If you want to start sewing – absolutely do it! That’s the summary of this post. 🙂 Today I will be sharing some of very fresh experiences, victories and mistakes not to be repeated, some of the ideas where to concentrate, too. I truly hope to share with you a bit of inspiration and conviction to not hesitate anymore! 🙂
I am by no means an expert or the one who would have mastered everything and would feel totally qualified to talk about what works and what doesn’t in sewing. But, having said that, I might as well add that I’m someone who started from complete scratch and with 18 months of amateur sewing experience can actually say a bit about what works and what doesn’t quite. One more disclaimer to make, I am this structured finance person, so hopefully I am actually qualified to assess economic aspects of sewing.
Sewing saved me from getting into a really bad place during the Covid quarantine – now in hindsight that is what I think had really happened. Sewing provided me with a purpose and a platform to concentrate on and not think about anything else for a while, and that is why I am so happy I started sewing in the first place. Of course it does not need to be that dramatic. But even in the most usual of circumstances what sewing will do to you, it will provide you with an absolute freedom of appearance. And that’s BIG! It will spare you the frustration of going from store to store in search for “something” or “the dress” and not finding what would really please you or what would fit you more or less ok. Learn to sew and you’ll be just rocking it in absolutely any color, style or extravagance. I found this aspect of sewing to myself hugely liberating. The only limit then is time – there is never enough time for those five coats that are lined up on the list!
Luckily for me, I am this more of less typical “size 36” person. There are few aspects of my body that make choosing RTW clothes a bit more tricky, but they are really quite minor. My shoulders are atypically narrow, that’s why wider shoulder garments make me look tired. And my hands are shorter than standard, therefore it is tricky to find garments that would not look too large for me even if they otherwise aren’t. However, if your proportions deviate a bit more from RTW “standard”, then sewing for yourself can be a real life changer. No more tight bust blouses or too short sleeves – you can make the garment fit you really really well!
Sewing does not mean abandoning RTW! I am hugely interested in RTW industry and know a lot about clothing trends, brands, and still buy RTW from time to time. But because I am also a deep-rooted finance person, my common sense simply screams at the idea of buying a trivial polyester dress made by a trending designer for hundreds of euros. It simply makes no practical sense in my view. Instead, it is so much more reasonable to acquire great content fabric, designer fabric if desired, and make the same simple dress in one day for a fraction of the cost. This aspect of sewing for self makes me really appreciate my superpower. I think, I am a bit frugal at heart, so not spending hundreds of euros for a dress or a blazer makes me really really happy.
If we continue on and talk about fabrics, there is much to say. When was the last time you saw a RTW blazer in cashmere lined with silk? I can’t quite recall ever seeing this, like ever. Have you noticed, how polyester lining feels if compared to silk touch? If not, you might as well do when you start sewing for yourself. Mind you, silk lining for your blazer might be like 10 times more expensive than polyester lining, which is quite often found in RTW. But that cost will still be a fraction of the price of RTW garment. I found going completely crazy with fabrics so satisfying in sewing. All those great fabrics with premium quality content are just there – waiting for us to make awesome stuff out of them!
Sewing for oneself provides with a sizable possibility to save. Fair enough, it takes time to make a garment. But if that’s also your way of relaxing and enjoying your free time, then we shall not calculate that time as costs 🙂 So then the only costs are what you spend on fabrics and haberdashery. And in the entire universe of available fabrics you will absolutely be able to find awesome fabrics at surprisingly decent prices. I think, on average the garments I’ve made are at least twice cheaper than alternatives I would buy at RTW, and those alternatives would most likely be of worse fabric content. So here you go – the hobby might also double as a means to economize.
Absolutely join Instagram! There is a massive community of weekend sewists who will inspire, challenge and support you. Enjoy it to not only share your makes, but also to get inspired, explore the newest trends, discuss with people, find new patterns, observe techniques used and mistakes made by others. I appreciate so much that huge support and encouragement of the community, posts being shared, promoted or pinned. And am trying my best in doing just exactly the same for other members of sewing community in order to spread the support further! ❤️
And now, as we’ve explored many benefits of sewing for self, it’s appropriate to also talk about what mistakes it is a good idea not to repeat. First and foremost you would want to resist that huge temptation to buy ALL patterns and ALL fabrics there are. When I first started to explore home sewing market, thankfully it did not just hit me all at once. Instead, it was and iterative process of finding new pattern makers, new fabric stores and haberdashery types. Fairly natural impulse is to just start purchasing the stuff along the way. And that’s exactly what you should not do! When you find first two nice patters, don’t just buy them. When you like 10 fabrics in the first online fabric store you’ve visited, don’t purchase 5 of them. That market is endless, and you’re exploring just a tiny pixel of it. Chances are that even if you bought those 5 awesome fabrics you just loved, tomorrow you’ll find another set of 5 even more awesome ones.
Avoid stashing patterns and fabrics. What makes sense instead is having certain agreement with yourself on how much space at home or what size budget you want to dedicate to your fabrics, and hopefully trying sticking to it. Probably the only exception to this rule would be taking good use of occasional fabric sales. Otherwise, purchasing fabric for that one upcoming project makes most sense. You will learn along the way what you like, what fits you, what is easier to sew than something else. Don’t curb that learning journey by immediately stacking up inventory for 5 years ahead. I made that mistake. Just recently I kept on sewing some of the fabrics I’d bought almost two years ago.
Another learning point is that NO, you don’t need that most sophisticated sewing machine there is on the market. Almost any sewing machine that has main features will do its job just fine. I find the following sewing machine features crucial: automated thread cutting, good button hole function, ability to sew really thick fabrics (adjustable presser foot pressure is important for that too), variety of presser foots (hidden stitch, rolled hem). That’s that. And 95% of those stitch types that your machine would be able to do you will never use, ever. You’ll need overlocker – overlocked seam allowance edges can’t compete with for example zigzag finish. And again, fairly basic overlocker will do its job just as well as that fancy version of it. Two other key equipment pieces that help a lot, although are probably not absolutely necessary – ironing board and dress form. I found my sewing experience improving dramatically when I acquired both of these – and they are not expensive at all. Folding your ironing board allows to save space in the room when it is folded, while it is one more horizontal surface when in use. As for the dress form, it is now an absolute necessity for me – I would not be able to work without it. And then there are few key tools that are actually quite important, I have a full list of what I use on my Basics page – you might want to check it out.
One more mistake is also related with share abundance that will hit you like an avalanche, just exactly as we’ve discussed when talking about temptation to buy tons of fabric. In this case the temptation will be to obsessively sew something you might have been in deficit for during all those years while solely depending on RTW. For me that obsession was dresses. It was so rare I’d find a dress that I’d truly like! At any point in time I owned only two-three dresses, so really not many. When I realized that here I was sewing any kind of dress that would come to my mind, I became delirious. I kept on sewing dresses, more and more dresses! Until the point when I realized that even though I now have many dresses, I am not wearing them much. Just exactly as before. So keeping your mind sane and assessing your wearing plans objectively is a good idea. If you don’t wear dresses, don’t sew ten of them. If you love different coats and are unable to purchase them as none of RTW would fit, make more coats. Make what you normally wear: tops, cardigans, pants, pajamas – all the usual stuff. When I realized that I should stop dress craze, my wardrobe slowly became more balanced. Now I sew various garments.
The same actually goes for colors and styles. At first I was so amazed by the ability to choose any color for any garment that I made yellow skit, bright green blazer, raspberry red jumpsuit and on it goes. Eventually I started realizing that all those screaming colors are nice on their own, but nothing matches anything. So it is obvious that sewing capsule wardrobe is more practical and reasonable.
Also related with style choices, the mistake is to keep on jumping on patterns that many other sewists are making. If you join Instagram sewing community, you will keep seeing “hot” patterns being sewn across the board, seemingly by everyone. The fact that many people enjoy particular pattern does not mean that garment will fit you or you’ll enjoy it. That is why, even if it is a good idea to learn about new pattern trends and at times perhaps sew the same garment as someone else did, you probably do not have that much time as to participate in every sew-along or contest. Make what you really like and be happy!
If you actually start from complete scratch, like you’ve never used sewing machine ever before, it is a good idea to check out some of the basic sewing videos on Youtube – there are many of them there. You will also be able to find the variety of sewing schools or academies online. Most of them are really good, however you do not need to sign up for one to successfully learn to sew. Majority of commercial patterns that you’ll be purchasing explain each step in great detail, so you’ll be just fine by using those instructions. I would not recommend starting with Burda patterns, though. Burda patterns themselves are good, but instructions are very brief, not illustrated and hard to follow. Even with my current experience I am still not comfortable with them.
And, for heavens sake, choose simple fabrics for your first projects, stable cotton is probably the best choice. Leave silks or viscose for later – when you’ve become comfortable with the basics. I of course did not follow this advice – for my first garment ever I chose medium weight silk, am unable to explain how this happened. Even so, it was not a complete tragedy, that very first top I still own and still wear occasionally – here it is.
Now let’s talk about expectations. Opposite from common belief is the fact that actual stitching is not too big a part in the entire process. Fabric preparation, pattern cutting, fabric cutting takes up quite a significant portion of work, for complex garments like jackets or coats – even more so. Then, another important part in the process is pressing each seam carefully. You will find yourself pressing seams just as much as actually stitching them. DO NOT skip ironing part – it makes whole difference between homemade DIY project and professionally looking garment.
The thought to write this post came to me when I found myself articulating some of the above mistakes I’ve actually made. And also, with one year anniversary of my blog, I’ve figured that it was a good idea to summarize my sewing journey of last 18 months and share it with some of you who might be just as inexperienced now as I was just one year ago. So if you’re reluctant, don’t be – just make those first few garments which will most likely not be perfect, but from then on you’ll get on an absolutely satisfying journey and excel to the universe with no limits. 🙌
I would love to hear from you how your sewing journey started and how it’s going – share your thoughts in the comments section below or write to me directly, I would love to connect with you!
Thanks for checking out this post! Let’s catch up next time.