A while back I lamented how I longed to sew tried-and-true patterns. Well, I scratched that itch by batch sewing four Megan Nielsen Briar T-shirts.
(It was going to be five Briars, but my serger and I had a misunderstanding. Oops.)
Anyhoodle, I’ve got some new stripey shirts for my torso, and I’m here to share what I learned while batch sewing these lovelies. Following are five lessons to take to heart should you be interested in batch sewing — and my take on which garments are good candidates for batch sewing. Let’s get it on!
1.) Test and record.
For some time now, I’ve been on a MISSION to master twin needle sewing. My bobbin stitches always looked bad.
I know twin needle bobbin stitches look less stellar that regular bobbin stitches, but mine where terrible. The bobbin thread BARELY zig-zagged between the two lines of straight topstitching, and zig-zaggy bobbin thread is what makes twin needle stitching stretchy — and ideal for knits!
To level up my twin-needle sewing, I experimented with different variables:
- narrow- vs. wide-width stretch twin needles
- size of thread spool
- location of thread spool
- upper thread tension
- presser foot pressure
- stabilizer, including HeatnBond Soft Stretch fusible web adhesive and Sulky water-soluble stabilizer (affiliate links)
When I felt like I ran out of combos, I fiddled with flatlock stitches on my serger and even bought a blind hemming foot.
In my heart, though, I couldn’t give up on the twin needle. My sewing machine is designed to work with a twin needle, darn it. I shall not quit!
Then I came across this Clothes Making Mavens podcast episode with sewing educator Barbara Emodi, who talked about her experiments with hemming knits.
TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU KNOW, BARBARA!
I went to Emodi’s blog series on hemming knits and found something I hadn’t tried: using Woolly Nylon in the bobbin.
I gave Woolly Nylon (affiliate link) a go and haven’t looked back. My bobbin stitches are zig-zaggy again, and the twin needle stitches S-T-R-E-T-C-H like you wouldn’t believe. They’re positively springy.
The lesson: Before you start batch sewing, test stitches and write down all germane settings and tools, etc. That way, you’re ready to roll!
2.) Think through thread choice.
In the spirit of rolling through sewing duplicates with zero/minimal interruption, I suggest choosing thread (affiliate link) that works for all your projects.
Rethreading your machine(s) is a time suck that you can avoid. I used the same thread combo of blue, white, and navy for all (internal) serged seams. For my (external) neckline topstitching and hemming, I used white in my twin needle and white Woolly Nylon bobbin thread.
All four shirts have white stripes, so the white twin-needle stitching worked out swell. If you’re fixing a batch-sewing jamboree, it’s wise to choose projects that can share the same color thread.
3.) Hit the easy button.
I love stripes (if that wasn’t obvious, ha ha).
When you sew stripes, stripe matching becomes a concern. Stripe matching takes time.
That’s why I rotated the direction of my pocket stripes: to cut down on stripe matching.
Don’t get me wrong: I am DEEPLY into invisible pockets — Exhibit A: my first Megan Nielsen Briar.
But when you’re batch sewing, you likely have an itch to go faster. (That’s not just me, right?)
Go easy on yourself (and accelerate your batch sewing) by using solids and prints that don’t require matching across seams or pockets.
4.) Save your favorite for last.
When I sew, I find myself doing better work if I’ve warmed up. I usually grab scrap fabric and fiddle around to ensure my machine settings are ready. I try to start on the project with something simple — a straight seam.
I get my brain and hands right before I tackle the hard stuff.
If you’re batch sewing garments using different fabric, or if your garments have slightly different design features, my guess is there’s one shirt in your pile that you like more than the others.
For me, it was the blue-and-white stripe long-sleeved Briar. The one with the smallest stripes. I LOVE that shade of blue.
As I sewed through each step, I did the blue-white stripey guy last every time. When I got to No. 4 of 4, my technique was on point. In short, my favorite shirt got my best work.
5.) Be OK with imperfection, or take a break.
Batch sewing may help you save time. But when you do the same thing over and over again, it can be boring.
And when you’re bored, sometimes you get lazy.
At least that’s what happened to me.
The last step in my batch Briar sewing was hemming the bottom of the shirts. I was a little sloppier folding up the bottom edge, and my stitching at the side between the front and back is not great on the inside. I probably should have been more careful sewing over the side seam, because I missed the raw edge for a few stitches.
From the outside, however, you wouldn’t look twice, and I’m OK with that.
The teeny-weeny bit of the raw edge that didn’t get stitched down will not destroy the bottom hem. It’s good enough, and that’s good enough for me.
The stripe matching on these shirts could be better. I’m sure if I’d sewn them on my sewing machine with my lightning stitch that those stripes would be perfecto, ’cause that’s how I roll with stripe matching.
But not this time.
Sewing these T-shirts was a good way for me to get familiar with my new serger. I could have sewn them impeccably on my sewing machine… or I could have gained experience with my new sewing toy.
I opted for the latter. I didn’t even baste the stripes on my sewing machine before I serged them. I carefully pinned and used Wonder Clips (affiliate link) and serged as carefully as I could.
My shirts aren’t perfect, but I’d say they’re as good as any RTW T, and I have that much more insight into how to serge like a boss.
I’m going to put something important here in bold type, in large part because it’s a lesson I need to absorb: You have permission to be imperfect. Don’t be afraid of imperfection. Be afraid of what you cannot learn if you don’t go for it.
So that was sort of a tangent from my batch-sewing-can-be-boring point, but I regret nothing! If you see yourself getting sloppy and it bothers you, take a break. Or be cool with flaws.
Following are Amazon affiliate links chosen for you! If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!
- Elmer’s Jumbo Glue Stick (3 Pack) 1.4 oz (40g) each – Washable Disappearing Purple $8.50 – Glue stick is one of my favorite basting tools, especially on lighter-weight fabric. (Test first on your fabric, natch.)
- Clover Wonder Clips, Red, 50-Pack $15.94 – These clips are a great alternative to pins (and harder to lose and consequently step on, YOUCH).
- Woolly Nylon Thread Solids 1000 Meters-White $6.84 – Without Woolly Nylon thread, I’d still be struggling with twin-needle stitching. It’s a game changer.
- Schmetz Twin Stretch Needle size 2.5/75 $5.38 and size 4.0/75 $7.89 – Size 2.5 is narrower than size 4.0. It’s nice to have multiple needles on hand to find the ideal combo of needle-tension-thread.
- Dritz Sheer Press Cloth, 22 by 30-Inch $8.56 – Protect fabric from direct heat and steam.
Check out some entertainment while you’re batch sewing!
- Amazon Music Unlimited 30-day free trial – Rock out to millions of songs on any device, anywhere!
- Amazon Prime 30-day free trial – Watch thousands of movies and TV shows. What’s more, Prime members get two-day free shipping — so you don’t have to stop batch sewing to run errands. #cantstopwontstop
- Audible 30-day free trial – Test drive the world’s largest collection of audiobooks and spoken word content, plus choose two audio books for free.
When to Batch Sew
The ideal time to batch sew is when you have a pattern you’d like multiples of.
Maybe this is obvious, but it’s an interesting lens through which to look at your sewing-pattern stash. How many garments would you like to have in your closet more than once? (Does this question influence how you buy patterns? That’s a topic for another post!)
Off the top of my head, I can think of two big buckets of clothes that lend themselves well to batch sewing:
These are your comfortable, everyday clothes — T-shirts, cardigans, sweatshirts, jeans, and leggings.The modern human needs repeats of these garments in her wardrobe; they’re appropriate things to wear pretty much any time you’re not at work or a black-tie gala. Pajamas, workout clothes, and undies also are good batch-sewing candidates as you need multiples of each.
2.) Work Separates
Batch sewing work separates lets you dream up a never-fail uniform (or capsule wardrobe, if yer fancy) for getting down to business. Think of the outfits you could make if you sewed 2-3 versions of the same skirt, blouse, button-down shirt, trousers, and knit blazer (the Grainline Morris (affiliate link) would be fabulous). You could go almost a whole month without a repeated ensemble. (Somebody do the math on that, please!)
Toss in 2-3 versions of the same dress, such as the Simplicity New Look 6145 shift dress (which has great reviews on PatternReview.com, BTW; also: affiliate link). A shift dress pattern would take no time to sew, be easy to wear, and, if sewn in neutral colors, become a versatile backdrop for statement jewelry and scarves.
For the next bit (until I get the itch to make a special dress, most likely), I will be batch sewing projects. It saves time and gives me multiples of much-needed basics.
Over to you: What’s your best piece of advice for batch sewing? What are your favorite patterns and types of garments to batch sew? Please sound off in comments for the benefit of other sewists! Thanks!
P.S. ICYMI, here’s the previous post: Named Ruri Sweatpants: Smart Casual in Sueded Scuba.
P.P.S. Hey, if you made it this far, you probably like what’s going on here at Sie macht. That’s awesome! To get Sie macht in your inbox, click the button to sign up for the monthly newsletter. The February edition arrives Saturday, February 24!
P.P.P.S. Here’s another time I sewed a striped shirt: Sew Over It Molly top: Stripes around my shoulder. Fun fact: My navy-and-white short-sleeved Briar in this post is made from the same fabric as my Molly top!