The more I sew, the more tricks I recall my Grandmother taught me. One of my favorite is using a bunch of small bean bags while pinning a pattern to keep the tissue flat and even. It works to smooth down edges of fabric, too.
As much as I want to short-cut to save time, washing and drying fabric ahead of time is worth it, especially with cottons. I hate shrinkage (more on that later).
Sharp needles are very important and so cheap. I do change my sewing needle very often now, though not every project as the manufacturers recommend. They are cheap, but not free. Good thread is worth the price, too. Stock up on basic colors of good thread when it is on sale or look for it at thrift stores like Cerise does. It really is true they don't make it like they used to!