Sewing Seams That Stay Together

Sewing Seams That Stay Together

There’s nothing that makes more nuts than seams that come apart. I know it’s a small thing and they can easily be fixed, but it drives me nuts when seams don’t stay together. Over the years, I’ve come up with some techniques to keep seams together, even if the thread breaks. It saves my sanity, and my clothes, a lot of stress.

Fabric tape

Sewing Seams That Stay Together

This is my absolute favorite sewing cheat. Don’t get me wrong, I still sew the seams on my Singer, but before I do, I use double-sided fabric tape to hold it down. This way, if the thread breaks and the seam starts to come apart, my hems and side seams stay put. I don’t have to worry about splitting seams in the middle of a work day or outing. And it means I can take my time repairing the seam rather than having to fix it immediately.

Fabric tape doesn’t work with every seam. It works best with hems and cuffs, but I’ve come up with a way to use smaller pieces of it on side seams too. With side seams, I sew the tape right into the seam and cut the excess away while I’m trimming the fabric finishing up the piece.

Double stitches

As sewers, we all sew back and forth over seams at the beginning and end to lock them in. I use this same technique on areas of a seam that are likely to come apart due to stress. Inner thighs on pants, arm pits and elbow areas seem to be places that come apart a lot for me so I’ll often double stitch over them to prevent those areas from coming apart.

Over stitching

I often give those same high stress seam areas some extra attention by hand or using the over stitch function on my machine. By sewing over the fabric of those high stress areas, the seams are less likely to pull apart. There’s also more thread in that area, in different directions. The likelihood of them all breaking is slim to none.

I can’t promise you won’t ever have a seam come apart using these techniques, but I can promise they’ll be less likely to come apart. So if you have broken seams as much as I do, give them a try and let me know how it goes.

How to Sew Faster

How to Sew Faster

My job as a tailor on a television show often requires me to complete an alteration in a seemingly impossible amount of time. Not to be overly cocky or self-congratulating but, I can be pretty fast when needed. People frequently ask me how I’m able to do something so quickly.

Don’t hesitate. Just, do.

Honestly, I don’t think so much about it anymore: its pretty much second nature at this point. But, I suppose if I were to break it down, the process would go something like this:

First, don’t panic. Whatever you do, don’t panic. If you do, you could find that suddenly you’re unable to thread a needle, or your needle breaks, or the thread tangles.

Second, don’t hesitate. Just, do.

As you’re working, think about the next step. Plan ahead.

Concentrate fully on what you’re doing. Don’t listen to the conversations going on around you. Pay no mind to whatever random chaos might be happening in another part of the room. Just focus your full attention on the one thing you are doing. That is all that is important.

Whatever you do, don’t thread mark. I know that’s what they teach in sewing school but there is no reason to have to thread mark a pant hem.

A few tips on how to sew faster:

Do as much as you can without stopping to iron.

If I’m really pressed for time, I tend to leave all the ironing until the very end (pun intended).

Learn how to eyeball measurements. Think about it, if you’ve been sewing long enough, you know what a ½” looks like. You honestly do not need to mark every single little line. If you want to measure, go ahead, put use your pins to mark the line. I often work with a metal seam gauge but rarely actually draw a new stitching line. One exception is if I’m re-mitering a suit jacket sleeve corner though I know lots of tailors that do not need to draw that line either.

Whatever you do, don’t thread mark. I know that’s what they teach in sewing school but there is no reason to have to thread mark a pant hem. I once had an additional tailor helping me on a show who insisted on thread marking the fold line on hems for cop pants. Buy some tailor’s chalk and use that to mark your hemline. It’ll disappear when ironed.

Unless you’re topstitching, you really don’t have to have your thread match exactly. Believe me. Whatever thread is in your machine is just fine. I cannot begin to tell you how many black garments I’ve altered quickly with red or yellow or whatever happened to be in the machine colored thread.

Learn how to undo a chain stitch. A lot of manufacturers use chain stitches in clothing construction. This makes it super easy to take them apart when needed. You can only unravel a chain stitch in one direction, the direction it was sewn in. Most of the time, all you need to do is insert a seam ripper and pull in that direction and all the stitching will come undone. The center back seam of men’s pants, often will have two rows of stitching so you’ll need to pull each row separately.

A couple other seam deconstruction tips:

To take apart a serged seam, use a nice sharp seam ripper and run it through the threads that wraps around the edge of a seam. After you do this, the rest of the threads will usually come apart rather quickly. Some serged seams are on a chain as well and you can undo them by pulling the thread on the straight stitch.

One of the fastest ways of taking apart a seam is to, again, use an extremely sharp seam ripper and insert it into the seam from the right side and just pull upwards through the seam. This technique takes a bit of practice (and bravery) though as the potential to accidentally slice through the fabric is ever present. There’s a knack to getting the angle of the seam ripper just right though and once you figure that out, you’re golden.

In the end, the one sure way of becoming a faster tailor is by practice. The more often you repeat the same task, the more efficient at it you become.

As you do an alteration, try to think of ways you could save time: do you really need to flip everything back right side out then inside out then right side out again? Probably not. If you sew this first, will it make it easier to sew this? Or visa versa? Experiment and try things multiple ways until you’ve figured out the quickest sequence of steps for yourself.

I love discovering a new, faster way of doing something I’ve done a million times. Sewing is kind of cool like that: there’s always something more to learn and fresh tactics to uncover.

Do My Seams Have to Be Perfect?

I hear this question a lot from my sewing students. Beginning sewers are nervous about their ability to sew along the line without small bobbles. They’re worried that any imperfections will ruin their sewing project. I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell them.

Do My Seams Have to Be Perfect?

Do My Seams Have to Be Perfect?

Do your seams have to be perfect? No. Ninety degree jogs in and out probably won’t look right, but a slight wavering here and there usually isn’t a problem. If you’re making something that’s skin-tight kind of fitted, it matters a lot more than if you’re making something loose fitting or flowy.

Since the first project I have my sewing students make is a bean bag or pillow, I tell them to play around with it. PURPOSELY mess up a seam and see how it looks on the finished project. I suggest you try it too. You don’t have to make a beanbag, use a piece of scrap material that’s the same fabric as you’ll be using for your finished project. Pull the seam really tight – you’ll be able to see exactly how any imperfections in the seam line will appear. Most of the time, it’s not noticeable.

A few exceptions: skin tight clothing, spandex or other elastic materials, seams sewn in a contrasting color that are seen on the outside of your completed work. In each of these cases, the seams are quite noticeable. Take your time with them.

Don’t forget, if you sew a seam and discover you’re not happy with it, you can always rip it out. I know it’s not ideal, but one of the things I love about sewing is there’s nothing that’s not correctable. For me, it takes away some of the stress.

If fear of not having perfect seams has been holding you back from starting a sewing project, or learning to sew at all, set that fear aside and give it a try! You’ll be glad you did.

Project Rescue

Oh no! What a disaster!

Oh no! What a disaster!

Oh no! What a disaster! This whole project is ruined! Sound familiar? We’ve all had at least one project we think we’ve truly mangled. Thankfully, there are ways to save it. The best method to rescue your project depends on where the mistake occurred.

Cutting – Take Two

Did you misfold the fabric and now your cut pieces are all wrong? It may not be the giant disaster you think it is. If the fabric store has more of the fabric you’re using, it’s easy enough to get more and begin again. If not, you may be able to find it online or at another store. If that fails, treat this as an opportunity to find a new perfect fabric for your project (Don’t forget to exercise restraint, as we’ve looked at before).

Seams – Take Two

Did you missew a seam or several seams? If you can use your seam ripper to remove them and sew them again, this isn’t a big deal. However, if you’re not able to do that or did more damage to the fabric trying to pull out the seams, there are other options. If the item is too big, simply sew additional seams to make it smaller. On the other hand, if it’s too small you made need a more drastic solution.

Project – Take One and a Half

If your project is basically complete and you realize it’s too small, don’t worry! You may not have to redo the entire thing. Even if you’re not a tailor, it’s possible to alter your project to the larger size you intended. Best of all – you may not even need to buy more fabric to do it!


Figure out how much fabric your need to add to make the project fit and in which areas. For me, it’s usually the sides and/or bust area need an extra ½ inch or so (I blame patterns meant for smaller breasted women!).

No one, besides you, will ever know that it’s not exactly how it was planned to be.

Snip, Snip

Since you’re going to add more fabric, there’s no need to carefully rip out the seams. Instead, take your fabric scissors and carefully cut along the seams you need to alter, say the sides for example.

Add it up

Grab your left over fabric – the stuff that was destined to your stash pile. Making sure that it follows that pattern in your existing project, cut enough to add what you need to make your project fit, plus seam allowance on both sides.

Pinning and Sewing – Take Two

Pin the newly cut fabric additions to your project, right sides together and following the existing curves. If possible, try it on while it’s inside out to be sure it will fit better this time. Head over to your trusty sewing machine one more time and sew in the additional pieces. Viola! You’ve saved a project from the trash. No one, besides you, will ever know that it’s not exactly how it was planned to be. And what they don’t know, you don’t have to tell them, so wear it with pride.