Tips for Your Sewing Pleasure:

“Don’t Feed the Dogs!”

We’ve all experience those hungry dogs that want to eat our sewing! Our wonderful fabric on a beautiful outfit gets chewed up, pushed down into the feed dogs of our sewing machine, sometimes with a huge lump of thread! Yikes! What a nightmare! I learned the following trick several years ago when I first began machine quilting, and have found it invaluable when sewing almost anything, not just doll fashions!

When starting to sew a seam, the needle wants to push the edges down into the feed dogs. It may look like it’s starting okay, only to start chewing on it when you try to lock the stitches (usually this is done by taking a few back stitches after starting, then continue sewing the seam, or your machine may have a lock stitch). [Note: I try to keep the lock stitches in the area of the seam allowance since they may add a teeny bit of bulk to a seam. Sometimes I just sew 2-3 stitches in place.]

I now use a “starter scrap,” commonly used by machine quilters, at the beginning of stitching almost every seam. Using a scrap of the same fabric (double, triple, or whatever thickness you are sewing on the garment) will give you a perfect transition from scrap to garment. One inch square is about the smallest I use, use bigger if you like. Place scrap under the presser foot, allowing about ¼” to start sewing. Begin sewing, butt the garment next to the scrap and continue sewing right off the scrap onto the garment. It’s so easy to make that transition smoothly, and also do your lock stitches, then continue sewing the seam. You can also use the starter scrap as a “handle” to hold onto with your left hand as you guide the garment under the needle.

This is easy to picture if the seam you are sewing is at 90º to the top edge (for instance a skirt or pants seam as shown above), but sometimes the seam starts from an angle, as in a collar or side seam with an armhole. In this case, place the garment where you would start the seam and note the angle of the top edge (collar). Position the starter scrap to butt the angled edge and then start sewing ¼” back from the edge. Your starter scrap and the sleeve angle are angled together, but your sewing is straight with the side seam.

When you reach the end of the seam you are sewing, you can also proceed with any other seams. Just butt the next one up to the end of this piece, and chain as many pieces as possible without stopping. When finished with that step, simply remove the entire chain of pieces and clip them apart. Save the scrap for more starting seams!

I use this simple technique all the time! Let me know if you've found this tip helpful.

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