Learning to be a master sewist doesn't happen overnight! It is an adventure full of new skills, problem solving, fabulous successes, and, yes, a few failures. Here are ten valuable pieces of advice to keep in mind as you join your fellow makers on the sewing journey!
1. Start Small. Will you sew yourself the ultimate pair of dream jeans? Why not? Will you likely be able to do that as a new sewer? Probably not. While it’s great to be enthusiastic about everything your new hobby will allow you to create, you are better off slowly building up the complexity of your makes. We would suggest working with a pattern with just one or two new skills and then going from there.
2. Speak to Sew (so to speak). Getting acquainted with common sewing vocabulary is going to make your sewing practice MUCH less confusing. It will be key knowing the difference between topstitching and understitching, what the selvage is and how to find it, along with what it means when your pattern instructions tell you to baste (hint: it's not related to turkeys!). On that note, to save yourself major frustration, read ALL pattern instructions! From your first garment to your thousandth, it is critical to read through the instructions first since each designer and each of their patterns will differ. Better to spend the extra few minutes reading and potentially save hours swearing at your seam ripper!
3. Play the Numbers Game. Make sure you measure yourself using the correct techniques to get accurate results and re-measure regularly. Keeping your current measurements for your upper bust, full bust, waist, and hip close at hand will make figuring out your size and fabric needs for patterns quick and easy. It’s important to know that sizes vary widely between designers, and a “Large” in one pattern may not translate to the same size in another. That said, there are no “good” or “bad” numbers, and as the best designers have proven, everyone can look amazing and feel confident in their garments with the right fit!
4. Have the Tools for Success. Having the correct tools on hand can make all the difference in both experience and end product. That doesn’t mean you need the Maserati of sewing machines to make a quality garment! But things like buying quality thread, like Gutermann (our favorite!), and making sure you’re using the correct needles and feet for your sewing machine won’t set you back by much but will make a huge difference.
5. Find Your Sew Flow. Taking the time to make sure that your sewing space has “flow" will save you so much time in the long run. Map out where your sewing machine, iron, cutting area, and most-used tools will go to make your workspace most efficient. Try different layouts to see what works best for you and how you find you move around the space or which tools you reach for most often. When starting a new project, it also helps to gather your materials, so you aren’t wasting precious sewing time having to stop and grab things you forgot later on.
6. Be Your Own Help Desk. You know how whenever your phone or laptop stops working, the first thing the Help Desk tells you to do is restart it? It feels like the solution couldn’t possibly be that simple, but sometimes it is! When your sewing machine goes rogue (and it will), First—Check the bobbin, Then—Rethread your machine, and Finally—Change your needle. When all else fails, consult your machine’s manual or the gurus on YouTube.
7. Have Patience with Yourself. Most of us didn’t master riding a bike or driving a car right away, and sewing is no different... Sewing for pleasure is supposed to be just that—for pleasure! Enjoy the process and try to shrug off (or better yet, laugh at!) your mistakes. They are all learning experiences. Searching online for the pattern or technique you’re struggling with will show you that you are far from alone and may even uncover some helpful tips!
8. Be A Sewcial Butterfly. A wonderful part of the sewing community is sharing ideas, makes, resources, and advice online. While Instagram remains the most visual option for sharing your projects, there is also a great deal to be gained from other social media sites. Get help from other sewing friends or industry experts on Facebook or YouTube and find inspiration aplenty on Pinterest. There are also loads of excellent opportunities to make new friends locally and worldwide at sewing classes, meetups, or sewalongs, in person or online.
9. Be A Sponge. Take a class, watch YouTube videos, participate in sewalongs, scour Pinterest for ideas & tips, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most pattern designers and fabric stores are more accessible than you might think and are eager to help. Check their websites and blogs for posts that might cover topics you are looking for. Can't find it? Send them an email, and their team will gladly help answer your question or direct you to the right place!
10. Become Your Own Penpal. While there are tons of recommendations for sewing journals, pattern filing systems, and fabric storage, sometimes it’s the little things that truly make a difference. Before you file anything away, one recommendation is to write notes to your future self! You’ll be so happy you did when you go back to that UFO (unfinished object!) and know precisely where you left off. Or imagine your delight when going back to a pattern you’ve made before, and there are notes about the changes you made or would like to make. Notes are also super helpful when keeping track of your fabric and pattern stash, especially as they grow!
Happy Sewing! Enjoy the ride!