The big secret to learning to sew corners, same as learning to sew straight lines - practice, practice, practice! Following on from learning to sew straight lines, these exercises are all practiced on your unthreaded machine and a piece of paper, now with corners ruled on it. By 'sewing' corners on paper first, you:
- learn how to control your machine with the pedal
- learn how to guide your 'fabric' in relation to your needle
- build your sewing confidence, you've nothing to lose - it's only paper!
I cannot stress enough the benefits of practicing on these paper printouts, do it for a couple of days at least until you see your accuracy improve, believe me, you will end up wasting less fabric and making fewer mistakes in your projects!
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Master Your Machine
Why is a Perfect Corner Important in Sewing?
In sewing 'corners' pop up all over the place. You will see them at the points of shirt collars, on cuff plackets on hems at the split in a skirt, on cushion covers and the corners of bags, on the edges of pockets and in top stitching. A corner is a visible 'full stop', it can be in a very noticeable place - such as on a garment collar - and can give a glaring indication of your level of sewing! Think of a blouse with a beautifully balanced collar, sharp points and both sides matching, a lovely, crisp finish. Now think of the same blouse, one collar with a point, the other with a rounded, uneven tip, a shabby finish to a project. There is no need for this to happen to you! By practicing your sewing and learning the simple sewing technique of 'pivoting' you will have perfect corners every time and in every project.
Once you have mastered sewing corners, adding this skill to your mastery of sewing straight lines, will give all of your projects a much more professional look and feel to them. As with learning to sew straight lines, your need to unpick will continue to reduce and you will complete projects with fewer errors and fewer frustrations!
How to Sew The Perfect Corner.
In exactly the same way you practiced sewing straight lines in the your lesson, the aim is to master the technique on paper first before you hit the fabric. Master corners now before you start working with fabric, and your sewing journey will be all the better for it. Corners, by their very nature, occur at the corner and edges of fabric! Mastering them on paper again reduces your need to unpick but also stops any potential damage that unpicking near to the edge of your fabric may cause.
No secret anymore….practice on paper first!
Practicing without the stresses of thread or fabric by sewing on paper frees you up to concentrate on your corners and the task at hand. As fashion students we would practice for days, perfecting our sewing accuracy, understanding the ‘feel’ of our machines and building our confidence. No need for any gadgets or gimmicks, build your skill and learn the craft.
The practice sheets grow in difficulty, it helps to master each in order, but tackle them however you like! The main thing is to practice, practice, practice!
Tips for success:
• Do NOT watch the needle! The needle movement initially can be distracting - look away!
• Watch the edge of your presser foot and use it to guide your paper. When sewing seams, you can watch the presser foot or the guidelines on the plate in relation to the edge and line you are sewing
• Note where the line is in relation to the edge of the foot to ensure your needle consistently stays on the line
• Place your hands lightly on the paper to guide it, the feed dogs on your machine will do the work of moving the paper forward, do NOT pull or push the paper. You can test this on a blank sheet, simply sew without touching the paper and you will see your machine move the paper forward, pulling or pushing can distort your stitching and should be avoided
• Turn the paper around for best fit on your machine, this is simply a paper exercise, make it as easy for yourself
• Start sewing slowly and as confidence grows, go back and try the same exercises at a higher speed
How to Accurately Stop & Start a Line of Stitches.
Each sewing line has a start and end point. Both are very important, and it is part of our dressmaking sewing skills to accurately place our needles at these start and end points to ensure every sewn line is correct in length and position.
We cheat a bit at this! Rather than trying to gauge where to start, it helps to ‘hand crank’ the needle into the start position. This is a great term, hailing from the pre-electricity days, not that long ago, when sewing machines were indeed powered by the dressmaker's hand. On modern machines, this technique is still valuable, and machines continue to have a ‘wheel’ on the side which enables you to manually lower the needle accurately into position.
For each of the sewing practice lessons in this guide:
Print a couple of copies of each sewing practice sheet – no printer, no worries! – use lined notebook paper or draw on plain paper, roughly copying each exercise sheet
Ensure your machine is not threaded – top or bottom
Set the stitch to straight and stitch length mid-way, around 3-4, depending on the machine
Raise your machine presser foot and place the practice sheet so that most of the paper is to the left – as you would with fabric
Lower the presser foot and hand crank – turn the wheel – the needle down into position at the start of the line. You can raise the foot and move the sheet as often as you need to get the correct position for your needle
Once the presser foot is down, start to sew! Go at whatever speed suits you, part of this practicing is to help you with the foot control of your pedal and the speed of your machine
At the end of each line, practice slowing your machine and trying to stop with the needle in the paper precisely at the end point. To help with this initially stop 1-2cms before the end of the line and hand crank the needle to the end point but the aim here is to practice and build your accuracy so you can sew to the end, be brave, it’s only paper!
To finish, hand crank your needle out of the paper to the highest point, lift the presser foot, slide out your page and hold your paper up to the light to see your work. And repeat!
How to Pivot & Sew a Perfect Corner
A corner is simply where two lines meet, how hard can it be?! Sewing a corner is not difficult, however, sewing a neat one can be! A professionally sewn corner really does make all the difference to a finished garment, think of a beautifully, crisp point on a shirt collar or a precisely topstitched patch pocket, the devil is indeed in the details.
There are a couple of methods for sewing and turning out corners, depending on the weight of your fabric. The treatment varies from a lightweight cotton shirt to a heavy wool coat. For the purposes of these exercises, we will continue to focus on the accuracy of the sewing line and ensuring an accurate corner. This method applies to light and medium weight fabrics.
In sewing, to pivot means to leave your needle lowered in the fabric, so the stop and start points of the two meeting lines are the same. This is how you neatly sew a corner. Stop with the needle lowered in the fabric, you then raise the foot, and, with the needle acting as your turning point (pivot), you can then turn the fabric to the new desired position. The foot is then lowered and sewing can restart along the new sewing line. This ensures a smooth, unbroken corner as your needle does not stop in one place and start somewhere different, instead, you have a continuous, unbroken stitch line. The pivoting technique can also be applied to sharp curves, pivoting a small amount multiple times to keep the needle accurately on the curve.
Corner Practice Exercise Summary:
Pick your practice sheet, print out or draw a couple of copies, leave your machine unthreaded
As before, hand crank your needle accurately into the start position and sew along to a corner point, stop sewing with the needle down in the paper right at the point of the corner – hand crank the needle into position if necessary for accuracy
Tough love - you should now be able to accurately slow your sewing and stop with your needle down at the end of a line, if not, go back and practice your straight lines!
Leaving your needle down in the paper, raise the foot, and turn - pivot - the paper so it aligns with the next stitch line
Lower the foot and start sewing again to the next corner or end point
Raise your needle out of the paper and hold your page up to the light to see your wonderful sewing!
Repeat, repeat, repeat!
What is a Sewing Sample Library?
At the Dressmaker’s Apprentice, we believe that making your own sewing sample library is the best way for you to both learn and improve your sewing techniques. As a fashion student way back in the ’90s, part of our degree course was weekly lessons where we worked purely on sewing processes and sewing our reference samples. From patch pockets to zip flies, piped seams to welt pockets, every technique you can imagine, we practiced and practiced, saving our attempts in our own personal sample reference libraries. I still have mine and still refer to it!
This approach is invaluable when it comes to dressmaking and design. You do not want your creativity or confidence to be limited by fear of a process. Too often I see creative people who would love to make a certain garment, stopped in their tracks because they are terrified by the thought of sewing a zip!
By learning and perfecting each process on its own, as you are doing here with your sewing, your dressmaking will have no limits! By practicing each technique, traditionally on calico, which we provide, the fear of destroying the beautiful fabric you have been saving, simply disappears. As your knowledge grows, you can apply the different techniques you have perfected to your dressmaking projects. The fear will disappear! You only need to work through a lesson, practicing each process several times, to then be able to apply it to all your future projects, what could be better than that?!
At the Dressmaker’s Apprentice we prefer to think and aspire to haute couture, beautifully finished garments based on years of sewing tradition, rather than fast fashion and factory machine finish. These are all sewing processes any home dressmaker can learn and perfect on a simple machine or by hand with a needle and thread. By learning a variety of sewing processes rather than relying on expensive machinery and gimmicks, you will be able to sew wonderful garments, elevating simple tops and dresses simply by their construction and finish. By practicing and building your own sewing reference library, you will lift your skills from self-taught home dressmaker to professional level and beyond.
What Are You Going to Learn Next?
There is a wonderful world of sewing tradition to learn from and dip into. What are you going to treat yourself to next! We have a range of exciting lessons for you to explore, such as:
- Seams: how many different seams do you know? Do you understand notches, or how to remove bulk in a seam?
- Enclosed Seams: would you like the inside of your projects to look as beautiful as the outside, would you like to use your seams as design details?
- Seam Finishes: fed up with raw edges, master a range of hand and machine finishes giving your sewing a wonderful, couture finish.
- Marking Fabric: try out a range of marking tools, have fun experimenting and find out what suits you best!
- Zips: Banish the fear! This lesson lets you practice, practice, practice, lots of zips and calico provided! You will be sewing beautiful zips in no time at all.
Visit us at www.thedressmakersapprentice.com to see our current and upcoming, lesson packs in sewing and pattern drafting.
Follow us on Instagram and Pinterest for lots of sewing and design inspiration.
Even better, share your sewing practices and your own sewing sample reference libraries on our Facebook page or at #thedressmakersaprentice.
We would love to see your work, from wobbly lines to straight lines and beautiful curves. This is just the start of your journey, excited to see where you finish!
How The Dressmaker’s Apprentice Works
We at the Dressmaker’s Apprentice want nothing more than to remove your sewing frustrations and to share our expertise and love of sewing with you. To achieve this, we have carefully crafted sewing and pattern drafting lessons with everything you need for success, delivered directly to your door.
Want to learn how to insert a zip, or how to finish a seam beautifully. Unsure of how to move a dart or the best ways to mark different fabric types. Simply select the sewing process you wish to learn and have a complete lesson sent to you. Want to learn it all? No problem, each lesson builds on the next, in the same way the traditions of sewing have been taught for years.
What makes us unique, is our approach in helping you to build your own sample library and as part of this we provide you with an already worked sample of each process in your lesson! No more trying to see what is going on in a YouTube video or trying to understand a drawing in a pattern instruction. You will have a sample in your hand which you can look at from every angle and see exactly what it is you are working towards.
It’s a sewing lesson, but not as you know it!