I have over a decade of sewing experience, so many people assume I’m on par with the better Project Runway contestants. Many people are wrong. I am a lazy sewer. Have been since I started. That said, experience has made me much, much better and somewhat more patient, resulting in better-looking finished garments & crafts (at least on the outside). That said, I am not about to go learn the different methods for sewing bound buttonholes and I sure as shit am not bothering with a full-bust adjustment (although I will pin those things on Pinterest with good intentions).
Regardless, I think I have a few words of wisdom for striving sewers.
Learn the rules before you break them, you’ll save future you some frustration.
Me: “What’s the point of that step? Guess I’ll skip it”
Me, two hours later: “Ohhhh, that’s why…”
Don’t pay more than $5 for BIG FOUR patterns.
You are wasting money buying them at full price or even half off.
McCalls, Butterick, Vogue & Simplicity patterns are always on sale or three days away from being on sale at their respective websites and places like Joann, Hancock, etc. Independent pattern companies are a different ball game. Pay full price and support small business.
Look past the envelope styling and at at the technical drawings instead.
Let’s just say pattern styling and fabric choice may differ greatly between tastes. The technical drawing will give you a better idea of the shape of the garment. You might be looking over a really cute dress because the pattern envelope shows it in blue and orange stripes. It’s especially true for evening wear- it’s easy to get distracted by sequins and fluffy styling when the pattern itself could potentially be a very versatile sundress.
If you have a hard time translating the technical drawings to real life, I love Make This Look for inspiration.
Even better- do a Google Image search of the pattern number to see how other people have made it up.
I don’t mean to snark on sewing pattern stylists and art directors. I’m a librarian- I know all about making it work with what you have. I’m just trying to help new sewers know all their decision-making options.
Use your experience to decide which fabrics to use.
If you want to learn to sew, don’t start by trying to understand it all, just sew.
I hate when people scoff at using quilting fabric for apparel. Sure, it’s not ideal, but the whole point of sewing is to use your creativity to make something unique. Pattern envelopes may suggest fabrics, but hey- go rogue. I’ve made plenty of great and not-so-great garments using fabric a pattern wasn’t meant for. Sewing experience is the best way to learn. Not to mention, it’s very easy to sit on your high horse if you don’t have much access to apparel fabric. So I say, make what you damn well please.
P.S. Tilly and the Buttons has some good advice for working with quilting cottons.
You will fail. And you will cry.
Failing is learning.
Yes, hobbies are supposed to be fun. But sewing is hard work. And you’ll spend countless hours ripping out stitches only to make the same mistake again. And sometimes things just don’t work for whatever reason. You will be upset. Then, you might scrap it and make something else. Better sewers than me make a “practice garment,” known as a muslin (usually made with cheap muslin fabric) to test fit and shape before cutting into the “real” fabric. Don’t beat yourself up if something isn’t perfect. Just tell yourself you’re- ahem- learning from experience.
I’m hoping to have a finished project up for my next post! I’ll let you know how many of the above lessons I had to learn again.