Bad Sewing Habits: It’s Time For a Change

bad sewing habits

Everyone has bad habits. Whether you aren't the best housekeeper, you cut corners on your work projects or you eat unhealthy foods while you are supposed to be dieting, everyone has bad habits. If those bad habits are part of your sewing experience, however, it may be time to say goodbye to them. Hopefully, you also have some good sewing habits that are helpful to your efforts. Below is a list of some bad sewing habits that people who sew tend to develop. If you have one or more of these habits, it may be a good idea to work toward changing the habit into a good one instead.

Thread Storage: Is Your Thread Out in Plain Sight?

Many novice sewers tend to leave thread out on the table. Even if you opt for a basket or small box that looks organized, it is still open to the air and the dust and lint that regularly floats through the room. In order to keep thread free of dust and avoid clogs to the sewing machine, thread should be stored in a sealed container.

For some additional thread and notions storage ideas, please check out this article:

Fabric: Do You Know What You Have Stashed at Home?

Some crafters choose to head to the fabric store and see what they can find. However, if you do this and don't check your current inventory at home, you may end up with fabric you already purchased. This means money spent on fabric you still may not have determined is good for a project. This means you have a lot of fabric laying around and no use for it.

For an easy way to store and manage your fabric stash, please check this out:

Work Ethic: Do You Take Breaks or Work for Hours on End?

If you work on a lot of projects, you may get sucked into the project at hand and forget to take breaks. While this may seem like a good habit to be in, it actually is bad for you and the sewing machine. This isn't even considering the other household tasks you miss or meals you don't make. Hours at the sewing machine means your eyes get tired, your hands start to hurt and other parts of your body ache. This can mean the project suffers too. If you want a better result, it is a good idea to take breaks and give yourself a chance to recover from the time you have spent on the project.

Holding Sewing Pins: Do You Put Them In Your Mouth?

This may seem convenient, but it is a very bad idea. It is far too easy to swallow pins, which is not good for your health. Not only can the pins end up in your stomach, but you can accidentally inhale a pin into your lung, which can do a lot of damage.

Starting a New Project Using an Untested Technique

You may find a new technique for sewing that seems like a great idea. However, before you start a project using material that you have in limited supply, try taking extra material you don't have a use for and testing yourself and the new technique on that. In this manner, you can get a handle on the new technique, then you can have better results with the project where you want to see it used.

Fabric and Designs: Make Sure They Mesh Well

There is a reason to use specific types of fabrics for certain garments or specific designs. It is not helpful to try to use any fabric for a project, when that project would work best with specific materials. Certain fabrics are far too challenging to use for a project. Pay attention to the fabric suggestions on the pattern and save yourself some hassle.

Fabric Marking: When Ballpoint Isn't Your Friend

If you have a sewing room, make sure all of your ink pens are stored elsewhere. A water soluble pen and a chalk pencil will be the best tools to have on hand. Make sure to test to see if a water soluble pen will stain the fabric you are using for a specific project. If that is the case, then use the chalk pencil instead.

For additional ideas on fabric marking please read more here:

Fabric Scissors: Keep Them In The Sewing Room

In direct contrast to your ink pens, your fabric scissors should be stored in the sewing room. Likewise, they should NOT be used for items other than fabric. This dulls the scissors and makes them less effective when you are trying to cut fabric for a project. Keeping them in the sewing room keeps them safe for projects and avoids accidental use as well.

If you've always wondered if you can or should cut paper with your sewing scissors, please read this:

Measurement: Measure Twice, Cut Once

There is a reason old sayings get to be old sayings: they have a point. Even if you think you know the measurements for a certain project, take them again before you start cutting. You may find a change in the measurements or realize you made a mistake the first time. Either way, measuring twice saves on wasted material.

Sewing Machines: Create and Stick to a Maintenance Schedule

Lint and dust tend to build up in the moving parts of your sewing machine. If you ignore this important fact, your work could be ruined when the machine stops running. To avoid this, make sure you do regular maintenance on your machine. It is also a good idea to take it to a professional who works at an authorized repair shop when issues get out of hand.

For more tips on maintaining your sewing machine, read this:

Now that you know some of the common bad habits crafters pick up in regard to sewing, you may be able to avoid them. That can mean positive changes for your sewing projects and a boost to your budget.

If you have any other bad sewing habits you would like to share, please help your fellow sewists out and leave a comment below!

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64 Responses to Bad Sewing Habits: It’s Time For a Change

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for all these tips. I didn’t know about the threads but have them all stored in sealed plastic boxes. I agree totally with measure twice and cut once. All the comments are great to know about. Thank you.

  2. Pamela Sturtevant says:

    Wow! I’m really just a beginner level sewer, window curtains a few skirts, and some easy tops. All these tips are like gold to me! Thank all of you for sharing such good information which will help me improve my habits and my skill.

  3. Kristine Alvarez says:

    Some great pointers. I have a comment and a question. My comment: If your fabric is going to be stored for very long be cautious about storing it out on shelves where daylight can reach it. I have several pieces with a sun-bleached line where they were folded and exposed too long to daylight.
    My question: I am wondering if I should have dedicated scissors for polyester fabrics – especially fleece. I work for JoAnn stores and our scissors take a beating on days fleece is on sale. Any comments?

    • Linda G says:

      Although you may find it useful to have separate scissors for synthetics, like polyester, it probably depends more on how much you use synthetic fabrics, how much you use natural fibers, and how often you are willing to have your scissors sharpened.
      It is important to remember many synthetic fibers, including polyester, acrylic, orlon, and (most) nylon, are plastics, often petroleum-based. (note: Rayon is usually made from processed natural fiber waste; spandex can be made from plant-based rubber or synthetic elastics.)
      Fleece is a dense, often felted fabric, so cutting through polyester fleece is like cutting through many layers of plastic fibers, which are actually quite hard, in spite of how soft the fabric may feel. This is likely to wear and dull the blades of scissors more quickly than most natural thread fibers, like cottons or silks, which, in general, are gentler than the synthetics. The difference in wear on tools and notions is more likely to be noticed when working with thicker or denser fabrics, like fleece, and comparing it to working with lighter fabrics of any fiber content.

  4. Darlene says:

    Been sewing with pins in my mouth since I was a teenager – about 50 years. Guess I’m just lucky!

    • Dawn says:

      Me too! The worst that has happened so far? I have stabbed through the tomato pin cushion into my arm!! No swallowing pins so far though…

  5. Carol Remmick says:

    Thank you so much for the video. I am new to sewing and sewing machines. The info will be very helpful when I do my first cleaning

  6. Shasta Jones says:

    I didn’t know this about the thread so thanks. One more bad habit is one I have been guilty of. Not reading the pattern through from start to finish once before beginning to sew. I used to think what a time waster but it ended up that when I skipped this important step I’d end up either having an imperfect result or making a lot more work for myself cause of having to do steps over again. The other benefit is that some patterns just aren’t clear to me because of the way its worded and if I know that I don’t waste time trying to do that one. Love your emails and newsletters. Thank you.

  7. Lois says:

    Just a big thanks for so many practical and efficient ideas. I have a compact sewing space and appreciate every organization suggestion I can find. I also appreciate your free patterns. I am mainly just a shadow viewer of your blog, but I read every one. I don’t think I have commented before. Keep up with your information and good cheer.

  8. Julie Fitzpatrick says:

    Thanks for all these great tips! I will be thinking about how to keep the dust off my thread…

  9. Pat says:

    I laughed when I read this line: material you don’t have a use for

  10. Mary Beth says:

    Along with measure twice is think through your sewing steps many times. Especially if not following a pattern. Make sure you understand where you are going

  11. Sandy says:

    Thank you! It inspired me to rethink my workshop!

  12. Aunt Bee says:

    I recently read an article by Superior Threads that stated it is OK to keep your thread out on racks or wherever, just keep them out of direct sunlight. Yes, you might get dust on them but the dust is only on the outside layer which is easily wiped off before use. I have been doing that for years and never had a problem. And the spools are much easier to find for that right color than digging through a drawer.

  13. Linda says:

    One of my husband’s first woodworking projects for me was a thread rack – a big one! I have it on the same wall as the window in my sewing room and use those threads first. My quilting thread is stored in drawers.

  14. Cynthia F says:

    I bought air tight plastic containers and some of my threads is over 9 years old that I use. Also, if I get thread breaks from thread not in these containers I put the thread in a plastic zip lock bag with a slightly damp napkin and put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes. That makes them pliable again.

  15. Laura Marston says:

    A very long time ago I sorted all my thread by color group and bagged up the groups in sandwich size zip locks bags. The bags are grouped in plastic storage drawers by end use. The drawers are labeled sewing thread, quilting thread, and specialty threads like Rayon, Silk, etc. I can easily find the color I need if I already have it.

  16. Bonnie Lippincott says:

    When I taught my granddaughter to sew I didn’t want her to think to put the pins in her mouth. So I trained myself not to do it so I didn’t pass on that really bad habit!

  17. Esther Sommer-Heiniger says:

    I bought plastic drawer parts at the hardware store for my threads. They close well. From time to time I put a damp cloth in the drawers so that the threads do not dry out. This works very well. I started to sort my fabrics for quilts by color. I also stowed these in clear plastic boxes, so I can see what I need right away. Unfortunately, buy too much (ha ha).

  18. Cheryl says:

    You’re awesome! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  19. Che says:

    As I have said before and I’ll say it again, So Sew Easy is Awesome! I’m so grateful that you’re around to help with all my questions and problems. I appreciate all of you for caring and sharing. You’re definitely the mentors I have found!

  20. patricia a ryan says:

    Remember the iron is your friend when sewing!

  21. Deborah Ann Cooper says:

    This is gonna be a long one.
    I think the worst habit we’ve all been guilty of from time to time is leaving a mess. It is important to clean up between projects. For one thing,when I leave a mess it contributes to the “where did I leave my so and so”problem. Taking time to put stuff away just seems so awful when you’re tired. I don’t mean that you have to have a cork board with all the places for your tools outlined, but for about $4 I bought a little clear “tackle box” type container I throw all my tools that I use WITH my sewing machine, like scissors, seam rippers, new needles, a 1″ x 6″ ruler near my machine, then put scraps, old pattern etc somewhere else even if it’s just a cardboard box under the ironing board get that stuff off my work area or it will pile up and be in the way.
    The only other 2 things I really need to do is get up all the threads, fabric scraps from clipping corners etc. This stuff will not only migrate everywhere getting into future projects it’s a choking hazard for pets and small kids. I run a cheap lint roller over my ironing board then I cover my sewing machine and ironing board with a couple of old beach towels.

    PS Try a pipe cleaner to get up lint from your sewing machine when you clean it. Works way better than those little brushes. Pipe cleaners are really cheap at a dollar store and have a zillion uses

  22. Christine says:

    I’ve been in a similar situation and I used to throw a table cloth over everything so that I didn’t have to pack up and could quickly get back into it. I wonder if that is considered an acceptable option 🙂

  23. Melanie says:

    I am guilty of most of these. I confess I just packed up my machine to move and realized it has been uncovered since Christmas! Eep!

  24. Patty says:

    I have 4 machines and misplaced the cover for one. I purchased Clear Trash Bags and used one to cover the machine. I liked it, so I covered my thread racks on the wall and my spool thread stand. Then I just got slap-happy & hung some of my inventory fabrics from a rolling garment rack. Yep, you guessed it, I covered these with the clear trash bags also. Last but not least, I’ve covered my sewing forms to keep the dust off them. I think the plastic works better than cloth at keeping off the dust.

  25. Fran says:

    I have my threads in boxes made for the small cone threads. I have made a graph , so that I can see at a glance the name and number the colors in each box. Right now I have 12 boxes of 30 threads each, so without the charts I’d go a little crazy looking for a color otherwise.

  26. I admit to not getting my machine serviced often enough. Usually every couple of years or so. When I take it in for a service it inevitably takes at least a week to get it back and that is just way too long for me. My other bad habit it to not cover it up each night. Sometimes the cover will be left off for a few days at a time. Thanks for high lighting the need to do things the right way.

  27. Em, Australia says:

    Goodness, I’m sure any decent seamtress would take one look at my sewing space and have me banned from the hobby altogether! I have all those bad habits except the sewing for long periods. As a full time carer for a frail aged parent, all my projects are interupted constantly, and I tend to leave everything out ready to snatch any chance I get to sew. I think perhaps I better just be more organised and get quicker at setting up and packing up. Thank you, you’ve made me realise there’s no point not doing things properly, even if it means less sewing time each opportunity I get.

  28. Janice says:

    I took a class many years ago from 4-H, they had a machine repair man speak to us. He said,,” your main sewing machine problems can be corrected by 2 things, good thread, get the best you can afford and your needle, change them often.” I have been told every new project needs a new needle. Also from a repair trip the man who serviced my machine said your problem is your bobbin. Always use the ones made for your machine. I have 3 machines so I mark my bobbins with the first initial of each machine.

  29. SewMagical says:

    Not changing machine needles often enough, or using the wrong needle for the fabric is another bad habit. Using a sharp needle for knits, rather than a ball-point, for example, can pierce threads and weaken the fabric. A ball-point needle is designed to slip between the threads.

  30. I have another suggestion, and I apologize that it will be rather lengthy….

    Regarding buying fabric to replace inventory….When I get home after shopping for fabric and washing & ironing it, I place a corner of the fabric on an old, unneeded business card or cardstock with double-sided tape, and cut around it with pinking shears. I then write the on the back the place/date I purchased it, the care instructions, and any other info, then use my Crocodile or hole punch to make a hole at the top, and put it on a large looseleaf binder ring. Since my stash has grown, I now keep them color coordinated as well as keeping solids, prints, canvas, etc. on separate rings, and hang them on a wall in my sewing room. (Of course, now that you mentioned dust, I will have to figure out a better place!

    Also, before I go shopping, I remove fabrics that I am low on or just want to buy more of, and place those on a ring to take with me to shop. This has worked out pretty well for me. (Of course, it does nothing to refrain me from buying too many new fabrics! Ha-Ha!)

    Also, if you participate in craft fairs or have craft yard sales at your home, it might be useful to have these fabric rings available to provide care instructions to customers, or to be able to have customers look through them if they find an item you sell but ask you to, or would like you to, make it in a certain color or another fabric that you have.

    The ring sample idea I got from somewhere on the Internet, but the last two are my own ideas (another Ha-Ha)! Hope some of your readers can use these ideas.

    LOVE you both and your wealth of information, patterns, videos, and instructions! Thank you sooooo much!!!

  31. Patricia M Burckhardt says:

    This is at the right time for me. I learned to sew when I was a kid and had nobody that could sew to teach me so I just started by following patterns, taking short cuts, and always felt bad about the look when I had sewn something. It was in the 50’s so it didn’t make too much difference then. Now I’m trying to re learn how to sew and it’s difficult to break the bad habits and learn new but I’m trying and finding out all kinds of new things to make. I love it.

  32. Margaret Carter says:

    Oh but my thread is so pretty! Wish I could show you a picture.

  33. Guilty of at least two – keeping my thread & bobbins on wall racks, and sewing for waaaay too many hours, although I do take short breaks, so maybe that one doesn’t count?!

    As for the thread, you’ve given me an idea that might work. I have only one window in my rather small sewing room, and have been wanting to make a curtain for it as soon as I can find some cute sewing/craft-related fabric and have the time. Maybe I could hang a little curtain rod above the thread racks and make a matching “curtain”. Hmmmm

  34. Janet Rodgers says:

    Extremely interesting bad habits of which I confess to one, or maybe two! You don’t think they are bad until you realise the consequences that they have, and that comes from an older sewer who obviously has to think before she does…….thank you for pointing out my bad habits, now to stop them!

  35. Roch says:

    ALWAYS cover your machine when not in use: pillowcase, tshirt, or grocery bag! The dirt gets in acts as sandpaper on all the moving parts. Having an old blush brush is good to clean out around openings and bobbin area.

    • Carolyn Brack-Jackson says:

      My hubs, the IT guy always says that “dust is the enemy of electronics”! Vacuum and clean your machines and by all means place a dust cover on them if not in use

  36. Kim Philbrook says:

    Thanks for the reminders. I just started to use microclips instead of pins for certain projects. 🙂

  37. Brigitte says:

    Thank you for your list, I never thought about the dust factor for threads that are on display.
    Paying attention to a supportive chair and a back support helps improve posture while sewing as we can get into the bad habit of sitting or standing stooped over the work surface for long periods. I’m tall so I have my machine and cutting mat on a desk that raises and lowers to get the right height for me. Taking time out to stretch is also important.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I am short but the same applies, a back pain that won’t go away due to my poor posture. I should know better!

  38. JANET says:

    Thank you – never thought thread should be covered. Makes good sense.

  39. Susan says:

    thank you for the help and information greatly appreciated.

  40. Marty says:

    For years I sewed with poor lighting; didn’t realize it until I was at a retreat center which event organizers selected partly due to the excellent lighting!

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