16 June 2021

Five Tips for a Neat Finish

Five tips for a neat finish by Tilly and the Buttons

To sew neatly or not to sew neatly, that is the question? Whether you like to take your time sewing everything precisely or prefer to stitch a little more freely and hope for the best, a few little tips up your sleeve to improve your finished result can be a huge plus.

We are definitely of the opinion that sewing should be fun and there is never just one way to approach things. We advocate for taking your time or taking shortcuts. The way you sew is up to you and it's not for anybody else to tell you what is the "right" or "wrong" way to do things. There is just a way to do things that work best for you! 

If you do want to improve your sewing or take it to next level, here are five tips that only take a few extra minutes per project, but add hugely to the finished garment result. They can save you a little time in the long run if you are the kind of stitcher who likes to unpick to get things just so. If you tend to go with the flow, these tips can help mask a few little humps, bumps and lumps - if you so choose!

Now on to the tips :)

Five tips for a neat finish by Tilly and the Buttons

1) Baste (tack) before you sew 

Have something that needs to line up or stay in place, like the end of waist tie or side seams that join at a waistline? You could take an extra few minutes to baste (tack) pieces together before stitching them for real to make sure they go together nicely. 

Set your machine to a longer stitch length - somewhere between 3-4mm - and sew your pieces together. It can be helpful to do this in a contrasting colour to make the stitching easier to remove after you have sewn your final line. When you come to sew the whole seam, the basted (tacked) pieces will stay put, and you can feel smug :)

It may seem like a step too far, but it can reduce the frustrating process of unpicking stitches when your pieces haven't lined up as perfectly as you had pinned, or that waist tie that made a break for it during the sewing process.

Five tips for a neat finish by Tilly and the Buttons

2) Use a walking foot

Sewing a long seam, like a waistband or wide hem? You can avoid those annoying rippled seams caused by “fabric creep”, which happens when one layer of fabric feeds through the machine at a different speed to the other, by using a walking foot.

It's a magic piece of kit that should stop this from happening. The walking foot – or dual feed foot – attaches to your sewing machine and grips the upper and lower layers evenly, making wibbly seams a thing of the past.

Or, if one of your layers is interfaced, you can sew with that piece on top as this will do a similar job of stabilising - phew!

Five tips for a neat finish by Tilly and the Buttons

3) Compare lengths of overlapping waistbands

It's quite common when attaching a waistband to find that it no longer fits the waistline. A possible cause is you didn't sew the seam allowances at the exact same length, or because the waistline has slightly stretched out. It happens to all of us.

Not to worry though - if you have any excess fabric on the waistband, you can ease it in evenly until it fits. Or, you can take a mo to check that they are still going to fit together - without overhang. Womenswear usually folds right over left so if anything, I’ll make the right side a teensy bit longer so the lower layer doesn’t peep out. 

Five tips for a neat finish by Tilly and the Buttons

4) Press seams as you go

This may sound simple, but pressing seams on both the wrong and right side of the fabric, will help define them and smooth out any fabric ridges. Trust me, it will make soooo much difference. 

It's worth taking a moment at the end of your project to give necklines and hems a good press to smooth and set them, with a steamy iron if the fabric can take it. Even if the stitching looks a bit dodgy once it comes off your sewing machine, an iron can work wonders in neatening it up! 

Fancy a few more tips? Check out this post with ten tips for pressing your sewing projects like a pro.

How to understitch like a pro by Tilly and the Buttons

5) Understitch to keep linings and facings on the inside 

Understitching is a technique used to stop facings from peeking out from the inside of garments. If you attach a facing to a neckline or armhole etc., you can stitch the seam allowances to the facing, close to the seam line, and this will help it stay on the inside where it belongs. Understitching is one of those nifty sewing techniques that may seem small but makes all the difference to your me-made garments.

Want to watch this technique in action? Check out our YouTube video below!

We hope these tips will come in handy, but remember, sewing doesn't have to be neat, and it certainly doesn't have to be perfect. But, it should be fun :)

Happy sewing! xx


Author: Tilly Walnes / Louise Carmichael

Photos: Jane Looker