It's time for another list!
Jayme nominated me for this award several moons ago:
Very thrilled! It is always wonderful to be recognized by one's peers, and I've always felt that I am among great company in Crafty Blogland. Thank you, Jayme!
Here are the rules - I must share 7 things about myself and nominate 15 other bloggers. It is hard to choose just 15 bloggers, so I shan't. Instead I will share one of my rather daft lists, in the hope that you will forgive me for breaking the rules. Plus I have a pattern coming up for you soon. Is that an OK swop?
So onto the list!
I've often been asked what beginners should know about sewing. It's a difficult question to answer, because it feels like I'd be forcing different people, with different learning styles to follow some rigid, standard curriculum. I mean, I could make a list of different lists of things, depending on one's approach and/or personality. For instance:
A LIST of LISTS FOR BEGINNER SEAMSTRESSES (and SEAMSTERS)
- Equipment and tools to have before you even make your first stitch
- Equipment and tools to collect over time
- Practical fabric for your stash
- Ambitious fabric for your stash
- Skills you need to have before even turning on your sewing machine
- Skills you need to learn within the first week
- Skills you need to learn within the first year
- Skills you need to make a bag
- Skills you need to make a garment
- Skills you need to cook dinner while simultaneously hand-embroidering a scarf
- Projects for beginners
- Projects meant for beginners but that nobody really likes
- Projects meant for "intermediate" seamstresses but that beginners could actually do
- Books that are useful to beginner seamstresses
- Books that are totally useless to beginner seamstresses
- Good video tutorials for beginner seamstresses
- Useful and sometimes pretty hand-sewing stitches
and on it goes.
My point is that you could start anywhere in this big, non-linear adventure that is sewing, and chart your own course. For some of us, Sewing 101 is following a tutorial on making a rectangular tote bag; for others, it's drafting our first skirt block. It depends on what you want to do with your ability to sew. It also makes it slightly ridiculous to standardize one's skill level - we each define "beginner", "intermediate" or "advanced" differently, often based on what we ourselves expect, or even what we are used to. What criteria do we use, anyway? Here are some examples:
- Number of years of sewing experience
- Number of projects sewn
- Variety of sewing projects attempted/completed
- Most difficult/took-longest-time-to-finish sewing project
- Variety of fabrics/materials used
- Worst/fiddliest fabric/material used
- Number of different skills possessed (define "possessed"?)
- Number of techniques mastered (define "mastered"?)
- Whether you have sewn a quilt or not
- Whether you have used a commercial pattern or not
- Whether you have drafted garments from body measurements or not
- Whether you can sew for other people or not
- Whether people have bought your sewn stuff or not (and returned them in disgust)
Think about it: some people consider being able to sew piping and zippers "advanced" while others consider that you need to be able to sew a garment to fit (like an evening gown) before you graduate from "intermediate".
|Skirt by Emily, age 5|
And some people who've only sewn quilts think of themselves as "beginners" while others think that you're only a "beginner" till you've made your first quilt.
|Quilt by Emily, age 7|
The fact that we've invented such in-between definitions as "adventurous beginner", "ambitious beginner" or "advanced beginner" is proof that it's just hard to declare ourselves ready to jump to the next level.
|Flower by Emily, age 5|
So back to my goal: what advice might I give to beginning seamstresses? Apart from, "Don't let older, crotchety, know-it-all, one-track-minded sewing folks make you feel inferior about yourself"?
Here is a list of 10 things I hope my girls know by the time they leave my house and strike out on their own as independent seamstresses. Note that I allow for a time span of - what? - 10+ years, during which time I expect them to go through periods of acute sewing interest as well as distracted apathy.
|Tote, by Emily (age 5)|
I also expect them to learn, forget, act prodigal and invent their own rules. It's certainly what I did to my mother, at any rate (sorry, Ma!).
|Doll pillow and blanket by Jenna, age 4|
And hop on, launch and fall unceremoniously off, various sewing bandwagons.
|Rainbow snake by Emily, age 6|
And there's always the chance that they may not even want to sew. But if they do, I hope they take away with them, these 10 things:
1 Sew what you are interested in
People stick at what interests them. If it happens to be easy, they finish fast and get instant gratification. If it was challenging, they gain experience and are thirsty for the next big thing. Don't feel obliged to sew certain kinds of projects because it's what (ostensibly) more advanced seamstresses do. There are people who sew gorgeous tailored clothes and who can't visualize a bag. And there are people who make stunning bags and who can't sew clothes. And there are amazing quilters who can't handle princess seams, and expert pattern designers who've never sewn a Tshirt.
At the start, as you go and at the end. Press sewing lines, center fronts and center backs, hemlines, side seams, darts. Makes it easier to match important points, gives a more accurate fit in the in-between stages and minimizes the need to mark with chalk, markers and blood.
Sometimes, instead of pins. Save pins for the straight stuff, the bags, the craft projects; baste the curves, the necklines, the armscyes, the sleeve caps, the princess seams. Baste for good fabric alignment, easing in sleeves, trial fits. Baste because it's faster than pinning. Except for stuff that shows pinholes and needle-holes, of course. Like vinyl and leather. In which case, use clips, fingers, walking feet.
4 Choose the right fabric
Over print. Always. Apparel fabric for garments, home-dec and canvas for bags that need to bear weight, quilting cotton for quilts. And go easy on interfacing, because it shouldn't overpower the project.
5 Choose quality over speed
particularly when making clothes. Take your time, sweet girls. Whip up craft projects, little coin purses and gathered, one-size-fits-most garments but render unto tailoring, the time that is needed for tailoring. Taking time comes naturally with hand-sewing but a sewing machine gives a person license to speed. Remember that making a good garment is at least 50% measuring, drafting (or adapting), cutting, fitting - all of which are done by hand.
There is no shame in unpicking to make better. Especially if you know you wouldn't be able to sleep at night until you do. I do it all the time - ugly seams, unpicking ugly seams, sleeping and not sleeping. Been there.
7 Sew with good techniques, not gadgets
The best seamstresses never earned their reputations because of the fancy gadgets on their sewing machines (or the number thereof).
Different learning styles notwithstanding, most people can visualize best when they can see a 3D thing in 3D. To learn to sew a zipper, look at a sewn zipper. To learn to sew a collar, look at a collar. Till this day, each time I sew a zippered fly, I have to look at a pair of pants, turn it inside out and deconstruct the sequence in my head.
9 Learn new ways to do old things
If it's an important enough skill or technique, many people will know how to do it. And many people = many ways to do the same thing. And many ways = some ways could better, faster, simpler, neater than my way. Just recently, after practically decades of sewing, I learned a new way to unpick stitches! Simultaneously duh and hurrah.
when it isn't going right. Do something else, and come back to it again later. I've often felt with my own sewing that I have moods "for" it and "not for" it. Some folks call it "sewing mojo" - part inspiration, part motivation. For me, the right mood translates to awesome fit, beautiful top-stitching, eye-catching designs, great fabric choices. But there are periods when everything I make is indescribably hideous, unfitting, and plain trying-too-hard. I've learnt the hard way that when that happens, to just not sew and take a break instead. My most memorable break lasted 10 years! It was great. And actually 10 years was not as scary as it sounds, since I was really young when I first started sewing and I was still young when I resumed. No loss, and all gain.
|Messenger bag for Bearaby by Jenna, age 5|
Um, that's technically three lists, if you were countng. It's hard to stop once I've started! Over to you, now. What are some sewing tips for "beginners"* you'd like to share? Or things that you, as a beginner, wish someone had told you?
* whatever that means