Okay, Ashley mentioned she would like to learn to sew. While I'm no expert, there are a few things I have learned.
1. Buy a few extra inches of fabric. I've had to run out to the store and buy an entire extra yard of fabric just because something shrunk two inches. Save yourself the heartache, buy a little tiny bit extra.
2. Wash your fabric first. Sometimes new fabrics shrink when you wash them, wouldn't you hate that to happen after you spent all that time cutting and sewing and getting everything fitted properly?
3. Iron your fabric before you cut. It just makes things easier, and you'll get a more precise cut. If you've got wrinkles, it'll throw things off.
4. Press. It might seem like you don't need to, but believe me, most fabrics behave so much better when they've been steamed into submission. It cuts down on the number of pins you have to use as well.
5. Basting. Sometimes it just works better to grab a needle and thread and hand baste something, such as when you're working in an area that you just can't quite get under the sewing machine all that easily, or something that just won't lay right for long enough. Sometimes pins just don't cut it. I'm not saying basting stitches have to be even or pretty, and most of the time I just grab a needle that has thread on it. It makes it easier to remove your basting stitches later if the thread isn't a match.
6. Edge finishing. I don't have a serger, but sometimes I wish I did. However, I do have a sewing machine that will do a zig-zag stitch. When I have something that either wants to fray like mad or is just going to need to be plain sturdy, I zig-zag over any edges that are going to be exposed. It makes a difference over time.
7. Use the proper sewing machine needle, and change it often. While I don't change my needle all that often, I can tell a difference when I do. At the very least, inspect your needle to make sure it's straight and not dull or broken. Your sewing machine will thank you.
8. Good scissors. Your wrist will thank you too.
While most of the above are good rules of thumb, there are always exceptions. You don't want to wash dry clean only fabric, you can't iron some things because they might melt, some fabrics don't fray etc. Ooh, there's number 9.
9. Read the care instructions on the end of the bolt of fabric before you buy it.
And, as always, ask questions if you don't know. I know the place where I buy fabric is a great place to ask questions when I don't know what to do (usually).
That's all I can think of right this minute. Not bad for just throwing a few things out there, right?