How do you get over your sewing anxiety?

October 25 2013 | offbeatbride
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
Check my home-sewn Star Trek fez!
Check my home-sewn Star Trek fez!

My mother was an amazing seamstress. She used to make all sorts of clothes and costumes for my sisters and myself. I can remember seeing her sitting at the sewing machine watching Kevin Costner's Robin Hood and drinking her Diet Coke, night after night.Eventually I became too materialistic to appreciate these things (thanks, puberty). But now in my late twenties I am sad that I didn't try to learn more from her. As I attempt to live up to my creative potential I find myself needing to sew more and more often… but I have so much sewing anxiety!

I finally broke down last year and convinced my husband to get me a starter sewing machine for my birthday. I have made some things, pillows and an amazing Star Trek Fez for DragonCon this past August. But I find myself so intimidated by my sewing machine and the lingering ghost of my mother's talent, that I can't seem to get myself to try anything else.

I am sure I can't be the only person with the desire and tools to start sewing regularly. I was wondering if there were any good alternative/offbeat sewers and blogs out there that I might follow. More specifically ones with a series of definitions. (Seriously who knows what "darning" is when they first see it?)

What are your favorite sewing blogs? And how do you get over your sewing anxiety?

  1. This sounds so familiar it's scary. What worked off me though was to
    1) embrace the past. Look at what the people in your family have made but rather than comparing yourself, use it as inspiration!
    2) find a project that you LOVE (for me it was a huge quilt) that excites you so much that you stop worrying and start working!
    3) keep calm and reach for the seam ripper. Sewing is forgiving. Take deep breaths, buy extra fabric and rip those seams!
    GOOD LUCK I'm sure whatever you make will be wonderful!

    16 agree
    • That seems to be the common opinion on everything I have been able to find on the internet, is to find a project you love. I have a serious case of my eyes are too big for my stomach syndrome when it comes to projects, which just gives me all the more anxiety. And it's hard to find blogs and advice columns that aren't all " This an awesome cardigan I found at a thrift store and now it's awesomer because I have attached a flower to it" which are all fine and dandy, but not what I am looking for. >.<

      7 agree
  2. So seriously, the only way you're ever gonna get better is by practicing. I consider sewing a skill far more than a talent (not that it doesn't take talent to be a great seamstress! By all means, it's necessary!) But it's a learned, repetitive task.

    That being said, I'm still learning. My mother absolutely detested sewing and pretty much resorted to throwing things in a fit of frustration when she had to do it. So I never learned from her, but I'd always wanted to learn to make my own clothes, so I took a few classes at JoAnn's to learn basics and I've been following a few bloggers every since.

    I've got a ginormous crush on Gertie & her skills at blogforbettersewing.com She started her blog as a Julia/Julie type thing going through the projects in the Vogue book of better sewing. She's since put out her book of basic sewing (awesome patterns based on vintage looks) and she's in the process of putting together her second book.

    I also emailed Gertie when I first started sewing (prior to her putting out her book) and she recommended this book: Sew Everything Workshop: The Complete Step-by-Step Beginner's Guide
    It's a good starting place and has lots of definitions and goes through basics like what type of fabric to use for different projects, etc.

    SeeKateSew is fun as well. She has lots of simple projects.

    The thing is, even seasoned seamstresses have to use a seam ripper and start over. So don't get overwhelmed or upset if projects don't work out the first time. Practice makes perfect! That being said, if you need me, I'll be making my daughter's Halloween costume this weekend.

    Also – press EVERYTHING! Invest in a really good iron.

    8 agree
    • Yes, practice practice practice! Don't put too much pressure on yourself to be awesome. Start off with simple things like placemats or potholders before working your way toward dresses or quilting.

      Be brave and try new things or harder projects, experiment with different fabrics, but try not to get too discouraged by failure. Even after 20+ years of sewing (geez, now I feel old!) I still get enraged at projects and have to start over or give up. It happens.

      Iron everything, double-check measurements and instructions, and make sure your machine is in good condition. (I have a feeling my most recent enragement is due to my machine needing a tune up.)

      My fave sewing/crafting blogs are danamadeit.com (kind of an everything blog) and made-by-rae.com.

      4 agree
      • I second danamadeit.com – awesome tutorials with tons of pictures, which I appreciate when I have no idea what the instructions mean. Also lots of kid and baby patterns and tutorials, if you're looking for that.

        I was given my husband's grandmother's old sewing machine last year, and made a few things before I somehow managed to screw up the timing and now need to get it fixed…

        1 agrees
  3. I used to be super intimidated by the sewing machine too. I did a few simple projects under the supervision of a very talented seamstress friend, and that was enough to get me on my feet and confident enough to sew on my own.

  4. Ok this is crazy because I was JUST talking to my friend a few minutes ago about how much I wish I could sew. My mom is always making clothes & Halloween costumes…knitting up a storm for my kids…and I just don't get it. I try and try but things always turn out a little wonky! To the point where even my 5 year old goes…mom..is that supposed to look like that?

    I'm obsessed with this blog: http://refashionista.net

    So I think I'm going to start there…go thrift a bunch of cheap clothes and just take a stab at things. If they only cost a few bucks then I can laugh at my crazy creations. Maybe with a little practice I might be able to come up with something wearable!

    3 agree
  5. Since I'm practically in the same boat as you (yes, materials & machine!) – and my Grandma was the great sewer instead of my mom – I'll share my favorite blog with you: http://seekatesew.com/sewing-101 She has great tutorials and does sew-alongs sometimes which got me to step out of my box and make a clutch πŸ™‚ There are so many things I'd like to try but life is busy and I'm full of excuses. Something about her approach and then sewing with a bunch of beginners and experienced ladies (and maybe gents) was supportive.

  6. Make stuff for the non-humans in your life. They won't care if you fuck it up.

    I made a dog bed from some foam and an old mattress pad I was just going to throw away. Using free materials frees up your mind from the terror of ruining it, and you can practice different stitches and stuff that way. And as long as it is comfy, puppy won't mind if the seams aren't perfectly straight.

    I mostly sew really simple stuff like dog beds, cat beds, curtains, and gift bags. Also I have to hem most pairs of pants I get. The most complicated sewing project I ever did was a vest/skirt combo when I was 9 under the supervision of a friends' mom. Then there was a 15+ year hiatus before I started to sew again, so a few things came back, but not many. I would love to sew costumes, but I feel like you really have to commit to sewing as a hobby to make more complicated things to wear. Am I wrong? I know a dressform would be incredibly helpful, but that's an investment in money and storage space!

    7 agree
    • I whole heartedly second this!
      Im very new to sewing and was always worried about wasting material by making something terrible.
      My local dog shelter has appealed for people to make dog coats for the winter so Im in the process of re-purposing some old clothes into dog coats, some have slightly messy edges etc but I don't think the dogs will mind.
      Im learning to sew, recycling and donating to a good cause, wins all round!

      9 agree
    • So much this.
      Another good method to not spend on anything other than thread and still get sewing practice in is to re-purpose clothing that doesn't work for you anymore. I turned a couple pairs of pants into skirts and added a ruffled edge from the cut off pants legs so I didn't have to have the weird (to me) crotch area that's a dead give away your skirt used to be pants. I practiced hems by cutting off necklines, bottom edges, and some sleeve length on t-shirts and running them under the machine. Making t-shirts (or anything jersey knit) more fitted is also an easy fix that gives you sewing practice.
      And since I'm in the same boat as you (seriously, did I write this letter?) I have found some easy (free!) sewing patterns on craftsy in addition to Gertie's blog which has already been mentioned. Also, look for books (if you go that route) that have multiple variations on a single pattern so you can see how to adapt things to your whims.

      3 agree
      • I've never done the pants to skirt thing because of the weird crotchal fin protrusion. The ruffle idea is brilliant.

        4 agree
    • Best two first sentences to read prior to caffeine ever!
      Space is something I am seriously lacking in my tiny space. It doesn't help that all of my family members are into hobbies that also take up lots of space. But it can be handled. I have been eyeing a dress form in my size, I am hoping I might get it for the holidays; we will see. I recently remade my belly dance costume and that turned out really nice, but covering a bra and tearing apart it's insides to reinforce it is completely different from making a whole costume of grandeur from start to finish. I made some pillows the other day, and some awesome nerdy pin up hair wraps (with rhinestones naturally). I get bored with the easy stuff easily, but I don't have a middle ground. πŸ˜›

  7. If you can afford it, small sewing classes at local quilt/fabric stores are super useful — you learn how to do the basics, and then have the confidence to apply those skills to other projects. I get that that isn't for everyone, though.

    She mostly concentrates on quilting, but http://www.eliseblaha.typepad.com 's projects helped me jump in without worrying about it being perfect. She tends to have an emphasis on "get it done" which is surprisingly validating when you're grudgingly spending ten minutes trying to get your corners to match up perfectly and just want to move ON already. My mum's a fantastic quilter too, so this really helped me put aside the need to make something to her level of perfection and just do it my way.

    1 agrees
    • I live in a VERY small town, we have one place that offers sewing classes and they are on the night I am at the dance studio teaching and being taught for three hours, right after work. I have tried to talk to them about offering another class on another day, but there doesn't seem to be enough people who want to take the class to make it worth their while. And I never get a chance to talk to the woman who teaches the class directly to see if I could just pay her for some private lessons. I am slightly less intimidated by the sewing machine and more intimidated by the patterns. After my simple projects I have done, I know what most things do on the machine and youtube has been my savior; but I recently bought one of those "How to sew" getting started patterns, took it home, cut it out, and went dumb right after I got past the directions telling me how to pin and cut out the fabric. Maybe I just need a glass of wine or two before reading them. πŸ˜‰

      2 agree
  8. I was a theatre major and I worked in the costume shop during college and I got REALLY handy with a sewing machine. (And the industrial serger….MAN, that think was amazing…) But now most of my skills have fallen off and I'm at the same place that you are, looking for inspiration and to get over my sewing anxiety. But I do have some tips, even if I'm only kinda following them myself.

    -Get to know your machine and hone your basic sewing skill set. I tend to jump into projects and learn more advanced things without picking up the basics, which is fine and lets me fake more skill than I have, but when things go wrong I have no idea how to fix them. For instance, I got super crafty and was making fancy Christmas gifts when the bobbin jammed and I shattered a needle. The machine was a gift and brand new, so I had no idea how to change it and spent more time jacking with that stupid machine than I did making things, which soured the experience. So make your equipment your partner and get to know each other!

    -Unless a major challenge thrills you, stretch your limits with each project, but don't blow too far past them. Rather than get motivated, I get disappointed when I fail miserably so knowing myself helps me choose projects that are a few steps ahead and not giant leaps.

    -Don't try to learn new things by making gifts. I do this with everything (My wedding? Let's learn some new paper crafting skills and make our invitations! An event coming up? Let's bake something I've never even tried before! Christmas? LET'S HAND MAKE EVERYTHING IN A CREATIVE FIELD I ONLY HEARD ABOUT YESTERDAY!) and am trying to break the habit, but its hard. Doing a project for a gift or event can motivate you, but if you do, at least have a back-up in cause it does not turn out how you'd like. Making your dress for your sister's wedding is awesome, but finding something to wear the day before because you couldn't get the pleats to turn out right is not.
    Besides. You deserve to make something for yourself, because you did that thing the other day that was so great. You know, that thing. So make yourself something and then get you some ice cream too.

    -I don't know of any blogs (and I'll be reading this thread hard to see what others come up with…), but I do embroidery and often find blogs by looking at Etsy sellers' websites. If I find a pattern I like, I'll check out their website, Twitter or Facebook and see what they post about or who they follow. That's a good way to find similar artists who fit your personal aspiring aesthetic…or who just make cool shit.

    8 agree
    • I feel like I wrote this… all the way down to the theatre major and costume shop work. πŸ™‚ It makes me feel better knowing that someone else also does the whole, trying to learn new things by making gifts thing. Sometimes that turns out well, but usually it just turns out extra stressful – especially if I don't leave myself enough time to come up with a back up plan if needed (which I seem to rarely do).

      1 agrees
    • Man, do I miss the industrial serger from my university costume shop…

      As others have said, practice makes perfect, and even those of us who have been sewing for a long time and/or professionally make mistakes. Like sewing in a sleeve wrong. Sleeves are the worst.

      If you are buying patterns from most retailers, they come on this godawful tissue paper. I have a giant roll of brown butcher paper and the first thing I do is tape the pattern to it and cut it out of the heavier paper. I learned to sew in a university costume shop where all the patterns were custom made on heavier paper, and I find it much easier to work with.

      2 agree
      • Good tip – that stuff is horrible and usually results in me only vaguely following the pattern which is basically a recipe for disaster (Simplicity "It's so easy" disaster!).

  9. Number one, deep breaths! Sewing is totally possible and doable.

    My mum got me sewing a bit when I was young. I even had a crappy sewing machine of my own. I got pretty low marks on sewing in home ec though. Why? Because I suck at straight lines and I hated the projects we had to sew.

    So now that I'm in my 30s, I'm sewing again. Like way more than I ever did before and way harder stuff. I have a friend at work who encourages/enables me and that's really helped. But the thing that I found easiest was combing Pinterest. It is a fantastic place to start because you can see a lot of options, you aren't paying for things, and you can get an idea of what you could try.

    Number one is to start with projects labelled for a beginner, especially if you're feeling intimidated. And avoid buying patterns from McCalls, etc. I find their instructions to be pretty horrible!

    So start with small sewing projects that only involve some easy skills. Make small bags without zippers. Those are relatively easy and can help with the confidence thing. I've done things like journal covers and sketchbook covers that were all fairly simple and straightforward.

    Practice on fabric you have or cheap fabric. Take old sheets or buy super cheap fabric and use that for your early projects. It is terrifying having spent a bunch of money on nice fabric and then worry you're going to fuck up.

    Accept that you will fuck up. As @Amelia said, sewing is forgiving and you can use a seam ripper. I have a quilt I started (just sewing straight lines – did I mention I suck at straight lines?). I have had to redo a bunch of seams because they got all messed up. Not a big deal. I've sewed things in backwards or the wrong way. Just take it out and do it again.

    Sign up for classes. If you don't have somewhere local that offers classes, check out Craftsy. REALLY good classes (including some free ones) with videos, patterns, and communities. You can post projects with questions.

    I love Gertie's book too but I will say that sewing clothing is more advanced. Even her beginner level stuff can become pretty advanced. I'd really recommend starting with bags, napkins, pillow cases, pillows, etc. There are a lot of cute things for kids' clothes that are fairly easy (turn a pillow case into a dress, etc).

    Read through instructions. If you run into something you don't know how to do yet, mark that as a maybe. If you run into two things you don't know how to do, maybe put that project idea on hold. Tackle one new skill at a time and it will feel a lot less scary. Make the same thing multiple times. Make little trick-or-treat bags! Make bags to wrap Christmas gifts.

    And the motto a friend and I adopted is that if it was perfect, nobody would know it was homemade.

    I'm weird. I tend to jump into things feet first and fumble my way through them. So I cut out a pencil skirt from the good fabric, without doing a test version (aka muslin). I will now be taking out all the stitching I've done, going with a different size from the pattern, and redoing it. I'm also working on a messenger bag for my husband. I have had to recut almost every piece of it because I screwed up with measurements. It happens and it is okay. I bought extra fabric for a reason. πŸ™‚ But sewing is one of those things where you can usually fix it if you screw up. My quilt is sitting in a pile, waiting for me to get back to it. I made a table runner in a complicated pattern (because apparently I'm a sewing masochist) and there are gaps. Not everything is perfectly straight or lined up. But I made it and I am still happy with it.

    Just practice. Do small things that seem manageable. If you can finish it in one or two evenings, that is an awesome project to start on because it isn't as scary.

    5 agree
  10. Sewing is magical! I think of it as a puzzle that needs to be put together. I started with some simple skirts and worked my way up from there. Find a sewing buddy if you can, I often have sewing days with friends and that helps with motivation as well as having someone there who can walk you through the steps. Most people I know that can sew are more than happy to help others to learn. Just keep doing it, start out with simple things for YOURSELF. If it is for yourself and you mess up the inside, no one is ever going to know as there are many ways to creatively hide mistakes, as long as it looks good on the outside, no one will ever know. I cringe at my early work (which everyone loved) just because of the mess that is the inside of the costume. Loose threads, messy seams, patches, safety pins that poke you when they pop open, ect. Also, don't be afraid to take premade stuff and mix it with stuff you make. I don't mind making corsets – but my love is skirts, so I have many outfits where I bought the corset and made the skirt to match. I've been sewing for 4 years now and there are still times when I'm cursing myself and have to rip out the same seam 4-5 times. The finishing details will come eventually and soon you'll be spending countless hours on the amazing costume of doom that people can not stop gushing over.

    1 agrees
  11. First off, give yourself permission to suck, and to suck hard.

    Sucking at something is the first step to being kinda good at something!

    My mom is one of those people who is basically amazing at everything – sewing, knitting, baking, cake decorating, etc. If you could learn it in 4H as a girl in her childhood, she can do it, and do it amazingly well.

    It was so incredibly intimidating. It seemed like no matter what I did, I would never live up to what she could do. But you have to start somewhere, so I gave myself permission to suck and to screw stuff up badly. And then I began to be able to gradually get better.

    7 agree
  12. So I sew, um, a lot (you can find my blog through my gravatar). My best advice is to just make stuff. Make lots of stuff. Fuck it up. Make more. Worry about technique later – it will come.

    For me this mostly started with various goth DIY tutorials online circa 2001 or so. I strongly recommend playing with altering existing clothes. Add a band of fabric to a skirt, sew trim on something, take in a too-big t-shirt. You can get cheap clothes from the thrift store, and send them back if they don't turn out fabulous. In the age of pinterest, there are LOTS of tutorials for projects like this. This gets you comfortable doing stuff with fabric. Search for "t-shirt hack" or "refashion".

    Beyond that, there are lots of ways to learn technique. A basic sewing class through a shop or a community college can be very valuable, but most of the "correct" technique stuff is about making your clothes more durable, or getting seams to lie perfectly flat. And of course there are TONS of sewing blogs and tutorials and whatnot.

    You can concentrate on simple projects and easier fabric to start with, but don't worry about it *too* much. It's more important to make stuff that you like, and that you'll be excited about. If that means sewing with harder fabrics, go for it. But google around so you know what you're getting into.

    Anyway, have fun! Clothes that aren't sewn perfectly can still look amazing, and you will get better with time!

    3 agree
  13. Great thread! I also have a mum who is an amazing seamstress and starting to sew seriously myself was a bit daunting…

    Something that really helped me was using the same pattern more than once. For example, I made a patchwork cushion cover, and then adapted the pattern to make a baby quilt and some table mats. And I have a lovely jacket pattern which I used once to make a blue tailored jacket and then adapted to make a white silk short-sleeved jacket (to wear over my wedding dress). The second time you use a pattern, it usually works up quicker and easier so it's great to build confidence. If every single project you start is completely different from the last project, it's like you are starting from scratch each time.

    And finishing stuff is important too! It's a bit soul destroying to keep starting projects which turn out to be too difficult to finish! (I speak as someone who has a half-finished blouse hanging on her bedroom door!)

    4 agree
  14. I hear you! I wish I had learned a lot more about quilting techniques from my grandmothers and glad I at least learned a bit from my mom, though as she says I'm very 'creative' about following patterns (ie don't follow at all). I run a blog called Young Quilters, though it's intended for more young adults, you may find some fun simple projects to try if you're interested in doing some patchwork. http://www.youngquilters.org.uk.

    • Virginia Thanks for sharing this I am new to quilting and LOVE IT!! Will definitely be checking out your blog tonight πŸ™‚

  15. I'm going to second (and 3rd, 4th and then some) the wise ones above who have mentioned starting simple. Start with very basic, simple projects and slowly work your way up to more complicated projects as you get some confidence under your belt.

    I come from a family of incredibly talented seamstresses as well. I hope you know that you wanting to sew and take part in that shared heritage means the moon and stars to them, and that no matter how poorly you perceive your efforts, you're sharing in something that was important to them…and that's what matters, not how "good" you are at it. Skill will come with time, just keep working at it! I remind myself regularly that it's an enormous skillset that takes years to acquire, and I only get frustrated and disgusted when I try to rush it.

    1 agrees
    • (a) Simple projects are those which are based on rectangular pieces of fabric: Kimonos. Sarongs. Home furnishings. And the numerous medieval zero-waste tunic type things.
      (b) learn to source cheap fabrics: closeouts, thrifts, discards, remnants, garage sales, etc. Advertise on your local freecycle and you may well find another sewer with a crate of unused fabric.
      (c) Hook yourself up with a peer group that likes sewing. In my case the SCA (duh) but also the various SF costume guilds. Sewing for an alternate universe is MUCH lower risk than mundane sewing. We are used to seeing newbies. I see you are already doing this. We nerdly types usually love to teach.
      (d) Allow yourself to screw up. If you think a given project is irredeemable, hide it and look at it again sometime later. You may think of another use for it, or realize it's not as bad as you thought.

  16. Another thing that helped me (before I shoved my sewing machine into a closet for 2 years and only recently pulled it back out again *cough*) was having a friend who knew how to sew. I took my machine over to her house one time and we just worked on our respective projects. She was able to answer my questions and walk me through some techniques. That was a much better option for me than going to a class with a bunch of strangers where I could be vying for the instructors time with the other students.

    • I do not, but I can totally tell you how I did it. ^_^

      I made it for the 2013 DragonCon unofficial Bunny and Hutch party my hubby wore it with his Star Trek bathrobe, sock garters, and boxer shorts with his pipe, it was amazing. You know a man loves you when he wears sock garters in public.

      I was rushing to pack and get costumes done, so I probably could have done a little better. But this is what I did. I used this guys video and math video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fpGrBPUF6Q to get the truncated cone pattern you need. I made mine on cardboard from an old box I had. I used black felt and the thickest stiffest interfacing I could get my hands on. I used fabric I had lying around to line it with.
      I didn't like the way the edges looked when I made my mock, so when I did the final I left extra felt to roll over and hem with for smoothness.
      When you watch the video don't pay attention to when he goes to sew the top on. That made no sense to me. Why would you sew the side bits together and then sew the top on it, trying to shove it into the sewing machine was a pain in the arse. So I sewed the round top on first and then just sewed up the side. SO MUCH EASIER! Just make sure you add a little extra for the seam.

      Craft trim I would have tacked on, but I was in a rush so I hot glued it. I got the insignia pin from Amazon and the tassel from Fez-o-Rama.com I used an exacto knife to poke a whole in the center of the top and then used e-6000 to glue it in place through the whole.

      Ta-dah! One piece of advice. Make a mock up first and size it!

  17. Your fez is awesome! My mum is also an awesome seamstress, she made all our clothes when we were young. She had less time as we got older, and ended up putting away the machine for a long time. I recently got given a machine for my birthday, and I started with a pillowcase (seriously) to practice sewing in a straight line, then I made a few simple skirts, then a dress. I'm still very much an amateur, but I'm taking a short course at tafe to learn some more skills and tricks, and then I plan to buy an overlocker to make my garments look a bit nicer.
    For blogs, I like Gerties blog for better sewing, as others have said, and also the Colette patterns blog (http://www.coletterie.com/). The Colette blog posts lots of tutorials, sew-a-longs for their patterns (they have some really lovely patterns, and excellent instructions, especially great for beginners), as well as inspiration posts, and if you sign up for their mailing list, you get a handy sewing tip once a week. I also purchased the Colette patterns sewing book.

    1 agrees
  18. Thanks for this post…. I do have a question though. I'm looking for a sewing machine of my own (I would say I'm an rusty sewer), do you guys have any great suggestions?

    1 agrees
    • I bought a Husqvarna Viking Emerald 116 sewing machine for the makerspace I belong to, and would totally recommend it! It was about $300.

      For other sewing tips, change your needles often, and use quality thread (I like Gutermann and Metrosene).

  19. What great suggestions – I teach sewing (to newbies and advanced), and all these suggestions are great – Practice! The deep dark secret about what you're about to take on is that this simple solution of practice is the secret to any sewing anxiety problem. Don't like sewing collars & collar bands, cut out about 5 or 6 and sewing them one after another. Don't like plackets – cut out 5 or 6 and do them one after the other…..after a few other skills (turning corners, mitered corners, etc.,) you'll get it.

    Don't self-sabotage yourself – don't try to pick out something really advanced at first – keep it simple, then as you get one project down, pick out another that has one feature that you want to work on – there are a myriad of patterns/projects out there you can do this with.

    Block out enough time to do your project – don't try and do a complete Star Trek outfit the week before Trek Con!!!

    Those who never do anything never make mistakes. Those who do, artists, carpenters, painters, sculptors, plumbers, dancers, builders, composers – all make mistakes (look at Picasso's early work – eeeeeuuuuuwww!!!!!). If you make a mistake – take it out. If you are thinking about not taking it out and you know it will show – take it out.

    Most of all, do something you love, that way your enthusiasm will last the whole way through.

    Realize that when you sew you are 1.)Saving Time (consider how much time it would take to go shoopping for the exact item you want), 2.) Saving Money (a given), 3.) Being Creative, 4.)Making Your Own Choice, 5.) Showing Your Own Character!!!!

    3 agree
  20. If you're making clothing, you may want to consider making a toile (muslin mock-up) to better understand the construction process for that pattern and for fitting issues. Muslin is generally inexpensive and it's easy to recut something if it's fubarred beyond use.

    http://www.blogforbettersewing.com/

    http://lladybird.com

    http://sewaholic.net/

    https://www.coletterie.com/

    http://blog.megannielsen.com/

    http://makezine.com/craft/

    An indispensable book to have is the The New Complete Guide to Sewing: The New Complete Guide to Sewing

  21. I agree with all the above blogs. I also love sewmamasew they have great free tutorials!
    Also I would take some beginner classes at a local quilt or fabric store. Some quilt shops have general sewing classes as well as quilting classes. Avoid chain craft store classes as they are more rushed and in my opinion not nearly as good. I'm mostly self taught in the last couple of years. I love sewing and quilting and am trying to learn more everyday!

  22. I swear I've cried on my sewing machine almost as much as I've cried over math homework.

    I haven't sewn anything since I finished a cover for my geodesic dome for Burning Man and broke my sewing machine, Ernestine the Iron Giant.

    Maybe it's time to get Ernestine repaired and try some new projects. I just *hate* most of the selection of plus size patterns available.

    1 agrees
    • I hear you. I stumbled on a blog that I naturally can't remember that show you how to take non plus sized patterns and rework them to fit plus sizes. Which is especially good for vintage patterns. I wish I could remember it. but rest assured it is out there and you are so not alone!

  23. Random bits of advice:

    1) Sewing is a hobby that rewards patience and practice. That's why your mother was better at it than you ( and you were better at softball ). So don't worry, someday you will be your mother, in good ways and bad!

    2) A good sewing machine makes a world of difference. Forget about fancy options and concentrate on a good stitch quality. When I "returned" to sewing as an adult, I bought a cheap sewing machine and it cost me more tears than my own relative inexperience. I didn't know it at the time but I was fighting that POS tooth and nail. If I could go back in time, I would buy a very very used, old Bernina ( we're talking 40+ years old ) and be much happier.

    3) If you're looking for offbeat sewing, try Threadbangers on YouTube. But I have to say that the best sewing education I ever received was an actual education : I took sewing classes at night at my local junior college when I was in my 20s. If you have the time for that sort of thing, I strongly recommend it.

    3 agree
    • Yay for simple, good sewing machines! When my husband first showed me his early 50's Bernina, I thought he was nuts, but it's awesome. Those straight lines that were so hard – no problem on this baby!

  24. I did learn sewing from my mum but since then we have diverged and do different things, she likes quilting and I like dress making more. I discovered lots along the way, made heaps of mistakes and still do! Taking a practical class with your sewing machine can help heaps. There are so many tips and tricks that patterns don't tell you. I would also try buying Simplicity 'It's Sew Easy' patterns from your fabric store as they often have extra instructions for beginners. I have found loads of old sewing books in thrift shops that might be faded but the skills are still the same and I use them all the time.Keep your machine in good order and always buy quality thread. Cheap thread frays, knots and catches and makes sewing much more difficult, so spend the extra money and save the hassle. Be aware that there are different feet for your machine for different fabrics, such as zipper or non-stick, as well as different needles such as jeans or jersey. Using these can save a lot of trouble. I have found that some blogs do not provide good instructions, but as mentioned before, SeeKateSew is very good. Good luck and keep practicing, because practice makes perfect

    1 agrees
  25. Woah, I think I am about 6 months ahead of you on this whole sewing thing. Which, in sew time, is not much. But here is what I have learned so far: oh my dear sweet Lord let go of perfectionist tendencies. Easier said than done, especially for me, but you are not going to be awesome at something the first time you do it, and that goes for sewing, skiing, swing dancing (and plenty of other things that don't start with S). Plus, if you are looking to make clothes/wearable things, there is a level of "I can live with that" that you have to get to sometimes, otherwise you and the seam ripper will be spending more time together than you ever imagined possible.
    In addition to Gertie, which a lot of people have mentioned, I have learned a LOT from Colette's patterns and blog. And they have free! patterns! http://www.colettepatterns.com/shop/free I jumped on the Sorbetto bandwagon a couple years late but it still feels awesome to whip up a shirt I can wear in very little time while building my skilz. Also helpful, Deborah Moebes books and blog, though the blog has been pretty quiet lately.

    1 agrees
  26. You will have disasters. They will be ugly. Hide them, and try again. Repeat for several years until percentage of win/fail is to your satisfaction. Do things "FOR SCIENCE." And have fun.

    2 agree
  27. I, too, was raised by a seamstress. She always saved up her scrap fabric and gave it to us to practice on. She would cut circles for us to practice neat and smooth curves. If the scraps were longer, she would have us make hair scrunchies (and let me tell ya – I had the baddest scrunchie collection on the block). Time, interest – and the fact that scrunchies went out of style – all sort of killed my interest for a while. Every now and then I have the urge to try to sewing things again. Building confidence and patience is the hardest part, so I think it's best to look at simple projects first. For me, I try to look for little things I serve a purpose and that I can keep/use around the house – such as throw pillows, table cloths, placemats, etc. That way I can see all the things I made and feel proud. One site that I did not see listed yet was http://www.sew4home.com/ . Skill levels are all over the place, but they have pictures and patterns and a lot of it is functional stuff (hello fabric storage boxes!)

    2 agree
  28. start easy. no pressure. pillowcases, curtains, basic baby blanket, etc. then move on one thing at a time. look at your clothes as templates. kids pjs are a great place to do next cause you can get fancy, they're gonna love it, and if it's a little wonky it's ok πŸ™‚ build you're confidence as you build your skills. and keep crafting!

  29. I also come from a creative family and felt a bit overwhelmed because I'm also a perfectionist. I finally realised that being a happily unique individual was more important than trying to live up to the family history. So I dove in and started figuring things out for myself with some pretty good results.

    My favourite sewing blog is http://www.running-w-scissors.com/ – I've used a few tips from there but haven't used any of her tutorials yet.

    2 agree
  30. I work as a photographer for a company that is all about sewing, awesome projects, and any notion you might need. I've learned so much about sewing just working here, though I'm so busy most of the time I have no time for my own projects. If you've never heard of Nancy's Notions, check out the website. Tons of free videos and pdf's on sewing and projects, some of which I've worked on with one of our great seamstresses. We're based out of WI so depending on where you are, Nancy also has a show on PBS on Saturday mornings all about sewing. Long before I started working here, this was how I learned how to sew. Hope that helps.

    1 agrees
  31. Lots of good tips on here! As someone already mentioned, special feet for your sewing machine are your friends (and not the extra hassle/scariness they might appear to be at first).

    My husband is super good at all handwork things and was already a highly proficient sewer before we met. My sewing skills peaked out more or less with the giant scrunchie collection in high school. The most important thing I've learned from him is that if you want it to turn out good, you have to do all the steps carefully. That means yes, marking it before you cut, pinning it before you sew, trying it out with cheapo fabric first if possible, really measuring, etc.

    This may seem obvious to some, but as an exceedingly lazy person, it seemed to me like in most cases it wouldn't make such a big difference or be worth it. But it turns out that for anything beyond really simple things like the "bag sausages" I made recently (tube with elastic at both ends to stick plastic bags into), you really have to do all the work.

    1 agrees
  32. I posted some tips about beginner sewing on my blog (http://www.annabelvita.com/2012/09/25/what-ive-learnt-as-a-novice-seamstress/), here are the most relevant ones…
    I actually think starting with home stuff is a great idea. For me, the hardest thing about sewing clothes is making them fit. It's not only tricky (unless they fit out of the envelope, which doesn't happen for me), but it's also incredibly emotional (most body stuff is, right?). I'm happy to be tackling this, because I'm learning so much about my body's quirks (I have a really short and narrow back, who knew?) but it's not easy and so… if you're scared of sewing in general, I'd make a load of cushions and curtains (and maybe a quilt!) first to get some basic skills before launching into that battle.
    Oh! And when you do make clothes, I'd steer clear of free tutorials and invest in some real patterns. Why? Well, I started making a dress based on a BurdaStyle reader-submitted tutorial about five years ago and that thing will be forever unfinished because the tutorial was confusing as all hell for a beginner. There are probably some great tutorials out there, but as a beginner it's hard to tell the difference between well-written and poorly thought out. (Of course, free patterns from a trusted source (Sorbetto, anyone?) are different and you definitely can start with these!)
    I think independent pattern companies – Sewaholic, Colette, Megan Neilsen et al – are great when you're learning to sew. Not only is the blogosphere full of people sewing these patterns, the companies themselves all have blogs full of tips and tricks, AND, best of all, you can email the person that wrote the pattern and knows it best if you run into a problem that you can't solve yourself or with the help of the internet. (I've never had to do this, but I've emailed Tasia from Sewaholic about a shipping query and she got back to me straight away.)
    I love sewing blogs and think subscribing to a few is great way of learning about sewing without picking up a needle or thread. They're great for inspiration (for example, I only realised I wanted to sew a Sewaholic Minoru when I saw this one from Kristen). It also means that when you do start making things, you have some chance of understanding pattern instructions without google, and then you have the vocabulary to search for the answer when you come up against a problem. (Eg. I knew that to find tutorials on enlarging the bust area on my Cambie dress, I had to google "sewaholic cambie fba"). I've picked up a lot by osmosis from reading sewing blogs!

  33. I come that generation where this was a skill every young woman learned. I refined my talents by sewing for my daughter. I made rompers and little dresses. In the 80's there were many sewing shows on, like Nancy Zieman. I read every sewing book and watched every video in the library. When my son came along I thought my sewing days were over. It turned out he loved me making him short and rompers. He would pick out the material.

    I also made all kinds of things for my home. Need some fast curtains, look at sheets. I made bean bag cushions for the kids by making a 36" round pillow had 12-16" deep sides. Fill it those packing peanuts. Warning: do not use the soy peanuts because they disintegrate and they attach bugs.

    If you want to develop a sewing skill, you must practice. Sew for kids, they are in constant need of clothes. Make boxers for you and your significant other. Make boxers for every holiday/season. Find a couple of simple patterns to use, then change the details to make each project unique. I had a dress pattern for my daughter that had 7-8 different collars to use alone or together. You can even sew for your pets.

    Just sew , sew, sew.

    Another thing that helped me improve my sewing was buying a serger. I became obsessed with making the inside of my garments as nice inside as outside. Nightgowns are another thing you can never have too many of. I want to mention that I wore out that like Singer sewing machine and serger in 4 years

  34. First of all, you hade yourself a fez and its awesome!! Whats the problem?? You are willing to try so you have that going for you! I am a professional dressmaker and make my living sewing and making patterns. But, I didnt learn until I was 22 years old and depressed and needed a focus. You can learn if you are willing to try and obviously you are! I have taught some beginner classes and the one thing I stress more than ANYTHING- get to know your sewing machine!! Take the thread out. Rethread it until you can do it with you eyes closed. Change the needle. Change it again. Learn about proper tension. Oil the machine. Basic quality machines are great. Straight stitch, and zig zag can get you very far. . Lots of optional stitches are nice but can be more complicated than you need. Learn what the different feet are for and just play around. Don't start with a grand project, just let yourself explore. If you are not afraid of the machine, you will be in control. You will know what to do if it jams, and it will. Once you feel in control of the machine, practice your stitch lines. Take a piece of fabric and draw lines on it. Stitch over them. Do it again and again. Draw straight lines at different distances; 1/4", 1/2" ect and stitch them. This will get you used to controlling seam allowances and keeping your seams straight. Then draw curved lines and practice that. The more in control you feel of basic techniques, the more confident you will be trying projects. Trust yourself, have fun, don't fear mistakes. They will teach you alot. You can always rip it out if you need to!

  35. Great post. I wish I had learned more from my mom, too. I am lucky to have some crafty friends. Every once in a while we have a Crafty Sunday, where we all bring our individual projects (sewing for a con, knitting a scarf, whatever) and just spend the day together. It's helpful for me, because I can ask for help and get guidance, as well as different perspectives. We can brainstorm solutions or new ideas! If you have some friends that know a bit more than you, it could be a fun option.

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