As of the beginning of December, I will have been successfully sewing my own clothing for a whole year!
To put it nicely my sewing skills (and my photography skills!) have increased drastically in the past 52 weeks and I have learned so much along the way. I have also had so many amazing opportunities to push myself farther than I ever thought possible and found a vibrant and strong online community of people who are frantically sewing their clothing as well that I have been able to lean on for support and encouragement along the way. It hasn’t all been a super fun ride, however.
I have had some major set backs, some major fails, and some major learning opportunities, all of which I am grateful for looking back, but they were all major low points in my sewing journey at the time. But in an effort to help you avoid the same disasters I had, I want to share the 10 biggest sewing lessons I learned over the last year.
- Buy the right needles! – “universal” needles is the biggest lie the sewing industry has ever told me. Sewing knits? buy a stretch needle. Sewing quilting cottons? Buy a woven needle. trust me it makes all of the difference and is worth the couple extra dollars
- Speaking of needles, you need to change them! – I cannot tell you how many nights i sat cursing at my sewing machine for acting up, checking every setting and re-threading a dozen times, only to realize a half hour alter than it had been weeks since I had changed my needle. The moment I changed the machine was back to working just fine. I get about 30 hours of sewing time per needle but that is probably a personal thing and will very from person to person.
- Stretch requirements are not a suggestion – Seriously. They’re not. They’re important to making sure you can get your beautiful new creation over your booty.
- “Suggested Fabrics” is also so not a suggestion – Do yourself a favor and us what type of fabric the pattern you are following recommends, at least until you are a world-class seamstress and know every fabric and every possible alteration ever (which if you manage to accomplish, kuddos!). This is especially important when it comes to knit vs woven fabrics because knit fabrics stretch, and the patterns that call for need that stretch, wovens dont. Mix those two up and, once again, it’s not going over your booty.
- Indie patterns are easier to learn from than “big 4” – My first clothing projects were patterns from “Big 4” companies (Simplicity, Butterick, Vogue, McCalls) and to say they didn’t end well would be an understatement. The ease was all wrong,t he patterns were hard to follow and the instructions were rubbish. I became discouraged with sewing clothes really quickly. Then I found online PDF indie patterns and literally all of those things were changed. PDF patterns usually come with the support of a large Facebook group dedicated specifically to those designers patterns and that truly makes all of the difference. You can ask for pattern advice, fitting help, pattern suggestions, literally anything related to your project and it is a really huge confidence booster.
- Your measurement change daily – This was one of the hardest lessons for me. When sewing clothing it is really important to go by the size chart of a pattern, especially the first time you make it, but your measurements are going to change almost daily. When I first started out measuring myself every other made me acutely aware of my body and not always in a good way. Over time, however, I have been able to “average” my measurements and now I really only check once a month or so but I still make a point to check regularly.
- Make the freakin’ muslin – Just do it. Especially when you are new to sewing clothing. Do not make your first make from any pattern in “good fabric”. Make it in a fabric that you arent going to cry over when its the wrong size. I know it takes more time, I know it can feel wasteful but if you dont want to be disappointed later, just DO IT! Trust me its heartbreaking when the garment doesn’t fit right and you dont have enough fabric to remake it. Personally I get a lot of my muslin fabric from Walmart and have never regretted it.
- Fabric quality is important– You’ll find your favorite places to buy fabric in time but there is quite a learning process in reality. While I do get quite a bit of fabric at JoAnn’s I have found much better quality fabrics from many online boutiques (Knitpop is still my forever favorite, but So Sew English, Sly Fox Fabrics, and Bow Button fabrics are also all amazing) and it takes time to learn what “quality” really means. Until then don’t be surprised if you order something and it ends up being completely different quality or feel wise than you expected, those descriptions can be deceiving!
- Take care of your machines – Through my years of sewing with quilting cottons almost exclusively on my machine I never had to do any maintenance on it, I never even lifted the lower plate to clean dust out from around my drop in bobbin! A few months of sewing with knits, suedes, and velvets and that all changed. Apparel fabrics create so much more lint than thinner cotton fabrics and therefore are much harder on your machine. Learn to care for your machines, and take the time to do it, and all of your sewing will be so much easier!
- You really can do it, it just takes practice! – Sewing clothing is scary, and it’s not always easy, but it is so worth it and I promise that you really can do it. Sewing my own swimsuit was terrifying but the challenge pushed me way out of my comfort zone and I learned so many new techniques and so many things about my machines that I have been able to use to make every other sewing project that much easier. so take a chance, and sew something out of your comfort zone!Phew, that was a lot! But hopefully something I shared can keep you all from making the same mistakes I made over the last year. Feel free to add any of your first clothing sewing lessons in the comments below!