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The Sew What’s New Archive

This archived content is from Mary Wilkins’ sewing and quilting message board “Sew What’s New,” which was retired in August 2007. It is being provided by “Sew What’s Up,” which serves as the new home for many members of “Sew What’s New.”
From: nannylin
Date: 10-09-2006, 11:15 AM (1 of 24)
Hi. I am throwing myself on your mercy. I have been sewing for about 50 years, but most of the things I make look like I made them. I think I am hopelessly a member of the "close enough" school of doing things.

Do you have any advice for me on how to develop the discipline and knowledge to be a skillful stitcher? It is so frustrating to put my heart into a project and have it look tacky.

I'd appreciate any suggestions you could give.

User: nannylin
Member since: 02-27-2006
Total posts: 47
From: DorothyL
Date: 10-09-2006, 11:41 AM (2 of 24)
Slow down.
Avoid short cuts.
User: DorothyL
Member since: 12-09-2002
Total posts: 3883
From: lendube
Date: 10-09-2006, 11:59 AM (3 of 24)
I'd say buy a pattern and fabric you like. Promise yourself to follow the directions TO THE LETTER until the garment is complete. I bet you'll see the difference and be encouraged to take your time in the future. You just need to develop good habits again.

good luck, Lennie
User: lendube
Member since: 08-06-2006
Total posts: 1548
From: Sewhappie
Date: 10-09-2006, 12:27 PM (4 of 24)
Take the time to really know all the ins and outs of your machine. Some people buy them and never really get to know just what it can and can not do.
Knowing how to adjust your stitch length, your tensions, and the different stitches and feet can make a big difference in how you sew something.
Your machine may sew one fabric nicely but not another. Knowing what to change on your settings to fit that fabric can make a big difference. Make sure you have a small notebook next to your machine to jot down all the settings and include a swatch of fabric as a reminder.
Adjusting something as little as a 1/8 or 1/4 of a turn can also make for better sewing when turning knobs or stitch lengths.

And as Dorothy said, TAKE YOUR TIME and DON'T RUSH!!! Following directions for some can be the hardest part of sewing, BUT it's the most IMPORTANT part of sewing.

If you get stuck on something and just can't figure it out, just come here and yell!!!! I'm sure we can help you sew through it.
User: Sewhappie
Member since: 10-27-2001
Total posts: 1427
From: mommydionne
Date: 10-09-2006, 12:35 PM (5 of 24)
Pressing, every seam, twice, it really makes all the difference.
User: mommydionne
Member since: 01-08-2004
Total posts: 838
From: Sancin
Date: 10-09-2006, 12:38 PM (6 of 24)
I was sitting behind someone I work with one day and noting to myself that her clothes looked homemade. The main thing was that it looked like she didn't press her seams. And another looked as if she hadn't made an effort to ensure that the pieces fit exactly. For example the front piece was a little longer at the seam than the back. She should have either ensured they were cut the same length, lined up as they should, or ensured they were on the grain line. I think smidging a bit on grain line often puts things 'off.'
As others have said take your time and don't move on to the next step until the first one is finished.
Good luck - you will be so proud of yourself.
*~*~*~* Nancy*~*~*~* " I try to take one day at a time - but sometimes several days attack me at once."
User: Sancin
Member since: 02-13-2005
Total posts: 895
From: sewwhatif
Date: 10-09-2006, 09:49 PM (7 of 24)
When I used to make alot of my own clothes I found that a professional press at a drycleaners after the garment
was finished really improved the results. Also trimming
seams properly is a must. Nothing screams homemade to
me like a sleeve that has not been trimmed enough after
it was set in.
User: sewwhatif
Member since: 10-06-2006
Total posts: 1
From: paroper
Date: 10-10-2006, 01:04 AM (8 of 24)
Practice practice practice! When I haven't sewn for a while I can really tell the difference!

Bernina 200e, Artista V5 Designer Plus, Explorations, Magic Box, Bernina 2000DE & 335 Bernette Serger, Bernina 1530 Sewing Machine, Bernina 1300 DC Overlock (with coverstitch)
User: paroper
Member since: 02-03-2004
Total posts: 3775
From: Skye
Date: 10-10-2006, 02:07 AM (9 of 24)
all good advice. I too have been sewing 40 plus years (started young heehee) and I have to say that the light bulb has really gone on since computers, internet and sewing discussion boards like this one. The thing I have learnt is fitting is important and that many of the commonly used sewing patterns and their techniques are having us make garments that scream home-made. Things that have made a difference for me - Knowing that the big four pattern compnies patterns are drafted for a B cup do they tell you that in the instruction sheets no:sad: , Now Simplicity does have some patterns that do include differrent cup sizes. Burda BTW are drafted for a C cup. I have learnt how to do a full bust alteration.
I have read and invested in some fitting books Sandra Betzina - fast Fit , P&P Fit for real People and Fitting Finnese have given more more light bub moments
I think that Kwik sew patterns give good clear instructions for working with and finishing knits why do the big four still very rarely mention sergers and insist on putting facings that flap around on knit T-shirts - go figure.
I have also discovered sewing magazines and my local library subscribes to a couple of them Threads - good techniques etc, Burda WOF - for fashion and patterns but the instructions are almost non existant.
I have taken a class in tailored jacket - the tips that I learnt there were great we were not allowed to use pins:shock: I learn so much about how to use my feed dogs , crowding etc to ease - so us old dogs(wont use the female here) can learn lots of new tricks and as some else has already said practice makes perfect - so now we all have the perfect excuse to do lots of sewing:cool:
User: Skye
Member since: 09-28-2000
Total posts: 233
From: nannylin
Date: 10-10-2006, 07:41 AM (10 of 24)
Thank you all so much for your suggestions. They are very interesting as well as helpful. I especially like the observations about what screams "homemade" to you.

I am going to look for a special pattern today and give it my best try. Since It will be for fun and not for a deadline, I can really take my time and be careful. I will yell for you if I get stuck! Thanks again.

User: nannylin
Member since: 02-27-2006
Total posts: 47
From: toadusew
Date: 10-10-2006, 08:45 AM (11 of 24)
You've gotten very good advice here. My two cents' worth is to echo what others have said about good pressing especially during garment construction. I once heard someone say that their mom had always taught them to "sew a seam, press a seam". Someone posted the idea to have your finished garment professionally pressed and I like that.

Also, as others have said, take care during the sewing construction process, know your fabrics, which needle and presser foot to use with each type of fabric,...and practice, practice, practice!:bluesmile
User: toadusew
Member since: 01-08-2005
Total posts: 369
From: DorothyL
Date: 10-10-2006, 09:01 AM (12 of 24)
Finish seams. Under stitch when logical, even if the pattern doesn't call for it. Don't shy away from hand sewing, for basting or finishing when appropriate.
User: DorothyL
Member since: 12-09-2002
Total posts: 3883
From: plrlegal
Date: 10-10-2006, 06:04 PM (13 of 24)
Skye I like your response about never being too old to learn new tricks. I have,hopefully, over the years, been willing to learn new evolving techniques and tricks. To me, anyone who says to themselves they're too old to learn or develop new or better techniques for whatever they choose to pursue might as well throw in the towel, sit down and say they've reached the end of their life. I, for one, am not quite ready to do that yet. :nah:

User: plrlegal
Member since: 05-19-2001
Total posts: 318
From: MaryW
Date: 10-11-2006, 10:44 AM (14 of 24)
Excellent advice from everyone. I am guilty of rushing, taking shortcuts and making do with the end result. It can scream "HOMEMADE".
owner/editor of Sew Whats New
User: MaryW
Member since: 06-23-2005
Total posts: 2542
From: LeapFrog Libby
Date: 10-11-2006, 12:37 PM (15 of 24)
Why did no one say those hated (but necessary) words.?? If it is stitched wrong, get the seam ripper and take it out ! ! ! Then, do it again so it will be right.. :bg: :bg:
Sew With Love
User: LeapFrog Libby
Member since: 05-01-2002
Total posts: 2022
From: DorothyL
Date: 10-11-2006, 01:40 PM (16 of 24)
We were waiting for you to say it Libby.
User: DorothyL
Member since: 12-09-2002
Total posts: 3883
From: lotsapets
Date: 10-11-2006, 09:51 PM (17 of 24)
I've already learned that it makes sense to just SLOW DOWN and really pay attention to what I'm doing. And to stop every now and then just to step back and look at it. Then I catch my mistakes faster. And yeah, my seam ripper has gotten a lot of use the past couple days! I sewed a piece on the entire length of my curtain today before I realized I had it backwards! I had to rip 50" of seam! It would have been a lot easier if I'd checked what I was doing a little sooner and not had to do so much! But my second seam was much straighter and more even than the first one, so I guess it was good practice!
User: lotsapets
Member since: 09-03-2006
Total posts: 8
From: sweetpea1
Date: 10-12-2006, 11:36 AM (18 of 24)
I definitely echo all of the advice posted above, but want to add one additional comment. I find that patterns labeled "quick" and "easy" are generally made with fewer pattern pieces and render that dredded homemade look. (Have you ever made any of those pajama pants? Two pattern pieces and a garment definitely made to only be seen in bed! Although now a days they are worn in public by many a young person who definitely looks like they should still be at home in bed!) Patterns with more pieces (although I hate more pieces) usually render better quality and better looking garments. Also, some patterns include great professional tips and tricks for getting a nice looking garment.

Pressing, accuracy, good working equipment, the right fabrics, threads, needles, taking your time, etc. are all so important to quality garments.

You know, sometimes cutting corners is okay. We all do it, but when you want a great result, you want a great result. Keep working at it. And, above all, don't be too hard on yourself and have fun!

User: sweetpea1
Member since: 10-10-2005
Total posts: 56
From: DorothyL
Date: 10-12-2006, 12:10 PM (19 of 24)
I find that patterns labeled "quick" and "easy" are generally made with fewer pattern pieces and render that dredded homemade look.

I find myself using easy patterns a lot just because they are the clothes I like to wear. I'm kinda old and fat and like loose comfortable clothes and many are simple.
I don't think I have a dredded (sic) homemade look. But maybe I do without realizing it. I guess I don't have an off the rack look either.
User: DorothyL
Member since: 12-09-2002
Total posts: 3883
From: kmccrea
Date: 10-12-2006, 08:53 PM (20 of 24)
Slowing down is the best advice! If you do make a mistake or you are not happy with the result, don't be afraid to take it apart and re do it.
Do not take shortcuts unless you know what the result will be and you're really familiar with it. Do not leave out steps, like applying interfacing or pressing!
If you don't like facings, use binding instead or vice versa if that's your preference.
When trying something new, make sure you familiarize yourself with the entire process first. But, do try new things, you won't improve by doing only what you've done before. You'd be surprised at how many people never progress beyond t-shirts and pull-on pants or skirts!
Good luck!
Katherine McCrea
Designer At Large
User: kmccrea
Member since: 05-07-2006
Total posts: 173
From: nannylin
Date: 10-15-2006, 09:57 AM (21 of 24)
I am very interested in your comments about easy patterns with few pieces. I have been trying to use them to practice being more "perfect", but I think you are right--the baggy things I make for comfort really do look homemade. I will try a more tailored pattern with more pieces. Thanks!
User: nannylin
Member since: 02-27-2006
Total posts: 47
From: plrlegal
Date: 10-16-2006, 02:12 AM (22 of 24)
I think, if you take your time, use the right fitting techniques and good construction techniques, i.e., understitching, etc., you can achieve a nice looking garment with the easy to sew patterns. You can end up with that "homemade look" using a pattern with a lot of pieces just as easily if you don't use good fitting and construction techniques also. However, this is just my opinion due to the fact that I use both types of patterns, depending on the garment I am making.

User: plrlegal
Member since: 05-19-2001
Total posts: 318
From: mommydionne
Date: 10-17-2006, 02:57 PM (23 of 24)
as Libby said the other day, don't be afraid to rip out, I just redid the sleeves on a tweedy jacket I'm making, the notch was too far forward and they rippled all down the front of the sleeve, out they came, reset and look SOOOOO much nicer now. For garments for me, I keep trying them on all through the fitting process, it's easier to fix mistakes that way.
User: mommydionne
Member since: 01-08-2004
Total posts: 838
From: LegalDealer
Date: 10-29-2006, 06:44 PM (24 of 24)
Thats right! I used my own seam ripper today ***TWICE*** No guilt involved!
User: LegalDealer
Member since: 10-19-2006
Total posts: 27
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