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Costume Sewing Shortcuts

I have a confession to make--I'm a lazy costumer. Well, maybe not lazy as much as impatient. When I have visions of a finished garment in my head, I want it done pronto! So, I've come up with a bunch of time-saving shortcuts that help me speed through the project.

1) Use pattern weights. I only use patterns about half the time I sew. But when I do use a pattern, I don't want to take the time to pin every piece. So, I just lay it out on the fabric and hold it in place with pattern weights. Now, there are weights you can buy, but I just use leftover ceramic tiles from my kitchen renovation. They work great! You can also use smooth stones, or even cans of soup.

2) Tear your fabric. When I have a 20 yard roll of linen and only need a couple of yards, it's much faster to tear it than cut it with scissors. Please note: this only works for plain weave fabric (where the threads go "over one, under one, over one".) When you cut a small line at the selvedge and just rip it in two, you'll get a perfectly straight line along the grain every time. Depending on how tight the weave is, you may get a little distortion at the edges, but that irons right out.

3) Serge your casings. If you happen to have a serger and make a lot of casings for drawstrings, this is a great trick! Let's say you need a drawstring in the cuff of a pirate shirt. Fold the edge of the cuff under toward the wrong side of the fabric, and then back on itself. Then serge along the edge, trimming off just a little bit of all 3 layers. When you're done, you'll have an attached casing. I like to do the casings before I sew the side seams closed.

4) Pre-wind bobbins in every color. For years I only had 1 bobbin. And every time I had to change colors, I unwound what thread was left and rewound a new bobbin. I spent so much time winding and unwinding. Finally I just went out and bought about 30 bobbins and wound them up with all the different colors I use. Now when I need a new thread color, there's a bobbin waiting for me. And it only takes a few seconds out of my project to change the bobbin.

5) Pre-shrink and iron your fabric as soon as you get it home. I hate it when I'm all ready to start sewing a costume and find my fabric is wrinkled. It always means a 30-minute delay while I iron fabric. I use a fabric steamer to smooth out yards and yards of material at a time. But someday I'll own a rotary iron and get the job done even faster.

Got some shortcuts or time-savers of your own? Post them in the forum or send me an email. Let's keep a running list!

Here's even more sewing shortcuts:
1,000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts and Tips: Top-Rated Favorites from Sewing Fans and Master Teachers

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