Tips and Tricks

Pre-washing Fabrics:

I pre-wash almost everything. For me it's necessary because of hyper-sensitivity to the excess dyes and formaldihyde. But, there are other advantages. Silks become softer and more drapable. Some lighter weight silks, like shantung, sometimes gain little hairline wrinkles which give the silk a beautiful look of supple leather. Body can always be added back in by spraying with sizing or fusing interfacing to back.

Crisp silks like dupioni can be made soft and pliable by washing. This gives you the ability to use the vividly colored dupioni silks in flowing skirts and pants without having to be limited to lighter weight and lighter colored silks. This also means you can wash those silk garments after construction.

Pre-washing allows fusible interfacings to bond better and eliminates bubbles.

Wash vivid silks first with Retayne to set the dyes. Thereafter, wash with cold water only.

Pre-washing rayons makes them softer, but does result in a good bit of shrinkage, so buy extra fabric. Advantage is you will not have to dry clean your garment after construction.

I even prewash wool. It definitely will shrink, and some will felt. So pre-test to make sure you like the results. But, you can make a lighter weight wool fuller and richer with washing. I always do this in preparation for needle punch felting.

Fusible Interfacings:

Always preshrink fusible interfacing by imersing in a pan of hot water from kitchen faucet. Let sit until it cools. Blot dry and lay flat or over rods, fusible side up, to air dry. This will insure a better bond and eliminate those awful bubbles.


Take the time to know your needles. There are so many diffrent types of needles for very specific techniques and fabrics. There is no such thing as a general needle that is fine for everything. That's like those "one size fits all" garments that don't fit anyone very well. Microtex sharps are for wovens, stretch or ball point needles are for knits, top stitch needles have large eyes and are larger stronger needles, metallics are made of different alloys from other needles and are coated to cut down on friction (metal thread on metal needle makes friction and heat and breakage), etc. Within each type of needle, you will have a choice of sizes. Generally you will want the smallest or finest needle that will do the job, because the smaller the needle, the smaller the hole.

The right needle makes all the difference in how your stitches turn out.


Invest in top quality long staple thread. Not only will this make a difference in the look of your seams, but it will safegard your sewing machine against all that excess fuzz that cheap threads leave behind in your tension discs and bobbin cases.

I'm busy writing down lots of tips and tricks I've learned over too many years to mention. I'll keep adding as time allows, so please check back often.