Tips for Your Sewing Pleasure

No “Whiskers” or “Tails”!

One thing I guess I’m obsessive about is a clean finish on all my sewing, whether by machine or by hand—for dolls or myself—in other words, no thread whiskers or thread tails!

For instance, when I use a scrap to start a seam (see Tip #1—Don’t Feed the Dogs), I’m always careful to clip my threads as close as possible to the fabric edges. Clipping too close for comfort? Use a drop of seam sealant first, let dry, then clip. Use sharp, small craft scissors or “nippers.”

Other methods of stopping/starting also work in some cases. To keep your starting stitches in from the edge, start sewing about ⅛” - ¼” from beginning of the seam, then backstitch to the fabric edge (take one stitch off the fabric), then reverse, sew back over the first stitches and continue to end, ending with one stitch off, then backstitch ⅛” - ¼”. This leaves the thread tails away from the start and end of seam. When topstitching a finished piece, after sewing from end to end as just described, clip the threads, leaving them about 1” long. On the WS, pull thread to get a loop from RS and pull to WS—then clip both threads close to fabric. If you really want to hide these ends, leave threads about 3” - 4” long, pull top thread to WS, then thread them on a needle and take a ¼” stitch. Clips threads close. As fabric moves, these thread tails will naturally work themselves inside.

Other times, to perfectly match the edges and prevent them from shifting, tack by hand. This is a technique I frequently use for a sleeveless bodice. After armhole is finished, line up the hemmed edges for the shoulder seam, insert needle inside the seam allowance (to hide the knot) and exit at the edge. Take a couple of tiny whips to secure the front and back edges and keep them perfectly aligned. Then sew the seam across, either by hand or by machine as described above. (See sketch below & please use a sharp, straight needle, not one like my sketch! LOL)

Hems—when hem is pressed under, slip needle inside fold and exit exactly in the top hem edge. Knot is inside the fold. When tying off after completion, I take a small tack stitch and loop through to knot, then reinsert needle and exit ⅛” - ¼” away. Clip close. The thread tail will work its way back inside fold. Always stop and start (if possible) where hem crosses a seam allowance. (In the future, I will address hemming techniques separate from this starting and ending tip.)

I always do most of my thread clipping as I go, although I know some sewing instructions may suggest clipping all when done. I don’t like all those whiskers and tails in my way, so I find it works best to clip immediately.

But most important of all, is take the time to create a neat and clean finish. I’ve seen some ready made doll fashions where threads aren’t clipped very well or whiskers trimmed—this actually is a telltale (or rather, tell-tail?) sign of “homemade”—

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