Lessons Learned – A year of Sewing & Blogging

I’m not one of those girls that’s good about marking dates.

I didn’t write a 1st Anniversary Blue Sunday Blog post.  My thought was … “What’s the point?”  This blog is my journey … for no other reason than to document my growth and resources.  At the same time … I also started blogging to give new sewers like me hope.  Sewing sucks sometimes … even when you sew with your favorite cocktail or a glass of wine it can suck.  It’s tough.  It’s frustrating.  And when you see so many rock star sewers making things you only wish you can make … it can be discouraging.

Don’t get me wrong … this isn’t a post about how I’ve found the Promised Land.  Ha!  It’s more about how this journey is full of hills and valleys.  This is a post about what I’ve learned over the last year and how I’ve grown from it.  With my last make, I thought … I’ve grown.  From that first make (pillowcases … I haven’t made anything For the Home since) to the most recent wrap dress … I know more.  I feel more confident. And I don’t’ feel overwhelmed at the prospect of starting a new project.

A year ago … I would have never thought I could tackle something like Vogue 8825.  But I’m wearing it to work next week for a meeting.  I’ve learned some things the hard way.  Others by increasing my sewing network, and others have just been by accident.  But at the end of the day, if I could turn back the clock …here are a few things I wish I’d known a year ago.

Patterns aren’t just your puzzle pieces, they’re your road-map.

I’ve mentioned on the blog … I like sewing because I like putting puzzles together.  When I was a kid I loved tackling 1,500 piece puzzles.  I would spend hours at a time putting them together.  Sewing is like to that to me … matching notches, fitting the seams, clipping curves.  Sewing is about putting pieces together.  Just like a puzzle.

In my early makes, I would focus so much on the pattern pieces and properly connecting them, I would overlook some of the critical information on the pattern jacket and in the pattern instructions.  Those details are so important and contribute to success.  Not only in sewing the garment, but whether or not it will flatter your body type.  Here’s a few examples:

  • Until recently I’ve been so focused on using the bust, waist & hip measurements to select the pattern size. I completely ignored the finished garment measurements.  Everyone talks about EASE!  And my thought was … I need as much ease as I can get!  I don’t need any garment enhancing any body part … I don’t want enhanced.  But too much ease can by your enemy when it comes to a proper fit.  For example looking back at this tunic, I really should have sewn a smaller size.

RFB Tunic 2

It’s too large.  It doesn’t fit my frame properly. It’s too long.  Contrast that against a more recent make.

McCalls 6296 - Border Print Cotton Lawn

McCalls 6296 – Border Print Cotton Lawn

I wonder if I’m smiling so much because I’ve done a better job with fit.  With this garment, the fit along the shoulder length  and armscye is much better.  The garment hangs from my shoulders as it should.

There’s two lessons here.  First … I’ve been sewing and purchasing my patterns too large.  When following the finished garment measurements … I usually have to size down from my actual measurements.  Downsizing is good.  Very, Very Good.  Secondly, I’ve learned about my body type and the silhouettes that flatter my body type.  Draping and covering everything to hide what we don’t want others to see isn’t the proper solution.  I’m still learning in this area!

  • Next, I used to purchase my patterns from the picture or the artist’s drawing of the finished garment.  I would completely ignore the line drawing that shows the true garment lines. Now, I look at the sketch first.  Then I look at the picture.  I’ve passed over some great patterns thinking they were hot mess.  When really they weren’t.  The line drawings are critical to see all of the details a pattern has to offer.

There isn’t a science to Fitting.

I often say fitting is my nemesis.  And it is.  I’m kind of black and white.  And a rule follower.  So for the last year I’ve been trying to learn the method to properly fit.   I thought if I went to a sewing expo and took 11 classes on fitting… yes, I completely accept and admit I was bat shit crazy for doing that.  (Not apologizing for the expletive, but there was really no other word to describe how crazy that was … other than bat shit crazy.)  Any way … I thought if I went to a sewing expo and took 11 classes on fitting … I would come out fitting like a BOSS.

Not so much.

Fitting is hard.  And you have to find what works for you.  One of my biggest lessons learned …. What works for someone else when it comes to fitting … will not necessarily work for me.  Can I get a Hallelujah or an Amen?  I have a hybrid method that involves both flat pattern adjustments and making a muslin or test garment.  This is a time-consuming process.  Probably one of the reasons why you don’t see a ton of posts.  But if I’m making something … investing the time and the money, I want it to properly fit.

And speaking honestly … the more I do this process.  The faster I get.  The better I get.  But, there is an added complexity that I’m attempting to grow my skills and knowledge.  I’m attempting more difficult patterns, so I can’t expect to crank out garments left and right.  But I can expect to utilize what I’ve learned so far to make  quality garments.  And fitting comes with experience. The more I sew.  The more I’ll find what works for me, and the better I’ll get.

Fabric, Threads, Notions … Quality does matter

I wish someone would have told me the following with my first sewing class:

  • Invest in a decent pair of scissors.
  • The quality of thread does matter.
  • Not all fabric is created equal.
  • Get decent quality pins and needles.
  • Find a way to organize your patterns and fabric so it’s easier to plan your projects.

At the end of the day, there are things that make sewing easier.  Fabric cutting is easier when you have a great pair of scissors.  Rotary cutters are awesome.  My sewing machines really loves Mettler and/or  Gutermann thread.

Can we talk fabric for a moment?  When I first started sewing I would look for the least expensive fabric I could find.  But I love clothing.  I love good clothing.  When I purchase ready to wear, it’s all about how the fabric feels.  If it’s lined.  How it’s finished.  I’ve learned to invest and have a discerning eye when it comes to selecting fabrics.   Quality fabric washes up like a dream. It has a fine hand.  And it sews like buttah!  I’ve purchased fabric … washed it … .and lost a significant amount of yardage.  I’ve washed fabric and the texture has completely changed.

I shop with reputable vendors.  I order swatches if I’m considering a very expensive fabric.  I’ve learned to be afraid of fabric where the vendor doesn’t include the fiber content or care instructions.  I’m learning a lot about fabric … I wonder if I’ll ever get it mastered.


 Your Sewing Community Matters

I’m very task oriented.  So by default… it’s easier for me to do things alone.  I can tick through my list.  Work efficiently.  And move on to the next thing.  For me … I spent a few years taking sewing classes.  Researching You Tube videos.  But my skills were stagnant.  I definitely wasn’t sewing well.  I wasn’t proud of what I was sewing.  And I definitely wasn’t wearing what I sewed.

A little over a year ago I Googled … sewing teachers Plano, Tx.  And not only did I find a good teacher.  She exposed me to sewing blogs and ASG. Sewing blogs are interesting.  Each blogger has their own aesthetic.  Blogs are a great resource for techniques and resources.  And … bloggers are eager to share information and help you grow.  If they can help, they will.  I think balance is good in all things, and while I have my online community covered … I need a local Dallas community as well.  I have that through ASG.  There are neighborhood groups, workshops and women that are just as passionate about sewing as I am.  These women have become my friends over the last year, and I’m excited to continue to learn alongside them.  But its great to have those people to talk through your ideas with.  Or if you’re hanging out at their place, they are working on a pattern that’s sitting in your stash.  Or just  sitting at dinner and laughing about all of those silly mistakes we all make while sewing.  That’s right.  Nobody’s perfect in this game.  Even the best of the best make mistakes.  And you know what … that’s ok, because almost everything is fixable if you have enough fabric. LOL!

What’s Next?

I was recently hanging out with two of my sewing friends and they were discussing their 2014 sewing goals.  This year, I only had one goal.  Get better at sewing.  I realized in taking part of that discussion that I need to have more specific goals.  Still attainable …. but still specific.  As of this moment … I think I’d like to focus on pants and jackets for 2015.  In ready to wear … I’m pretty difficult to fit in pants.  It will be interesting to see if I can find a pattern that I absolutely love.

I also know a lot of ladies that sew everything in their wardrobe.  I still purchase a lot of what I wear.  It would be nice to shift the scale a bit … amp up the number of garments I make and make more clothing than I purchase.  This would include wardrobe staples … t shirts, tanks, etc.  I don’t know if making underwear will ever interest me.  Right now, its not on the agenda.  If a local class comes up … I’ll definitely consider taking it.  But on the list of goals for 2015.

My last potential goal … I’m  going to attempt to customize my own dress form.  I think this can assist me in having to make fewer test garments by tissue fitting a pattern … instead of making a full on test garment.  That way my final adjustments will be minor, and I can spend less money on muslin and test garment fabric.

I’m sure as this year comes to a close, and 2015 begins, there will be more lessons learned.  As they come, I’ll share them.  I look forward to sharing my next make with you.  And as always … thanks for stopping by!


4 responses to “Lessons Learned – A year of Sewing & Blogging

  1. Good thoughts and goals!

    In sewing, every project is a bit of experimentation. I can only think of maybe 3 garments I’ve ever made myself that could have been done without a mockup. Once you have a handful of patterns altered to fit really well (or nice fitting rtw to compare a pattern to), you can skip some steps on new ones without having to make full mockups. I promise it gets easier, but the progress is just slow enough that it’s hard to see it because you are so close to it.

    • Hi Brooke! Thanks so much. This is really good guidance. Sewing isn’t very black and white. Though it sounds as if it should be. Especially with fitting. Thanks so much for the encouragement!!

  2. Hello! I found your blog from the Fabrique newsletter and am so glad I did! I am enjoying reading about your journey. I live in Dallas too and didn’t know there was a local sewing community – so I’ll be researching ASG as well. Thanks!

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