May Martin’s sewing tips from the Simplicity Blog Meetup

May Martin holding a length of purple jersey fabric.

In May, I went along to a blog meetup organised by the Simplicity pattern company. Guest of honour was May Martin, who held a kind of sewing masterclass slash Q&A. May’s very different in real life from her GBSB persona – I found her much chattier and less serious than I’d expected. Perhaps that was because we weren’t being judged!

She was full of useful tips and advice for us, and we quizzed her about the best way to do this, that and everything.

Having finally tracked down my notebook from the day, I thought I’d share some of the tips she gave us. There were dozens and dozens, so I’ve jotted down the ones that were new to me, or that I thought you might be interested in.

Sewing with stretch fabrics

Most of us know that we should use a different machine sewing needle for knits, but I hadn’t realised that stretch needles and ballpoint needles aren’t one and the same. May recommended stretch needles for sewing spandex and lycra, and ballpoint needles for jersey fabrics.

If you sew knits on an overlocker, May says that fine needles will give good results on knit fabrics. You don’t have to switch your overlocker to ballpoint needles. Phew.

If you find your knit fabric is getting sucked into the feed dogs on your sewing machine at the start of a seam, you can try using a washaway or tear-away stabiliser (like stitch and tear). Or you can start sewing your seam on a scrap, start sewing and then feed your garment seam through the machine once you’ve got going.

Curved edges and enclosed seams

If you’ve got a critical curved seam to sew, this can be scary because it’s naturally unstable. Instead of cutting out the curved pieces and then sewing them together, try doing it the other way around: draw the curved seamline onto the uncut fabric, stitch it and then cut it out.

Pattern instructions usually tell you to notch enclosed concave curves after stitching, and before turning them inside out. This is tricky to do, and won’t always give you a nice even curve on a scalloped edge, for example. Instead, try using a shorter stitch length, then trim and grade the seam allowance but don’t bother notching them. If you think it still needs notching, use pinking shears to avoid a lumpy curve when you turn it inside out.

Ironing and interfacing

May’s a big believer in interfacing. If you don’t have the right weight of interfacing in your stash, you can always apply two layers of a lighterweight interfacing that add up to the weight you need. This is also useful if you’re not certain what weight to use – you can build it up a bit at a time.

And my favourite tip of the day – especially since I lunched my ironing board cover with some interfacing earlier in the year – put a layer of oven liner on your ironing board before applying fusibles like interfacing. This will stop you getting sticky glue all over your ironing board cover, and once it’s dried you can simply scratch it off the oven liner so it’s ready to use again next time.

If you’d like to have May Martin in your sewing room, then she has a book out. Or you can sign up for one of her classes in Oxfordshire.

Big thanks to Hannah at Simplicity’s marketing agency for organising the event, and for laying on so much cake for us all!

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