It very quickly becomes apparent that the class 40 Techniques That Every Sewer Should Know is aimed at beginner sewers. It is a great starter class, not showing you how to sew but rather the construction techniques and tools that you will need to give your garments the difference from looking pretty good to very professional.
The lesson titles are pretty self-explanatory; if you’re trying to perfect your corners, you will find information about sewing corners in Lesson 3 Curves and Corners.
Lesson 1 – Pressing Matters
You most likely know how to iron your material, right? Maybe not; it’s a step that many sewers tend to skip. Do you know the difference between “press as sewn” and “press open”? This lesson will teach you all the proper techniques of sewing to ensure that no raw edges mar your fabric surface.
Gail will show you how to use a tailor’s ham, a sleeve board, a point presser and a clapper. What do you do when you need to press a fabric with a particularly low melting point? Can you press curved seams, such as found at hips or bust areas? How do you press darts to make your seams appear completely flat whilst also conforming to the body’s curves?
Many of these techniques, once you know them, might seem like common sense, but do not be fooled. According to all the professionals, pressing your seams will make your garment appear professionally made.
Lesson 2 – Stitch Perfect
This lesson will show you all the techniques of stitching that you should have in your repertoire.
Use stay stitching to stop material for distorting in shape, which is particularly important areas such as necklines where stretching may occur to make a gaping neckline.
Under stitch material to stop the garment’s lining from poking out and being visible when being worn.
Nothing screams that a garment is home-made than wobbly top stitching. Any machine foot with a guide, such as a blind hem foot, can be used to get perfect top stitching. If you’re a novice to top stitching, match your thread to your fabric until you are more confident. Pick longer stitches when possible, 3.5mm and above, for top stitching.
Elastic thread! This is great for shirring, if you can find it. Gail’s examples of sun-dresses really make me want to source some just to try it.
You can use fusible thread to help you create rolled hems, for example. This would be quite helpful if you don’t have access to a rolled hem foot – although I highly suggest a rolled hem foot.
Lesson 3 – Curves and Corners
When sewing on a curve, try to straighten it out first, just don’t pull on it! To help the curved fabric settle well when sewing, lower your needle, lift your foot and allow the fabric to relax. It should settle more on its natural curve, and also be easier to sew.
Sewing fabric on a curve isn’t your miracle, it still needs to be graded in order to allow the fabric to curve. Clip close to your stitching line, alternating between top and bottom seam allowances.
If you’re a bit concerned about sewing curves, such as around the bust or shoulder, then this lesson will show you some handy little steps like clipping, pinning and pressing to make your results the best they can be.
Lesson 4 – Interfacing Tips
Your different types of interfacing:
- Knits, and
Gail advises you to read the interfacing instructions when you purchase. However not once, ever, have I been given access to documentation. Perhaps its location-based; I purchase most of my fabric from Souk Al-Mubarakiya in Kuwait, a very bustling marketplace where all the fabric stores will just have rolls of fabric and interfacing piled ceiling high. Many of the fabrics don’t have a brand necessarily associated with them, or would be difficult to track down (especially since I have no clue how to ask that information in Arabic!). Has anyone else ever been given an instruction sheet for their interfacing?
Don’t forget that fusible interfacing often requires steam to be activated. If your old interfacing is starting to peel away, consider re-ironing it with a bit of steam, often that will do the trick.
Lesson 5 – Beautiful Bindings
If you don’t cut your binding on the bias, it just won’t contort to the same edge as your fashion fabric and lie flat. Gail gives an excellent example of this in the lesson. If you don’t know how to find a bias grain line, its ok as Gail will show you how.
In my experience, depending upon the type of project you are doing, you can use pretty much any type of fabric cut on the bias. Common fabrics that are used are light to medium weight cotton, knits and silks.
It’s not as simple as determining your grain line and then cutting some strips. You will need to consider colour and pattern (will it match or be complimentary), the type of fabric and the width of your fabric. In general it is advisable to cut approximately 4 times the width that will be visible by the end.
If you have never sewn a binding before on your garments, Gail goes into quite a quite comprehensive tutorial.
Lesson 6 – Sleeves Made Simple
One of the most daunting tasks for many sewers is installing sleeves correctly. If you find yourself lost at how to sew a sleeve to a bodice, or just seem to regularly struggle, then this class will be helpful for you. Gail has two tutorials on how to sew sleeves: the first being 22 minutes long taking you step-by-step through the entire process of sewing a sleeve onto a shirt; the second is another 20 minute tutorial for sewing a sleeve to a jacket.
Lesson 7 – Getting Closure
In general for sewing a zipper, you should use a zipper foot; it will help you get a precise stitching line and correctly installed zipper. Honestly, trying to sew zippers without the zipper machine foot can be an absolute pain; I highly suggest you invest in a few specialty feet. Like Gail said (in the Beautiful Bindings lesson), just because a sewing machine foot is designed for zippers, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have other uses; the guide on the foot can be used for helping to sew binding and top stitching lines.
If you’re more of an intermediate to advanced sewer and wanting to learn how to improve your skills at sewing zippers and such, I suggest you take a look at Mastering Zipper Techniques class.
If you sewing buttons, its highly advisable to do a few test pieces before sewing your actual fashion fabric. Something as simple as stitch length can determine whether the button-hole is sewn successfully or not. And if you are like me, you always have to remind yourself whether the sewing machine will sew the button-hole towards me or away – I really don’t want my button-hole sewing off the edge of the fabric!
Again, if you’re not too comfortable sewing buttons, Gail takes you step by step through marking your fabric and then sewing the button-hole. As a bonus, Gail will even teach you how to create bound button holes, which are quite different from a standard buttonhole.
Do you want to make buttons that match your fashion fabric exactly? It can be hard to find buttons in the same colour… and what about material buttons? Gail does a great tutorial on self-covered buttons.
Lesson 8 – Bonus Sewing Small Circles and Curves
The bonus class is quite small, but can be helpful if you tend to sew small curves regularly. Essentially you need to lift your presser foot whilst your needle is down and pivot the material slightly.
A beginner will really benefit from the comprehensive step-by-step tutorials. Not only are the techniques shown, but reasons are given and examples are shown as to why they are done. For example, why use a bias strip to bind edges? It conforms better to the curves of the fabric.
Some examples are shown on garments that aren’t appropriate for demonstrations, for example the stitching is done in the same colour as the material, making it impossible for the audience to see what is actually being spoken about.
- Metric conversion chart on a PDF, which comes with every Craftsy class.
- A PDF of class materials, which is essentially a summary of what tools are shown in the lessons.
When I first saw 40 Techniques That Every Sewer Should Know, I thought that the class might teach some really cool tips and techniques that would really make the difference in my sewing. To say, I was a bit disappointed. I honestly didn’t count the number of techniques. They didn’t number each technique as Gail went through them, more so just showed every possible example for the topic; it’d be hard to determine what was a technique and what was a tip.
I think this class is perfect for beginners, teaching vital skills such as how to press your material. I believe the class was designed specifically for a beginner sewer in mind. In fact, this class compliments other beginner classes such as Bag Making Basics: Drawstring and Bucket Bag, Bag Making Basics: Reversible Tote and Zipper Bag, Sewing Machine Feet A to Z, and Sewing Machine 911 (read the review).
Whilst an intermediate sewer may be able to benefit from a few of the techniques, many of the topics covered – such as top stitching – should probably already be in your repertoire and perhaps just need some practice. To be honest I wouldn’t recommend this class for advanced sewers at all.