How do you get over your sewing anxiety?

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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?

Comments on How do you get over your sewing anxiety?

  1. 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! 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 . 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!)

  4. 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 🙂 build you’re confidence as you build your skills. and keep crafting!

  5. 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 – I’ve used a few tips from there but haven’t used any of her tutorials yet.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. I posted some tips about beginner sewing on my blog (, 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!

  9. 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

  10. 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!

  11. 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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