A sewing hiatus (or how to sew when you can’t sew)

As the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone – in my case, I didn’t know I loved my tiny sewing space in the corner of the bedroom until we moved.

Yes, it was small. And, yes, I got threads and tiny bits of fabric all over the bed. But I haven’t had a sewing space to call my own since, and so I can’t help but miss that messy little corner.

As we’ve still got a living room and dining room to paint (and our new cat/sewing helper is currently living in what should be my sewing room), I haven’t even had so much as a sewing desk to call my own since we moved in in June – until, that is, I decided that enough was enough and I was no longer content with scrolling through Instagram for sewing inspiration while my machine was packed away. I just had to sew.

So, I shifted a desk into the only room in our house that isn’t totally chaotic: the kitchen. And even though all I had time to do was mark and pin darts, and even though the location was far from ideal (although I do have easy access to the kettle and biscuits, so it’s not all bad), it was such a relief to be making again.

Since then, I’ve even managed to add the facing (I know, I’m on fire). Mostly, though, I’ve learned that slow slowing is ok – as long as I’m sewing, that’s all that matters. My how-to-sew-when-you-can’t-sew top tips:

Just get on with it. I like to give sewing my full attention (mostly to avoid those annoying mistakes you make when you’re tired, like sewing a sleeve on inside out), but waiting for the ‘perfect’ time to sew is a one-way trip to unfinished project island. Instead, I try to fit in small bursts of sewing, like pinning a hem while I’m cooking dinner. All these little tasks add up to a finished garment, so try not to lose heart with slow progress.

Be organised. If you don’t have the luxury of a sewing space, you’ll have to get smart with storage. Since being sewing-room-less, I’ve started keeping everything I need for my current projects – fabric, patterns, tools, threads – in one tote bag next to my machine for speedy sewing, and the rest of my fabric stash in a vacuum storage bag (it’s amazing how much you can fit in those things – I can almost pretend my fabric stash isn’t enough for several years’ worth of sewing projects).

Adjust your thinking. Ironically for someone who sews as slowly as I do, I can be rather impatient, so the fact that it’s taken me over a month to finish the Sorbetto top – basically the simplest sewing pattern in the world – is KILLING ME. Having said that, it helps to adjust your mindset and enjoy the process rather than thinking so much about the finished garment. I’m still working on this.

Choose wisely. If you’re finding it tricky to fit sewing in around other things in your life, it’s probably not the best time to start that ballgown you’ve always dreamed of making, or a last-minute summer skirt you’ll have to make right-now-this-minute to stand any chance of wearing this year. So, I’ve moved any tricky and non-seasonal-appropriate projects onto my ‘would like to sew someday’ list, and am instead picking makes that are achievable and quick so I don’t feel too overwhelmed (I’m aiming for just whelmed, 10 Things I Hate About You-style).

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5 rookie sewing mistakes I made (so you don’t have to)

A big part of learning to sew is making mistakes, getting the unpicker out and starting again – and you’ll still need to keep that unpicker handy whether you’ve been sewing for ten months or ten years, as there are always new skills to learn (and fail at).

We sewists are a tough bunch, though, and however many times we have a #sewingfail, our obsession with stitching never falters. So, to celebrate resilience in the face of wonky seams, I’m sharing a few of my embarrassing newbie mistakes. Here’s to getting it wrong, and trying again!1. Using the incorrect needle for the job. I didn’t really know that different machine needle types were a thing when I first started sewing, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, led to lots of snapped needles, a few ruined fabrics and a whole lot of frustration. Sewing through layers of denim with a universal needle is not a good idea, FYI. For your safety and sanity, stock up on lots of different machine needle types and thicknesses and change your needle regularly.

2. Picking the wrong fabric. Matching the right pattern to the right fabric is a skill, and, while I still don’t always get it spot on, I’d like to think I’m much better at it than I used to be. My Colette Taffy blouse is a case in point – the pattern is meant for floaty chiffon, but, newbie stitcher that I was, I decided to make it in a beautiful paisley print cotton with very little drape.

I loved the sewing pattern, I loved the fabric, but just not together. Although I was proud of it at the time (I think it was only my third or fourth finished garment), it ended up unworn at the back of my wardrobe and I’ve since given it to the charity shop. The moral of this sad story is: use the pattern’s suggested fabrics until you feel more confident with your fabric know-how.

3. Ignoring notches and other pattern markings. It seems I was, shall we say, an over-confident (read: cocky) beginner sewist, as I basically ignored all notches and winged it for my first few sewing projects – to quote a certain pirate film, I thought notches were guidelines for people who have no idea what they are doing. Which, ironically, was me. And then I wondered why I ended up sewing the wrong pattern pieces together. Notches and pattern markings are there for a reason. They are your friends. Don’t ignore them!

4. Not checking my measurements. For my first couple of projects, I chose my pattern sizing based on the clothing size I usually am in high street shops – which, given the high street’s penchant for inconsistent sizing, is just asking for trouble. Just like the high street shops, each pattern brand will draft their designs using a different block, so you may find that the size you need to cut out often varies – you may even need to grade between sizes for a perfect fit. Always check the size chart against your measurements before you cut out your pattern, even if it’s a pattern brand you’ve used before, as sizing can vary within brands – I also find it useful to measure the pattern itself, too. Eventually, you may even find the sewing holy grail: a pattern brand that fits your measurements to a tee (mine is Tilly and the Buttons. Hurrah!).5. Not pressing enough. In a similar fashion to my flagrant disregard for notches, I just couldn’t understand what the big deal was about pressing. It seemed so boring to spend my precious sewing time pressing seams. And what difference does it make anyway? Erm, quite a bit, actually. I have learned this the hard way, with finished projects that look far from professional with bulky unpressed seams and hems. Plus, pressing is actually strangely satisfying to do (just make sure you use a pressing cloth on delicate fabrics – learned that the hard way, too).

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Why Sewing is (Mostly) Better Than Buying

No one will ever be wearing the same outfit as you. The odds of another sewist choosing the exact same fabric and pattern as you, and making it in exactly the same way, are slim to none, so your me-made clothes will always be unique to you. There’s also the added bonus of the feeling of satisfaction you get when proudly stating ‘I made it myself’ when someone compliments your outfit. #Nailedit. Continue reading “Why Sewing is (Mostly) Better Than Buying”

Common Sewing Mistakes

 

Some say there are no mistakes when it comes to sewing and that everyone has their own unique way of doing things, and while that is partly true there are a few errors that many – including myself – sometimes make when starting out that can really affect the outcome of a project. I’ve compiled a few key ones here, partly in the hope that a beginner will be saved a few hours of unpicking, and partly to remind myself not to make them. Continue reading “Common Sewing Mistakes”