Learning Sewing Patience

flower pattern weight

Dress In Progress

Pins Seam

I’m working on a dress that is taking for ever. No kidding. It’s been an interesting journey in patience. I know that patience can be learnt. I know that because I sew. Darn, have I learnt to be patient! I don’t like it, but I do it.

I remember my first breathless, chaotic makes – determined to reach the finish line even if the zip was wonky and hem debatable. Most of those dresses have been thrown away, a fact I quite regret. A word to all the newbie sewers out there. Keep the bad makes. Or at least the bad makes you’re fond of. One day, you’ll cherish them, in the way you cherish your child’s first finger paintings.

Here are my five tips for learning sewing patience!

Hand Sew Hems. If you learn to love hand sewing, you’ll learn to slow down. It’s delicate, meditative and can’t be rushed.

Take Construction Photos. Nothing like a detail shot to force you to care about the finish. Documenting your progress helps you sew with care and patience.

Give Yourself A Break. I’ll indulge a six-hour sewing session in my jim jams with the best of them. But enforced breaks for showers, dog walks or meals can help you gain perspective. And with perspective comes … you know it!

Delete Deadlines. Do you really need to finish your dress in time for that party? Or do you already have six hand sewn party dresses hanging up in your wardrobe?

Use The Best. If you spend within budget but invest in the highest quality fabrics, you’ll want to repay your investment with decent work. And no decent work was ever rushed.

Now, all I have to do is listen to my own advice. Good things come to those who wait. Isn’t that what we’re told? I’m waiting. Gosh, am I waiting!

Do you have any tips for patience that will help me?

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39 Responses to Learning Sewing Patience

  1. lauriesannie says:

    I remember the outfit you made with SunnyGal. Lots of patience there.

  2. Jenny Lester says:

    Take a walk around your garden or at least stretch your legs outside with a cup of tea or coffee – especially when your are struggling with a difficult part of a project! Clear your head!! It may look a little different when you return!

  3. If only I would listen to my own advice and not try to attempt any sewing whilst also trying to cook dinner. Multi-tasking is a myth – if only I could unpick dinner!

  4. megan says:

    Love that fabric. Well everything takes time and patience. It’s good to remember that. I think sometimes leaving something for a while is a brilliant idea, things sometimes just slip into place when you’ve had a break, and you see the problem again the solution is to hand.

  5. Robin says:

    I am going through a difficult make myself at this moment. It’s a perfect storm: Silky polyester, temperamental machine, poorly modified pattern. So I REALLY appreciate your post. I can only share patience builders I am trying to help me get through it (I love the fabric, so wadding it is not an option)…
    1. Deal with one problem at a time. Figure out how many you have and what order they have to be addressed in that is logical for the project. For example, I need to redo a dart that is lower than its mate on the other side before I can finish the hem, but before that, I need to replace the ever-so-slightly bent new needle, clean the machine of lint, try a different thread and adjust the tension.
    2. For each problem develop a plan of attack, with separate steps, as many as possible so each one does not take very much time. Then, go through each step. Reward yourself with a mental back slap, a cuppa, or whatever floats your boat and makes you feel good about your progress, for each step you complete.
    3. Don’t let your eyes stray to other potential replacement projects that you think may momentarily make you feel better. Keep the problem project in your face, now shuffling it off to the side. Pre washing or otherwise prepping new fabric for you next project is permissible within limits.
    4. Recall the excitement and enthusiasm you had before you started this current project. Stroke the fabric again. Choose the pattern, trims again in your mind…relive the best moments so far, and then imagine your triumphant first wearing.
    5. Take frequent breaks, if only for a moment or two.
    That’s what I am going to try. Good luck. I will sen you any other tips I can think of as I work through my own study in patience-building…

    • kalimak says:

      I like your list! Especially #1 — breaking up tasks is the key to success, I think.

      #3… hmm… I may be wrong here, or just trying to defend my bad habits, but I feel like replacement projects help me sometimes. I think that stepping away from the challenge in favor of a quick and easy sew helps me get my confidence back. I would definitely agree with your warning in the sense that a pile of WIPs can be a stressor.

  6. Robin says:

    I should have said ‘not’ shuffling it off to the side. But I’m sure you got that!

  7. Spikeabell says:

    Oh I am an impatient one! (and I sew in big blocks not here and there) I did, only last weekend make a dress in a day to attend a friends wedding but I had at least done all the toile-ing previously. I think the fact that I had told the mother of the bride that I was making a dress made me do the extra’s… under-stitching, pressing all seams etc. The fabric I was working with was incredibly well behaved so that probably helped. Tips, hmmm (I think Karen’s 5 are great)… ultimately nothing will help me usually, but if I can occasionally remember the difference between the garment that performs and wears well due to good construction and planning…that can work. And I HATE unpicking.

  8. fabrickated says:

    All good advice you gave yourself. Except the deadline one. Without one I am not sure I would finish everything. Actually the deadline, plus “needing” to put it on my blog force me to get on with the work even when it challenges me.

  9. dr P says:

    All good advice here. My biggest impatient errors that I am learning to fix are
    1)make the toile…at least the bodice or bit that might not fit.
    2) press as you go.
    3)use the appropriate notions, not just any crap in the stash that doesn’t match
    3) try it on regularly
    4) don’t rush the end bit….usually by the time I get to hemming I’m going formula 1 speed. I’m going to hand sew the next one!
    5) don’t just follow the packet instructions, sometimes there are advanced techniques I know will make my garment look better but I don’t use the cos I’m an impatient fool!

    But in general, sewing, cooking and other making have improved my patience levels enormously!

  10. I really ought to print out your list and staple it to my forehead. It’s amazing what virtues sewing can teach us!

  11. Lesley says:

    As soon as I find myself saying that’ll do, I stop sewing for the day!

  12. Sheree says:

    All good tips. For me, the ditching of the deadline is most important, though it took a long time to realise the pressure wasn’t doing me any favours. I also try not to think how many hours, days, weeks something takes. Always far more than I ever anticipate. Slow down and just enjoy the journey. That’s what I try to take on now.

  13. amcclure2014 says:

    Your tips are all good, although if I had no deadlines I might be more likely to give up. Certainly no unreasonable deadlines, though. My main tips other than these is to stick to one thing at a time (I’ve learned this!) and to keep things organised. I’m not good at that, at either tbh, but am improving.

  14. Helen Fox says:

    I needed this post thank you 🙂 I can tell I’m trying to rush through a wearable test dress to get to making the one I really want to wear. I need to slow down to make sure the test really is wearable. I think my biggest issue is a blogging schedule but sometimes you just have to let those filler posts happen so you can spend the time you really need on a project. And sometimes filler posts like this one are really useful!

    • Hi Helen – thank you for your support and feedback. You make a good point about ‘filler’ posts. Are they really filler? Or are they a true picture of the sewing journey? What we sew and create is time-consuming and hard. I think it’s okay to be honest about that, yet still have a need to connect with our online friends.

      • Helen Fox says:

        You are completely right. I think I have a problem in that I feel like when i’m not posting about a make then I have nothing useful to contribute (hence me thinking when I do that it feels like a filler) but posts like this one just go to show that you can have something very worthwhile, and just as inspiring to say even if its not a grand show off 🙂

  15. jenny says:

    Very good advice. I gave up sewing for a while convincing myself I hadn’t the time! I kept thinking it would be quicker to just go into a shop and get the same thing without all the time and fuss. The reality was of course I spent hours trawling round shops, disappointed by the lack of colour choice and quality and ended up buying things that ‘would do’. So I am back to making my own and learning to ‘go with the flow’. I enjoy knitting and (for me) it is impossible to set a deadline with that so I am trying to adopt the same attitude with sewing. I am learning not to make myself sew for two hours just because I have two hours free but just for as long as it feels good/right. Some times it feels good to work through a problem, some times it makes it worse so it’s knowing when to stop – and not to feel defeated if I stop because of a problem. Multi tasking to me is sewing while I’m watching TV (a DVD or whatever) and maybe drinking coffee and eating a snack – see how many things I can do at once :).

  16. I hear you. I am low on the sew mojo right now – drifted this evening into my studio, fingered the abandoned project and found an excuse to do something else. I am hoping it resumes soon however as I have just bought two lengths of Liberty sweat shirting and I would like to have a couple of cosy winter dresses before the weather packs up!

  17. Amy says:

    Having a baby has really made me take a step back and consider what I’m doing instead of rushing to finish. Bias or facing? Rolled hem or hand sewn? The forced breaks mean that I can really think about what I’m doing which is resulting in better fitting garments.

  18. This totally hit home for me. I’m currently working on an unlined blazer and decided to do a Hong Kong binding. But of course the jacket has princess seams and two-piece sleeves. Sof, it’s taking for flicken ever. What I’ve been doing lately is procrastinating seams. I take as much time as possible prepping everything before I sew pieces together. I find that everything I do is so much more deliberate and turns out infinitely better. Keep working on that dress – it will absolutely be worth the time in the end!

  19. Good advice to keep your first makes. You might want to re-visit dodgy sewing when you’ve skilled up. I’ve still got my first ever make, a drawstring skirt made at Morley College.

  20. El Rueb says:

    Health problems have forced me to slow down my sewing, and because of this I have noticed the quality has gone up. No time or energy for ripping out. Thus I have learned the hard way to think a little more before zooming down that seam. Have no fear, where there is a will there is a way and the stitching will go on !

  21. Phyllis says:

    Good advice. I find if I don’t finish a sewing project in say three days, then I usually put it aside forever. I do need to slow down and take my time. Sewing about 60 years.

  22. Ditching deadlines has been such a positive to my sewing this year

  23. esewing says:

    Such wise words , am very bad at shuffling to one side ! Have been putting off finishing off a piece which requires hand finishing , but have fabric beckoning for next project …
    Heartily agree with quality fabric , is disheartening when you have slaved over something and you end up not wearing it because fabric is a poor quality , quality fabric is so much more forgiving !

  24. PsychicKathleen says:

    My biggest mistakes (and dumbest!) are made when I’m tired and I KNOW that but I have trouble stopping once I’m on a roll 🙂 I always regret that however – nothing can’t wait ’til morning when I’m rested and fresh and looking at my project with a fresh eye. Patience is leaving until tomorrow what I could do tonight and wear tomorrow! 🙂

    • Teresa says:

      I am a.so so guilty of this one! I think I’m on a roll and that I’ll ‘just finish this little bit’, which then leads onto finishing ‘that little bit’ which means I become more tired but I can see the finish line. But the actual finish line the next day is far further away because of all the rushing and mistakes I have made.
      But I never learn!

  25. norma says:

    Lots of good advice here.
    My way to sewing patience was to sew vintage in the way our formothers would have sewn it. I love the results and it showed me what could be achieved by slowing down.

  26. vintage51 says:

    Drink a cup of green or herbal tea, and take a little time out. I know I really have to be in the mood to sew finicky pieces so I understand your struggle. And yes…I have sadly thrown out my failures and then regretted it later when I was in a better sewing mood. Cheers, Michele

  27. Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful support and TIPS!

  28. Working with better quality fabrics is definitely the top thing that’s taught me, it’s amazing the change of pace in my sewing when I’m working with some really special yardage!

  29. Mags says:

    I always have 2 projects on the Ho,one quick and one slow. I’m hand tailoring a jacket (pad stitching is very slow) but also just made holiday clothes in a week.

  30. LinB says:

    1. Find some time, every day, to do at least a bit of sewing. Even if this can be no more than moving a pattern from one side of your sewing table to the other, or fondling a spool of thread for a brief minute, do that. Practice makes patience.
    2. If you are religious, pray. I find that praying — a quick nod and a “please, oh please, God, let me do this right” — before I sew is much more efficacious than the snarling, weeping, and gnashing of teeth prayers that are sent up with ugly curse words when I mess up in the middle of a project. Centering prayer, I believe the Society of Friends calls it. Taking a moment to focus your thoughts on the task at hand is good advice for anyone who is running what could be dangerous machinery (Sawing down trees on a mountainside, driving a car, running a needle up-and-down at high speed near your fingers and eyes, etc. etc.)

  31. When you’re starting out, I think just finishing is fine. When you gain more experience, you have higher standards and want your garment to be as nice as you can make it. It is exciting to have a vision of what you want to make, and have the skills to accomplish it. A very simple garment that is well made and well fitted can turn out to be a favorite.
    Your photo with all the pins is what I have trouble with – easing. Easing is not easy!

  32. Sophia says:

    Currently sewing a hem by hand… and am enjoying it 🙂

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