10 Sewing Hacks Put to the Test
- Ana Sancho Rumeu
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time on Pinterest and I have seen many, many sewing hacks that look too good to be true (especially those in the 5-minute crafts videos), but I have never actually tested them. Shall we test a few and see if they actually work?
1. Thread a Needle by Rubbing It on the Thread
MIXED RESULTS. You have to rub it pretty hard on your hand to get it to work and it can fray your thread; also, for that reason, it only works with regular sewing thread or thinner. I tried it with top-stitching thread and it frays it and only threads one of the strands. It also seems to depend on the needle, if it is rigid with a larger eye it works, but with a regular one it doesn’t.
2. Rubber Bands to Stop the Machine Foot from Sliding
FAIL. I tried wide bands, narrow bands, a few, a lot, straight, criss-crossing… None of them work well. If you apply a lot of pressure straight from above, sure, it stays in place; but for light pressure which is what you need most of the time (especially when you’re trying to find the pedal with your foot without looking), it does nothing.
Two thicker and wider bands seem to work a little better, but the pedal still slides, just a little slower.
3. Using Sponges Instead of Quilting Gloves
FAIL. I haven’t actually used quilting gloves, but I find the sponges make it much more difficult to keep the sandwich taut as I quilt. I think it’s possible that the sponges give me some more grip, but my thumbs are too high to allow me to “spread out” the quilt around the needle.
4. Rubber-banded Pencils to Add Seam Allowances
MIXED RESULTS. If you sew patterns from magazines or some vintage patterns, you need to add your own seam allowance, which is time consuming, since you have to trace the pattern first, and then add the seam allowance carefully to make sure it is even all around. One tip that I have seen often is to rubber band two pencils together to trace the pattern and the seam allowance at the same time.
Two pencils gave me a 7mm or 0.27” (somewhere between ¼” and 5/16”) seam allowance, which is way too narrow for anything other than knits. It was also tricky to go over curves as I can’t hold two pencils as easily as I hold one. I also had a hard time keeping both pencils on the paper so at some points I only got one line. Part of the problem may be that I am left handed, though.
3 pencils, on the other hand, gave me a perfect ⅝” seam allowance, but they were also awkward to hold. However, it worked really well on straight lines where I could use a ruler.
5. Use a Fork to Make Pleats
SUCCESS. It actually makes pleats very simple! The fork tines need to be parallel or almost parallel and it takes a little practice to figure out the movement, but all in all it works well. You could also use this trick just for pinning the pleats instead of running them through the machine as you make them.
6. Make Pipe Cleaner Brushes to Clean your Sewing Machine
SUCCESS. This one really surprised me, it seemed so silly! You make a small loop with a pipe cleaner and insert it in a drinking straw and then use the resulting mini brush to get into the nooks and crannies of your machine. I didn’t think it would be any different from cleaning it with the little brushes that come with the machine, but it actually gets into narrower spots and gets the lint out very well. I’m not sure that it doesn’t create lint from its own fuzz, though.
7. Use a Mug to Hold a Thread Cone
MIXED RESULTS. It depends on the way your machine is designed, for some designs the thread needs to come from above the machine (as a thread cone holder does) or the thread will get tangled with the machine parts or break due to friction. But if your machine’s thread path allows it, it does work well, especially for speed sewing.
8. Make Even Blanket Stitch
SUCCESS. It works but you need to figure out how you hold your fabric and mark your finger accordingly. Most pictures show the lines on the thumb being held under the stitches… well, I can’t hold my thumb there without poking it, and using the marks above the stitching is a little harder. But all in all, it does help create more even stitches than without marking your fabric which would be incredibly tedious.
9. Straw and Skewer Loop Turning
SUCCESS. Very much a success! This one was so easy and it worked so well on the first try! You simply sew shut one end of your loop, insert a straw in it and use the blunt end of a wooden skewer to push the closed end into the straw. It takes seconds! The only problem would be if your tube is too narrow to fit the straw, but for that we have our next tip!
10. Long Thread Loop Turning
SUCCESS. This one also works really well and it doesn’t require any special tools. For this turning trick you sew your loop closed like you normally would, but when you get to the end you don’t cut the thread; instead, you keep pulling both the needle and bobbin threads until they are longer than the tube of fabric. Then you thread them through a needle and push it, blunt end first, through the loop, and keep pulling once you come out the other end.