Using Your Domestic Machine to get Professional Results

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be taking part in this awesome series! I’m flattered to be included among this fantastic group of ladies.

So, today we’re going to talk about how to get professional results using your domestic machine.  Personally, I use a Kenmore sewing machine and I think you can get great results with your domestic. Am I considering an industrial? Sure, but they’re a big investment so in the meantime these are some tricks I’ve learned over the years of sewing handbags & wallets…

  1. Stitch Length-The typical range for stitch length on a domestic machine is 0-4mm, sometimes up to 6mm. Most machines have a default setting of 2.5 mm (10-12 stitches per inch). Obviously, the smaller the number the smaller the stitch. Smaller stitches are harder to rip out and can cause damage to your fabric, I generally sew my bags with a stitch length of 3.0.However, when top stitching I like to use a length of 3.5mm on fabric, and if I’m using vinyl I like to use a length of 4.0-4.5mm. It gives a nice even smooth look, especially if I’m using a top stitching thread.
  2. Pressure Adjustment-On most machine there is a place to adjust the pressure on your presser foot, it comes in handy to know these settings when sewing lots of layers for your bags. On my machine there’s a dial on top that has 3 settings- 1 is for Extra fine fabrics (It puts more pressure on the foot so your fabric will feed through evenly) 2 is for appliqué, and 3 is the regular setting. These are important settings to look at if you’re having tension issues (coming up next).
  3. Tension – Speaking of tension issues… have  you ever tried to sew something and the thread just bunched up on the bottom of your fabric or just looked wonky? You really need to know how to adjust the tension of your machine-and don’t be scared of it! I will often have to change the tension when using different materials (fabric or vinyl) for one bag. When the tension on your machine is balanced the stitched lines look even on both sides of your fabrics. Threads Magazine has a great article on tension…
    “When upper and lower thread tensions are balanced, knot between top and bottom threads is hidden between fabric layers (top). When lower tension is too loose (or upper tension is too tight), knot is visible on right side (left). When upper tension is too loose (or lower tension is too tight), knot is visible on wrong side (right).”
  4. Seam Jumpers– Have you ever had a thick seam that you’re trying to sew together and your machine just won’t forward the fabric through the feed dogs? A seam jumper is a great little tool that can help you out. You set your presser foot on top and it will hold it up to the same level as your thick seam and your machine will glide right through and your machine won’t chew up your fabric!
    seamjumpera_WeaverDee.png(image from

Needles-There are so many options of needles how do you choose the right one?  11/80, 18/110, 16/100, 14/90… what do they all mean? I like to use a heavy duty universal needle when I sew my bags. Selecting the correct needle for your project is just as important as selecting the fabric, thread and stabilizer. There are different sizes and types of needles for different types of fabric. The European metric sizing system for sewing machine needles is numbered from 60 to 110. The American sizing system is numbered from 8 to 18. For both sizing systems, the lower the number the finer the needle and the higher the number the larger the needle. Most needle companies show both sizes on the package.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind: the lighter the fabric the smaller the needle size and the heavier the fabric the larger the needle size.

6. Etcetera -My last tips are bits and pieces, mostly for the inside-generally the part that no one is ever going to see but can make or break  your bags.
Seams.. I always, always, always press open my seams (unless using vinyl of course-but even then finger press!). I also like to top stitch down those pressed seams when I can then trim the excess inside to reduce bulk for top stitching around the bag later.
Using the right interfacing is important.. I know we all have our favourites (I’m a sucker for foam interfacing – I love the look and structure it gives a bag) but if you’re not sure what to use.. PLAY. Seriously, some of my favourite bags are when I switched up what was called for in the pattern, now keep in mind you may need to make some other adjustments to the pattern so it’s best to do it with a pattern you are familiar with.

I really hope these tips were helpful! If you have any questions or have any additional tips, let us know in the comments below!



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