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10 Things I wish I knew when I started sewing

We were all new to sewing at one point in our lives. On our social media accounts, we have asked our followers a while back 'If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of sewing advice, what would you say?⁠' Here is a summary of what people shared publicly and privately:

1. Start with a skill you know.

If you are totally new to sewing, it is no shame to sew cushion covers and tons of bags. You will learn so many things: how to hem, sew corners and you will build your skills from there.

Even if you are not a beginner, choose a new project that involves a technique that you are already familiar with, so that you can refine this skill, and one that is new to you, so you will learn something new.

2. It’s ok to fail.

It is ok to fail, and most mistakes aren't failures at all.

"Mistakes are not failures but learning curves."

Next time you make a mistake, write down what you learned and do it differently next time. Taking note of your mistakes and learning from it, is the best way to improve your skills and grow your confidence.

During my beginner course, I always say that it is ok to make mistakes, you are just starting out and don't be too hard on yourself.

3. Attention to Detail

Now this is a topic where people have different opinions on it. Some are perfectionists and get that seam ripper out to fix all issues. Some are happy because it is better than the previous project. And you know what, both are perfectly fine. It really depends on you and that you are happy with it.

I am no perfectionist, to be honest, but I am accurate and I believe these are two different pairs of shoes. If my seams aren't aligning, I unpick and fix it because the next seam might not align. If the stitching line of my hem is off by 2mm in the back of the dress, no one is going to see it and I am happy with it.

While attention to detail is important during the construction of your project, there is room for error and we don't have to be perfect throughout. Believe me, if you take a closer look at your ready-to-wear garments, you will find a lot more errors on it than your handmade wardrobe.

Here is another tip: if you (or your partner/a friend) cannot see the mistake standing 1m away from you, then you are good to go 😉

4. Don't skip pressing

If you think sewing is all about making stitches on your machine, pressing is just as important.

Pressing is NOT ironing. Something I like to say to all my beginners. We don't actually do the ironing movement when pressing.

Pressing is the heat, steam and weight of your iron. And this is how you get your professional finishes and take your handmade garments to the next level.

5. Quality over Quantity

This applies to your notions as well as fabric.

When you are first starting out, you might not want to buy expensive tools. But you know what, if you have to buy many cheap things that need replacing all the time, that's not good for your wallet and the environment. Having a list of notions that you need as a beginner is a good start, and I can help you with that. Buy good quality, and it will last you way longer. I haven't replaced my scissors, or needed to sharpen them once because they are a fantastic pair and I treat them right.

Buying cheaper fabric is ok when you are just starting out and practicing. Use what you have at home already: old sheets and clothes. How many kids have turned their old clothes into scrunchies, I can tell ya! I used many old sheets to make dresses for myself because I didn't have access to nice fabrics (or didn't want to spend money on it at the beginning).

I believe that you can buy better fabric and even with beginner skills, make better clothes than you can buy in the shops.

Also, think about how a fabric feels on your skin or is it good for the environment. Remember those microfibres that all our clothes shed and release into the water ...

6. Care for your machine and tools.

Aside from investing in quality tools, taking care of your machine and all the items in your sewing kit is just as important. Are you still using the needle from when you first open your sewing machine? Haven't had your machine serviced, let alone cleaned it? Caring for your tools, will give you joy much longer.

Check out tips on self maintenance for your machine.

7. Toiles & Muslins

You can cut into your expensive fashion fabric if you have made that toile and practice a skill or that fit.

I know it is more time consuming but it will save you money (and frustration/time) in the long term.

Even if you don't have to practice a skill, like zip, making a muslin to get an idea about fit is so beneficial. And honestly, it is not that time consuming than you would think. If you are making a dress with a fitted bodice and a-line skirt, then you only need to fit the bodice and you don't have to make the entire dress.

8. Time

I know this might be more precious than the fabric you are using but think about it, if you are making a mistake you are wasting more time (and maybe fabric - vicious cycle I am telling ya').

When we rush, we make mistakes.

And then we spend even more time on it to re-do the same step. I cannot tell you how many times I had to unpick and sew my hem again to be ready in time to leave for brunch.

While taking your time is one thing, also scheduling enough time is a good point when speaking about time. If you don't have a lot of time to sew, that's ok. You could break down the steps into smaller chunks. If you find yourself having 20 minutes, cut your project. Another 10 minutes the next day, sew a seam ... and so on. Yes, it will take you longer and you will enjoy these small pockets of creativity even more and by the end have a beautiful project to use.

9. Get to know your body.

When you sew for yourself, you will get to know your body a little bit more in detail. I don't just mean choosing a size but also getting to know specific fit adjustments to your body, for instance broad back adjustments, narrow shoulders or full/small bust adjustment to name a few.

Learning to take your measurements is an important step. Watch this video to get help.

Your measurements are data that help you get a great-fitting garment. Take your measurements often and compare them to both the size chart and the finished garment measurement chart.

While you are taking your measurements, it is a good time to learn about ease. Ease will determine how the garment fits on your body—garments with more ease are loose and flowy, and garments with less ease are more fitted.

10. It’s just fabric.

Let’s say your project fails and you cannot wear your garment—your only true loss is some time and a few yards of fabric. Think about all the things you have achieved. You know what not to do next time, and you probably earned some confidence, even if you don’t know it yet.

As much as we love certain fabric, I promise you there is always more. There will always be more fabric, more patterns. Years from now you will appreciate the beautiful things you made rather than dwell on your sewing failures.

If you are still unsure and you are really heartbroken about your lost fabric, see tip #7.

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