Completing garments and starting garments are such different aspects, aren't they? I have quite a few WIP right now, and as I am completing them with ease, I wanted to share what works for me, and what doesn't.
With picking a pattern, I hem and haw over if I will wear it. It generally takes me six months until I am cutting into my fashion fabric to sew, but I am curating a timeless wardrobe, and to be timeless takes time. I love white and ivory tops with black, beige, and navy skirts. I love dresses, especially with unique details, and I love boleros. As I curate my look slowly for the next decade of life, I wanted to share some tips that have worked for me as I am sewing for my 27th or so year.
Although I have been sewing for a really long time, my skills only really took off because I studied Apparel Design and Merchandising, which is like Home Ec times ten. Due to the structure of classes and the nature of the program, I was forced to sew things I would never sew on my own free will, but upped my skill from Charmander to Charizard. Here are some tips for your success in sewing anything you desire!
1. I consider the pattern against my personal patience level, not skill.
I avoid anything with buttons, more than 10 pieces, or something too tedious for my personal patience level. We all know what has been successful in the past, and are able to decide during our selection process if (fill in the blank) project will be successful or frustrating. Until recently, I avoided buttons like the plague, but I realized I could substitute snaps instead for a button look. It’s not the buttons that scare me, but the buttonholes, which I notoriously have not had patience for in the past. I now am considering learning how to create buttonholes by hand, which I have a lot more patience for.
This also goes for picking a pattern by skill level. Throw skill level out the door! Look at the technical sketch on the back, read up on all the notions needed and ask yourself (honestly), “Can I really sew this?” If the answer is maybe, follow up with “Do I want to sew this enough to push through when the sewing gets tough?” That is a good determining factor for me on whether to sew it or skip it.
If you know you can’t stand zippers my goodness, stop yourself from purchasing patterns with zippers, or familiarize yourself with hook and eye closures.
2. I purchase quality fabrics.
I am picky about the feel of fabrics that I purchase and sew. I know exactly when I prefer cotton lawn over voile, and generally underline and line things for a more constructed fit. It really surprises me that people want to sew slow fashion and purchase non-breathable, synthetic fabrics. Even if on a budget, you can shop sales, thrift shop sheets, and your closet for some quality cotton or silk materials.
Quality fabrics also create a pleasant sewing atmosphere. They feel nice to the touch, are generally easier to sew with, and reliable in the wash. With washing, I use tap cold only. I air dry all my clothes, so they have a better lifecycle.
3. I sew for the process but I consider the outcome.
Recently, I started a lovely and very sheer top. After taking over 2 hours to prepare the fabric and thread mark the pieces, I realized I should underline the top. My stitch markers all needed to be removed (about 60 of them), but it was well worth it as I got to practice my running stitches and will appreciate the outcome even more!
4. I always make a toile (unless it's for sleeping).
I cannot preach this enough. Sewing a test version of your garment saves you so much time! You get to practice techniques on your muslin, make mistakes, and familiarize yourself with the fit of the brand. I am not someone who sews only one brand, but I have noticed I have quite bit of vintage McCall’s. I know their 1956 patterns rarely need adjustments and fit my long torso well, but to ensure the garment looks the same on me as it does the technical sketch, I make a toile.
I also like things to fit very specific to my body and want to be able to change things beforehand. If you cut out your fashion fabric and want to make changes, it can be hard to pivot if it is the first time you are sewing it.
To prepare for my main garment, I mark all notes on the toile: size sewn, adjustments made (if any), and even the date I prepared the toile (as our shape changes). The second time around, things are faster and I can refer directly to the toile to make changes before cutting. I used to take the toile apart to cut the pattern from fashion fabric as the muslin sticks nicely to fashion fabric, but now I prefer to keep them intact to have an archive of the original fit.
Some people prefer to take notes in a notebook, but I find I am always losing my notebooks!
5. I have fun!!
I spent my 20’s crying because it was 11:30pm, I was exhausted, and I was unpicking a seam I messed up on for the 4th time because I was determined to wear the dress the next morning for an event. No longer do I set hard deadlines for my makes. Sewing is meant to be enjoyable, practical, and relaxing. It is not a race (ahem-Instagram), and if you have made it that way, there are exit stairs next to the wheel you are on.
Since adapting my newfound ethos around sewing, I have sewn more than ever. In 2020, I made around 15 finished garments and 50 masks, which is unheard of for me!
For scope, Between 2010 and 2019 I probably made 15 pieces, so 2020 was a very productive year. I was fairly happy with what I made last year, and in 2021, I am going to take even more care with finishing. I usually french seam most garments, but this year, I am going to enjoy flat felling seams and adding bias binding to the insides of garments. This slows me down and gets me to heavily consider a pattern before even starting as I tend to invest 8-15 hours per garment sewn.
How do you take time to decide what to sew?