Now that I officially have 1-year of sewing (as an adult) under my belt, I think that it’s the perfect time to reflect on the things that I’ve learned over my year of sewing. Despite many success as a beginner sewist, I made a ton of mistakes that I was able to learn from. I wanted to compile a list of those for you here with tips and tricks on how to avoid them. Here goes…
1. Not having the right tools for the job.
Have you ever been inspired by a make from your favorite sewing blogger, only to attempt the same pattern and it be a complete fail? I’ll be the first to raise my hand. ? In fact, it was my DIY Turtleneck Dress
that required a lot of “special” posing to hide the atrocity that it truly was. Well, that dress has long met the trash can and I learned one important lesson from it: You must have the right tools for the job.
In this case, I learned very quickly that stretch and silky fabrics shift during sewing; therefore, I needed to use a walking foot
. If I knew this before attempting this project, I would have saved myself so much frustration and time. Here are my tips for getting the right tools for the job:
- Read the pattern envelope & instructions all the way through before sewing. You may find mention of certain steps that would require you having a specific foot or notion.
- Read reviews of the pattern at PatternReview.com. Sewists from all over the world share their experience with different patterns, providing insight on what to look out for, tips, and tricks.
- Understand the requirement of the fabric that you’re working with. These leads me to my second point…
2. Using the wrong type of fabric.
We see a fabric that we love ? and we immediately purchase it for a pattern in our stash. We cut it out and sew it up, only to find that it’s unwearable or just looks terrible. The fabric that you were so in love with was unfit for the project that you were sewing. Been there, done that! As a beginner sewist, I recommend learning all that you can about fabrics. At minimum, a basic understanding of knits vs wovens is necessary for making wearable garments. Here are my tips for understanding fabrics:
- Read and heed the suggested fabrics on the pattern envelope. These suggestions are there for a reason, so make use of them!
- I recommend reading The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing by Singer. There are sections dedicated solely to fabrics, including how to pre-treat, what needles to use, and what types of projects they are suitable for.
3. Not making fitting adjustments to your pattern.
Let me just state that not all patterns are created equal. Meaning, just because one pattern of the same size fits you without any adjustment doesn’t mean that another one will. Therefore, it is important to fit, fix, then
stitch. I learned this lesson after completing my DIY Wrap Dress (McCall M7627)
only for it to be too large in the bodice. Now, if I had done a pattern fitting, I would have realized that the size that I chose was way too big. Here are my tips for getting the correct fit:
- Take your measurement or have them taken prior to purchasing your pattern. This ensures that you pick up the right pattern size and ultimately results in the least amount of fitting adjustments.
- Tissue fit your pattern pieces before cutting into your fabric. A great resource for fitting is the Sew to Fit blog and YouTube channel by Andrea Lynn. Additionally, I recommend the following books on fitting and pattern adjustments:
4. Failing to read pattern instructions.
“Pride comes before the fall” (Proverbs 16:8).
Boy, do I know this scripture to be true in the world of sewing. I talk about my mishap of serging an edge in my garment because I decided to jump ahead in my DIY Cold Shoulder Dress
post. Due to my haste, pride, and purely not reading, I made a costly mistake in my garment construction that could have been avoided. Don’t think you know what’s going to come next, no matter how easy the pattern may seem. Take your time and read the instructions first
, then begin sewing. There is no way around reading; however, you can supplement your sewing with “sew along” videos. Brittany J Jones
has a whole YouTube channel dedicated to sew along videos.
5. Sewing garments that are above your skill level.
Did I already say that “pride comes before the fall”? If it didn’t, it does. If you’ve just started sewing, it’s ok to stick with beginner level projects. Now, I say this a bit hypocritically, as I’m always up for a challenge. However, by making this mistake, I’ve learned to contain my adventures to a level that I’m comfortable with. Here are some beginner patterns that I would recommend in progressive order of skill level:
- McCall M6209
- McCall M7531
- McCall M6886
6. Using sub-par materials.
I remember getting some thread with my sewing machine thinking, “Lucky me! I don’t have to buy any.” I wound it on my bobbin, started to sew, and watched as the thread became a tangled mess. I couldn’t figure what the problem was, so of course I re-threaded over and over again until I was frustrated enough to quit. After changing out the thread to one that I had purchased, it was then that I learned the lesson of not using sub-par materials, especially thread. Don’t fall for the 99¢ thread that they’re selling at the cutting counter! Instead, invest in good, quality material that won’t make your project a pain.
Now, this is especially applicable to fabrics. I have had my share of bad fabric from vendors that I’ll never purchase from again. With that said, here are the only online fabric stores that I endorse (and I’m not paid to do so):
- LA Finch Fabrics– You guys know that I love this store!
- Fabric.com– I typically purchase from them via Amazon to get free prime shipping
- LowPriceFabric.com– They have inexpensive fabric and you’ll be able to find something for any project.
I have received quality fabric and excellent customer service from them every time that I’ve purchased. Of course, there are other online fabric stores out there that have great quality; however, I can only speak for those that I have personally purchased from.
7. Rushing through a project to meet an unrealistic deadline.
As a sewing blogger, I know this mistake all too well. Before I was even sewing and just doing blogging, I would kill myself trying to make my post’s deadline. Like up in the morning trying to get dressed for work while also typing up a blog kind of deal. Don’t make this mistake while sewing. I get it. You want to maintain a sewing blog and share your makes on social media. I truly get it. But don’t do it at the expense of a poorly made garment that you can’t even wear. Even worse, you may grow to hate sewing because it becomes more of a chore than a fun hobby.
If you’re a sewing blogger, there are tons of things that you can post in lieu of a new make that will give you time to finish a project. Or, mix in some easy to sew items that will only take a few hours, but will serve it’s purpose of providing blog content. If you’re sewing for an event, plan ahead! Here’s my tip for not rushing a project:
- Keep a planner handy to write down when you will make each garment. I am partial to my very own The Dream Life planner; however, you can use what ever planning tool you choose.
- The more complex the garment, the more time you should give yourself to purchase the proper material and to construct it. If you are purchasing your fabric online, take shipping and pre-treating into account.
8. Starting a sewing business before you’ve mastered the art.
Maybe this should be number one… *deep breath* I have seen so many beginner sewists who have launched into a business and it is visible that they’ve not mastered any of the above! I’m talking about using incorrect fabrics and techniques for a particular design kind of basics. Don’t be the person that I scroll past on Instagram and say, “Somebody paid how much for that?!?”
I can’t count the number of requests that I’ve gotten from people asking me to sew them one of the garments that I have featured on my blog. Of those many requests, only one has been fulfilled only because I have mastered the garment that they requested. Get comfortable with saying no. Here’s the thing, if they’re willing to pay for your services at a beginner level, imagine the value and quality that you can provide if you give yourself some time to grow. Look, sewing can be easy money, especially for simple items, but don’t let money lure you into something that you can’t fulfill. Knowing your skill level, would you pay for a garment from yourself? If you can’t undoubtedly say, “Yes!” you need to keep practicing and working on your skills. Here are some great resources on starting a sewing business at the right time:
10. Not taking time to learn the craft.
I’m an avid learner. I’ve taught myself how to play instruments, build websites, and even code. But, in all of those things, I was only able to attain a certain level of mastery. I learned quickly that sewing isn’t just one of those things that I could self teach myself to success. I had to enlist outside resources to get me beyond the basics. This is code for investment. If this is truly something that you’re passionate about and want to grow in, I suggest putting your money where your mouth is. Purchase books, attend classes (online or in person), and even watch free videos on YouTube. The information is there, you just have to go out and get it. Here are some resources that I’d recommend to help advance your skills:
Sewing is by far one of the best things that I decided to do in 2017. I learned so much during such a short time and I can’t wait to continue to perfect my craft.
Comment below and let me know some things that you’ve learned throughout your time as a sewist.
Great post. These are the challenges that I face as I venture back into sewing. My biggest challenge is allowing myself to have patients.
Yes! I completely agree. I've learned to just take my time and take breaks…it makes it more enjoyable.