I love sharing some of the things I’ve learned in my years of sewing. I’ve done a LOT of it by trial and error, and I have made just about every mistake out there. So I want to save you some of that error by teaching you some of the things I’ve learned along the way for making your sewing polished.

9 important ways to make your sewing polished so you can create projects you're proud of inside and out.

If you know some of the basics but want:

  • cleaner finishes that look amazing
  • crisper hems all around
  • and linings that don’t pull

then keep going–I’m sharing them all with you starting on the next page.

The tips and tricks I’m about to share with you aren’t hard, many of them are common sense or things you do wrong because you just don’t know any better. But my goal today is to help you know what to do better to make your sewing polished and professional. Do these things and when you look back at your sewing projects you’ll feel a sense of pride–you made that!

9 More Ways to Make Your Sewing Polished

1. Use a longer stitch length when topstitching

Tiny stitches are for security and making sure a garment stays sewn, but when it comes to topstitching you want to use a longer length. Not only does it look more professional, but the longer length stays on top of the fabric a little so its more pronounced.

I personally like a topstitch length of 3 on cottons/most lighter fabrics and a 4 or 4.5 on thicker fabric like canvas or denim. Just be aware that any wobbly stitch lines are more apparent with a longer stitch length, so go slow and keep it straight! Also, topstitching thread and needles are available and are awesome for getting your topstitching right.

When I was making these Birkin Flares, I used two colors of topstitching thread and a length of 4. I also went really slow because I used lighter colors against a dark denim. And, I unpicked stitching that wasn’t quite right because it was so important.

Sewing your own jeans is pretty easy with the Birkin Flares.

Afraid to sew denim with your sewing machine? My Janome DC5100 never hesitates–its an amazing machine. Check it out here!

2. Use the Right Buttonhole Orientation and Placement

If there’s one thing I cringe at when I pull out clothes I made a few years ago its bad buttonhole placement and the wrong buttonhole orientation. Your top button should be 1/2″ below the top of the garment then evenly spaced to the bottom of the buttoned area based on the number of buttons you’re using.

Then you can decide on your buttonholes. Buttonholes should start at least 1/8″ from the edge of the fabric you’re buttoning and should have interfacing between layers to stabilize your buttonholes. So what determines buttonhole orientation?

Horizontal buttonholes allow more ease and can handle more strain without contorting the fabric so they’re great for things like pants and tight clothing while a vertical orientation stays closed better (as long as the buttonhole isn’t too big) so they work best when the clothing isn’t tight fitting.

Vertical buttonholes are also a little more pleasing to the eye. So just make sure your orientation matches the need. Also, I’ve seen many ready-to-wear dresses that have a mix of vertical and horizontal buttonholes if one area has more strain than another.

3. Use fray check on your buttonholes and belt loops to keep them from looking ragged

You’ve spent a lot of careful time making sure your buttonhole placement is perfect and your belt loops are straight, and they look great. Now make sure they stay looking great by dabbing a little Fray Check on the ends/opening and let it dry. Now the fabric won’t shred when you wash it and they’ll stay looking amazing.

4. Use a tailor’s clapper to get your seams flat

You know when you steam press a seam and then its way too hot to touch? Get a tailor’s clapper (or a small piece of wood) to press down on your seams while they’re cooling and you’ll get amazingly flat folds and seams. If you’re pressing a single layer of cotton, you probably won’t need this as much, but you’ll definitely notice a difference on several layers or thicker material.

Your fabric stays in the shape or orientation its in when it cools. By letting them cool while being pressed flat they more naturally stay that way.

5. Use a tailor’s ham to get your armholes pressed in a natural shape

I need a ham in a bad way. Every time I press a sleeve or shoulder seam I shake my head at how misshapen they look since I’m trying to evenly press a curve on a flat board. It seems silly, but having a curved shape to press on gives your clothing pieces a natural shape that really does make a difference.

6. Clip, don’t pin, fabrics where you’d see a pinhole

Vinyl, leather, and some evening wear fabrics are delicate and show pin holes even after you’re done pinning. For these fabrics, use WonderClips to keep things together without damaging your fabric and they’re wonderful.

I love using these clips and even use them on regular fabrics or tricky areas. They were developed for holding quilt bindings, but you’l love them for everything.


7. Use the right needle (and change it often)

Universal, sharp, ballpoint, stretch, leather, denim, double, topstitching, etc. There are a lot of needle choices out there, and it may seem overwhelming when you first start out. But using the right needle makes a big difference on different fabrics. 

And while Universal needles sound perfect for everything, its not. Universals are great for a lot of purposes, you need to make sure you’re using:

  • Ballpoint or stretch needles for knits
  • Leather needles for leather
  • Denim needles for denim
  • Twin needles for two parallel lines or hems that need a little stretch

Its also important to change your needle so its sharp, straight, and strong.

8. Make sure lining and main pieces are exact so there’s no weird pulling

Ugh, this is the worst. You spend time lining a bodice and everything is looking great until you realize something is off. Maybe your seam allowances aren’t exactly the same or at the last minute you grabbed a different lining that hadn’t been washed so they are no longer the same once you wash them (ugh, I’ve done this twice now, and its the pits).

Whatever seems to be off, take the time to unpick and do it again until its right. If your bodice and lining aren’t exact, you will have pulling or puckering that is a dead giveaway that its homemade (and not in a good way).

9. Lint roll your finished garment

And while you’re at it, check for stray thread a couple more times. Sometimes its the little things that make a big difference. Little pieces of lint, thread, and fabric bits are a telltale sign something just came off the sewing machine. Making sure you look over and clean up those little details make a big difference in a first impression.

Like I said, these aren’t hard things, but they make SUCH a difference. Try them out and let me know what you think.

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7 years ago

great tips! I’ve got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for tomorrow that features your post: http://sewing.craftgossip.com/?p=86888 –Anne

Shelly Morgan
6 years ago

Thanks Lisa! These are great tips. Love the part on buttonhole orientation! Will pin for later 🙂

6 years ago

Make a taylor ham from scraps of fabric. Create a roll out of a sturdy fabric that will reflect the heat(I used some old curtains). The size of your ham is determined by how many fabric scraps you have. You need loads for a decent size.
Take all those scraps of fabric that are too small to use and stuff the roll as tight as you can.
This will create a cheap taylor ham and from stuff you may have in your cupboard.