Never stop learning.
No matter how experienced of a seamstress you might be, there is always something new that can be learned. From new machines to new techniques to fabric manipulation, the possibilities are endless when it comes to expanding our craft. This rang especially true for me the other day when I realized I have been sewing darts ALL WRONG. How could this be? I have sewn countless dresses, shirts, and bottoms all with darts in them. I had been sewing them wrong all of this time?!! Gah! Low and behold, I sewed them correctly for the first time and I felt that dart had never looked better.
Now I know that as a seamstress (as in life), there are phases for all sewing stages in life. Stages for when we are just learning, stages when we need quick and easy projects as time is scarce, stages when it feels like all we are sewing is home decor, stages when we feel like sewing nothing at all, and stages when things quiet a bit and suddenly you find yourself working towards slow sewing and perfect technique. I can only assume that this all leads to a stage when you find yourself sewing wedding gowns, heirlooms and gifts. *sigh
Right now I seem to be in between a few of those, but more often than not I am find myself focusing on slowing down in my sewing, and enjoying the process. As I reflect back over the past decade plus of sewing, here are some things I learned along the way.
Don’t Do That!
Bits of advice I have learned along the sewing trail…
1. Don’t cut out the bust dart
All this time I have been cutting out the dart and sewing it together. For a cleaner dart, without a point, don’t do that!!! Transfer the dart lines onto the wrong side of your fabric, pin and sew dart together along lines. Then press dart down.
I know for some of you this might be obvious, but for me…I had been cutting out the dart all of this time and sewing the cut lines together. I never knew about seam allowance for darts either…I have since learned that BurdaStyle darts actually already include the seam allowance, unlike all of their other pattern lines.
2. Don’t tell your Grandma that you are only sewing one line of basting stitches
When it comes to gathering fabric, the correct number of basting stitch lines to sew is always TWO – 3/8″ apart. Obviously, I almost never do this unless I am using a super heavy fabric and am worried about the thread breaking. But don’t tell Grandma that! There will be issues. Trust me on this.
3. Pay attention to your lining fabric
I have learned this lesson the hard way. I didn’t want to wait to start my project until I made it to the fabric store again, so I just grabbed any old cotton. Now, I knew this was no ideal. What I did not realize was just how much extra WEIGHT the muslin would add to my dress. It turned what would’ve been a cute, drapey dress into a heavy beast of burden. All of that gorgeous rayon fabric was waisted, as well as all of the time it took to make it. Don’t even get me started on trying to sew in the zipper. The dress was put in the corner for time out, never to see the light of day.
Lining fabric is equally as important as the exterior when it comes to choice. Choose a fabric that is similar to your exterior, unless otherwise instructed by the pattern instructions.
4. Get some sleep
Have you ever done this? You have been working on a project all day, and you just want to finish it up. You feel like you won’t sleep well until it is done. I find it is in these moments, the hours between 10pm – midnight when I do my absolute WORST sewing. Simple, clumsy mistakes that I would almost never make in the light of day are commonplace. And the seam ripper is imminent. Just wait. And if it must be done, wake up early the next morning – fuel up on coffee and get to work. Then you wake up with a sense of accomplishment – verses bleary eyed and angry.
5. Pre-wash your fabric
This one is so easy and so tempting to skip. I still do it sometimes, and always always regret it. I remember one time in particular when I sewed up about 5 waffle shirts that I was so excited about. The fit was perfection, they looked great – and I just knew my kids would wear them all Winter long. Then I washed them. They must have shrunk 3 sizes!!! I couldn’t believe my eyes. If you don’t want your hard work to get tossed in the trash, or given to your younger relative – pre-wash the dang fabric. Annoying? Yes. Worth it? Also yes.
6. Wash on cold, hang dry
This kind of goes hand on hand with another lesson…don’t let your husband do the laundry if you know handmade items are in it. It will get thrown in the dryer, and tears will commence. I have since moved to washing all of my handmade clothes on cold, and hanging them dry. I would rather be safe, than mad/angry/yelling.
7. Don’t tell a group of ladies that you are currently in a diet program with that you can sew
21 day Fix is all well and good, once you get used to the new eating plan. And yes, it does work. Buuuuuuuut, who here has had a friend that lost weight and suddenly needed their clothes altered. Now imagine letting the cat out of the bag that you can sew, to a group of ladies who are all losing weight. Don’t do that. (Ask me how I know – ha!)
8. Don’t try to sew leggings with a 4 thread serger
(i.e. the Brother 1034d that we all own.)
So you think you can sew your leggings with just your serger…or that knit dress waistband, with just a serged seam. Don’t do that. The thread will not only pull, and you will see weird straight stitches at the seams – but holes in the seams are on the horizon. In order to sew leggings, or other knit projects with JUST a serger you need to use a 5 thread serger or overlock machine.
9. Always measure yourself
If you are like me, your body tends to change shape and sizes depending on the month. Some months I have a 30″ waist, other months a 32″ waist. I run so I can eat – ha! Take it from me, if you aren’t positive then measure yourself or your child. Once you are done, be sure to check the size measurement chart included in your pattern instructions prior to cutting out your pattern pieces. Never ever assume a pattern size, even if you have purchased from that pattern company before. If your measurements do not exactly line up with a size on the pattern chart, then start with you largest measurement (either bust or hips depending on the pattern), and size/grade down when cutting out the pattern.
10. Always check the fabric recommendations
Fabric recommendations are there for a reason. While we like to assume that we can swap out knit for a woven, silk or more, there are often tweaks that need to be made to the pattern for a proper fit. If you are going to switch out fabric recommendations, always do so with careful consideration, especially in regards to drape and stretch.
11. Check your seam before you finish
I can’t tell you how many times I have finished / serged my seam, only to find that there was a nip or tuck in the sewn line. It is annoying to say the least. It takes two seconds to check your seam before you run it through the serger. It is well worth those two seconds.
12. Don’t wear a handmade garment when eating balsamic vinaigrette
Just me then? OK
13. Learn how to say no, and learn how to say YES
For the longest time, I had to teach myself how to say no to people’s handmade requests. Being a people pleaser, it was hard for me. I wanted to make people happy, and felt bad saying no to them. Like they would resent me or be mad at me for not altering / hemming / making their curtains. I had to learn how to say no, and to be okay with that.
Since then, I have had to learn the opposite. The art of saying YES. I had to learn when to say yes, the projects that meant something to me when I was giving a gift or helping someone else. Going into the project ahead of time knowing that I would be investing my time, energy and money. And knowing that the return on that project would be priceless. But learning to listen to your heart, and know when the right time to say YES actually was.
Now I know some of these are funny, some are common sense, and some are a news flash to you. But they are all things I have learned somewhere along the sewing path of life. SO DON’T DO THAT! Lol
Tell me – what are some bits of priceless information that you have learned along the way?
Thanks so much for stopping by, and until next time…