I’ve seen many sewers make the mistake of using the same tension setting for all their sewing projects and then they wonder why the finish isn’t perfect. The fact is, the wrong tension is a sewing disaster. It can ruin your sewing project and literally give you a tension headache. Knowing how to troubleshoot your tension problems can set the stage for a smoother sewing experience.

So How Do You Know Whether The Tension Is Right Or Wrong?

That’s the easy part. Here are a few common signs that indicate that your tension is set wrongly for that particular fabric.

  • If the stitches are too loose and look like they have loops, your tension is too loose
  • If the stitches are too tight and the thread looks like it is pulled too taut, the tension is set to too tight
  • Broken threads and skipped stitches are also indications of tension that is too tight

Any of the above scenarios will result in you having to remove all of those stitches and start all over again. To avoid this nightmare, it is a good idea to sew over a small swatch of fabric that you are using for that particular project before starting to sew on the actual project. If the stitches look good on the swatch, you are all set to go ahead. If the tension appears too loose or too tight, now is the time to adjust the setting. Sew another test swatch and move on to the actual project only when you are happy with the results.

How Do You Adjust the Tension?

There are actually 2 things that affect the tension of the stitches- one is the tension setting and the second is the thickness of the thread.

Check your sewing machine manual for how to set the tension setting on your particular model and don’t be afraid to fiddle around with the tension setting and customize it to suit your fabric and your sewing project.

The standard tension setting on most sewing machines is 5, which is ideal for the majority of fabrics, you will need to set it tighter for lightweight fabrics such as silk and chiffon and looser for heavier fabrics such as denim or canvas.

The tension and the width of the thread should be in sync with one another for best results.

Heavy Fabrics = Thicker threads + looser tension. Thicker threads, which are needed for heavier fabrics, need a larger space to pass smoothly between the tension discs. The more the distance between the discs, the looser the tension.

Light Fabrics = Finer threads + tighter tension.  Lightweight fabrics need finer threads, which need a narrow space to pass between the tension discs. The lesser the space between the tension discs, the tighter the tension.

Tip for the day

Don’t forget to use a sewing machine needle that is appropriate for the size of the thread you are using. A needle that is too large will result in uneven stitches, whereas one that is too small can cause the thread to fray or shred. 

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Pfaff sewing machines bear the hallmark of that famous German precision and attention to details. If you are looking for a machine that will allow you to explore and experiment without ever letting you down, this is it!  Powerful, precise and feature-filled, Pfaff sewing machines are definitely your ticket to a world of endless creative possibilities, whether you are a serious sewer looking to hone your craft or a newbie just getting the hang of sewing.

Pfaff Sewing Machines: Always One Step Ahead of the Competition

From the first Pfaff made 145 years ago by Georg Michael Pfaff, these powerhouse machines have had their competition biting the dust. Successive proud and talented Pfaff teams have consistently dedicated their efforts towards implementing newer technologies and creating sewing machines that have always been ahead of their time. Today, these machines continue to make history as the premier brand that all sewers aspire to own.

 4 Lines of Precision Sewing

To simplify the choices, the company markets Pfaff sewing machines through 4 different lines so it is easier for users to find the perfect model that suits all their needs within their budget.

Expression Line:  Well designed, user friendly and chockfull of features including multiple decorative stitches, the machines in the Expression line are a dream to use and promise endless possibilities.  The Expression 3.0 from this line offers the highest level of sewing ease combined with advanced technology that allows you give reign to your imagination. The Quilt Expression 4.0, also from this line gives quilters the freedom to explore and realize their quilting potential. 

Ambition Line: Marketed as a line that allows you to take your creativity further, the sewing machines in the Ambition line do just that with their advanced features and functionalities and that too, at a price that is much lower than their competition.  Some of the features you will find here include an array of decorative stitches and alphabets ( up to 195 stitches in some models), high resolution touch screen, up to 29 needle positions and the trademark, original IDT System. The Ambition 1.0 and Ambition 1.5 are two of the most popular models in this line. In addition to a well-lit illuminated sewing area that makes it easy to sew under any light condition, these models also offer a sewing space that is larger than most and a long free arm that makes sewing projects of any size effortless.

Select Line: Sewers who own Pfaff sewing machines from this line will vouch for the fact that these machines are always ready to go! Versatile, with a modern look and very practical features, all three models in this line- Select 2.0, Select 3.0 and Select4.0, come with the Easy Select System that allows you to choose any decorative stitch you want with just a touch of a button.  With such an easy to use feature, you just can’t go wrong!

Hobby Line:  Promising endless possibilities at a very low price, the Hobby line is every crafter’s dream come true. Every machine in this line,  Hobby 1142, 1132, 1122, is easy to use and each comes with a different range of accessories and features so you do not have to pay for something you will never use.

If you are looking for more features, more accessories, and more creative possibilities, you don’t have to look further than Pfaff sewing machines! 

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With lots of impressive features and a pretty extensive library of stitches, the Brother SE400 computerized sewing machine is designed to make all your sewing and embroidery dreams come true – all of this while being priced to fit your budget.  As far as machines in this category go, the SE 400 is great value for money at under $400.  

This is an exact replica of the SE 350 with one distinct upgrade- the addition of a USB port for computer connectivity. This makes it possible for you to import your own customized designs that you have either created on your own or downloaded from the internet. It also allows you to easily download important software updates.

Embroider & Sewing Features of the Brother SE400

The machine has an internal memory of 512K, so depending on how simple or complex the designs are, you could store up to about 12 designs on your machine and anything more than that can be stored on your computer and uploaded whenever necessary. If you do not want to bother with connecting to the computer every now and done,  getting a 4 MB Brother Memory card will allow you to store additional designs on the machine itself.

Even without the computer connectivity, the SE400 comes with enough pre loaded features to give you a lot of versatility when it comes to embroidery. There are a whopping 70 built in embroidery designs, 120 frame patterns and 5 monogram fonts to choose from! Using these patterns in different combinations can add a truly unique touch to several embroidery project without having to repeat any design.

In addition to the embroidery stitches, the SE400 also comes with 67 built in sewing stitches coupled with 98 stitch functions.

Highlights of the Brother SE400

The sewing area is a generous 4” x 4”, which is very convenient when you are machine embroidering. You don’t have to struggle with the excess fabric when working on larger projects such as table cloths or drapes.

Other convenient features include:

  • Variable needle positions
  • Easy bobbin winding system
  • Quick-set and drop-in bobbin
  • Automatic needle threader
  • Touch screen LCD display
  • Easy to view back light
  • Slider for speed control
  • Start/Stop Button

Pros of the Brother SE 400

The combination of sewing and embroidery functionality at less than $400 is like getting two for the price of one. It’s a fantastic deal for a machine that is so versatile, sturdy and brimming with features.

The built in sewing and embroidery stitches are well thought of and there is a pretty good selection of buttonhole styles and utility stitches for home sewing projects.

Cons

The presser foot pressure cannot be regulated but it does not matter much because the machine is quite capable of handling multiple layers of fabric without needing too much adjusting.

In Conclusion

The Brother SE 400 computerized sewing and embroidery machine is a well designed, well priced unit that can handle a wide range of sewing and embroidery tasks easily and without a fuss. It is a great buy for beginner sewers who are looking for convenience and ease of use as well as for veterans who are looking for versatility in their sewing machine.  It comes as no surprise that this is Amazon’s best selling sewing machine.

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The Brother 1034D 3/4 Serger is perfect for acquiring that professionally finished look on formal wear and linen and is also great for sewing decorative stitches on anything that you want embellished.

In addition to finishing and decorative stitches, the 1034D can also join laces, create fabric flowers, sew spaghetti straps and also form gentle gathers.

Highlights of the 1034D 3/4 Lay-In Thread Serger

  • 22 built-in stitches
  • Rolled hemming- Great for hemming frills and napkin edges
  • 3/ 4- thread overlock – Excellent for use with heavier upholstery fabric as well as for knits
  • 3 thread overlock in 2 widths – 3 mm and 5 mm
  • Blind hem
  • Flatlock stitch for flat seams and decorative seams
  • Interchangeable feet
  • Foot pedal speed control, which is very responsive and easy to control
  • Free arm sewing makes it easier to sew hard to reach, narrow columns such as pant hems and sleeve cuffs
  • The metal feet are solid, strong and snap on so they can be fixed and taken off easily without the fear of breaking or snapping off
  • Differential feed is useful for sewing fabrics of different thicknesses and for lining up strips evenly
  • All it takes is a flick of a switch to disable the knife that trims the fabric as you sew

Lots of Bonus Add-ons

Plenty of very useful features and bonus add-ons that are included in the price make the Brother 1034D even greater value for money.

First of all, there is the option of using regular thread spools so if you need to use only just a small amount of a particular color of thread you can use a regular spool, which is smaller and cheaper instead of using the huge, more expensive spools.

Secondly, the needles are regular needles that you would use with your regular sewing machine so you do not have to buy special needles.

The best bonus of all is the two extra feet that come included with this serger machine. One of the feet is for gathering ruffles as you sew and the other is the blind hem/flatlock foot. If you had to buy these separately, you would end up paying at least another $60 for both these feet.

Troubleshooting is Easy with the Detailed Manual

Dealing with 4 threads, there are several things that can keep going off with the tension. The manual is very easy to understand and has the clear chart on troubleshooting uneven stitches, which makes it easy to reset the tension whenever the setting is off.

Pros of the Brother 1034D

Surprisingly easy to set up and use. Threading is a breeze and regulating the tension is super easy too.

Very reliable machine and versatile

Comes with great bonus features and add-ons designed to make it more versatile and flexible to use

Motor is very quiet for a serger machine

Cons

A few customers are disappointed that this machines does not offer a coverlock stitch but using a zizag stitch with your regular sewing machine is close enough.

In Conclusion

Price and performance are perfectly balanced in the Brother 1034D Sewing Machine. The machine is reliable, affordable and offers some fantastic features that make it great value for money.

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Or my seam ripper… or measure tape?

Does that sound like you? Do you often feel like you spend far too much time looking for your various sewing supplies? Are your sewing projects forever getting put on hold simply because you cannot find the color of thread that you need or you’ve misplaced your measure tape or your seam ripper yet again?

Constant hold-ups can make for a very frustrated seamstress, not to mention half-done projects that will eventually just never get done. I’ve realized that my best work gets done when everything goes along smoothly.

When I need something, I know exactly where to look at it. If I need to snip the fabric while machining, I just have to reach out and pick up my pair of snipping scissors, make the snip and get on with the machining within seconds. I know that if I get off the chair and go looking for any one thing, I will soon get distracted with the other things I am likely to come across and then my sewing will soon be forgotten.

If you are like me, you need to stay organized while sewing. You need to have a proper place for everything. If you don’t, your sewing space can soon get messy and disorganized, making it hard to find what you need when you need it most.

Here are a few practical ideas and suggestions for organizing your sewing space.

Proper Storage is Essential

While a sewing caddy that holds all your sewing essentials can be very convenient, it is not mandatory. You could just as easily make do with stackable containers. See-through containers that are all of the same size work best.  They take up the least space and you can easily see what each one contains. If your containers are not see-through, make sure you label them to avoid having to open each and every one to find what you are looking for.

If you do a lot of sewing and you have the space in the room for it, get a medium sized chest of drawers to store all of that fabric, threads and other accessories that you are sure to have.

Easy Accessibility is Equally Essential

Sure, you need to store everything out of sight so the room does not look cluttered. However, storing it all in a box in the loft or cramming everything into one drawer or one container is pointless. You’re still going to be struggling when you need something. Easy accessibility to all your sewing equipment and materials is crucial.  Keep items that you use regularly within arm’s reach and store the others in a place that you can access easily when you need to.

The key to organizing your sewing space efficiently is to stick to the ‘place for everything and every in its place’ rule. Decide which is the most convenient place to keep each item and after you are done using it, keep it back in the assigned place. That way, you can find it with your eyes closed the next time you need it.

 

Tip for today

Threads made from natural fibers can become brittle over a period of time especially if they are exposed to light. UV rays cause threads to deteriorate faster. To extend the life of your thread, store them in a drawer or in an opaque sealed container where they will be protected from light and dust. 

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Knowing the basics of sewing machine maintenance is an absolute must if you want your machine to run smoothly and efficiently. There is no getting around this. Neglecting your machine can cause all sorts of problems and lead to unnecessary frustration.

Fortunately, keeping your sewing machine in prime condition is neither very technical nor very complex. It’s just little things that need to be done regularly.

Cover Your Sewing Machine

Keep your sewing machine covered when you are in between projects. this will help keep it dust free and will also help prevent accidental damage to the machine.

Clean Your Machine Regularly

While sewing, lint from the fabric and also from the thread will keep accumulating on the interior parts of the machine. Excessive built up of lint obstructs the smooth movement of the various machine parts. After about every 8 to 10 hours of continuous sewing, it is a good idea to clean out the lint using a dry brush.

Don’t forget to clean between the tension discs. To do this, you have to raise the pressure foot mechanism and clean using a brush or a clean cloth.

Also, clean under the needle plate and the bobbin area. For this, you will need to first remove the needle plate. This is very easy to do. In some machines, the plate just slides out, in other machines the plate will need to be unscrewed. Refer to your manual for proper instructions if this is the first time you are doing this. Replace the needle plate after cleaning out the accumulated lint.

Before replacing the needle plate, inspect it for any rough edges that could snag on your fabric while sewing. If there are any nicks or burrs, smoothen them out with an emery cloth.

Oil Your Machine Regularly

Most sewing machines need to be oiled regularly, but there are a few that do not need oiling at all. Consult with your manual to see if your machine needs to be oiled and also which parts need to be oiled. Oil helps keep the moving parts lubricated thus reducing friction and preventing rusting.

It is important that you do not just any general purpose oil. When oiling your machine, use only sewing machine oil. You will generally need to use just one drop in the parts that are specified. After oiling, wait a few minutes and then run the machine over a piece of scrap fabric a few times before moving on to your actual project. This helps soak off the excess oil.

Never Attempt any Major DIY Repair

If you are having problems with your sewing machine and cannot figure out what it is, do not ever attempt to open up the machine by yourself. The machinery is complex and precisely set and should only be serviced by trained technicians.

Tip of the Day

When cleaning the surface of your machine, use a damp soft cloth and wipe clean. Never use any strong cleaner spray on the inside or outside of your machine. Spraying any harsh liquid directly on the machine could damage the body as well as the mechanism.

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why does my thread keep breakingThere’s nothing more exasperating than getting held up with your project simply because the thread keeps breaking on your machine. You sew a few stitches and the thread breaks… again.

You have to now rethread the machine needle and either remove the stitches that are done and start all over again, which is such a waste of time or you just do a couple of backstitches and continue from where the thread broke off. Problem is, this makes the stitching looks shabby and unprofessional. What is the solution to this infernal problem?

If your thread breaks just once, that’s ok. Consider that an occupational hazard. However, if you find your thread breaking every few stitches, there’s definitely something wrong. I find it is always far better to stop and see what the problem is and sort it out rather than continue with the stop-start kind of sewing, which is simply frustrating and time consuming.

Here are some of the most common reasons why machine threads tend to break and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Threading Is Not Done Correctly

If the top thread keeps snapping, re-check the top thread path and make sure you’ve threaded the machine properly. Check that the thread isn’t snagged on the spool or perhaps some other part of the machine along it’s threaded path. Any unnecessary obstruction prevents the thread from moving along smoothly and could cause it to break. Make sure the thread path is clear.

Problem with the Bobbin Threading or Bobbin Hatch

If the lower thread keeps breaking, open out the bobbin hatch and check that there is no lint buildup that is hindering the smooth flow of the thread. If there is any lint, remove the bobbin and clean the area thoroughly with a brush. Also check that the bobbin is wound correctly and that the tension of bobbin thread is even. Poor maintenance and incorrectly wound bobbins are the culprit more often that you’d imagine.

Incorrect Tension

Your top thread will pass through tension discs along its threading path. These tension discs can be set to high or low tension depending upon the type of fabric you are sewing and the thickness of the thread you are using. If the tension is set to high and you try to force a thicker thread through the discs, the discs will prevent the thread from flowing smoothly and will cause it to snap.

Substandard Thread

We’ve all been guilty of buying cheap thread at some time or the other. We walk into a sewing store and buy several spools of thread in different colors because of the “huge discount sale’. At that moment, you feel quite triumphant at the amount you’ve saved but the truth is, cheap thread is cheap because it is of low quality and low quality thread will break while sewing or worse still, just after you have finished your project. I’m quite embarrassed to admit that I’ve done it too – embarrassed because when you consider the difference in cost between good thread and bad thread is really negligible. The few extra cents you pay to buy thread of good quality is well worth it in the long run. Don’t skimp when buying thread. Always buy the best you can afford.

Tip for today

Check your sewing machine needle often and change it regularly. Sewing machine needles get dull with use and dull needles will not penetrate your fabric easily. When it does, it will leave big holes in the fabric. Keeping your eye on the sharpness of your needle and changing it when need be can make a huge different to your ease of sewing as well as to the finished results.

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Fabric excites me and one of the things I love most about sewing is the sheer variety of fabrics available. For anyone who is as passionate as me about sewing, walking into a fabric store is a visual treat! Fabrics in a delightful medley of colors and prints jostle for attention as they lie in the store, some of them neatly rolled and stacked on shelves and others strewn across the tabletops in a rumpled riot of colors.

know your fabricSometimes, when a particular color or print catches my attention, I form an instant image in my head of the kind of garment I am going to sew with that fabric. However, while prints and colors play a huge role in the final outcome of any project, the weight, texture and flexibility of fabric are just as important.

Different fabrics hang and fall differently and understanding how a particular fabric falls is key to creating a finished garment that is exactly as you visualized it.

Understanding Fabric Weight

If you already have a pattern in mind, the first thing you will need to consider when picking a fabric to suit that particular pattern is its weight.

If you are sewing a garment with a swirly skirt or a ruffled top, you will need to look for lighter, more flexible fabrics such as organza or chiffon that fall daintily and lightly into the pattern. Keep in mind that really lightweight fabrics can billow too easily and while they are okay for accenting the garment, they may not really be appropriate for the entire garment. For soft skirts or drawstring pants, it is far better to use mid-weight fabrics such as cotton, linen or silk.

Heavier fabrics such as wool or gabardine are ideal choices for precisely constructed garments such as business suits or A-line dresses, which need to fall well without any ‘give’.

Understanding Fabric Flexibility

Another factor that impacts how your garment looks is the flexibility of the fabric. This has nothing to so with the weight of the fabric. Some fabrics such as canvas may be lightweight but they are pretty stiff and inflexible, whereas some heavier fabrics such as stretch denim allow for a lot of flexibility.

Again, the ideal amount of flexibility depends on the garment. Fabric that is neither too flexible nor too rigid usually works best for most garments. They allow you to create a defined shape without looking unnaturally stiff.

Fabrics that have less flexibility can look pretty awkward when used for sewing blouses or dresses. They are better off used for pants and short skirts. On the other hand, fabrics that are very flexible adapt better to the shape of the body and are ideal for dresses and more feminine looking outfits.

Note: If you are planning on using a flexible fabric for your pattern, you need to think about whether or not you intend using a lining. Lining materials are usually inflexible and can restrict the movement of the whole outfit.

Matching the fabric and the pattern correctly comes with experience. When you are just starting out, the best way to ensure the success of your project is to go by the pattern recommendations and use only those suggested fabrics.

Tip for today

If you are using fabric with repeated patterns, make note of how often the pattern repeats. If there is a significant distance between the repeats, be sure to buy more than the recommended amount of fabric to allow for positioning your pattern pieces to match the pattern on the fabric.

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Skipped stitches are every sewer’s nightmare! There’s really nothing quite as annoying as being half way through a project and your machine starts skipping stitches. When this happens, you have to open up the stitches and start all over again. Before you start berating your high end sewing machine, you should know that skipped stitches very rarely have anything to do with the machine itself.

There are several reasons why the stitches may skip and here are the top 10 of these reasons as well as what you can do to get your sewing back on track.

#1: The Threading Is Not Done Correctly: Improper threading is one of the most common causes of missed stitches. Check that you have run the thread through all of the markers right from the spool to the eye of the needle.

#2: Incorrect Bobbin Tension: To get perfect stitches, the bobbin tension has to be set correctly. Check the bobbin tension and make sure it is not too tight or too loose.

# 3: Wrong Size Thread: Different types of fabric require different types of thread. Delicate fabrics and sheers require finer, more delicate thread as compared to thick, sturdy material, which requires strong, thicker thread. Check that you are working with the right type of thread.

#4: Wrong Size Needle: Just as with the thread, you need the right size of needle for the fabric you are working with. Finer needles work best for delicate silks and sheers, whereas you will need a thicker needle for sewing denim or twill. Using a needle that is too small or too large for your particular project could result in skipped stitches.

#5: Insufficient Pressure: Check the tension of the top thread. Does it feel taut or is it too slack? The thread should feel just taut enough- not too tight nor too loose or else the machine will start skipping stitches.   Make sure the tension is right before you start sewing.

#6: Cheap Thread: Cheap threads are usually not wound tightly enough and that can cause all kinds of problems with your sewing including missed stitches. Moreover, they are also more brittle and likely to break more easily. Even if the thread does not break while you are sewing, it will break while washing, which is just a huge waste of time for you. The difference in cost between cheap thread and expensive thread is not much but the difference in quality is tremendous.

#7: Cheap Needles: The tip of cheap needles is usually not as sharp as it should be and this can lead to erratic stitching.

#8: Old Needles: A needles that is too old and overused will have lost some of its efficiency. if you find that your machine is skipping stitches, change the needle and see if that helps solve the problem.

#9: Lack of Oil: When did you last oil your sewing machine? Check your manual and see how often you need to oil your machine and the method of oiling. Keeping the moving parts lubricated is important so that your machine moves smoothly.

 #10: Worn Out Parts: If you are using an old sewing machine, you may need to get a professional to give it a once over to ensure that none of the parts are worn out.  Worn out parts can cause more trouble than just skipped or missed stitches.

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Prepping for your projects is probably the most boring part of sewing but unfortunately, it’s something that has to be done. Prepping paves the way for a frustration-free time ahead and also ensures a perfect end product. So, no matter how boring or tedious you find it, prep you must.

Pre-Shrink Your Fabric

While stopping to preshrink your fabric may keep you from getting started with your project, it is crucial. Some types of fabric including pure cottons, linens and jute, tend to shrink (some fabrics shrink a lot) after the first wash.

Skipping this step, especially when you are sewing a garment, could mean that you will get to use the item only once or twice. With just one wash the fabric will shrink and you will find that it does not fit you any more. That can be frustrating and a real waste of time.

If by any chance you skip this step, you cannot make up for it by attempting to shrink the fabric after sewing. The fabric will shrink but the stitches will not and that will lead to puckered seams and other lopsided results.

Steps for Preshrinking

Fortunately, preshrinking is easy. The biggest problem is that trying to contain your impatience as you wait to get started.

The first thing you need to do is to serge the raw ends of the fabric to prevent it from fraying. If you do not have a serger machine, simply zigzagging the raw ends will work as well.

After you’ve zigzagged the raw ends, soak the fabric in room temperature water for a couple of hours and then launder it in the washing machine just as you would launder the finished item. Let it go through the whole process including the spin drying.

When the fabric is dry, iron it out and you are ready to start.

Test Your Stitch Before You Sew

As you become more experienced you may skip this step if you are switching between two projects using the same type of fabric. However, if you are switching between projects using completely different types of fabric, this step can be invaluable.

For example, heavy weight fabrics will require completely different settings as compared to sheers and other lightweight fabrics. You will also need to use different sized needles as well as a different thread size. Test sewing will ensure that you have the right setting for the perfect stitch for that particular fabric. It may seem like a waste of time but it is in fact the ultimate time saver.

All you need to do is cut out a small scrap of the fabric that you are working on and sew a few stitches with a contrast color so the stitches are easily visible. Check both sides of the fabric and make sure there are no loose stitches, no loops and no bunching. Keep adjusting the tension and stitch length and test sew till you are happy with the results.

You are now all ready to get started!

Tip for today

Always iron your fabric before you start sewing. Ironing erases all creases and kinks out of the fabric and helps stretch and even out the fabric so you get accurate measurements when cutting.

 

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