.

According to the authors, you should keep a pair of thread clippers (not scissors, but thread clippers specifically) by your machine at all times. After you sew a seam, you're supposed to immediately clip the threads. And then take the garment immediately to your ironing board to press. Here's what they say:

There is a rhythm to sewing and it goes like this: SEW, CLIP, PRESS. This stitching rhythm should be used from the start when you begin your first row of stitching. This method of stitching needs to be firmly planted in the sewer's mind from the beginning; with experience, it will become second nature to you.
If you stick to this method, the authors say you'll have a clean, professional garment.

I always press as I go, but the idea of clipping threads as I go is a new idea to me. And I confess, upon wearing a garment for the first time I often find stray threads hanging off of it. I don't even own a pair of thread clippers! So my mission for this week is to buy a pair and have it handy by the machine so I can try this SEW, CLIP, PRESS idea.

How about you? Do you already do this? What's your sewing rhythm?

67 comments:

  1. I've always clipped the threads off as I go, it seems logical to me to do it right away rather than going back and hunting them all down later. I have a pair of small scissors attached with a magnet to the side of my machine (obviously I don't have a computerised machine!).

    I started to press every seam when I got back into sewing about 7 years ago now and my results are just so much better than they ever were before. You can really tell the difference between a garment where everything has been pressed and where it's not, the finished thing is just so much neater and more professional looking. A good iron is a large part of sewing well, it's not as fun as being at the machine but it's so worth it in the end!

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  2. I do clip everytime i stitch. I am fond of clippers and own 3 as of now as they seam to lose out on sharpness, may i handle them that way...

    but i need to do one more thing after that ... pressing...i press before i start cutting and then may be after cutting, but next press is mostly after outfit is completed unless it requires special care, like hem or neck facing.

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  3. That is exactly my sewing method! I have two pairs of 'snips', as they are called here in Oz. One pair sits beside my machine, and the other in my sewing box for when I'm hand stitching on the couch. Looks like a great book - perhaps it will be my injury-time reading

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  4. I started doing this, after I got spoiled at fashion school with the machines that had automatic thread trimmers. it was so nice not to have to clip all the threads at the end, and then it occurred to me that I COULD do the same thing just with little clippers. Did take me a long time to think of it though! There is always something very tedious and somewhat depressing about leaving it all to the end.

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  5. That's how I do it too -- otherwise the loose threads start to overwhelm me. And I have to press as I go, partly because it shapes the garment but also because once I get into intersecting seams I can't remember what I've pressed and what I haven't pressed, and then the seam allowances start piling up and creating bulk...

    I also keep a pair of needle-point tweezers in the same compartment as my seam ripper to pull out any stray threads remaining after I unpick a seam. It's as satisfying as eyebrow plucking and removes all traces of my mistakes.

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  6. I am kind of new to sewing and I clip and press sporadically...so this is great advice for me to grow into a habit...now all I need is a room large enough to house my sewing machine AND an ironing board. Right now I have to run downstairs each time I need to press. I guess I should look at it as exercise.

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  7. Almost. I sew- press- clip. Stray threads drive me crazy!

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  8. I bought a pair of clippers on clearance a few months ago and I love them! I love that you can use them without putting your fingers in the holes, it's so much faster! I iron everything pretty much obsessively... I just don't think it ever looks nice if seams aren't pressed right away!

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  9. Yeah I do this. Keep things neat and tidy and you don't have a bunch of loose thread hanging of the garment when your done.

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  10. I SEW,PRESS,CLIP about 90% of the time. I never clip basting threads (since they're easier to remove that way), but sometime I end up not removing the basing because it gets hidden in other seams, and then I need to clip them afterward.

    Though even with clipping, I'll end up with treads hanging off of me - the loose ones I just clipped seem to stick!

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  11. Hmm. I sew and clip. Pressing...not so much. I've heard people say over and over how much nicer a pressed garment looks, but honestly, I've never seen a difference. Maybe I just can't iron. :P

    Sophie
    filasewphie.blogspot.com

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  12. My Mum taught me to get rid of all threads as soon as I finished sewing a seam but with the same material scissors she used to cut. Which is so much harder and time consuming than using clippers. I didn't start using them until our family friends put together a sewing kit for me for my 21st. I would never go back. They are the best things in the world for quick and efficient seaming!

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  13. In quilting, I press each seam twice - first to "set" the stitches, then to put the seam allowance in the direction I want it to lay. This makes a nice flat seam.

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  14. I clip after every seam, too. Maybe that's why my little Ginghers are my favorite scissors?

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  15. Lol! It's so great to read things and realise how different we all sew. My mom taught me that to sew I needed two pairs of scissors; a big pair for cutting fabric and a small pair for clipping threads. The smaller pair of course lives next to the sewing machine. It never even occured to me that clippers are optional! =)

    However, pressing efter each seam doesn't seem to be very good for the enviroment - esp with my sewing-pace. The iron would be hot for hours, draining so much electricity. I suppose it works if one pins everything, and then sew all the seams in one go, but I need to pin, sew, pin, sew, try it on, re-pin... etc. Not very enviromental-friendly to keep the iron hot during all that! But then, I'm very slow =)

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  16. Mostly. I have one machine that pulls threads to the back and then clips them and other machines that don't. I also don't press after each seam until I know it's a final seam. But I do clip and press all seams along the way at some point.

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  17. LOL...I didn't know there was any other way to do it!! My grandma taught me to sew when I was a kid, and the tiny scissors she used to clip threads were some of my favorite tools. She had some that looked like a bird, and some that folded up, some that looked like they came out of a dr's office. I can't get used to using the little thread snips now because I want my tiny scissors!

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  18. Yeah, if I don't clip as I go, I end up with big bird's nests of thread that get caught in subsequent seams. Not that that means I always do clip (I mean, always at the end, but sometimes I forget to go back and clip the beginning of the seam), but I try.

    As for pressing, I can't even believe there are people out there who don't press every seam as they go. Sorry, but you just have to! You HAVE to, people!! It's one of the most important things. *sigh* I usually let a few seams build up though (until I get to a point where I have to do an intersecting seam) so I'm not quite so back and forth to the iron.

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  19. My Mum taught me that way too... sew, clip... she never was good at the pressing and I guess I fall down there too.

    3 pairs plus one my Mum used to say... one for only fabric, one for only patterns, zig zag shears (I didn't like calling them pinking shears - hers weren't pink! I was 9.) and clippers. Done. :)

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  20. My 4H sewing instructor taught me to do it that way (when I was 12) so I didn't know that there was any other way to do it! I don't always press my muslins, but pressing every seam of the final garment definitely makes it look more professional. Not that you need to worry about that since your clothing is so amazing!! I have been sewing on and off for 18 years, but I still can't accomplish a fit like you do. Thank you for passing along all of your tips and tricks!

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  21. Original Mischief (who named you?!) has it right - you have to press each seam before it gets sewn over by another. So, assuming you have your fitting issues worked out - sew in batches! For a jacket , for instance, sew the princess seams, front and back, side seams, shoulder seams, AND the sleeve seams, AND the collar edges, AND any tabs or flaps, AND sew the front facings to the back neck facing. Anything else you can think of that doesn't impinge on anything else? No - go and press that lot. Then back to the sewing machine to do as much as you can before you get to the point of having to cross a new seam, and so on.
    When I'm costuming under time pressure, I always work this way.

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  22. My method is; sew, clip, press, rip out, press, sew again, clip, press, maybe rip out again, wash, rinse, repeat. I don't know if I'm a perfectionist or just a mistake prone seamstress.

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  23. I started to clip after sewing because if I didn't the tails would get caught in the feed dogs the next time I went to sew a seam. I do prefer the finished garment when I press as I go but usually the ironing board and the sewing machine are on two different floors.

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  24. Thread clippers are my absolute favorite sewing notion. I always have a pair next to me when I sew. As for pressing, I usually turn the iron on when I stat sewing, or at least one step before pressing is needed (in time to let the iron heat), but I still find ironing annoying.

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  25. My machine has a threadcutter, which pulls the both threads to to the bottom layer. It leaves just under an inch of thread. The thread cutter doesn't take care of the threads from the beginning of the seams. I try to snip threads at the sewing machine after I finish the seam, but I don't always. I definitely snip when I press, which I do after I finish each seam. I have three thread snips: two in my sewing area. I keep the third one at work just in case.... Snipping threads with dressmaker's shears (or office scissors!) is just unwieldy.

    Rose in SV

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  26. I clip threads as I go because doing it all at once at the end makes me testy. And I don't like to find stray threads hanging in my armpits.

    For the most part I also press as I go. I quilt and that routine has become ingrained.

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  27. I cut the threads as I go, using the thread cutter on the corner of my machine (a Husqvarna). I press as I go too.

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  28. I cut threads as I go too, only because I'm Type A enough that they bother me being all floppy and over the place when I'm trying to iron.

    ~Kelli @ Smidgens

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  29. I'm happy to say that I always sew, and then clip loose threads. It slows me down so I can think about each seam, rather than the whole product. However, and it;s a big however, I don't always press each seam. To do so would look like this:

    sew, clip, get up, trip over young dog by heater vent, turn on stair light, walk downstairs, trip over deaf dog at bottom of stairs, go to kitchen, press, tell dogs there are no snacks right now, go back upstairs, tell both dogs there will be no walk, sit down, sew next seam.

    I will finger press if I can get away with it.

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  30. I clip threads about 80% of the time and will now aim for more! I am obsessive about pressing -- it makes SUCH a difference. I try to sew in batches, though -- several seams at the machine, then over to the iron, etc etc.

    And like Rachael, more often then not there's a "rip out seam and curse" step in there!

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  31. Hmm, I guess I subscribe to this, just not as rigorously. I've made it a habit to clip threads when I'm done with a seam - though not with separate scissors. I like how it keeps the garment looking cleaner, and then there is less to do at the finishing end of making the garment.

    However, I usually sew as much as I can before I hit the ironing table. That *does* feel like a major interruption - to get up for every single seam I sew? I prefer to sew until I start hitting intersecting seams, and then I'll iron so the intersecting seams are all nice and flat.

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  32. When I attended Collegiate High School mumble years ago, the wonderful, perfectionist Home Ec teacher Mrs Lowry Walsh impressed upon us "You always sew with your iron" and I have always done so in tribute to her and her teaching.

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  33. I SEW, PRESS, CLIP too! Wow it's nice to hear that I'm doing something right. I hate loose threads and I found the greatest tip in Threads. I keep and empty kleenex box next to my machine. As I clip threads I just drop them in the box. After a few garments I empty the box and get ready to fill it again. It's great! I never have thread pieces on the floor and it's a good place for broken needles and bent pins too.

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  34. I was also taught this method in 4-H. I think I was 9?

    When I was younger I used the thread cutter built into the back of my presser foot bar, but that can pull on the seam.

    Now I use small embroidery snips that hang out on a magnet on my machine.

    I sew standing up on a tall table and my iron is right behind me so I can sew, clip, turn around and iron.

    Other things I was taught in 4-H were to trace patterns and finish seams with a zigzag stitch. No overcast on the basic machine we had on the farm.

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  35. It's always been SEW, PRESS for me. I saved the clipping to the end and invariably missed most of the hanging threads. I'll have to add the CLIP to my routine.

    PS: I have that book and I think it's great! You'll enjoy it.

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  36. I always have a pair of non-fabric scissors with me by the sewing machine (and a pin cushion, for removing pins while sewing) for snipping threads. I find that it's really annoying to have little bits of thread hanging off the seams, so I snip right after I sew. Then I go straight to the iron to press the seam open.

    I also have a pair of scissors (general utility) and a large tapestry needle by the serger so I can clean up stray threads while serging as I go along.

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  37. I keep a pair of small nippers on a ribbon around my neck while I'm sewing. It's the best! They are always accessible. I use a soft vintage velvet ribbon, so that it doesn't irritate my neck, since the nippers are a bit heavy. It even looks cute, and putting on my nipper-necklace makes me feel like, ok, time to sew!

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  38. I'm sure I've said it before, but I'm absolutely horrified by the number of people who don't press their seams as they go. If you are sewing correctly, you should be spending more time at your ironing board than you are at your sewing machine. Even before I knew how to sew, my mom impressed upon me the importance of pressing as you go. No, pressing is not fun; I hate it. But as far as I'm concerned it is the number one thing that separates "handmade" from "homemade."

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  39. Wow! It is really great to learn that I am doing something "right" according to the experts! I thought that my neurotic clipping of threads and pressing of seams was just... well... neurotic.

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  40. yes, i always sew, clip, and press. in fact it was drilled into me in clothing construction classes.

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  41. thanks for this post... I often don´t clip my threads until the end...and then I get insane and tired trying to find them all. I will try to build this rhythm into my routine.

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  42. I've always done this... I was taught by my grandma and wouldn't really do it any other way. I keep my snips "tied" to my knee lift with a long piece of thread so they don't walk away. I've also recently started the double press (i.e., press the seam flat to "set" the stitches, then press open).

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  43. I also (almost) always clip my threads. They annoy me, if they hang around and get in the way.
    Pressing is something I really dislike in general. I tend to get around doing it as often as possible. But not when it comes to sewing. There I'm a good girl and iron each and every seam. It just makes sewing so much easier and the finished pieces look so much nicer.
    But for energy issues and a streamlined work flow I use a method like the one suggested by cherry.

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  44. Add another person to the SEW CLIP PRESS PRESS team. I sew a lot with cotton and I'm also a member of the steam club.

    I definitely see the difference....

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  45. Thread clips are the BEST, you won't know how you lived without them. They're the best thing for notching curves, because they're so short you won't accidentally cut through your seam.

    I have to say, my method is sew, clip, overlock (serge), press and it works for me.

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  46. Pam from South AustraliaMay 17, 2010 at 6:03 PM

    Wow. There's a name for that? I have been doing that automatically for years. So much so, that I now have a Janome 6600P that will clip the threads for you, but my routine is so ingrained that I have Sewn/Clipped before I remember to push the button. Oh well.....

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  47. Yes I have always done sew clip and press. I'd love this book too, nice to know it is well worth it.

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  48. This is the way my mother taught me and the way I do it, it's easier and so much neater to clip them straight-away.

    As for pressing Cherry I follow the same pressing method as you, my sewing time is limited at the moment as my goal is always get as much done as possible, without being sloppy or making mistakes.

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  49. I don't do this.. but I should. It's a little awkward trimming my thread tails with my big scissors, or wrapping them around the built-in thread trimmer on my machine - it still leaves a bit of thread hanging that I'm likely to forget!
    I do however press as I go. So I suppose my rhythm is Pin, Sew, Press, repeat! (And clip any hanging threads at the end..)

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  50. Hi Gertie.
    I do SEW, CLIP, PRESS. I went to a trade school for high school and majored in sewing. I was taught that very early on.
    I have a question about the book. I have been eyeing it for some time now and hesitate spending that much money. I have been sewing for over 30 years and was wondering if it is a beginner sewing book? Does it have more advanced techniques in it? I wish my library had it. I am anxious to have a look at it.
    Kathi G

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  51. Kathi G, I don't think the book is beginner-focused, i.e. I don't think you could teach yourself to sew from it. I imagine you would find it worth the money - there's an entire chapter on how to stabilize seams, like the various types of tape you can use and how to apply them. That type of info is so hard to find!

    I got mine used for $60, and I've seen it for that price used on textbooks.com.

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  52. Mine's more like SEW, CLIP, SEW, CLIP, SEW, CLIP, PRESS. I sew as many seams as possible before I go to the iron. Partly because of my iron. When it's on the lights dim and the sewing machines don't always sew at a steady speed. (Hmmm, the house is almost 100 years, think I should look into my electrical???) So I don't like to have the machines and the iron on at the same time ;)

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  53. Gertie, you are such a TEASE. I'm DYING to see the Hendricks homage dress.

    I love this post though, I'm so intrigued by your comment on stabilizers my mission is now to find this book and read it.

    I do do the SEW, CLIP, routine, right from my very first time sewing. I have my thread clipping scissors (which are small) tied on a very pretty ribbon. I wear it around my neck while I sew so I don't have to search for it every 5 seconds.

    I find that putting the ribbon over my head is really centering. When I'm wearing the scissors, I'M SEWING and I don't let myself get distracted with anything else. I think my kids are even learning not to bother me when I have the scissors on, it's a great visual reminder. When I take them off, it's like "I'm done sewing now," and I can move on to other things.

    Like one commenter above, I also sew as many seams as possible before I get up to go to the iron, which is always in another room. I feel guilty about it though, and someday, I'll have the iron and the machine in the same room. The unpressed seams nag me until I can press them.

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  54. I do clip as I go. I have a pair of thread snips that always follow me around. I like to keep it neat and hunting down threads at the end is so tedious. As for the pressing, I do tend to press as I go especially for garments. I have my iron right next to my sewing machine, so I just roll my chair over to press.

    My grandmother, on the other hand, leaves all her thread clipping to the end. I think she got used to this while working in sewing factories where they had one person that would clip all the threads once the garment was done.

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  55. SEW, CLIP, PRESS was ingrained in me from the time I started sewing as a preschooler, seriously. I do also sew in batches (without crossing seams). My clippers sit next to my machine and my ironing board sits at a right angle to my table so I just swing my chair around from machine to iron.

    Funny thing about ironing, I love to press and primp my cloth as I construct, making sure each seam is just so. But when the project's done, my poor little garment is on its own! I HATE ironing laundry!

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  56. The 'sew, clip, press' method is something that my mother taught me when I first learnt to sew. However, I was never as diligent as her & so for many years I was very lax in this regard. I was really good at the sew part & pretty terrible at the other two. Learning to clip off loose threads as I went developed out of frustration more than anything else. One day I was wearing a dress for the fifth or sixth time & got REALLY annoyed that I was STILL finding loose threads. Finally the pressing... I'm still not to good at this bit, it's really only as I've started to attempt more complex tasks like corsetry that I've begun to recognise the importance of it.

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  57. @Cherry My fiancee - he tells me I'm full of mischief.

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  58. I am similar to Pattern Junkie, I always clip and I always press, and I sew in batches, ie: everything that needs sewing, then everything that needs overlocking (Serging), then back to the ironing board for pressing and pinning up the next bit.
    It means I start tackling the sleeves and bodice and skirt all at the same time and I do find it quick. I got the idea from a pattern which had some tips and tricks in it, and called it "consolidated sewing"

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  59. Yes-I was taught early on that it's all in the details. And actually if you press well, your finished garment looks better than store bought garments!

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  60. I also clip as I go, in part because when I remove the work at the end of a seam, I can't stand the idea of hacking it off and leaving thread tails - it feels like wasted thread and effort (to clip twice). I trim the end threads as close as possible straight from the machine, and since I'm in there with clippers already, I do the same to the start of the seam.

    Pressing is another matter. I rarely have the iron set up near my machine ("hey, you're blocking the TV!"), so I play a little game with myself where I sew as many seams as possible before pressing. Sometimes I push it too far and end up "finger pressing" an intersection, and I pay for it later. Must develop pressing discipline!

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  61. Hello Miss Gertie!
    I'm subscribed to your RSS so never have a chance to comment, so i traipsed over here to tell you how lovely you and your blog are!
    My gram taught me to sew and gave me a bunch of patterns, and your photos and adventures make my hand-sewn wardrobe dream believable!
    thanks for sharing xo-cait

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  62. Yep - I sew and clip (both ends of the seam) and when I have a few seams done, I press.

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  63. (solitary is a bad crafter.)

    I sew, I yell at the machine,I sew a bit more, I rip out a seam, I yell at myself my screwing up, I have to rethread the machine for the umpteenth time, I drop my scissors, I push the cats off the desk, I sew a seam, I remember to cut the end but forget to cut the beginning, I go to the bathroom, I get a drink, I sew some more...very hit and miss.

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  64. I always clip my threads as I go. I would hate to have to go around clipping lots of loose threads at the end of the project. I also always press as I go.

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  65. Oh! shame... I do clip my threads right away, like when they're an inch from where they've been sewed. I'm horrifically cheap, and about stupid things, and hate to waste thread.

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  66. This book was the BEST purchase I ever made! I highly recommend it for all dressmakers, whether you're a beginner or advanced. Worth every penny!

    I am a strong supporter of the SEW, CLIP, PRESS method. I've always clipped my threads, but only in the past year or two have I started pressing as I sew. It makes a huge difference!

    Now, I always press my seams, but I rarely drag out the full-size ironing board. Instead, I have a traveling-size board permanently set up near my sewing machine. It's small enough to not take up much space, yet big enough for pressing most seams, and all I have to do is swivel in my chair to use it. My iron heats up rapidly, so I leave it off until I need it. In about 30 seconds it's hot and ready to start pressing.

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  67. Am I really the only one who uses a small bit of scrap fabric to hold thread ends on my machine? I stitch a seam, backstitch at the end, then run a few stitches until my project is out from under the foot, then insert the scrap cloth and run a few more stitches to hold it. For my next seam, just repeat the process backwards, starting from the scrap fabric. Saves on thread, and saves on time because I don't have to search and destroy all the long thread ends.

    I'm not the only one who does this, right? Right?

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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