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Industrial Sewing Tips

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Last weekend I took two classes on industrial sewing techniques from Robin Bolton, a certified Islander Sewing System instructor.  The workshop was sponsored by our local chapter of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals.  The first day, we learned several industry tricks for improving the speed and accuracy of our sewing and for creating professional looking finishes and garments.  The second day, we applied some of these techniques (and a few more) to constructing a women’s tailored shirt.  Naturally I’ve been thinking about how I can use these techniques and tricks to improve my own sewing, and especially to enhance garments made from Fit for Art patterns.  Some of the tips might even make their way into future Fit for Art patterns.


The basic lessons that we tried to apply throughout the weekend included ways to hold and feed fabric through the sewing machine to keep everything lined up in both straight and curved seams without using pins.  Robin encouraged us not to get up to iron at every step, but to finger press as we went along and then iron several steps at once.  We also saw how the industry reduces waste and saves time by using smaller seam allowances as we tried to remember whether a particular seam on our shirt was ¼, 3/8 or 5/8 of an inch. (It saves time because you don’t have to clip and grade those seam allowances.)  Unfortunately I was so focused on my sewing that I forgot to take photos during the workshop (sorry Robin!) but I can share some photos of our practice samples.


I discovered that it is more difficult to change my habits than I thought it would be!  I think I’m going to need a little more practice before the industry method of holding and feeding the fabric is going to actually speed my sewing and I’ll be able to give up pinning those seams before taking them to the machine.  I can envision how several of the industrial tricks and construction methods could improve my Eureka! Pants and Tabula Rasa Jackets or Shirts, so I’m eager to try them.


Techniques that I can use on Eureka! Pants include:
  • Inserting a lapped or center slot zipper in just a few steps;
  • Using a faux felled seam on either the inseam or side seam of the legs;
  • Using Islander’s special “burrito” method to finish a casual or classic style waistband; and
  • Topstitching a pocket to the pants accurately and evenly without the use of pins. This will be especially great with the back pockets of the coming Sporty Detail Eureka pants!
Techniques that will be useful for creating a professional finish on TRJs include:
  • Crimping a curved edge on rounded hem or rounded pocket to create a narrow, smooth and accurate seam or hem;
  • Crimping the sleeve head to get it to lay in more evenly and neatly;
  • Using the faux felled seam to cleanly finish the shoulder or side seams of an unlined jacket;
  • Topstitching a shaped pocket to a shirt or jacket with accurate alignment (and without pins);
  • Stitching darts without pins and with a single thread so there are no tails; and
  • Facing a yoke while totally enclosing the seams at the body of the shirt and at the shoulder.


You can find out more about the Islander Sewing System at, and by contacting Robin at  Video instruction in industrial sewing techniques is available from many online resources including the ISS store,, Craftsy, and others.

Have you learned some industrial sewing techniques?  How have you incorporated them into your own sewing habits?

Happy Sewing!  Carrie

3 thoughts on “Industrial Sewing Tips

  1. I also took a 2 day Islander Sewing Course last year. While doing the techniques, I found them very time saving but unfortunately since I have been sewing for 50+ years, it is easier for me to continue doing the “old” “slower” way.

  2. I was fortunate to participate in a 3 day seminar with Margaret Islander in 1999-sponsored by the CO PACC chapter–now ASDP. I learned a lot! Breaking old habits is not easy but not impossible. I haven’t mastered “no pin” techniques and may never do so but, seam allowance variation makes so much sense! Trimming and clipping a seam allowance doesn’t produce the same result as using the correct allowance in the first place. I should have paid more attention in hs geometry! Finger pressing works and it’s easier to “nudge” curved seams with our hands than pressing. I’m looking forward to seeing how Fit For Art incorporates these techniques. As an aside, the Margaret Islander seminar connected me to ASDP. I bless her every time I sew.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement ladies! Margaret Islander certainly left a useful legacy for sewers, which I will try to embrace. Perhaps I’ll put a sign up in my sewing room to remind me to at least give the new methods a try when I lapse toward the old habits.

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