Beginner Sewing Hacks

This post is part of a series in partnership with Raleigh Supercon.

I know I have mentioned it before, but I am a sewing newbie. My first true cosplay costume, Arrietty, brought on several (0kay…a lot) of tears. I honestly wanted to give up. But just like anything else, sewing takes practice to get good at it. Even if you don’t have sewing goddess status, you shouldn’t let your lack of skills keep you from making some pretty epic cosplays. I managed to pull off Mrs. Potts from the animated Beauty and the Beast without using the sewing machine once.

My number one hack is stitch witchery, which is at almost every craft store.  Stitch Witchery is like sewing tape; you just lay it down between your fabric, apply an iron, and BAM! fabric is “sewn” together. For my Mrs. Potts costume, I added all the ribbon and china pattern to my skirt just using stitch witchery, and it is still holding strong. When you stitch witch ribbon, you will have to do two layers of ribbon so the stich witchery doesn’t show through.

My other top hack is the glue gun. Never underestimate the power of a glue gun. Glue guns are a thing of beauty. My Toad hat was held together by the strength of the glue gun. Just be careful with what fabric you use a glue gun on because the glue will seep through the fabric.

Another hack is more advice than hack, and that is to splurge on good fabric scissors. I use to think my mother was nuts because she was so protective of her fabric scissors. It wasn’t until I got my own pair that I realized why she treasured them so. Seriously, a good pair of fabric scissors makes cutting so much easier because they are so sharp and get a cleaner cut than regular scissors. Just make sure you maintain your scissors and only use them for fabric. I keep mine in their own container, so I don’t accidentally use them for something else.

I know my sewing hacks are pretty basic, so I asked Brittney “Chiki” Fischer, the Executive Director of FanDames for some tips. Her top five tips are:

  • PINS PINS PINS. Not so much a hack but always a good tip. Use plenty of pins when you sew. Pin perpendicular to your seam, not parallel. It makes it much easier to remove your pins as you approach them while sewing. If you are lucky enough to have a full craft section in your local Walmart, pins are much cheaper there as opposed to JoAnn’s. My favorite pins are the quilter’s pins with the yellow balls on the end. I call them “lemon heads.” I also recommend investing in a magnetic pin cushion; it makes pinning much faster.
  • Never buy patterns full price. Patterns go on sale all the time! JoAnn’s usually has at least one brand of patterns on sale each week. Look for $1 pattern sales and stock up then. If patterns are on sale at JoAnn’s, they are usually also on sale at Hobby Lobby.
  • Coupons! JoAnn’s has a fantastic coupon policy; you can use as many [as you want] off one item as you’d like as long as the coupons have different coupon numbers. Usually, the printed mailer coupons, the app coupon and the website coupon all have different codes! So if you have a 50% off one item coupon, you could potentially have three discounts. Total purchase off coupons are the exception to this rule. You can only use one of those per transaction. Every year JoAnn’s releases a calendar; be sure to pick one (or 5) up because they have amazing coupons in the back that usually apply to sale items as well!
  • Planning. When you’re planning a costume and gathering reference images, consider gathering images of other cosplayers who have also done the costume you’re about to make. Sometimes it’s really helpful to see how a costume translates to a human body. This way you can see how other cosplayers have done what you’re about to do so you can emulate the things that you like, and change the things you don’t like as much or would not work on your body type. I use the Cosplanner app to keep all my reference photos in one place.
  • Iron. Always iron your seams! An iron should be one of your most used sewing items. I like to keep my ironing board close to my sewing machine.

I can say from first-hand experience that the pins and ironing tips are super helpful! With my Arrietty costume, I was rushing and didn’t pin the top and bottom together very well. It was so crooked that I ended up having to take it apart to fix my mistake. You better believe that I ended up pinning the heck out of that costume before attempting to sew it again!

Also, I can’t wait to try the Cosplanner app. I really hope the app will help me stay on track with my costumes, so I won’t be gluing and ironing in one of Raleigh’s fine parking garages.

So tell me in the comments, what is your number one sewing hack?

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