50 Tips to Sew Smart and Sew Kind by Nancy Zieman

Team NZP’s 50 Tips to Sew Smart & Sew Kind Inspired by Our Founder Nancy Zieman

50 Tips to Sew Smart and Sew Kind by Nancy Zieman

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Nancy Zieman on the Set of the Sewing With Nancy Television Show at PBS Wisconsin in Madison

While cleaning a closet in 2011, our founder Nancy Zieman ran across a copy of Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. (Published ’91). Needing a break from the cleaning task, Nancy read the little book cover to cover. The helpful hints caused Nancy to pause at one of her favorite tips, #368—Remember no one makes it alone. Have a grateful heart and be quick to acknowledge those who help you out. Reading the book gave Nancy the idea to create the following list of 50 Tips for Sewing and Quilting Enthusiasts.

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Team NZPs 50 Tips to Sew Smart Sew Kind Inspired by Our Founder Nancy Zieman


50 Tips to Sew Smart & Sew Kind by Nancy Zieman

  1. When you receive a compliment on something you’ve sewn, quilted, or embroidered, graciously say, “Thank you.” Please don’t point out the flaw that only you can find.
  2. Support your local sewing and quilting stores.
  3. Teach your kids or grandkids to sew on a button and fix a hem. Give them a small sewing kit when they leave  home for college or the next chapter of their life.
  4. Label your best sewing scissors  “For fabric cutting only.” Or, keep it in a box in the freezer with the label, “Chicken Livers.” (This hint is attributed to Nancy Harp, Aurora, MN.)
  5. Store unfinished projects in clear, plastic bins that have snap-on covers. All pieces will stay together as to not lose sight of what’s inside.
  6. Give a small sewing kit to a member of a wedding party: thread (white, black, or neutral, and the color of the attendant’s attire), needles, scissors, and perhaps double sided basting tape or fabric glue.
  7. Keep a small sewing repair kit in the glove box of your car.
  8. Join a guild or sewing group, endless possibilities for inspiration and friendship.
  9. Make and donate something every year to a charitable organization. The gift is in the giving. Use the best fabric that your budget affords. The project made may be the only made-with-love gift that someone receives in his/her life. (later in 2011, Nancy created QuiltToGive.com).
  10. Use a calendar to quickly keep track of projects sewn or quilted in a year. Pin a swatch of fabric at the date completed along with a few notes. Amaze yourself with what has been accomplished in a year.
  11. Start a new sewing or quilting project by cleaning/oiling your machine and changing the needle. An ounce of prevention…
  12. Donate aged fabric to a charitable sewing group. Unused fabric of five or more years, likely will not be used. Feel good about cleaning out your fabric stash and the recipients will appreciate the donation.
  13. Listen to audio books or podcasts while sewing or quilting.
  14. Keep water-soluble stabilizer in a zip-type plastic bag to prevent it from drying out.
  15. Plug sewing machine(s), iron(s) and light into an electrical strip. When leaving your sewing area, just one switch to turn off and never wonder if the iron was turned off!
  16. A seam sealant like June Tailor’s Fray Block is a must to seal all serger thread tails or edges.
  17. To save time later, wind several bobbins with thread, before starting a project.
  18. Purchase good quality sewing and quilting thread, the results are worth it.
  19. Make it a habit to clip the corner of fabric that you’ve pre-washed. This demarcation is a valuable time saver!
  20. Schedule a sewing escape each year, such as an evening class, a 3-day event, or a quilt show, such as, The Great Wisconsin Quilt Show in Madison WI. Be inspired by creativity!
  21. Thank the person who taught you to sew and/or quilt.
  22. Cut elastic to the needed length after inserting it into a casing. It’s easier to handle and less elusive!
  23. When sewing or quilting, look for a way to improve the process.
  24. Write the pattern number or book reference of your project inside the hem or another inconspicuous area, using a permanent fabric-marking pen, for future reference.
  25. Add a label to every sewn-with-love project given away. Besides writing or stitching a name, add the date, and occasion.
  26. Not using purchased fabric right away? Label fabric with yardage, using an archive safe note and Wonder Clip. This will save time looking through your fabric stash, determining if you have enough yardage for the next project.
  27. Keep June Tailor’s Fabric Glue Stick or Clover’s Double Sided Basting Tape on hand. The glue works as a basting or tacking aid when positioning trim or “pinning” hems. The glue dries clear and will not gum-up your machine.
  28. Use Clover’s Wonder Clips as pin alternatives when working with thick fabrics or multilayers of fabric.
  29. Pattern Shape Weights hold pattern in place, you can also use can goods from the kitchen–for alternative pattern weights.
  30. Start sewing for the holidays early.
  31. If you garden as well as sew or quilt, use leftover crosswise quilt strips to tie tomato vines to a supportive post. The soft fabric doesn’t damage the vine.
  32. Enjoy the sewing process. It’s therapeutic!
  33. Keep a small empty container that once housed, for example, vitamins in your sewing area. Use it to dispose of worn-out needles.
  34. Position the ironing board away from the sewing machine. Getting up, walking, and stretching is important.
  35. Don’t hide your sewing machine in a closet. Assign a corner of a bedroom, great room, or office for easy access!
  36. For a raised cutting table, cut (or have someone cut) four, 6–8″ lengths of PVC pipe. Slide the pipes over the legs of a heavy-duty folding table. Or use bed risers.
  37. Read pattern or project instructions, start to finish, before beginning a project. (Sometimes we just “read” the illustrations and then read the instructions if the step looks confusing.) Have a good understanding of the entire process before you begin, will make the project easier.
  38. To mark a point where you need to stop stitching, insert two pins close together, or perhaps a Wonder Clip. It works just like a stop sign!
  39. A bar of soap with the paper covering intact is a pleasant-smelling pincushion substitute.
  40. If the sewing machine thread breaks, here are two tips that solve the problem 90% of the time: 1). Totally re-thread the machine, following manufactures guidelines. 2). If #1 doesn’t work, insert a new sewing machine needle–make sure you have the correct needle for the project.
  41. Attention Embroiderers: Use strips of Blue Painter’s Tape to position a project to the hooped stabilizer.
  42. When combining fabrics, the inclination is to choose all medium shades. Combining light, medium, and dark fabrics will give your project more eye-appeal.
  43. Use Sticky Notes to mark frequently used cutting lines on your quilting rulers.  These visual markings will improve your accuracy.
  44. Use a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth as a temporary design wall. Pin under a casing at one end of the tablecloth, thread a curtain rod through the casing, and hang the design wall with two small nails at each end of the rod.
  45. Not enough cupboard or drawer space? Use a cutlery carrier to store frequently used sewing notions.
  46. For knot-free hand sewing, run a threaded needle through a dryer sheet a few times. The anti-cling solution will ensure smooth hand sewing.
  47. Cut drinking straws in half and place over thread rack spool pins to increase the capacity.
  48. Give a start-to-sew kit to a friend. Include scissors, tape measure, pins, pincushion, seam ripper, and a coupon for a personalized sewing lesson!
  49. Keep a roll of paper toweling near the ironing board. When fusing web or interfacing, place sheets of the toweling on the ironing board. If the fusible sticks to the paper towels, simply toss!
  50. Count your blessings. Thank God for the gift of creating with your hands.
  51. Share your favorite sewing tips, in the comments below!

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  • Clovis
    December 23, 2023

    Keep a seam ripper by your machines.

  • brendalynne1
    December 24, 2023

    pass the ability to sew on to others. It does not have to be a family member

  • Corrine K. Schlomer
    December 29, 2023

    Sit down and sew for short periods of time (10, 20 or 30 minutes) and be amazed at what you can accomplish! Best advice I learned from Nancy Zieman!

  • Ann Hodgson
    April 16, 2024

    If you struggle to turn fabric sleeves right side you, you can make your own “easy-turner.” Cut a length of thin, smooth cord (unbreakable) longer than the typical sleeves you sew. Securely tie the ends of the cord to the twisted ring ends of large safety pins. Pin one end of the cord to the beginning of the sleeve you are about to sew. Lay the cord carefully inside the full length of the folded fabic so that it does not get caught as you stitch the seam. When you finish sewing, use the long tail end of the cord to gently pull the sleeve right side out. Use smaller pins for narrow sleeves. Takes the tedium out of turning sleeves.

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