The Sewing Spider

spider web

How long does it take a spider to become really good at webs?

I was chatting with a friend at the weekend. She’s probably a couple of years into her sewing career and we discussed some of the challenges. ‘Part of it,’ I said, ‘is that you just need to get a lot of sewing hours under your belt.’

There’s a popular conceit that it takes 10,000 hours to become really good at something. Is this true? After five years of sewing, I’m nowhere near that! But I do think that better sewing is about more sewing.

I realised it might help to touch on some of the frustrations my friend has felt as she’s patiently taught herself how to sew.

I Sew Clothes That I Don’t Wear

This is really common. You toil for hours to complete an item … and then it languishes in a drawer. Why? There are two main answers: you’re sewing something you wouldn’t normally wear and/or you haven’t yet got the hang of choosing the right fabric.

There’s a revelation right there. Successful sewing isn’t just about a needle puncturing fabric. It’s about which fabric and what you’re sewing. It’s the choices you make before you’ve even sat down at the sewing machine. And how do you make wise choices? Experience. I learnt the hard way that cotton fabric doesn’t drape. I learnt that by making several stiff blouses that I never wore. In order to learn how to sew, you’re definitely going to make some clothes you never wear.

It Doesn’t Look The Way It Did In My Head

That’s because marketing people sell you sewing patterns. Not that this is a bad thing! I want clever marketing people to alert me to great patterns. But taping together a PDF or opening folded sheets of tissue paper is not going to make you look like that cool person in the photos. Part of sewing is about seeing past the pictures to find your own image. That’s why clever Sewists always look for the line drawings on a pattern. Sewing is about knowing when to shut your eyes, but that takes confidence. And how do you find confidence? By building up your experience.

My Zip Insertion Is Awful

One of my big challenges as a beginner Sewist is that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And what I didn’t know was good technique. This is where the 10,000 hours rule comes in. Practice. Educate yourself. None of us can complain that there aren’t enough resources out there. Oh, and buy an invisible zip foot. That’s the other element you lack as a beginner: the equipment that will make your sewing more polished. Obviously! You’re not going to splurge hundreds of pounds until you’ve proved to yourself that you’re sticking with this hobby. But once you’ve caught the bug, you’ll invest over time and you will see improvement. In the meantime, don’t self-flagellate. It’s not your fault. You weren’t born knowing how to read, were you?

Here’s a final message…

It’s Okay To Be Just Okay

None of the above matters. As I said in my last blog post, it’s really important that you make mistakes. That outfit you end up never wearing? You’ll be glad of that one day. Life is not an Instagram picture; it’s a spider’s web of intricacy and error. It’s not perfect but it is beautiful.

Alright. That’s enough for now. Are you currently going through the growing pains of becoming a better Sewist? Any thoughts or experiences to share?

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68 Responses to The Sewing Spider

  1. /anne... says:

    My biggest tip? Snoop shop. First, snoop shop your wardrobe – do you have a similar garment? What fabric is it made from, how does it drape, how does it fit, what are the construction techniques? Look for tiny things like how much ease there is, how deep is the hem, how long are the sleeves – and do you _like_ the way it fits/is made? Because You Are The Boss Of Your Sewing!

    Once you’ve examined garments in your wardrobe, go out to a shop which you can’t afford (but would like to), and do the same thing again, but this time hide in a change room with a tape measure, notepad and phone camera :-). Because there’s no point imitating what you can afford – make something you’d love to own!

    Aspirational sewing 🙂

    • Yes, looking at what you buy and wear and how it’s constructed is a great tip.

    • Mary says:

      I once got asked to leave a mid-range shop because I was looking at construction. Haha. Of course they can’t tell if I’m one person, or representing competition.
      On the other hand, I once did this in an upscale shop and the sales lady didn’t bother to look at us. She could tell we were no threat.

  2. Nicola says:

    Just started sewing clothes and yes fitting is a real problem . Also buying fabric that I look ok in not just because it looks pretty folded. dresses and skirts are easier to fit/sew but I never wear them so why spend time and money sewing them . Need to really polish my skills so I can sew things I need and want to wear that fit me properly. So will have to take some classes . Just learnt patterns designed for a b cup the next class is bust adjustment

  3. Mags says:

    I’m 2 1/2 years in and almost my whole wardrobe is handmade and I’m learning with every garment. Fitting has been the hardest thing to learn, especially how to stop sleeves being too tight. I’m still trying to stop getting on the latest bandwagon/sewalong (just finished 2 Orla blouses and they are both going straight to the charity shop!

  4. Stina P says:

    I think many confuse skill/knowledge with patience. 🙂 Not only when it comes to sewing, but for many crafts. A wonky hem isn’t because of lack of skill or knowledge, it’s about not being patient enough to do it un-wonky. But we want everything to go so fast and have a new dress in two hours. I think my level of patience is waaay higher than my level of skill, but please don’t tell anyone. 😉

    • Patience is crucial. (I’ve been learning that particular lesson this week!) I just don’t believe anyone who says they sew a dress in two hours. I reckon it takes me a good six hours to sew the Ultimate Shift Dress and that’s a pretty simple pattern.

  5. Janet says:

    I tell myself that each thing I make will be better than the last – usually! I like making two or three versions of a pattern for this reason, and accept that the things I make will have imperfections. I recently made a Granville shirt for the first time, and haven’t worn it beyond the first weekend after finishing it, because the sleeves are too long. I’ll hack them down at some point, but, the version I am cutting out now has the adjustments made, and I know will be better. I think enjoying sewing is about learning when to lower your expectations and allow yourself to be happy with errors. Funnily enough, my mum used to be a professional seamstress, sewing shirts among other things, in the 60s. I think the 10,000 hours figure has truth in it – what possesses us to expect we will be on a level with standards of factory clothing after just a few attempts? But, a gradual improvement is good.

  6. Sue Bowdler says:

    Great advice! Everyone has to fail sometimes in order to learn, we all make mistakes.
    Even when we buy off-the-peg we make mistakes – who hasn’t got items languishing in the wardrobe that have never been worn? It happens. Mistakes are why ebay exists.
    Best advice?
    Look at the line drawings, ignore the models.
    Know what flatters you and work out the basic shapes that you are happy in. Build up a basic stock of patterns that can be adapted time and time again.
    Cut with care. Measure and measure again.
    Take your time and don’t sew the tricky bits when you’re tired or rushed.
    Use pinterest, youtube, blogs for ‘how to’ tutorials (and yes, invisible zips are easier than ordinary zips with the right foot!).
    Focus on finish. Press properly, keep seams straight, learn to hand sew hems etc.
    Enjoy sewing! If it makes you miserable and frustrated, take up drawing or pottery or cookery or gardening… don’t have to sew!
    I’ve been sewing for (this hardly seems possible, ahem) almost 50 years (started early) and yes, there are still little rolled up balls of half finished things in my cupboard! Not so many these days, nearly always to do with wrong fabric for the garment.
    But oh, the glow from someone saying they love what I’ve made……

  7. Candie says:

    I’ve been seeing for forty years and I still need to learn to just s-l-o-w down and have more patience. If I did everything I make would be better.

  8. rillafree says:

    I have been sewing for most of my life and am always learning through error! It’s the best way to learn (in my mind) and teaches us so much. Outside of sewing, learning by allowing yourself to fail enables you to cope with so many of life’s other disappointments blah, blah, blah… I have patience in swathes too, which I am certain is down to time heavy crafting pursuits. Basically everyone should sew! 😉

  9. Love the sewing spider idea – great blog post. I am a runner as well as a sewist and it is certainly true that the more hours you put in the better you get. I don’t know why I am so impatient with my sewing though.

  10. heathermltn says:

    I’ve realised that I actually read more about sewing than I sew. Sometimes it’s difficult to just jump in there and do it. I need to remember I’m learning a hobby, not getting a masters. 🙂

  11. Ella says:

    Patience is a crucial factor even before you begin to sew. Take your time to meassure yourself up and down and then vice versa again because if you don’t know your own meassurements, you won’t be able to sew a well-fitting garment, and ending up with something that doesn’t fit just takes the fun right out of sewing (ask me how I know). Also it’s good to remind oneself that while learning new things is fun, it’s better to concentrate on one thing at a time. Trying to sew a piece with too many unknown techniques will send you from one screaming fit to the next (again, ask me how I know). I guess the best advice is “enjoy the process”. There are no quick fixes and shortcuts and 5 minute blouses that really work and don’t look like quick fixes and shortcuts, so just enjoy what you’re doing. It’s supposed to be a hobby after all.

  12. Karen after 40 years of sewing I am still on that journey. Because the journey is all there is. Bugger the destination! Because the intrigue in new things never stops. I am learning so much about bling and drape and what lines I like on myself on stage and on video – challenges I never had 40 years ago. It turns out I like to get my silhouette out a lot more than I ever thought I would.
    I believe that we sewists more than many who do not sew, are accessing our self expression – yes you can access it via purchasing garments but when you sew you have more freedom. Style, colour, size, fit – so much freedom. So, we could potentially always be ecstatic with our makes and yet always be reinventing ourselves as well. It is an unfolding joy. I’m off to bling something now xo

  13. amcclure2014 says:

    I so agree with your post and all the comments. I don’t wear what I make as I haven’t got style and lifestyle right yet though the fit is way better than it was (or is in RTW) and my skills are improving. A class had helped with skills and I’m planning a shop trip with camera hoping to improve my choices. I wear trousers a lot but haven’t yet managed to make a pair – fit issues.

    • To Amcclure2014: Fit issues with trousers? Takes the pants class offered by Susy Farar in the Craftsy platform. AMAZING. From flat paper with measurements, add a equation or two and VOILA: Pants that fit. I promise. I’ve sewn for 50 years and these are the best yet!

  14. jkiwib says:

    This is lovely!! I’d add – don’t be a perfectionist (at least at the start) – it’ll just drive you mad and frankly, how often do YOU really look at people’s hems to see if they’re millimetre perfect? Never, right? So no one is going to care that yours isn’t either. Chill, and be ok with the odd wonky mistake (and much like with cooking for others, if someone compliments your new dress, don’t then spend 10 mins pointing out all of its flaws! Sewing is a learned skill and not everyone has it – the compliments are real my friends! Take ’em…)

  15. ltinuviel says:

    So, true 🙂
    A week ago I gathered 2 big bags full with clothes, I’ve sewed as a beginner, and I was like “I’ve ruined so much good fabric, I can’t wear this crap”. But then, I realized, that making this “crap”, I got better.

  16. Elle says:

    Great post. Lots of encouraging words there.(Here’s hoping the sink in and I get back on the sewing clothes horse.)

  17. Jan Brown says:

    I agree with all comments made so far. I’ve been sewing for just over two years and looking at my wardrobe I KNOW I’m improving which is very satisfying but I wouldn’t be seen dead in some of my earlier attempts that I was so proud of at the time!!! Cheap fabrics [as in TMOS] is a way of gaining confidence but as has been mentioned the fabric can make the difference between a so so garment and a WOW garment and learning why spending more on fabric is actually a good progression. I also find I have a comfort zone which for me are trousers. I have perfected my sloper and can now make them easily but I am finding design an issue. How do you make something that really looks ‘different’ without it being bizarre? Experimenting with design is my biggest challenge after a good fit. Love you blog Karen.

    • Robin says:

      Different but not bizarre, I struggle with finding that balance all the time. Lately I have tried alternating making one basic piece in conventional fabric and colors with a more out-there combination for the very next make. It seems to be working. I exercise my creative muscles, and if it turns out to be a miss, I know the next make will likely be a safe success.

  18. Miriam says:

    Just wanted to say I really like this post. 🙂 It’s nice for newbies to receive encouragement and you do that well. (I don’t consider myself a newbie just a lazy sewist!!)

  19. Janome gnome says:

    This is all sketching. Artists sketch and refine their work before they’re pleased with it. You go back and re-sketch the bits that don’t work. They get reworked and reworked and in art that’s beautiful and fascinating. I love final-art to look at, but the process of sketching is much more fascinating. As they say in schools these days: process not product. Not because product doesn’t count, but because if you concentrate on the process and enjoying the process, one day the product you like is just there in your hands and you really really enjoy that too. I rarely choose my project by function anymore, or even by supplies. I go by what I want to spend my evening doing, learning something challenging, banging out a TNT or making a gift for someone on my mind. Never been less frustrated and happier sewing. … Of course, it was a bit of a process to get here!

  20. Su says:

    Really enjoyed your post today, very encouraging.

    Something you experienced sewists will know better how to avoid:

    Sometimes I have a brilliant pairing of pattern and fabric, it’s going to work really well… but checking the fit with a basic toile it becomes clear that the style looks hideous on me. Happened again this week! Until what works is clearer I really must toile new shapes before rushing off to buy beautiful fabric I then don’t know what to do with.

  21. Yes, this. Exactly. I spent the first two years of my serious sewing habit (I’ve been sewing for a long time, but didn’t really get serious about it until late in 2013) sewing a lot of things I didn’t wear that much, or didn’t wear past the end of the season. It took me a LONG time to figure out what I wanted to sew for myself, what worked best with my wardrobe, and what suited my skills and available time. I have a dress pattern that I’ve Frankened together that I love and can make in a couple of hours from mid-weight or light weight cotton (I even tried it in light weight twill this season and it is nice!) and a blouse pattern that I like that works for almost any weight of fabric (although it is best in feedsack or lawn). I have a well fitting skirt pattern that I like a lot and a second skirt pattern that is okay, but needs refitting (I’ve lost a lot of weight this year, so my slopers are all off right now). I’ve learned through a LOT of trial and error what sorts of fabrics I prefer to work with and wear, and what suits my frustration threshold (which is low because I have four small children and limited sewing time) I have ambitions to get better at my craft over time, but I’m okay with the parameters I have for now. I can make two thirds or most of my wardrobe for a season, and am generally happy with it.

  22. TamsinW-P says:

    I am still learning – I have been sewing since my teens off and on and still make mistakes more that I would like. I am currently on the brink of a sewing fail which is mostly to do with choosing the wrong fabric, but also a bit to do with the style. I think with patience I might have rescued it by the end of the day, but as my daughter just told me – there is always more fabric!

  23. Oh this is just what I needed to see! Your post and all the comments are so right on. Enjoy the process. Accept compliments. Patience, patience, patience. Everyone learns continually. Summed up, it all says to me RELAX! It will come. I think sometimes we are good at kindly encouraging others but forget to extend that same kindness to ourselves.

  24. Jen (NY) says:

    If you are having a problem, take time to do it the long way. Baste it. Even if you don’t baste every time, just doing it will help to make the process more understandable for the next time.

    Sometimes I baste with rayon or silk thread just to make my machine stitching easier or smoother. Takes longer, but it is more precise and results in less ripping out, frustration, or shredding.

    • That’s a great tip, Jen.The past couple of years I have gone back to basting after a long break. I baste everything and it makes life so much easier. It does add on a lot of time but it is definitely the process for me. Sewing is a form of meditation for me. Great post BTW, Karen. 🙂 Xx

      • JanfromEngland says:

        Yes, I agree! It has taken me a while to realise it but basting actually saves me time, otherwise I do multiple unpickings and make holes in the more delicate fabrics.

  25. I’m right there with you. I have made and made and made clothes. I now know what I can do easily, what takes time and concentration and what suits my shape. It was just a few years of making stuff, some really shit and some really good!! I can’t say it any simpler than that… Jo x

  26. Thank you so much for this! I have been sewing regularly for about 7 months. Before that I took classes and made (or didn’t finish) garments just to learn how to follow a pattern. I was just wondering which way to go next and when I would begin to feel that I could take on some of the garments.that I have always wanted to make. This really helps.

  27. Melanie says:

    I love this post. Currently, the best way for me to do a project is to think from the outset that it doesn’t matter if I mess up because this is just a trash piece, something throwaway for practice. The lack of pressure helps me create something I love. At the same time it’s also a cop-out excuse not to really get serious. I would like to find a better balance. Thanks for this encouraging piece.

  28. CTC says:

    Great post and comments. Persistence! My downfall at the moment is my finishing. Ugh. So I bought a magnetic seam thingy. That helps. I am still terrible at zips and waistbands. In my last effort my waist band was too short!? I realise now that i adjusted the length of the waistband to my body and forgot to alter the pattern pieces to match. Sigh. I am scared of button holes. Not even going there. Imagine if you put all that work in and only to ruin it at the last….But as said I need to be patient, unpick carefully, (I have ripped holes with my quick-unpick…..). I have started to baste! And Mum always said to iron iron iron. Ugh. If I am lazy and tolerate a shoddy job then they don’t get worn…but if I have fixed my mistakes then I have more satisfaction and they get to see the light of day!

  29. cclc1976 says:

    After 7 years of sewing I can safely say I make better decisions about fabric and pattern choice. But I remember all too clearly the first things I made to ‘wear’ and they WERE awful but I don’t regret them, because I needed to make those mistakes. I’m a lot more aware of my body shape and how I think a finished pattern will look on me. That only comes with lots of sewing experience! Karen you nailed it! Tell your friend to keep going! And to just try some everyday t shirts in rayon, or a skirt in cotton sateen, that will build her confidence and restore her faith in sewing. Thank you again, I love your musings.

    • symondezyn says:

      Well said – I agree, being aware of our own individual body shape and learning how to envision a pattern on it instead of on the fit model is a crucial skill that can only come with trial and error, and experience 🙂

  30. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the great post. I really enjoyed that and the comments.

    For me, I sewed a lot of my wardrobe when I first learned sewing in high school, then abandoned it in my twenties. Now decades later I’ve taken up sewing again and have been at it for a year. I think initially I was like the kid in the candy store, I wanted everything. Now I’ve learned that when I see a new-to-me pattern on someone else (and many others) I then try to translate that in my head to see the piece of clothing on me. Often I realize something may look great on others but won’t work on me, whether it’s body shape, lifestyle, etc. That has helped me a lot. But like you said – Experience is the thing that just helps us grow, whatever we do.

  31. Clio says:

    IMHO the easiest way a newer sewist can make their garments look more polished and less “home made” is to adopt really good pressing habits and buy some pressing tools. Good sewing skills can take time to master, but good pressing is achievable simply by committing to doing it.

    Making a muslin/toille would be my second tip. It saves good fabric from bad pattern or style choices.

  32. Cookie says:

    Just remember we didn’t learn to walk without falling down. We didn’t learn to run before we walked. All fabric can be reworked if not by you then by someone else. If it didn’t work for you, then give it to the thrift store, some fashion-revista will see it as a treasure. And you had to chance to learn something new and keep your brain healthy.

  33. symondezyn says:

    Four years in, I’m still a long LOOOONG ways away from being able to create the brilliant, perfectly fitting masterpieces I dream of! ^_^ In the beginning it was incredibly frustrating that the picture in my head was rarely what I churned out. I think the biggest thing I wish someone would have told me is that it’s OK – in fact, probably inevitable – to make a bunch of wadders, because ALL experience counts, and will get you closer to your goal regardless if it’s wearable or not. There is so much information aimed at beginners, making it look so easy to create a perfect handmade wardrobe, and in theory it IS easy, but it’s much, much more than learning simple techniques – it’s knowing your proportions, knowing what looks good on you, and as you mentioned, choosing the right fabric for the pattern, which are individual lessons learned by trial and error, not from any book or tutorial.

    It’s definitely not a linear process, either. Sure, my success rate with an invisible zipper is better now than it used to be but there are still times my very first invisible zip looks better than my most recent one! LOL. I still make lots of mistakes, but my wearable garments are more frequent now than my wadders, even if they are imperfect 🙂

  34. Agree with all these comments! My only additions would be to stop comparing yourself to other sewers and to not be afraid to admit when a project hasn’t quite gone to plan All of us are skilled at so many different things, but everyone starts at the bottom!

  35. carlamayfield says:

    I am going through growing pains. I have a dress in my closet right now that is not wearable, for a variety of reasons. As I sew more, I think about ways I could fix it, and one day I will. I also have a Cashmerette Appleton dress which, quite frankly, looks as good as any dress I’ve ever bought off the rack. I am not to that point with all my garments, but I’m improving.

  36. A friend was recently asking me how long I’ve been sewing for, so I looked up the answer. About five years, really truly actually sewing. That’s not that long! I remember when I first started, a sewing friend was so intimidating to me. She just whipped stuff out! It was always so neat! I asked her how long she’d been sewing and she said ’25 years’. Oh, ok. So I’ve got some learning to do.

    Lots of people have said it but the biggest skill jump for me was patience. Patience and learning where I can cut corners and where I’ll regret it. And what mistakes and flaws I can live with. Of those flaws, what is fixable and what isn’t? And then going back and fixing it. I’m still a slow sewer but I end up with wearable items almost all the time.

    Also accepting that nothing is EVER perfect. That friend I mentioned, who I was intimidated by? She still turns out the odd wadder. Every new pattern and fabric is a risk. You’re not going to get the fit perfect the first time. For me it’s just about getting it BETTER. I’m not competing with anyone – not even myself. I just want clothes that are nice to wear and to look at.

    When I started, I would say to myself ‘it only needs to be better than KMart’. I was still trying to make it better than that. But if it was as passable as a dodgy chain store outfit, then that was ok. It was still better just by dint of being mine, that I made, and not from a sweatshop. I also find that I have plateaus where I can SEE what I need to do better but I can’t DO it. It’s so frustrating! And then, suddenly, I’ll get better! Finally, remember: learning new skills is hard. And sewing is about one million skills under the guise of one. So go easy on yourself if you’re not perfect right away. What d’you think you are, the sewing messiah? 😛

  37. Ros says:

    I would also encourage new sewers to stick with Big 4 patterns. Too many of the indie patterns aren’t well-drafted which makes it very difficult for beginners to get good, well-fitting results. And for instructions, again, don’t just read stuff on blogs or youtube, invest in a really good sewing book like the Reader’s Digest book and learn how to do things properly.

    • Robin says:

      This is good advice. I recently tried two Burda patterns. I have a lot of sewing experience, but only with the big four, and although Burda is a large company and well known,I relied on experience gained from these earlier makes, because the Burda instructions have few illustrations than I am used to. I am glad I tried because the results were great.

    • Rua21 says:

      Interestingly, I found that you tube and seeing blogs made a really useful contribution to keeping me right on the most basic things when I started sewing before I could even identify a quality sewing book! Now I use all three resources depending on the matter in hand. You tube is great if you can’t visualise written instructions (even with photos) and really need to see it done. Sewing blogs provide support, when you feel you are alone and don’t know anyone you can ask. I am delighted to hear here that I am not the only one who has made things that are questionable! And more importantly, that doing so is a necessary part of learning and improving. I still believe in the power of an authorative book but if you are discerning, both you tube and blogs can supplement this by providing help and inspiration in equal measure.

  38. Connie says:

    This post is excellent advice for all sewists. I appreciate it very much. Lately I have had some disappointing results making a t shirt that should be easy. I think my standards have gone up more than my skills.

  39. sewsincity says:

    This is a great post. I’ve been sewing over 15 years and there are still things I learn every time I sew, there are still techniques I haven’t tried or have yet to master. “Life is not an Instagram picture” I love this! Because it is so true! People live life for likes and it’s sad that it’s such a popularity contest! Try your best, and don’t be afraid to unpick a few seams!

  40. TJ says:

    Brilliant post Karen – thank you! I’ve just spent a week of leave from work holed up sewing and decluttering, a dangerous combination. I prepared by buying fabrics and finding patterns and hope to end up with something by the end.

    What I’ve found difficult when beginning sewing is that so many of the learner patterns don’t suit a more athletic shaped female form – they either rely on a belt for shape or are made for an hourglass – as is most of the information about reshaping patterns to fit.

    Plus when I started I thought that everything I sewed should cost less than a store bought garment. So I was prioritising fabric price over whether it was something I’d necessarily wear. I’m slowly changing that, but it feels risky.

    One of the patterns I tackled this week was the Ultimate Shift Dress (thanks for the tip) but it was still hard to work out which size. I made a size 10 muslin but ended up combining a 12 bodice with 8 sleeves to make the right size for me.

    Thanks again for sharing your sewing story, it really helps!

  41. Danielle says:

    Can totally relate to this! I’m an on-again, off-again sewer and feel that if I did more I’d feel more confident in decisions. I do have the stuff that I don’t wear because it was the wrong fabric choice. I don’t have the confidence to think outside the box of a pattern because I don’t know what works for me yet. I’d love to get to that point someday, though! Great post.

  42. Leanna says:

    One of the other reasons I don’t wear a finished project is because it’s waiting for Future Me to discover it. Many times I’ve set aside a garment because it just didn’t seem right, or was too good to toss, or I couldn’t bear to part with the fabric. Then months or even years later, I’ve found that it’s exactly what I needed, which suggests my subconscious knows where I’m headed before I do. I’ve been sewing for well over 30 years and I understand how to alter patterns and manipulate fabric to my advantage, but would never say I know what I’m doing! I continue to enjoy it, though, because I’m always learning. Thanks for this post and your blog – I look forward to seeing your creations, which are always impressive!

  43. Katie M says:

    What an incredibly popular topic. So many great comments. The things I’ve learnt since taking up sewing again after a 20 year hiatus is to slow down and do things well. I spend more time unpicking and carefully re-doing things so they are perfect, than I ever did as a young sewer.

    Also, once you find a pattern you like, make it in 5, 10 or 20 different fabrics. I have a couple of really practical sleeveless tops I love (Sorbetto is one, and the other I drafted myself). I have made these so many times, because I love the shape and I know I can wear them with most things in my wardrobe. I also drafted a beautiful cocktail dress that I wore as a bridesmaid recently. I made it in lavender Chinese silk and it was gorgeous. I am in the process of making the same dress in a white and grey seersucker stripe (with a pleated skirt instead) and it is a completely different dress. Different fabrics can completely change a pattern.

  44. Claire says:

    Thank you for this post! I really needed to read this. I have been sewing a good deal the last year and a half and am still so very frustrated with my makes! One-on-one time with an instructor has helped build up my “toolbox” but I still feel like my makes don’t hold up to the RTW I aspire to. Remaking the same pattern multiple times has really helped boost my confidence that one day I will make the clothes of my dreams. Each remake is a bit speedier than the last and the finished garments are a bit better. Happy holidays,Karen!

  45. Barbara says:

    Karen, I love you. I just love you!

  46. Sarah H says:

    Long time no seeeeeee!
    Well I don’t sew anymore (quickly realising I was more interested in designing the actual fabric) but I think it’s the same with every creative pursuit. Sometimes things just don’t pan out, sometimes you try and run before you can walk (I definitely have done that a few times painting, tried something very involved before I’d really got the experience level). Sometimes it feels like you are in a holding pattern, but the knack is to just keep plugging away, mistakes, frustrations, days when you don’t feel like doing it because then eventually (to your surprise) you suddenly get better. And it gets easier, and you can try that thing you tried too soon. The mind is a wonderful thing, you keep trying, and eventually it produces magic (well…..maybe not magic but some nice stuff ;-).

  47. Sewniptuck says:

    I reckon beginning sexists should never hesitate to put something aside (or rework something you’ve made) and come back to it later. What seams insurmountable in your novice state becomes de rigeur after just a wee while. Just the other day I was doing the invisi-zip and lining thing and thought, a year ago I would have had to look that up, but yahoo, now its second nature. The learning is incremental and while you don’t know what you don’t know initially, you realise unwittingly what you now know at some point. You know?!

  48. Kayla's Blog says:

    Experience is really the best teacher and I can’t count (I don’t want to start either) how many projects I finished but never worn at all. I remembered feeling frustrated for a bit and ending up wondering how sewing can “save me money” if I keep spending on fabrics and such but never use the item. That’s when I tried to sell some of those thru eBay or donated a few to charity. I felt much better after and eventually got the hang of the projects and fabrics that worked for me.

  49. My impatience usually means that when I find an item with a style that I love, I really can’t wait to find a pattern that is almost exactly what I’m looking for, so make my own version free hand. The downside of this is when it turns out right and I make something I absolutely love (which is worn virtually daily!) I can’t remotely create the same thing again, so almost everything I have created so far is quite literally a one off!

  50. vintage51 says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    I have a lot of the same problems as this lady with my sewing skills. She put it so well. Cheers, Michele

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