Last week on Instagram I got pretty candid and shared a little bit of my sewing journey and mentioned that my mistakes made me a better sewist. After an overwhelming response, I decided to share 10 sewing mistakes to avoid as a new sewer plus solutions for each mistake. Let’s jump into it!
- Watching the needle as you sew. I remember when I first started sewing I would marvel at the needle going up and down. Well, as it turns out, watching the needle can be the root cause of uneven seam allowances. The solution is to watch your seam allowance as you sew.
- Buying the wrong fabric. Been there, done that and made the t-shirt to prove it. 🙂 It’s easy to be enticed by pretty colors and prints and totally disregard the fabric recommendations. But, most, if not all, patterns come with fabric recommendations to help with ease, wearability and practically. Here’s two solutions: trust the fabric recommendations until you feel confident enough to try others. OR… use test swatches to see if it’s a fabric that you wish to use.
- Choosing the wrong needle. You might not even know that you’re using the wrong needle. But a sure way to know is if your machine is skipping stitches or you could be experiencing puckering and fabric snags along the way. The solution: use the needle guide in your sewing machine manual to determine what needle is best for your project. Additional resource: Love to Sew Podcast dedicated an entire episode to this topic. Here’s the link!
- Choosing a really ambitious project. So you learned how to sew and now you want to make a lined coat. Whoa! If diving into the deep end is how you learn, then skip this. The solution: if you prefer to test the waters first, then try projects that are easier. The best beginner projects usually have minimum closures, no lining and 4 pattern pieces or less. Additional resource: I’ve dedicated an entire blog post to my favorite beginner friendly garment sewing projects.
- Choosing an advanced machine. You’ve bought the top of the line machine and now it’s just sitting in a box because you’re intimidated. It has happened. Heck, my first serger sat in the box for a year before I touched it. The solution: In my opinion, a domestic machine that costs $200 or less is probably a good base line for beginner machines. I’ll go a step further and recommend buying a name brand machine so that it’s easier to find parts/feet when you’re ready for more advanced projects. Other key factors in choosing a machine, consider the number of stitches and button making functions.
- Cutting off grain. Whew! I’ll never forget my first pair of pajama pants that I made. One pant leg was twisted -and there was no way to untwist it. That’s a key indicator that you’ve cut your fabric off-grain. Unfortunately, this mistake is one you will not forget but it’s also hard to explain if it’s never happened to you. The solution: True up your fabric. Here’s a great video that explains it.
- Ignoring tension settings: Whew! You’ve threaded your machine, now all you want to do is just SEW! Not so fast, depending on your fabric and even the thread, your tension could be “off” on your machine. The solution: Each machine is different so I encourage testing swatches and reviewing your manual. But there is always a dial with a set of numbers. Usually the higher the number, the less tension you’ll have in your stitch thus making your stitch loose. Combined with a longer stitch length this could make for a less stable stitch. If you have a shorter stitch length and your dial is on a lower number this can make a significantly tighter stitch that could be very hard to unpick.
- Using the wrong foot. This is very similar to using needles. You might not even realize that you’re using the wrong foot. Or you could be knowingly using the wrong foot just because it’s “easier.” Nine times out of ten, that cool finish, applique, closure or even trim can be accomplished with a specific foot. The solution: Review your manual. It describes what each foot included with your machine is used for. OR… when the time is right, you can get a universal kit like Madam Sew’s. It’s quite an investment, but you’ll see the reward when something that would you take you hours to achieve will take minutes with the right tools.
- Not asking for help. Maybe you’re following instructions on a pattern and it’s not making sense. I’ve been there. Sometimes the steps won’t connect and that’s normal, because we all learn in different ways. Even if you don’t know another soul who sews, there’s always information. The solution: Youtube. Seriously. There may not be a specific tutorial on the pattern that you’re working on, but if you drill down to the specific step that you need help with, then there IS information. For example, you could be having trouble understanding how to insert a zipper in a pencil skirt. That specific information could be hard to find. But try searching for “How to insert a zipper,” the videos are endless.
- Skipping steps. So you decided that you knew better than the instructions and decided not to stay stitch or ease in that sleeve. Now, your project does not look like the picture and you’re frustrated. Even the silliest steps are super important. I was SO GUILTY of this as a new sewist. Frankly, if I didn’t understand why, then I felt that I didn’t need to do it. I learned how to sew mostly with commercial patterns. Unfortunately, those patterns do not offer much explanation as to why a step has to be done. With indie patterns (which I discovered later), there is a lot of explanation as to why steps are done, even if it seemingly does not contribute to the overall construction of the garment. The solution: Do the step anyway. LOL, but also if it doesn’t make sense to you find out why it’s an important step. Google and Youtube are powerful tools. Google “Why do you stay stitch in sewing?” and lots of results pop up.
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