Essential Sewing Tips from a Seamstress. Part 1:

As I learn and evolve (getting closer to Zen everyday…. it’s a work in progress), and think everything I have learnt is all I need to know, I discover more. Often by chance, sometimes by mistake. And sometimes I meet lovely like-minded people along the way who share their knowledge and wisdom in the local neighbourhood. Those who also tolerate B1 and B2 going through all the buttons, and for reasons unknown, love to collect buttons. Yes. Buttons.

Heights Sewing Centre

Heights Sewing Centre

Yes, I hold onto old habits, sure that no replacement could ever exist for a technique or routine that I have followed since I was first taught. However, I’m learning there are different ways that can save time, effort and make the experience a little less breath holding. Just to clarify: When I’m overly stressed about doing something, sewing or otherwise, I hold my breath. It’s not a particularly helpful technique, neither adding value to what I’m working on or my assisting my personal wellbeing. I often do it at work. I used to do it with sewing. I’m more conscious of it now, however I still find myself on occasion having a quick gasp when I’ve been concentrating intently. But I digress.

So  today I thought I would share a sprinkle of my knowledge acquired  in my sewing adventures, some more recently and others another lifetime ago when I was working as a home seamstress and being paid pittance for hours of work. I think that’s where much of my breath holding went in those days.

This, dear friends, is a most wondrous discovery. I discovered it at the local haberdashery and has it changed, not so much the way I sew, but the way I utilise and treat my patterns. Previously, I would purchase a Big 4 pattern, hack away at the flimsy tissue paper in a size I thought might approximate something that would fit, and then repurchase the pattern the next time I needed it (inevitably) because I had lost a piece or needed a different size. No more! I discovered via the interwebs the idea of tracing off a pattern to allow the original to be kept in pristine condition. Excellent. Until I found that reasonably sized pieces of tracing paper were not readily available and I would end up piecing together wax paper or A3 sheets from the local arts store . They would tear, stick together in places unintended and rumple. Too much, too much I cried! Especially since I was now investing in indie patterns that I wanted to keep in mint condition because they were so, well, indie. And pretty. There is something magical about a indie pattern that makes one shudder at the thought of going the big chop with scissors.


Enter Heights Sewing Centre, Est 1935. The local habby that keeps me supplied with notions, thread and that which may (or may not…) change your life: Tracing Vilene. It’s a standard old time interfacing with no sticky, and you use it to trace patterns off. It is THE replacement for cutting originals or for tracing paper. It is also my Favourite. Sewing. Thing. Ever. It’s sold off a roll like fabric, costs about $3 a meter, is sold by the meter or less and runs in a continuous length. Tracing vilene also has the following most excellent properties as evidenced below:

  • It’s see through, just as much as tracing paper
  • It does not easily crease (and if it does, iron it flat)
  • It readily accepts a ball point pen without fear of smudge or transfer onto fabric
  • It doesn’t tear when you look at it
  • It stands up to multiple pinnings with no need for sticky tape reinforcement
  • It does not curl
  • stores perfectly with the original pattern


My most used pattern at the moment is the Anna dress by By Hand London. I can honestly declare that  I haven’t had to retrace a piece in the 7 times I’ve used it nor reinforce any sections that may have torn if the alternative of paper was used. The Belcarra blouse from Sewaholic is also getting a fervent work out at the moment.

favorite pattern of the month/year

favorite pattern of the month/year

I get a little enthusiastic about it, and consider any other product to be supremely inferior. Yes paper, I’m referring to you. I also use it for my own drafted templates for tea towels and pillowcases. If they stop producing it, I may just loose it. This love is  timeless, and I am forever grateful for the ladies at Heights Sewing Centre that introduced me to it. And to Ken of course, whose family owns the business. He has been running it for almost 50 years! And such a wealth of knowledge.

Curtsey to Heights Sewing Centre, located at 177 Pakington St Geelong West.

Pips xxx

PS. Let me know if you have any tips for tracing off patterns, I’d love to know any other alternatives