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10 Sewing Tips from a Veteran Seamstress

Welcome to A Good Word blog! Here you’ll find the latest news from Good’s Store and helpful tips and interesting stories from our staff.

With fabric and sewing being a big part of life at Good’s Store, for our first post I interviewed a Good’s shopper and veteran seamstress I’ll call Lydia. While Lydia doesn’t consider herself an expert, she had plenty of stories and tips about sewing to share with A Good Word readers.

Lydia’s first sewing experience came at age ten, when she starting cutting and hemming dishcloths from cotton sackcloth. “They were feed sacks that my grandmother had saved,” Lydia remembers. “I liked the ones with the flowers on.”

“I had an old Singer Sewing machine.” Lydia sewed her first dress at thirteen, after having watched her mother many times. One day when Mom was out, Lydia decided to cut and sew a dress herself and surprise her mother. The dress fit perfectly.

As a teenager in 1970s, Lydia went to work in a sewing factory. Every day, she and about a hundred other women sat at their machines and sewed men's shirts and children's clothing all day long. Supervisors known as floor ladies kept a close eye on the women and berated them if they made mistakes.

Starting wages at the sewing factory were $1.75 an hour, but after the quota was met, each piece meant more pay. Lydia soon was making double the quota. “I liked to keep sewing faster and faster. One thing I learned at the factory was make every move count, and use both hands if possible. I still use this when I'm piecing quilts.”

Here’s a list of Lydia’s top sewing tips:

  1. Other people who sew are a good source of patterns. Store-brought patterns also work well. You can take a garment apart and trace a pattern from the pieces.
  2. If you are buying plaids or striped fabric, buy extra fabric so you can line up the patterns neatly.
  3. After you buy the fabric, ALWAYS wash the fabric and dry it in the dryer before you cut. “I neglected to pre-wash fabric one time when I sewed matching dresses for my three daughters. The girls wore the dresses once, then they shrank during washing and were ruined.”
  4. Snip the corners before pre-washing the fabric so you can remember if it has been washed. This also helps prevent fraying.
  5. When you dry the fabric in the dryer, be sure to remove it immediately and fold it neatly to help prevent wrinkles.
  6. Always cut the largest pieces first. Be mindful of fabric designs and weave when you're placing your pattern pieces.
  7. When sewing, make sure your seams stay the same width.
  8. Be especially careful while sewing the neck of a garment. Don't stretch the fabric.
  9. Adding the zipper is one of the hardest parts of sewing a dress. Make sure the bodice is lined up before you start. First sew in the zipper using large stitches, so it’s easy to tear out the stitches if things don’t line up quite right. After you inspect the garment and try it on, re-sew with normal-sized stitches.
  10. Double sew the seams that get heavy use, such as the seams that attach the sleeves to the bodice.

“Sewing is a great way to use creativity,” says Lydia. “My children loved it when I created things like a stuffed octopus. I did factory sewing in my home while raising my children. When the company went out of business, I bought the sewing machine, a safety stitch overlock, and I still have it today. My daughters come home to use it.”

“I don't do as much sewing now, but I love having years of experience. It's easy to pick up any project now.” 

Click here to read more about Good's Store serving as a fabric store in Lancaster, PA.

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  • Great tips and great blog idea! May God bless your work.

    Elizabeth R
  • This is so exciting, can’t wait to see all the tried and true sewing tips. I too “was” a young seamstress. Many times I would stop by the Mill End store in Michigan on my way home from school to purchase a piece of fabric to make a skirt for a dance. The sound of my mother’s sewing machine was always soothing. She was a good teacher. I travel to Shipshawanna Ind. a couple times a year, I was so pleased to find many of the same fabrics right there at the Good’s Store. Now that was a find!

    Jamey Struve
  • Love the store11

  • As a person who sews too, I’m looking forward to your tips. You are never too old to learn a new tip

  • Do you have any knitting tips, for a novice? I enjoyed your sewing tips. Thanks for some ideas.


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