my advice for new sewers/sewists/anyone that makes things
recently i’ve been thinking about when i first started sewing, and how much more confident i feel in myself now compared to when i first started.
thinking about that stuff made me also think about what i’ve learned so far. i’m no expert, but here’s a few things i think might be useful to read if you’re just starting out!
1) You will not spend as much time as you think at your sewing machine.
In fact, I probably spend 10% of my time making a garment actually at the machine. I would say I spend 20% of my time cutting the pattern and transferring the markings, 10% of my time at the machine, 5% of my time with the unpicker/seam ripper and then 65% of my time at my ironing board.
2) You will NEED to iron everything.
if we’re being specific about language and technique, you’ll need to press everything. EVERYTHINNNGGGGG. If it is not pristinely flat, you need to press it. darts? Press them. seam? Press it. anything you’ve ever put stitches in with the machine? Press it.
you’ll probably even need to press your paper pattern because it will be crinkly. Even a couple of mm missed will mean that you don’t cut quite the right amount of fabric, meaning your garment might not like up properly, or maybe not even fit!
3) Transfer those markings!
I’m talking every single point marked on there. I tend to lean away from snipping into the seam allowance – that excess is there for a reason and you don’t want to take it away if you don’t need to. I like to mark mine with thread (a tailors tack, or just a couple of stitches in running stitch) but you can use washable fabric pens, or even good old fashioned dressmakers chalk. I look at patterns and think “I’m never going to need that random circle on the bodice there” but it turns out that’s where my pocket goes or something equally important. So do it!
4) Take your time.
I think because it was GBSB that got me into making things, I feel like everything I do is a race. I’ve been making my boyfriend a shirt over the last few weeks, just taking my time, and it’s come out much better for my patience. I suppose I’m not a patient person who takes my time over anything, but sewing is something you should concentrate on.
5) Don’t try and do anything when you’re tired.
It’s not worth it. you’ll make silly mistakes and end up wishing you’d never bothered. There’s nothing worse than sewing a neck line perfectly then realising it’s back to front, but it’s already over locked on and there’s no going back! Or you could be cutting out and cut more off something than you need too, I’m sure I even spotted someone sewing through their finger (ouch!). It’s better just to leave it for another day. if you really want to do something sewing related, maybe read through your pattern instructions so when it comes to sewing, you’ll have an idea of the construction in advance. Maybe watch videos on youtube of the techniques you’ll need if you’ve never seen them before. Anything but actually working on your garment!
6) Don’t be scared by new techniques.
You’ll never learn if you don’t move forward and keep challenging yourself. Some people see knit/stretch fabrics as their biggest challenge – if you’ve got a zig zag stitch and a walking foot, it’s pretty impossible to go wrong. Fitting woven fabric is my big challenge, and in fact, something I still struggle with. Which is why I attended a bodice block drafting class, in attempt to hone/create some skills. You’ve got to keep developing and challenging yourself. If you want to learn a lot of new skills all in one go, pick something you’ve never made before. Dresses are lovely, but have you seen how many things you learn with the Colette negroni pattern, or the grainline archer shirt/alder dress? Making shorts was fun too – who know I could ever successfully make a fly zip!?
7) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
The internet is a wonderful resource and there’s so many people out there who will offer advice if you need it. things are often confusing if you’ve never seen them before. Search for sew-a-longs, Instagram posts, blog posts, or even leave a comment asking for help. There’s a new website called the fold line, where there’s forums for help. Go for it! the online sewing community is so friendly and nice, no one will think less of you for asking. It’s also such a nice way to make friends! Have a mooch for classes in your local area too.
8) Start a social media platform just for your hobby
I used to make loads of stuff before, so I didn’t set up a new Instagram account, but if you want to keep your hobby from your friends (I know that craft is not cool, I’m under no illusions!) then maybe make an Instagram account just for sewing/crafting. Make use of hashtags! You can put them on your pictures, or just search for them. or maybe go even wilder and start a blog! The only reason I started mine was to spur myself on with making things, but now it’s great and I love the people that I’ve met through meet ups.
9) Sometimes sewing gadgets are worthwhile, sometimes they’re not.
I’ll tell you what I love though, a rotary cutter and cutting mat. I got an A1 cutting mat from amazon for £17. There’s also a mini lesson here, amazon and ebay are always* (*I think always) cheaper than hobbycraft. Shoot me down for not supporting an actual shop, but it’s a chain of stores so I don’t feel bad. I do support independent shops though. they’re so full of knowledge and experience that it’s worth paying the bit extra for the fabrics/notions/patterns you’re buying because you can ask a few questions while you’re there too.
10) Enjoy it!
It’s a hobby after all! If it’s making you angry, walk away. Sometimes that neckline binding just won’t go right, and no amount of trying to botch it will work. Don’t put yourself under any pressure to make lots of things. I suppose that’s where Instagram is good and blogging is a bit more pressured; you don’t want to be too quiet and lose readers! But then, that’s self-pressure again. Maybe you don’t even want anyone to know while you’re not feeling very confident.
I’m sure there’s probably lots more things other people would contribute, but those are my main ten (also, ten is a nice round number and I like the finality of it).
Even though it’s frustrating sometimes, it’s so worth it when you’ve got handmade garments in your wardrobe that are on a regular rotation. Nothing beats knowing you’re wearing a dress you’ve made – especially when it doesn’t fall apart!!