Handmade clothing is good. Clothes that look homemade-not so much. Why? Because in sewing the word homemade is usually associated with poor quality. It can refer to the way the garment is sewn or a poor choice in fabric, to the way the garment fits. Today, I’m going to talk about 10 sewing mistakes that will definitely give your clothes a homemade look.
There are more mistakes in sewing than what I discuss here, like using the wrong sewing tools, not sewing straight lines and choosing styles beyond your sewing skill set-to name a few. Trust me, I’ve made plenty of them. But if you avoid the 10 below, you’ll be well on your way to a beautifully sewn, HANDmade garment.
Related: 20 Mistakes Sewing Beginners Make
So, here they are: 10 sewing mistakes that will make your clothes look HOMEmade.
1. Using fabric that’s unsuitable for your pattern design
It’s okay to stray away from the fabric recommendations on the back of your pattern. That’s the beauty of making your own clothes, you get to choose what you want in fabric and style. But it’s best to use what’s recommended as a guide for your fabric choices.
If the fabric is wrong, no matter how good you sew, (you can use every professional construction technique you know), your garment will still look homemade. If the fabric is stiff when it should be soft and drape nicely or soft when it should have body and stand firm, it will scream “homemade!”.
2. Laying pattern pieces in both directions for napped fabrics or one directional prints
I guarantee you, if you make a satin dress or stretch velvet pants and the front and back look like 2 different shades of the same color, everyone will know you made it. Or if you make a blouse with a beautiful print, but on the back it’s obvious the print is upside down…well you get the point.
We all like to lay our pattern pieces in a way that will use the least amount of fabric, especially when the fabric is from our sewing stash and we know we can’t buy more. But when it comes to napped fabrics like satin, velvet, corduroy (and there are others that fall in this category) or one directional prints, all of your pattern pieces are going to have to lay in the same direction. Otherwise, your fabric color will look 2 different shades and your one directional print will be upside down. You may need extra fabric, depending on your pattern pieces and fabric width.
Below is an example of fabric layouts for fabrics with nap and without. Click the image to enlarge it.
A-Without Nap: the pattern pieces can lay in either lengthwise direction. The fabric’s color will look the same shade from any direction.
B-With Nap: the pattern pieces must lay in one direction. The fabric’s color will look a different shade in each direction. Any additional pattern pieces like pockets, yokes, etc. would also have to lay the same as the pant legs.
Most pattern instructions will have a “fabric with nap” layout. Just remember to get more fabric than what your pattern suggests, taking the width of your fabric into consideration. How much more depends on the pattern and fabric.
If you don’t fully understand fabrics with nap or would like more information, go to *Sewing.org, 4-Fabric~Napped Fabrics. It’s a free .PDF file you can download and save for future reference. You can also go to The Sewing Partner for a full explanation of fabric with nap.
3. Cutting fabric without making sure pattern pieces are straight
A pattern piece is straight when its grainline is parallel to the selvage of the fabric. When you lay a pattern piece on fabric, it’s very tempting to “eyeball” it for straightness. To the natural eye, the piece may look straight. If you measure from the grainline to the selvage, you may find that it’s not as straight as you thought. The result is a garment that doesn’t hang right and may look and feel lopsided and uncomfortable.
Once the pattern pieces have been cut off grain, no alteration can fix them. The only fix is to re-cut them, measuring to make sure the grainline of the pattern piece is parallel to the selvage of the fabric.
4. Using the wrong interfacing or no interfacing at all
There are so many different kinds of interfacing that it can be a chore to figure out which one is best for your project. Sometimes interfacing seems like an extra step that can be skipped altogether. But interfacing is necessary to give your garment a clean, neat finish as well any extra structural support it may need.
When I started altering lined jackets years ago, I was surprised to find that manufacturers interface the entire front (and sometimes back) of the jacket-not just the front & back facing and collar. They use a quality fusible interfacing that molds to the fabric like a second skin and gives the jacket a smooth finish, no matter the weight of the fabric. All hems, including sleeve hems, are also interfaced.
Interfacing prevents ripples, folds and just plain old droopiness. It gives necklines, collars, sleeveless armholes and hems a crisp, neat look. It gives jackets and coats body and support.
For more information on interfacing, *Sewing.org explains the basics under 5-Linings & Interfacings~Interfacing 101. Download it and add it to your sewing library to use when you need it.
5. Ignoring pattern markings
Oh those pesky notches that slow down your cutting. Or that extra step of marking those big & small circles when you’re ready to go straight to the sewing machine.
I ignored these markings all the time because I was in such a hurry to sew. But as we all know in sewing, a small step skipped in the beginning can cause us a lot of time and frustration in the end. When I realized how much easier those markings made my sewing life, I could have kicked myself several times.
Ignoring your pattern markings will cause you to have to guess or go back and mark them later after the garment is partially sewn. And sometimes it won’t be as accurate as it would’ve been had you marked it in the beginning. Save yourself the time and headache, while avoiding the homemade look.
Misplaced design features like pleats or gathers or cross seams not matching when two pieces are sewn together will make your garment look homemade.
For basic refresher information on pattern markings, go to *Sewing.org, 3-Understanding Patterns~Pattern Markings Part 1 & 2.
6. Pressing seam allowances after they’re joined to another seam
I know you’ve heard “press as you go” repeatedly since you’ve been sewing. And surprisingly enough, some people still don’t do it. And you can tell.
Pressing has a major impact on how good your garment looks when it’s finished. Skipping this step will make your hard work and the time you put in at the sewing machine all for nothing.
A small ironing board or ironing pad close to your sewing station will make pressing nice and convenient. And if you have to walk across the room to the ironing board, take several unenclosed seamed pieces at one time and save yourself a few trips. When you see the result, you’ll be glad you made the extra effort.
7. Folding under & top stitching a neckline or armhole instead of using a facing or bias binding
Nothing says homemade like this one, and I cringe every time I see it. You cannot get a good result from turning under a curved seam allowance and top stitching at the neckline and armhole. Instead you’ll get ripples and possibly stretch the area so it becomes wavy instead of laying flat. No matter how well you’ve sewn the rest, this will mess up the entire garment.
Adding a facing or a bias binding is going to take longer, but the end result makes it worthwhile. Oh, and if you add a facing, don’t forget the interfacing. 🙂
8. Leaving your seams unfinished and unraveling
Your garment should look as good on the inside as it does on the outside. That’s what they taught us in school and I just can’t get it out of my head. “The inside, really Katrina, no one’s going to see it!” I know, but it’ll make you feel better. Okay, it’ll make ME feel better.
But seriously, unfinished seams may be seen only to you and seem like no big deal, but if they’re unraveling, it can become a big problem. Aside from having to cut strings every time you wear your garment, if it ravels too close to your stitching line, you’re going to end up with a hole. And fixing the hole will cut into the wearing ease of your garment. Even if you don’t have a serger, check out the link below for other possible seam finishes you can do with a sewing machine.
While I’m talking about seams, let me take this one step further-using the wrong seam finish for the type of fabric you have will also give your garment a homemade look. A perfect example: chiffon. You can see through chiffon, so the best seam finish is a french seam that encloses the seam allowances, gives them a uniform, neat appearance and solves the unraveling problem. Chiffon loves to unravel, so enclosing the seams is a must. You will thank yourself for using the seam finish your fabric demands.
For more information on seam finishes, go to *Sewing.org, 11-General How-To~Seam Finishes Part 1 & Part 2. French seams are at the end of Part 2.
9. Using the wrong hem finish
Use the wrong hem finish on your garment and it will stick out like a sore thumb. For some reason the eye just goes right to it. It will overshadow all of the hard work you did on the rest of the garment.
The hem is usually the last step to finishing your garment. Confession time: by the time I get to the hem I just want to get it done the quickest way possible, which usually means top stitching on the sewing machine. But that’s not always the best choice, especially for dressier clothes.
Taking the extra time to hand stitch your hem (I know, I hate hand stitching too), or investing in a blind hemmer will help you make a garment you’ll be proud to wear.
For information on hem finishes go to *Sewing.org, 11-General How-To~Simple Hems.
10. Wearing your garment as is, without making any alterations to your pattern
You take your pattern out of the envelope, cut the fabric from the pieces you need, sew it up and try it on. You can’t believe it. Without any alterations, it fits perfectly! And then you wake up.
But that was a nice dream, though.
It’s safe to say that 99.9% of the time, you’re going to have to alter your pattern in some way-whether it’s a minor or major alteration. That’s just the way it is.
Before you put in all that work at the sewing machine, make sure it fits your body so you don’t waist your time or your money. Use muslin to test every new pattern. Yes, it’s going to take extra time but you won’t mess up your good fabric and you’ll get a garment that’s made for your curves. Doesn’t that make it worth it?
Can you think of any other sewing mistakes that’ll make your clothes look homemade? Let me know in the comments.
Sew-lutions Guidelines by Sewing.org. I cannot link directly to their .PDF files, as that violates their copyright.
I would have to say a big mistake is choosing buttons. Evev when I see children’s clothing, I make covered buttons. The cutesy plastic ones ruin the look, in my opinion. Even worse on adult clothing.
Please excuse my autocorrect…
I love covered buttons. They do add quality to a garment. Thank you for commenting, Patricia.
No one factory adjust item to final customer. So if you make it, your garment shall looks BETTER that factory.
That’s true. Factories make clothes based on standard measurements determined by either the fashion industry or their company.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
I find sewing the sleeve cuffs on clothing always turns out wavy for me and that definitely makes it look homemade. I have no idea how to fix it
Candice, do you use interfacing in the sleeve cuff? Interfacing may stabilize it and stop the waviness.
Granny Suzy says
I’ve been sewing for over sixty years, made all kinds of things from underwear, to swimsuits, wallets, handbags, prom gowns, wedding gowns, and more. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made (and unfortunately sometimes still do) is not to take breaks from sewing, stand up to stretch, and go get a glass of water, or a coffee, or whatever. Perhaps walk outside for a few minutes if the weather’s nice. Take the dog for a walk around the block; anything you like that will refresh you.
Staying at the machine too long can make a person tired, stiff and achy, even if you’re not an old grey mare like me, and this can cause a person to make mistakes. So give yourself a break every so often and avoid frustration. Your sewing will be better for it.
This is great advice, Granny Suzy. I am guilty of not taking breaks when I’m sewing, too. Thank you for sharing.
Yes! Yes! Yes! I just spent several days with upper back and shoulder pain because I didn’t take breaks. Lesson learned the hard way!
Yes, we must take care of ourselves. I hope your back and shoulder are feeling better.
Granny Suzy… I love you so much! This advice enabled me to actually finish a “perfect” skirt! Taking breaks forced me to refresh (as you said) and come back with fresh eyes. Here’s the best part… I didn’t have to rip a single seam, it fits exactly as I intended AND it took less time even with breaks to finish because I was sure of each stitch.
Anyway, I’m here because I saw your comment, something clicked in my brain and I had to come back and tell you gray mares are my favorite anyway. I love to learn from a life lived stay safe and thanks again!
Don’t sew when you are tired. Stop and take a snooze for 10 minutes or so, or do some other thing like weeding or washing dishes. When you are tired it is easy to sew your finger as well. l have been sewing since l was ten on a treadle Singer and l am now 75.
Thanks for sharing, Janet. Not sewing when tired is great advice.
Mary Themom says
Some of the biggest issues I’ve found:
1. Not making the point look crisp and trying to fix/flatten it with topstitching when making points and angles on a garment with a lining or facing (like the points on a shirt collar}, When I’m sewing, instead of just pivoting at the sharp corner, instead I sew a couple of stitches diagonally across the corner. Basically, I stop a couple of stitches short of the corner and make 2 stitches diagonally (more if the fabric is very bulky), and then finish the rest of the seam coming away from the corner a couple of stitches short of the corner. I wish I could show you a picture! Then I make sure to trim the corner so I’m tapering out the seam allowance until right at the corner only the stitching is left. When everything is trimmed, then I turn the item right side out and carefully push the point out with a pointed tool When I’m done, my point looks sharp and not rounded and lumpy.
2. Prewash the fabric the way you’re going to be washing the garment after you make it. Press it before you start laying out the pattern pieces.
3. I much prefer invisible zippers to regular ones because I don’t have to worry about topstitching. I purchased an invisible zipper foot and found it was worth every penny.
4. Clip threads as you go!
5. Read the patterns before you start and read the manual for your sewing machine!
6. Change your sewing machine needle often and use high-quality thread.
Mary, I’ve done the diagonal stitch on the corners also. This method works great. I love all of your tips so thanks for sharing.
Men's Kurta Collection says
Nice article thanks for sahring
June Guillory says
I totally agree with all that you’re saying here, Mary! I’ve been sewing for about 68 years, and I find that along the way I’ve learned so much from practice that is not in any book! Don’t you agree?
Please feel free to email me anytime! I’d love hearing from you!
Parinitha Bhargav says
Very helpful post. Thank you for correcting the mistakes we usually commit. Helps a lot.
You’re welcome, Parinitha. Thanks for reading.
Maureen Brown says
My fleece top fits great in front but gapes out at about the middle of the back hem. I have made the back smaller by resewing both side seams but it is still gaping out. I have noticed this occasionally in ready made tops as well. I have made manyt other tops that did not do this but I didn’t use a pattern for this one. Any ideas about how I can rectify this? Thanks in advance!
It could be a few things causing this, Maureen, but it’s hard to say without seeing it. To determine how to fix it you first have to know what’s causing it. If you belong to a sewing group or forum, post pictures in the group (you can exclude your face) and you’ll probably get many helpful suggestions.
Betsy Wilson says
I made a mistake on the skirt of my wedding ensemble! On side seam was sewn correctly…from the bottom up. The other was not and wrinkled the entire seam. I didn’t see it until the pictures came back! Arg!
Betsy, we tend to notice the details that others don’t, so no one else may have noticed your wrinkled seam either.
Kalispell News says
Hi, Katrina. I loved your blog post. Really looking forward to read more. Great.
Thank you , Katrina. Another mistake is not matching the background thread and metering corners. Pressing all seams is very important for the item to lay right.
Sorry, Jean not Jesn! And it’s mitering
corners not metering! Yikes
P.S. All fabric must be preshrunk before sewing! It’s critical, if you want it to fit after machine washing or dry cleaning! Also preshrink bias tapes, trims, and zippers, etc. Steam iron works well for those.
Thank you. I am looking forward to read more.
I was in such a hurry to sew. Same to You But you invent new solution for my mistake
Sad to say when I first started sewing I didn’t understand the specific sewing feet. I normally sew with knits and never fail, I’d have to stretch my pants or tops the last foot or so of my garment to get it to fit right to the bottom piece. Now that I know you never have to stretch when using the correct presser foot and seam underlay, my garments look oh so much better. Maybe this will also help a newbie seamstress.
Thanks for sharing, Vicki. Every sewing tip has the potential to help so thank you for taking the time to comment.
anon against trendy prints says
i’d like to add the fabric choice, specifically prints with strange design choices for trims or whatever. Usually prints that have small sized designs on them will almost always look homemade rather than handmade. It just looks like bad design wise. Bonus if they use the trendy prints of the season.
Thanks for sharing! I made a memo to myself based on your article so as not to make mistakes. I like it when things fit perfectly. I often sinned last – did not fit the pattern to my figure.
You’re welcome, Kathlyn. Don’t be hard on yourself if you do make a mistake because we learn from our mistakes, too. But hopefully this blog post will help you avoid the mistakes you don’t have to make.
How can you tell it’s home made? #1, just wearing it, wrong stitch length. The default on machines are too small a stitch, and the fabric seams are overly tight/stiff, such that the garment feels like it’s wearing you, instead of the other way around. Between that, and having outgrown a perfect match to a pattern size, I stopped sewing clothing long ago.
Having watched a very old excellent Nancy Zieman video on pattern alteration, I may give it a go again. I love knits and rayons, but don’t like working with them, so I don’t know how this is going to go.
I’m sorry to hear you stopped sewing. I hope you give it another go. I find it’s very therapeutic, especially in the times we’re living in.
Yes! I have been surviving 2020 by learning how to use my fabric stash in a variety of ways! I’ve experimented with more woven cottons (cause I somehow had tons that I’ve been ignoring in my fabric stash) and am finding that I’m setting aside my serger as a seam finisher and am in love with French seams or flat felled seams!
Susan McCoy says
I, too, love French seams!!
She who dies with the most fabric wins
Rayons are tough. some you can wash, others you can’t, and they are slippery. I love knits. At the now defunct “Stretch and Sew” class, They showed us slacks made ‘on the grain’ and one pair just slapped together without any attention to the grain. There actually is no “GraIn” to a stretch fabric, you just have to use the way it stretches most around your body. I hope that makes sense. If you use the most stretchy way, for the length of a pattern, you are wasting the stretch feature. They even showed an evening gown with no hem because the stretch fabric doesn’t ravel. I don’t go for that. Of course, the gown was a thinner, drapier stretch fabric than the slacks. Does anyone remember “Ponte de Roma”. It was all the rage in the 70’s.
Sher Kyweriga says
Hello! I just read your article, 10 Sewing Mistakes that Will Make Your Clothes Look Homemade. Thank you for it!!! I am 66 years old, and although I sort of learned how to sew in school, I hated it because I didn’t take the time to learn how to do things well. Now, my children are grown, and I have grandchildren. I have just retired — or mostly, anyway — and I have time to learn how to do things right. I am so excited to learn new things.
You are a fantastic expert and resource, Katrina Kay. I appreciate all the resources, tips, and information you have provided. I am looking forward to reading more from your site and learning from you. Have a great day!!!
Thank you for your support, Sher.
just joined you. I agree with the pressing of seams as made, I learnt it was to press the stitches into the cloth. but also noticed if it was not laying as it should it would then show on the pressing and you can deal with the problem there and then.
We all love to use up oddments but the weight of a zip must match the weight of the fabric and same with buttons too.
I have found that buttons can either make or ruin a garment. I am no good at coat making so buy mine but often I have changed the buttons to something more classy.
If you have charity shops as we do in UK, or buy from other outlets donated clothing, do think of the trimmings, buttons and zips that may be worth buying a horrible dress just to get these as often if you think what an ugly dress, then so has the person who donated it and probably only worn it once. You could bring yourself to use the fabric as a lining on a shopping bag or make the cat a new cushion cover.. poor cat, they are colour blind aren’t they?!
Thanks for the tips, Pol.
My cat would not drink water from the blue bowl, only “her” pink bowl. The bowls were identical.
I agree with the last comment, and i have to discipline myself to do a good job, i do all my own alterations and i love to upcycle clothes. Sometime i dont know what length looks good on me, i want a neet fit but not try for voluptutous, im 65 and tall my long legs made me 5’9 in tall but athritis and a scoliosis changed my ideal now im 5’7 i feel a little crumpled. I get compliments for the clothes i make, but ive done much of pulling out thread and redoing seams, how can i improve, on sewing with less pulling out threads and redoing them?
The only way to improve is practice, Aileen. But guess what? I’ve been sewing for over 30 years and I still pull out threads and redo seams. It’s just the nature of sewing. The seam ripper is our sewing companion forever.
I couldn’t figure out how to leave a new comment, but thank you. I just started sewing and I want to make sure my toddlers look nice. But the way I’m still having a hard time with the grain line
Shop fit match says
Good nice work Katrina Kay Creations
Jeanette Hurlbert says
Using thread that doesn’t match.
That’s a good one, Jeanette. Thanks for taking the time to reply.
Good one! I will be teaching this Spring and I see that often! Black stitching on white or light fabrics for example! And bad stitching on top of that! The wrong color shows any stitching errors, making your item look sloppy and amateur! I see this in Etsy shops often and I also see sloppy stitching that will weaken the whole piece!
Thanks for teaching others to sew, Elizabeth, and for taking the time to comment.
Not grading your seams
Not grading seams is something I think a lot of people don’t do. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Danielle.
Pamela Eime says
LOL…I don’t even know what grading a seam means!! I like others leaned to sew in highschool….(yes, I am showing my age) but I always wanted immediate gratification, so I rushed through everything. Now that I am older and thanks to COVID, I have taken up sewing again, and I find it sew relaxing..(see what I did there)…..I have been making quilts and novelty items….building up my courage to try a clothing piece….
Great article and the comments were just as interesting and helpful to read! I’m a major sewing beginner, but I just got like 8 new patterns on sale with the aim of working on a spring summer wardrobe. Every pattern is an ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ (ha ha) dress skirt or top. I’m so glad I found this website! I’ll be refering back here at every turn I’m sure.
Welcome to the sewing world, Sonja! I wish you the best on your sewing journey.
June Ramsey says
Nice things to remember. I sight ,t gets harder ,to see so go for sun light lamp s.That helps.
Thank you for your suggestion, June.
susan heath says
nice tips; but you forgot one. never make your hem over 2 inches and press the hem. when my mom mention pressing the hem. I told “Oh mom”. I started looking around and found you can tell when someone doesn’t hem. She was a good sewer and people made comments shock that she made that and really surprise that it was homemade.
I love that your mother put emphasis on pressing. Thanks for the hem tips and for taking the time to comment.
Hi, I am 78 and took a second year of sewing called “Sewing and Tailoring” We learned the flat felled and French seam on pajamas. Our teacher kept referring, “Wait till you get to sewing with wool. It’s expensive and you can’t afford to make mistakes.” Well, I found wool easy to work with; it gives a little and is easy to ‘ease’ a seam if you have to.
Very useful tips. Fabric is selection is the most important part to make perfect pattern or garment. If the fabric is not right as per the pattern then it will take long time design the pattern. Also, I would say that the person should have the skill for how to operate the sewing machine.
Thank you for your input, Caroline.
Grandma Sue10 says
Yes, When I was about 19. MANY years ago….I made a dress from plaid fabric that would be better suited to a coat. It had a funnel neck, too for an extra bulky look. It fit well, and I loved the plaid, and the colors were nicely muted for work in an office; one of the guys said, “it looks like a horse blanket.” Live and learn.
I learned a lot about the seam !!!
Glad to hear that!
My biggest problem is how to cut the trouser for ladies
Emily, by how to cut what do you mean how to lay out the pattern pieces? Just trying to understand what the problem is, specifically.
I have a question rather than comment. Seam finishes like the ones in the link you posted are great for flat side seams. What do you do for arm holes? The seams are clipped and eased. I’m trying to see little girl clothes to sell.
If the seam is eased I press the seam allowance flat then trim when I finish the seam with my serger. The ease is now creased but in the seam allowance only so it’s okay.
If it’s a clipped armhole you can trim the seam allowance down to 1/4″ or 3/8″ and the clipping shouldn’t create a problem if you use a serger or zigzag stitch.
Thank you for sharing the informative post. Keep it up!!
Thanks for reading, Laura.
One of the tricks I learned in Design school…when cutting out your facings (neckline or armhole) …cut the edge that will be sewn, 1/8 “ in. This way, when the facing is turned in, there is a slight pullback on the garment fabric. It leaves a beautiful edge.
Just remember to ONLY trim the edge you will sew.
Thanks for sharing your tip, Sylvia.
Franklins Colchester says
Thanks for sharing an informative tip. Very amazed and helpful. Thanks for this one.
Lisa Meyers says
This could be carefully looked upon purchasing or sewing your own clothes. Thank you for sharing!
You’re welcome, Lisa.
Brendi Walls says
I have a 32 inch tall doll that I sew for when I want to learn a new technique or a fabric that I am not familiar with. I raid my stash for scraps of the correct weight and draping style so that I can see what I am going to discover about the garment before I even think about cutting my fabric. If there is nothing in my stash the second hand store usually has a garment of the correct weight, finish, draping style. Colour or pattern doesn’t matter as dolly doesn’t care what she looks like, she a bit of a slob. lol I currently have 3 yards of 60 inch wide hand embroidered cashmere for which I paid $28.00 a yard, after applying the end of season 70% discount. EEK! Add in the interfacings, the buckram for the pad stitching, the pure silk lining, the threads, buttons, and assorted other bits and bobs needed for a new coat and it becomes a substantial investment in time and money. Well worth my time to make dolly a mockup before I start on my own garment.
“Colour or pattern doesn’t matter as dolly doesn’t care what she looks like, she’s a bit of a slob.” This is hilarious but using a doll for practice is such a good idea. And your fabric sounds beautiful, Brendi.
Ladybref J says
This is exactly what I have been looking for! I have studied a little sewing on and off since I was a little girl but in recent years I have had a growing desire to make and sell my own vintage style dresses. I still need to get my sewing area set up and I am basically starting from scratch but I can no longer ignore my desire to do this! Katrina, this site is so well put together! Thank you for this wealth of knowledge and information and I look forward to getting to know you and all of your followers as I make this push to get out of the 9 to 5 hustle and become a traveling musician/seamstress!
Thank you, Ladybref. We look forward to getting to know you as well. I wish you the best with your vintage dress business. You can do it!
I’m glad you said that about the inside looking as good as the outside. I also love to see some lace on the inside or a pretty piece of ribbon. When the children are old enough, and I have made their garments, I would like to sew a little surprise on the inside – a pretty button, or a tiny doll’s pocket or a pocket for their legos. Children love these little things (as indeed, would an adult).
That’s such a sweet idea, Hazel. I’m sure the children will love that.
Grandma G. says
I started sewing at age 7 and am now 66. I’ve made more mistakes than I can remember, but sewing is also a process of learning as you go. If you make a garment that you like, wear it proudly. If you don’t like it, take it apart and use the pieces for something else like quilting. Or cut it down and fit it to someone smaller – whatever, just keep sewing.
I had two mentors: Mom and my maternal grandmother. Granny could copy ANYTHING that she saw in a store – WITHOUT a pattern and she did it on a treadle machine! She was amazing; her seams were straight and her garments always looked professional. She had the talent. I remember that anything I made she had to turn inside out and inspect to see if it was done properly. Heaven forbid if I didn’t finish a hem with hem tape or lace!! I did that for years but now just hand stitch or (very rarely) use a blind hemmer foot. Even though it takes longer, good hand-stitching of hems always looks best. And as far as small details were concerned, she taught me to NEVER use the “eye” of a hook and eye closure. You had to chain stitch a thread loop instead. Mom wasn’t quite as strict but she knew her stuff and taught me a lot . The first garment I ever made for myself (at age 7) was stitched on her cast iron White Rotary 77 straight stitch machine. It was a black cowgirl skirt that I wore and wore. I shudder to think how wonky it probably was but I was hooked on sewing and made many a garment on that old White Rotary, which I still have to this day. I don’t use it but I cherish it as a memory of Mom. In the late 60’s she bought me a BRAND NEW Kenmore model 158 with zig-zag and stretch stitches – WOW! That was cutting edge back then and I used it for many years. I even made my daughter’s wedding gown on it 25 years ago. It still ran great. But because I was taught to hand-hem, Mom and I sat together the night before the wedding, hand-finishing yards and yards and yards of hem! The dress was satin with a heart-shaped neckline, princess seams and a lowered waist, plus that very full skirt that Mom and I hemmed. The bodice had an overlay of Alencon lace on which we sewed hundreds of crystal beads. It took six months to do, even with Mom’s help and I refuse ever to make another but I’m glad I made my daughter’s. She looked wonderful. There were imperfections in it of course, but on the whole it was a huge success.
I was also taught to make thread chains to keep the hem of a dress lining aligned with the fashion fabric, buttonholes by hand, top-stitching exactly 1/8 of an inch from the edge, and NEVER leave any raw edge unfinished, regardless of fabric. I spent many an hour stitching lace seam binding on every blasted seam edge of every dress I made so Granny would approve! I don’t do all of this anymore but I edge-stitch raw edges by machine, finish hems by hand, and still make thread “eyes” for hook fasteners.
My husband is a “rabid” golfer – he LOVES it and can’t get enough. But sometimes he doesn’t understand my sewing and wonders if I’ll ever get away from the machine (usually when he’s hungry!) I have to keep reminding him that sewing is my “golf”.
I also make and sell quilts – something else I love because it’s so creative.
I could probably stay at my machine for days at a time.
No wonder my husband worries about getting fed!
OK, old lady is now babbling!
Time to quit!
Keep on sewing everyone – and enjoy!
Susan King says
I enjoyed reading your comment. I am 67 and was taught by my mother to sew at the age of 7. I still have some of the garments she made and love looking at the neat details. I still have the Singer sewing machine she taught me on. The only thing I was disappointed in on your comment was that you never use her old machine anymore. I have all kinds of sewing machines and segers but I still enjoy using her straight stitch Singer. It still runs so smooths.
Thanks for your comment.
I just wanted to mention that I still use my Singer machine my husband bought me for my wedding gift to him 34 years ago. It is a simple machine with straight and zigzag stitch. I still love that old machine and it needs some help or it probably needs to be put out of its misery, but I just can’t give it up. I have sewn a marriage of curtains for apartments and our house we’ve been in for almost 30 years. I sewed a baby quilt when my son was born and his high chair cover. I’ve sewn Christmas stockings, and skirts, and shirts, and pajamas. The machine becomes part of the family. Recently, I was given a Singer treadle machine that looks like an old antique. It is called a Phoenix, I think. It has an oriental dragon on it. It is built into a cabinet. I’ve tried it a few times and love it but it’s going to take a lot of work to learn how to use it very well. It’s hard to just start quickly and keep going. My mom had a machine just like it that was motorized and I learned to sew on it and loved it. It only makes a straight stitch but that’s okay with me. I like simple. As much as I love that new machine and have a much newer machine in a case and even a serger I don’t really know how to use, I turn to my old Singer wedding gift every time. It means so much to me that my husband’s very thoughtful wedding gift to me (my very fist sewing machine) was my wedding gift and I just can’t part with it. I am now using it to sew skirts and purses that I hope to sell.
Hi Cherie, your sewing maching has sentimental value as well as memories attached to it, so I understand why you wouldn’t want to get rid of it. It’s great that you can still use it. I wish you much success with your skirts and purses.
Thanks for commenting.
I enjoyed reading your family sewing story!
Hi Grandma G., it sounds like you had 2 very skilled mentors that taught you well. I love that they taught you the details that make a garment look professionally made. They are great skills to have.
I also hand stitch my hems, even though I have a blind hemmer. It’s just easier than fighting with the hemmer. And I agree, the hand stitched hems do look better.
It sounds like you spent quality time sewing with your mother and grandmother and I appreciate you sharing those memories with us.
Susan Ramsay says
Never mind about “babbling” I found your comments very helpful to read. My Sister’s-in-law mother once picked up my dress to examine the hem. I was mortified. It wasn’t perfect to say the least!
I also once made a dress out of too heavy wool and some wise guy commented “it looks like a horse blanket” I like the plaid pattern and the colors, but it was a big mistake.
Then I made a “spring” coat out of wool that was more a dress weight. We all learn from our mistakes.
I am 76 and have been sewing for 60 years! I still make mistakes, but usually they are correctible before I finish the garment.
I enjoyed reading this so much, thank you…
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
Enjoyed your babble. Reminds me of myself. LOL
Shivam Mehta says
Thanks for such a great article. I am really thankful to you. Now I have learnt which mistakes i was making, hope i will improve now.
You’re so welcome, Shivam. I’m glad this article helped you. I wish you the best in correcting your sewing mistakes.
Eileen Whitacre says
Thank you for sharing your helpful tips. i wiil shear this on facebook & twitter for my follower.
You’re welcome Eileen.
Stella Richards says
When you pin the pattern to the fabric, it will pucker and when you go to cut it out it might not be exactly the same shape. This happens even if you iron the pattern, especially the tissue patterns.
My advice would be to cut the pattern about quarter of an inch bigger than the size you’re cutting – and ALWAYS cut out on the REVERSE of the fabric, especially as i use tailors chalk a lot., even to mark notches.
Do all the cutting in one go so you don’t have to re-iron over and over, it will overheat the pattern pieces. (they can get hot to touch and pin on even!)
Also, I fold and pin the pattern back and sometimes draw on the fabric with tailors chalk so i don’t cut it wrong if the size is say a 10 and the pattern goes to a 16 etc.
Also, chiffon advice, cut it at least an inch excess than you need all around, and immediately after cutting, baste or stay stitch it, as it will be guaranteed to fray more than you expect. Never pull the frayed threads, it will fray faster. Just baste, and wrap it up until you sew the seams. I keep my pieces in sandwich bags labelled!
Thank you for sharing your helpful tips, Stella.
I have been told that freezing sheer fabric for a couple of hours before pattern laying and cutting helps to stop the fraying a bit. Haven’t tried it myself yet, but it is worth thinking about.
That’s ineresting. I’ve never heard that. Let me know how it works if you try it.
Awful cheap buttons or buttons not suited to fabric, in fact any notions that don’t suit the fabric will void all your hard work I.e heavy weight zips in light weight fabric because it’s the cheaper option, or too impatient and don’t want to make that extra trip to your sewing shop.
Very good points about the cheap and/or unsuitable notions, Dianne. Thank you for sharing.
Carolyn Powers says
Buy the best fabric you can afford, use quality thread and good buttons if required. Also badly installed zippers are a telling sign it’s homemade. Change the needle in your sewing machine with each new garment if you want a quality look when finished. I have been sewing for 50+ years. In addition to selling and servicing sewing machines I have been a dressmaker sewing for the public. Lots of couture clothing ,wedding and bridesmaids as well as heirloom clothing for children. Practice is your best friend for turning out a good garment. I have to admit I am picky and in my early days of sewing actually threw out a few of my mistakes! If you don’t enjoy the process, find another creative outlet.
Great tips, Carolyn. Thanks for sharing.
When sewing with stretchy fabric should you still use elastic around the waist?
You can, Mary. It really depends on the pattern you’re using.
Susan Ramsay says
How did you learn to do sewing machine repair. I don’t want to go into business, I just want to know how to fix tension problems. I hate spending almost as much on a repair as I did buying a machine. I bought a wonderful Brother online. The automatic threader doesn’t work, but I don’t need that. (wet the needle as well as the thread, and threading becomes much easier?) The other Brother I had I got at Wal-Mart and the tension keeps tightening. It is on zero and still too tight. I’d like to fix it and sell it.
I received a Brother for my wedding (bought at Wal-Mart), and I needed to take it in for repairs after about 8 years of occasional use. The repairman didn’t even need to examine the machine to tell me the prognosis; he looked at it from across the room, asked if it was purchased at Wal-Mart and proceeded to tell me that it was not possible to repair. They just aren’t made well enough for that. The alignment was out on mine.
Patricia Bailey says
I also bought a Brother machine at WalMart and it has a tension problem. I’ve read and followed instructions but can’t get it right. But I also have an older Kenmore that I enjoyed sewing on in earlier years that has the tension problem. I’d go back to using it if the tension was correct. I’ve been sewing over 50 yrs also. I hate tension problems so if anyone has advice on fixing it correctly I’d love to know. I’m currently sewing on my sister’s Singer machine.
Suzette O'Kennedy says
Thank you for your valuable advice. Something that I found along the way to make the finished garment look more professional , is the cutting and sewing direction. I was taught to always do that from the wider part of the pattern piece towards the narrower part. This seems to work nicely and the garment drapes better this way.
I hadn’t heard that about the cutting direction before. Thanks for sharing, Suzette.
I looked your Blog post.You shared a good knowledge about the 10 clothes Sewing Mistakes. your shared knowledge is too helpful for the clothes maker and students who want to know about the more knowledge of clothe making and how its sewing or design process. Thanks for sharing the useful information.
You’re welcome, Arvind.
Oh, I hope you don’t mind me commenting again. I was thinking that matching plaids is another problem that can be avoided by careful pattern placement and cutting. It certainly makes a difference in how the creation looks while worn.
Unmatched plaids is a tell-tell sign that a garment is homemade or bought at a discount store. Not that there’s anything wrong with buying at a discount store. You just don’t want the quality of your garment to say so.
Susan Ramsay says
Read the envelope; it probably says to buy extra fabric for plaid matching. I made myself a plaid vest and the plaids matched perfectly. A friend asked me to make her one, and I forgot to match the fronts. It was wearable, but probably homemade looking. PS 60 years ago when I took sewing in high school, our dear Mrs. Dunne said, “you want tailormade clothes, not homem
ade looking clothes.”
I agree with the 10 things. I would add a good pressing when finished. Maybe even taking it to the cleaners for a nice press only. This goes for dressier clothes and I do not disagree with the ladies that are sewing for casual comfort only. I think the 10 points were made for those that are wanting to create something instead of buying ready to wear.
I agree, Jessica. A good pressing, at the cleaners if necessary, gives your garment that much needed final touch.
June Edwards says
I cringe when I see older women or women with “larger/older breasts” wear a dress of which the bust darts are positioned too high/the breasts sit lower than the darts. A simple adjustment at the beginning can avoid this. Also, very importantly, if you have droopy breasts that could sit higher or lower, jut out more or less, depending on which of your bras you’re wearing, wear a good supporting bra when fitting a dress that is intended for a special occasion.
Good advice, June. Thank you for sharing.
I think this advice is good for older women and larger busted younger women. I have had to come to grips with the fact that my waist is not what it was when I was young. Whether making or buying it is all about the fit. If it doesn’t fit, it looks cheap and awful.
This is so true, Jessica. Fit is very important.
Teach You To Sew says
Thanks for sharing, Katrina. I’ve seen people mess up on #9 so much. Really great post here. Sharing it on Pinterest!
Thank you for sharing it on Pinterest and for taking the time to comment.
OH MY GOODNESS! Topstitched necklines, you are absolutely right! And most online tutorials will tell you to do just that, but I knew there was something homemade-looking about it! Thank you so much for pointing that out, I will stop doing it immediately!
Heyy, there are times when you can use a facing and then topstitch the neckline on a more casual top like a tunic. Ready-to-wear does that also. But when there is no facing used at all, just turning under the neckline seam allowance and topstitiching-that screams homemade.
elisabeth berndt says
Great article, with valuable tips. My Mum taught me to sew many years ago (I’m 63) and she always insisted on the pins, as per your recommendation. So many people are unaware of how easy and fast this makes stitching, so much better for fabric control.
She often made her own patterns without those wonderful little markers that seem to take up so much time after cutting but make stitching so much easier , as you suggest “well worth the effort and time” . With Mum’s it was all a bit of trail and error (frequently having to 1st stitching/ tack on the longest option) mainly with a new design.
Another issue I find some of my friends have is with “easing” , a good result often has to do with manipulating the fabric gently.
I love the purchased patterns, I usually read through them twice (at least) so I get a clear picture in my head of the steps 🙂
Thank you for some great tips
You’re welcome, Elisabeth.
I don’t know why people don’t like to use pins, especially for straight seams. They make my sewing life easier.
I love trial and error because you learn so much. Your mother probably learned a great deal from her sewing failures as well as her sewing successes.
Thank you so much for sharing your mother’s sewing experience with us. As a kid I would watch my mother sew, which sparked my interest in learning to sew myself, so I love hearing how others began their sewing journey.
Cherrie Herrin-Michehl says
Thank you so much for this great article! I’m so glad I found your site, and will follow you on YouTube. Excellent information.
Welcome to the KKC community, Cherrie. I’m so glad to have you and I appreciate your support.
Deborah Brady says
You can use a steam iron to help with easing fabric, i.e. sewing a sleeve to a garment. After you have made the rows of stitching and gathered the top of the sleeve to fit inside the sleeve opening, place it on a “ham” or the ironing board and hold the iron very, very close to the sleeve gathers, barely touching them all around and they will shrink to fit inside the sleeve opening.
Thank you for sharing, Deborah. That’s what I love about sewing-there are different paths to a professional finish.
Rosemary Hannah says
I’ve always made things use the correct techniques and processes but I can always see something I could have done better! I do think that fabrics and haberdashery items are so expensive these days that it would be a shame not to make things properly. As for scaring off newbies I wouldn’t want to do that but I’d say practice makes perfect, that’s how I learned and I’ve been sewing for 60 years now.
Congratulations on 60 years of sewing, Rosemary That’s wonderful! Practice does make perfect and there’s always something we can learn to do better. Thank you for taking the time to share your insight.
Sometimes I feel like people stress over the details too much. If you want to give sewing a try I would say go for it and if your item looks homemade, well that’s ok! It is homemade. I personally like the homemade look. I make lots of dresses and clothes for my children. Not all look extremely polished per say but I prefer them over the bought clothing. I love quilting also and that has mistakes as well. But I think it adds to the character of the quilt. My grandma made me and my sisters so many dresses and I still have some for my girls to wear, not one of them has a “professional” looking buttonhole. And I like that. I like to see how she went over and over the edges of the buttonhole. Those types of “mistakes” or unprofessional finishes speak to my soul and I wouldn’t have it any other way! So if you think my garment looks “homemade” that’s totally ok by me. It is homemade and I took time out of my day to make it for a loved one. We shouldn’t let the world tell us how things need to be perfect.
Some like unprofessional finishes, some the professional finishes. Everyone has their personal preference. And I agree that there are some mistakes that add character, but there are also many that don’t. I’ve made enough clothes that looked homemade, because it fit poorly or was the wrong fabric choice, to know that that’s not what I prefer. It has nothing to do with what the world is telling us or even the opinion of others. It has to do with how I want my clothing to look and make me feel.
I’m certainly not saying that everything has to be perfect. Sometimes we learn more from the mistakes we make in sewing than we do from the successes.
I believe we can learn how to sew beautifully handmade clothes and still have a good sewing experience.
Isobel Conradie says
I agree with you on this issue, Katrina – I also through the years made clothes for my children, and then for my grand children, and I still am asked by especially the girls, although they are married now, to make something for them.
On the other hand my friend, who also made clothes for her children and grand children without taking care to finish the garments off nicely [or professionally??] says now that her children/children are grown-up, they are not interested in her “home-made’ clothes any more, and she feels that the reason MUST be because it looks home-made.
I feel that fabrics aren’t cheap,; you have to have a pattern, which also is not cheap, and taking into account that I spend my valuable time to finish something that I [or they] would want to wear and feel comfortable in, I can just as well take a little more time and finish a garment they would like to wear.
Thank you for your tips, and the valuable advice given – I am an “old” seamstress” of 73, am still enjoying my sewing VERY much, and have learnt a few new things here tonight that I am definitely going to keep in mind in future!
Yes, Isobel, these things cost money. They are an investment of our money and so much time. Why not make it something we’d be proud to wear, right? For me, I think the greatest compliment is when people have to ask, “Did you make that?”, because it’s so well made they can’t tell if it came from the store or not.
Thank you for your input. It’s so special to me when people like you with so much sewing experience actually learn something from me. Wow!
I think my comment was misinterpreted to mean I don’t finish my garments or I choose wrong fabrics or patterns. This is not what I meant at all. I was trying to say after you finish a garment it may have some pucker somewhere that no one else will notice or something is slightly off centered. I was speaking of things of that nature. And yes people ask me all the time where did you get that dress it’s adorable. And they want me to make them one for their daughter. I’ve actually sold a number of dresses people have requested from me. I’m a perfectionist and see small things others may never notice. So yes when I buy expensive art gallery organic knits or my German fabric that I’ve waited so long to receive, I do try and make something that looks professional. But if it turns out where something went a tad wrong it’s still ok. No big deal. I’m just saying some people are scared off because of all the details they think you HAVE to know to get into sewing clothes. I want it to be fun for everyone, even the beginners! 🙂 And no I’m not a beginner, I’ve been sewing 25 plus years. Beginning when I was 6! Thank to my grandma!
No misinterpretation here. Just explaining the purpose for this blog post. The 10 mistakes I talked about in this post were all things that should be corrected if you don’t want your clothes to look homemade. I don’t think anyone should stress over small details or imperfections, which is why they weren’t mentioned. All is well.
Well I live way up in the Wyoming mountains and came across this article while I was sitting in town one day washing my homemade clothes. And I agree that people shouldn’t stress over some things mentioned in this blog especially if you live in rural areas where not many people see you anyways. Ha! So I’m just happy to stay warm and maybe I don’t always finish my hem professionally but my garments keep me warm and cozy. People must take into consideration what part of the world you are from. Some don’t even have access to certain tools to make a professionally finished garment but I bet they are just gracious they have something to wear much less care if it looks professional. But I’m just an old mountain woman who’s blabbing on. Bottom line, if it fits and you’re comfortable in it, WEAR IT!
Once again, I’m not suggesting that anyone stress over anything when it comes to sewing. If you don’t mind your clothes looking homemade, then this blog post is not for you. I’ve had many of my readers tell me they would like their clothes to NOT look homemade. This is who this blog post is for. No stress required or suggested.
Kathy Condello says
I agree with Katt, I think if you want to be a perfectionist go ahead. I have seen some high end fashion full of errors. It’s about skill and about controlling your fabric so do that and learn as much as you can or need to. It can be about artistry or practical or both. For me it is about joy. Sometimes new sewers are daunted by all this talk of “homemade” and they turn away which for all my years sewing I have seen a decline. The pattern makers got it and have changed how pattern details are done making sewing easier. Let’s not kill the industry that gives us that joy! I made my first top when I was 8 without a pattern and I wore it around the neighbourhood proudly, as a teen I would race home from school and whip up a dress for the dance that night with no time to hem I used safety pins or huge running stitches lol. Then I got serious and began to learn the skills that I still do 50 years later. I love hand sewing too and have sewn an entire garment by hand! Have fun!
Again, this blog post is not encouraging anyone to be a perfectionist or stress over anything sewing related. Not wanting clothes to look homemade doesn’t necessarily mean you are a perfectionist, and my blog post did not imply that you had to be.
I’d like to say thanks, Katrina, for the tips you have given. I started sewing as a little girl for my dolls and did take sewing in Home Economics. My Mom also made most of our dresses when we were little and she helped me get started. I too am a perfectionist and have ripped seams out many times to get the item to look better. I have grown up using patterns but often did my own creation my putting different parts of patterns together to get the look I want. I made my own wedding dress, over 40 yrs ago, by looking at a design in a magazine and adding to a pattern I found that looked similar. I don’t sew my own clothes as often now but have made some skirts recently. Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve taken an interest in sewing aprons which I’ve given as gifts and sold some. I’ve also done other items for the kitchen and house. My daughter asked me to make her curtains and matching tablecloth with a ruffled border. Now I look thru Pinterest, see something of interest and create it myself. My son also has confidence in my sewing ability as he asked me to make him a carrying bag for his guitar pedal board which he made himself. It’s like a long duffle bag design. I am still working on this project and it has been a fun challenge.
I love homemade clothing and generally believe my sewing stays together better than store bought things. But as others are saying, one is never to old to learn new things. I’ve always tried to finish seams so they don’t ravel but have learned better methods in your article today. I’m enjoying reading all the comments and glad to see that home sewing is not a lost art.
You’re welcome, Patricia. It sounds like you’re enjoying the projects you’re working on and that makes all the difference. Sewing is definitely not a lost art and I’m happy to be able to share my tips. Thank you for taking the time to read them. I really appreciate it.
Esiobel, I am amazed all the years you have been sewing. I really don’t know how. I’m not saying that i don’t make clothes and quilts, but i don’t know how. I have never used a pattern so they are on my list of the things i must learn. I made my own pattern from a dress i liked that had no room for my bust. Squished me flat up against my chest. Not flattering at all! But i love the design other wise. And the cotton one my mom made me was pretty worn. So i started to make pieces the same as the dress had. and was going to be able to make more if i wanted to . BOY! It was no easy task. When i ask for help everyone just laughed (or chuckled under their breaths). I was told that pattern making was not for a beginner. I knew they were probably right, but i was going to do it the way i have my whole life and just do it. I did end up with a dress and the pattern to make it.. I call it my first draft.. need to fix some problems on the pattern before i spend money i don’t have on fabric and thread. I’m a 59 year old hippy that learned at a very early age to make something out of nothing. When we did laundry we were naked back then . I was the go to person to fix the only pair of jeans you owned. I was lucky to have a needle and thread. So i just did it. Now I have to unlearn everything i know and learn how to do it correctly. I know that experience is the most important tool in sewing and i will never be able to know what you do . Which is kind of sad for me. But I had to tell you how inspiring I found you to be to me. Thank you for putting things in perspective for me. God Bless You and Give you all the health to keep sewing for a long long time to come. Esineda
Esineda, I’ve been in that place where I had to unlearn everything I thought I was doing right and learn how to do it correctly. It can be overwhelming but it is doable. I think it’s great that you were willing to try new things and take risks. You can learn a lot from those kinds of experiences. Your experience may not be the same as Isobel’s, but I hope you know that your experience is of value as well.
I wish you the best in your sewing endeavors.
Susan Ramsay says
Esineda, Did you know that Anne Pearson of “Stretch and Sew” made a lot of her patterns off of clothes she took apart and retraced on pattern paper. She even used he own sort of paper/cloth type paper. I forget what it was called. There are no more “Stretch and Sew” stores, but I think you can still get the patterns and “Do sew” There, I remembered! It’s much sturdier than the tissue paper patterns. Especially if you want to make more than one item, say in different colors.
Sharon Heath says
Ah Kat, I totally agreed with your comments regarding the homemade’ look. I also made my little girls clothes when she was younger (she’s 26 now) haha, and while I wanted the dresses etc to turn out good, I never stressed at the imperfections. I always received good comments to whatever I had made for her. I would even point out the mistakes myself… The joy and satisfaction of making clothes is so rewarding. We have kept some of her dresses and cant wait for the day when a grandaughter will wear them.
Aww that’s great you saved them. I cherish the ones I have from my Grandma. I lost her to Alzheimer’s a few years ago. Hang on to those dresses because they will be cherished for many years!
Pinterest has several diagrams on where to add or subtract fabric for altering slacks patterns. Another “Stretch and Sew” tip. If you have a larger tummy, just make two backs. How will anyone know? PS. If you alter a pattern, look for where else the alteration will affect the finished garment. I made a scoop neck dress for my 9 yr old granddaughter, and I knew she was long waisted so I lengthened the bodice. It turned out this made the scoop deeper. Luckily, it was not a dress for a developed teenager; it would have been pretty sexy.
Learning how to break the rules when constructing a garment and having the finish product fit properly is just as important as following all of the numbered examples mentioned in this article. If you are comfortable with your work and your clients have no issue with your work then consider it a blessing to have such a wonderful gift.
Buttonholes! My Grandmother ( never Granny!) Taught me to sew handmade buttonholes. In the South African Bushveld, on a farm with red earth that stained clothing pink, at Christmas time in temperatures of 45 degrees in the shade. On a piece of white fabric with white cotton. That Christmas holiday l will never forget! I can’t remember how many “sore eyes” l sewed by hand that were pulled out and resewn until she was satisfied. When done the cotton and fabric were both wet with sweat and a bright red-brown colour but the old lady was somewhat satisfied.
Term time in the sewing class l made a white blouse with puffed sleeves, a Peter Pan collar and 6 buttons and hand sewn button holes. My blouse was put on the town’s Agricultural Show Homemade section Schools and won first prize! Grandmother was so proud of me when l showed her the certificate!
It sounds like your grandmother taught you well, Janet. What a great memory to treasure for life.
I think cutting threads by hand instead of scissors is a public mistake between tailors . It is harmfull for hand skin and garment specially in elastic fabric . Tnx
I always use scissors, so I totally agree, Alireza. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
I hate garments that are not sewn with matching threads and that goes for serger threads too. People are just lazy and can’t be bothered changing their serger threads and yet it really is so simple. It really screams home made.
I’ve seen people suggest you use neutral colored threads instead of matching the thread, but I don’t like the way that looks. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Maryanne.
Unless the thread is to be used in top stitching or some other highly visible place, matching gray scale value of thread to value of the fabric works well. A collection of good quality threads in values running from white through a dozen and a half grays to black has proved to be a good investment for me even though using gray scale may not be appropriate in every situation.
I never thought to try different values. Thank you for your input, BriarRose.
Maybe some can’t afford thread to match everything. I know I couldn’t when I first bought my serger because I spent so much on it I could literally only afford to get a set of white and a set of black threads. Not the cheap stuff either. If you sew with cheap thread you might as well give up before you begin.
I totally agree, Sissy. There are some things we shouldn’t skimp on and thread is one of them.
i would add poorly made button holes, zippers and topstiches.
Absolutely, Saba. Poorly sewn finishes will definitely make a garment look homemade. Thank you for sharing.
I also would put in there buttons. I made 2 blouses for my friend n I to go to Las Vegas they very bright colors so I could see her plainly. They came out very well, we stopped at a friends on our way home, she asked her which one of us made the blouses. I was surprised no one ever asks me that question. I said how do you know their. Homemade? She said because they had beautiful buttons n mfged clothes don’t have them. So now I’m careful about what buttons To not them over shadow my garment. Too bad to because there sure are a lot beautiful buttons out there. What do you think?
Linda, I think you shoud use the buttons you like on your garments. Just make sure they compliment your garment. You could’ve changed the buttons on a garment you bought from the store, and she wouldn’t have known. If she only asked because, as she says, manufacturered clothes don’t have beautiful buttons, that doesn’t mean your garment looked homemade, or looked poorly made. There’s a difference between looking homemade and being beautifully handmade. She could’ve been giving you a compliment. And if she wasn’t, don’t let that discourage you from sewing.
Kathy Condello says
If this is daunting you can take your garment to a seamstress to have it done. Worth the cost sometimes. And then get practicing and reading. I still hate hemming, yawn! But I had a sit on it till it works attitude lol!
I have just made pants without matching the side seams. The fabric has a very distinct horizontal pattern. Does that make them home-made?
I don’t mind the look that much, but I don’t want others looking at me and cringing, lol.
Are you always supposed to match the print on the side seams?
It really depends on the print, Irina. If it has a distinct horizontal pattern, it’s probably noticeable. But stores sell clothes and don’t match patterns either, depending on the price point of the garment. Whether or not they look homemade will also depend on your sewing skill. If you don’t mind the look, wear them with pride. Most people who don’t sew don’t even notice this kind of stuff, lol.
Kate Cook says
In fact, matching the horizontal pattern is Moore likely to say “homemade” unless you are wealthy enough to afford clothes where that much care is taken. I can’t buy plaids in stores because of how bad the seams look. I’ve even seen border print fabrics that were used on shirts and no attempt to match. Border off by 8″. Saved a lot of fabric but looked ridiculous.
Thanks for this post, it is really helpful.but I have a problem of fixing zippers and bulging at the back,I made a fit and flare zip recently,but it was having this pull from the waist to the back zip position.. what can I do? thanks in advance
Hi Temitope, what kind of zipper application did you use? Was it a centered zipper, invisible zipper or lapped zipper?
Lynn Curry says
For nice zipper look, I stitch the seam with the longest stitch, press it flat, sew the zipper in, then pull the basting seam out, then run down the outside with stitches. Always looks good!
Thank you Katrina! I found this article to be very helpful. In regards to ironing, I use pressing tools, a ham and wooden rods covered in wool and fabric. I do a lot of children’s sewing so my tools are small. Using these products took my sewing to a new level. Pressing seams with rod and using a ham in a puffed sleeve … wow!
You’re welcome, Alexis. The results are amazing when you have the right tools, especially when pressing. Thanks for sharing.
Mary Jean says
My mother in-law was a great presser (it’s an art), and when I asked her to press my son’s christening gown, she asked for a pair of baby socks. She rolled them up and used them for a pressing ham to do the tiny puffed sleeves.
That’s why I asked her to do it.
That was genius. Sounds like your mother-in-law was a pro at pressing. Thanks for sharing, Mary Jean.
I would use a light bulb for the small sleeves in baby clothes. Worked great.
A few years ago in Threads magazine they did an article about pressing. They made the exact same outfit twice, once pressing the seams as they went, and the other pressing once done. The difference was striking! I always pressed before that, without knowing the huge difference and now I drill it into others. And I wish someone had told me to make a muslin when I first started sewing. I stopped sewing for a while because I got tired of the headache of things not fitting correctly. Then I started the muslin and couldn’t be happier! My creations fit after lots of alterations on icky fabric, and it makes the final one go so much quicker. And on one, I found the style didn’t suit me, so I chose a different pattern without having ruined my fashion fabric.
Hi Holly, it’s amazing the difference pressing as you go makes. I’m glad Threads Magazine did that article to show the difference.
Most people don’t want to take the time to make a muslin, but muslins are sanity savers, not to mention money and fabric savers as well. I’m so glad you now make muslins for the best results of your sewing projects.
Thank you so much for sharing.
Diane Dion says
Hi, Katrina Kay,
After stumbling around the internet I came upon your blog. Maybe this has been addressed already, but I don’t have time to read all your comments at this moment. One pet peeve I have about clothes looking homemade is un-rounded curves, such as in a pocket, a curved collar, etc. I would love sewing to remain the art it is, so I pass on this tip that my mom gave me when I started sewing in addition to the ones you posted. It is a simple fix. If you run a basting or gathering stitch about 1/4″ along the raw seam edge along the places you want rounded, then gently pull the thread to slightly gather the edge. IRON now. Voila.
This is a great tip, Diane. It’s a simple step but the results make a big difference when it comes to sewing curved areas. Thanks for sharing.
Patti mitchell says
If you use a serger on the curved edge than gently pull the second thread and press, it will ease the fabric flat plus give you an edge finish to prevent any unraveling.
Lorrie Eubanks says
My late grandmother also taught me to run a basting stitch for a curved hem. It is a game changer.
Thanks for sharing, Lorrie. I will definitely do this on my next curved hem.
Hi, thanks for your article, it has reminded me of a lot of things it seems i may have forgot, i did fashion and design in college but went in a different direction afterwards, but now i am fed up of searching the shops for clothes i have in my head that i want and struggle to find ones that tick the right boxes. so 10 years later I have decided why not make my own? sooo i will be signing up to rejig my memory, do you have any pictures of clothes you have made?
thanks again for your helpful post
Williams victory says
I love ur teaching, may God Almighty Bless You,ma,pls I make a mistake in my cutting,I am to cut a flee gown,but after cutting and sewing I noticed that the back of the gown is very Short why the front is normal, pls ma how can I correct the mistake, pls I need ur help on this urgently Thanks
Hi Williams Victory, unfortunately it’s very hard for me to give advice when I can’t see the project and I’m not sure what you’re describing. I will say that it’s much harder to lengthen something that’s already made than to shorten it. But again, because I haven’t seen your project, I can’t really give the best advice on how to solve your problem.
If you have measured and sewn in the hem the old fashioned way, thatay be the issue. I was taught to put the garment on and in whatever shoes you plan to wear with it, measure from the floor up, to the hem length you want all the way around the skirt. This way, regardless of the “hike up” from a tummy or big booty (LOL), your hem will ALWAYS be level!
Thanks for sharing, Ellen. You can’t go wrong when the hem is measured from the floor.
Hi Holly, I’ll have pictures in the future as I rework my entire wardrobe. I’ll also try to find some old pics of some things I’ve made in the past. I wish you the best on this sewing journey.
Thank you for the article ~ I’m just at the beginning stages of sewing, and was searching for online resources as I wade in. Yours is the first site that I came across (after sifting through *many*) that I am bookmarking to refer back to because I don’t want to lose it 🙂
I’m so glad to hear that, Nancy. Welcome to the sewing world. I hope you have great experiences, create great projects and aren’t afraid to make mistakes as they’re an important part of the learning process. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Thank you for these tips!! I do have a question about interfacing….what would make it “bubble?” I made some child-sized chef hats recently and ironed a light interfacing onto the inside of the band, only to find it bubbled after folding it and stitching it onto the hat. It seemed fine until I folded it. I scrapped one band because of that and tried again thinking maybe I didn’t follow the directions precisely or didn’t heat it for the proper amount of time, but the same thing happened. Any ideas????
Also, one of the comments mentioned grading the seams. My grandmother showed me many years ago that by trimming the seams holding the scissors at an angle, a slight offset was made to the seam allowance…usually enough to prevent a sharp dropoff or edge of the seam.
Hi Rebecca, bubbling usually means the interfacing did not stick or adhere to the fabric in those places. It could be because of the finish of your fabric or not enough pressure applied to the iron. If you’re following the directions and still getting this result, you may need a different type of interfacing.
This is just my personal preference, but I use a knit fusible interfacing for most of my projects, even those made with woven fabric, because it adheres like a second skin. You may want to experiment with different types to find what works best with your fabric.
You’re very welcome, Rebecca.
Is it possible that your fabric was cut on a bias and not the straight grain?
Thank You Katrina!
These are all very useful tips. I’ve only been sewing for about 5 months… Every mistake is an opportunity to learn, but let’s not set ourselves up for failure, right?
Exactly, Dawn! You do learn a lot from your mistakes in sewing and believe me, you’ll make plenty-as we all do. But there are some that are avoidable and will prevent you from wasting fabric and time.
Charlotte L says
I’m in way over my head! But I think I can do this…. So my daughter bought a knock off zuhair murad dress for prom…. http://www.orientpalms.com/zuhair-murad,13 … shown in photos 10, 11 & cover (teal and gold). They sent a dress that looked NOTHING like what we’d asked for, and also was way too small to even have let out. So I pulled the dress apart (it might’ve for a 5 year old) and started by inspecting the construction and comparing it to the photos and videos of the original gown. I’m pretty positive it’s chiffon with a satin underlay for the bodice, covered in seed beads and sequin and 2 layers of heat set pleated chiffon for the skirt…… I tested a first remake with leftovers from the dress we got (oh yeah also the wrong color- a really dull/ grayish sea green). Let’s just say I’m awful with many expletives. I’ve never sewn a thing in my life – just watched my mom when i was little. I knew to iron iron iron! And finding the right stitch, I’m trying to learn about interfacing and I don’t understand what on the grain means at all except that the fabric always holds some pattern within it and to cut your pattern all straight in line with the fabrics pattern and in the same direction.
So my questions are these….
1. Any tips are HIGHLY useful!
2. Can I fuse the chiffon and satin together with my lightweight interfacing? Or do I just use the interfacing on the chiffon? Or the inner layer of satin? It’s white (all they had in that type) and my fabric is – David tutera yokyu new teal chiffon and matching satin. (Freaking expressive)
3. I don’t have a pattern, what I’ve been using is the bad dress we got combined with what I see from original, draping, measurements and my attempts at drafting. (I am am architect…. you’d think I could do this)…. any suggestions? How can I do this gown with as little disruption to the fabric as possible? The original only shows 4 pieces… the bust, 2 on the back and one on front below bust and no darts or pleats. Unless they’re hidden under the band of fabric under the boobs, which is why I assume the bust piece though to begin with? Its a strapless mermaid……my girl is a pretty standard size 2 but with 32DD’s….. hour glass figure. I’m so nervous to cut into this good fabric – that I also bought the last of…..
Hi Charlotte, the remaking of this dress is challenging for an experienced sewer. It’s always easier to make some smaller rather than bigger. You’re going to have to disrupt the fabric based on how much bigger you need it to be.
Because your daughter is 32DD, you may have to remake the bodice, depending on how much you would have to add.
I’m not sure what you’re using the interfacing for but I would not fuse the chiffon and satin together. Use it on the inside of satin, not the chiffon because chiffon is sheer and delicate.
I know money has already been spent, but is it possible to hire a seamstress to make a dress like the one your daughter bought? In all honesty, remakes can get really complicated. This is why I avoid them. It’s just easier to start over, depending on the garment and how much bigger you need it.
Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. I hope everything works out for you and your daughter.
Did you get your money back for that dress? It seems you’re a victim of one of the many scams online, selling stolen picture knock-offs for cheap… and always way-too-small “clothes.” This has happened to THOUSANDS of women. Please check out my Facebook group for more details.
Thank you for sharing this link, Dawn. It’s good to be aware of the scams out there.
Try Bauer says
It seems that Asian sizes are much smaller, and we all know that using less fabric means higher profits! Sometimes it is hard to tell you are even ordering from one of those countries! Be careful out there!
Yes, I was looking at some S.E. Asian brand garments a few days ago: the XL waist measurement was 27.8 inches! WOW.
11. Not ironing your pattern pieces flat before using them to cut out fabric.
If you don’t iron them all flat on a low temperature, the little creases add up to big differences on the finished garment.
When I was a teenager I didn’t bother at all and my sewing organisation was poor so i had lots of wrinkles in all my patterns. Now My sewing organisation is a little better (everything neatly folded) so the patterns need less ironing each time and takes only a couple of minutes.
This is so true, Jane. It’s funny you mention this because I have a post coming up that will touch on pattern prep, later this month. Pressing the pattern before using is very important, so thanks for sharing this.
Also, when you iron your pattern pieces and immediately lay them on the fabric, they adhere really well. Makes pinning and cutting easier and more accurate.
Good point, Natalie. I recently ironed my pattern but didn’t get to cut it until the next day. I had to re-iron because all those wrinkles came back. And they did adhere nicely when freshly ironed.
This list is going to help me a great deal. I’m a member of the SCA and I’ve just started getting into making my own garb since the cost of having it made for me is starting to become prohibitive. I’ve made a skirt that I can barely wear (I had no idea just how heavy wool melton fabric was when I bought it) and I’m going to be making a medieval dress that has long sleeves and a beautiful scoop neckline. The only problem is, the sleeves and the neckline (I know I’m going to have to alter it,) scare the living daylights out of me. I’ve never made anything as complicated as a dress with sleeves. It’s going to be in beautiful 100% linen. Do you have any advice for working with facing or bias binding? I have to admit, I have no idea what either of those things are…..and my mom won’t help me because she hasn’t sewn since I was five, so I’m going in blind. LOL.
Morag, you should definitely practice those sewing techniques on an inexpensive fabric before you cut into your linen. YouTube and the Craftsy.com blog are great free resources for learning sewing techniques you’re not familiar. I’m sure they have something on “how to sew a neck facing” or “how to cut and sew bias binding”.
Also, the key to a great facing result is understitching. It’s an added step but it is well worth it. People try to skip this step, but don’t do it. It’ll give your neckline a professional finish.
Katrina-thank you for your wonderful advice! I have some scrap fabric I can practice these techniques on. I bought my muslin for the mock-up since re-enactment and SCA fabric is not cheap. I have no desire to ruin a length of $12 per yard wool or a gorgeous piece of linen that I’ll never find again.
I’m also going to look up understitching as well. Thank you for the hints!
You’re welcome, Morag. Glad I could help.
Hey, so I am sewing my first garment in satin, and I am super nervous, because I’ve heard it’s so difficult to do, and I’ve got $100 of it now sitting in my sewing room, for my formal dress. i was hoping you had some advice for my first foray into satin? I should also mention it is a relatively new pattern too, and I’m just so worried about stuffing this up, because it is pretty good quality stuff (And pretty expensive stuff) and I know it’ll look so good if I just get this right…
Hi Ella. First, I would make a test garment out of very inexpensive cotton muslin or something that matches the weight of your satin. This allows you to see how it fits and make changes to your pattern without messing up your satin.
When working with your satin, all of your pattern pieces have to be laid in the same direction or it’ll look like 2 different shades of the same color. In your pattern directions choose the fabric layout that is the width of your fabric (or closest to it) and also says “with nap”. “With nap” is the layout for fabrics like satin, velvet, corduroy, etc. See #2 in this blog post for examples of fabric layouts “with nap” and “without nap”.
When pressing satin, try to press it from the wrong side of the fabric. If you have to press it from the right side, use a press cloth or a small piece of white/off-white cotton (to prevent any color transfer) fabric to lay on top of the satin so the iron never touches it directly.
If I think of anything else, I will definitely let you know. I have to stress making a test garment first, especially since your satin is such good quality and expensive.
I made a prom gown out of some pricey, good quality satin years ago and did everything I told you here and it ended up being the best thing I’ve ever made. If I hadn’t done a test garment first, I would’ve messed up all that satin and would’ve had to get more at my expense, so I know how you feel.
Best wishes with your satin and please let me know how it turns out.
Drusilla Barron says
I’d also cut the seam allowances 1/4″ wider because sometimes satin ravels very quickly. And plan how you’ll finish those seams before you begin sewing so there’s less time between stitching and finishing.
Thanks for the help, (And thanks to Drusilla, Noreen, and Lisa too!) It’s turned out great, I just need to finish the blind hem (hand sewn, of course. One great advantage to a 2 year home economics course; at least I can hand sew fairly decently), then I’m done! I can’t believe it turned out so well (I have heard such horror stories about satin, I was so worried that I’d bitten off more than I could chew…) But the dress is beautiful, and I’ll proudly be wearing it to my Formal next term! Thanks so much for all the great advice!
(Funny story, actually, I made a ‘test-dress’ out of some old satin my grandmother was giving away, and now my sister has a new cocktail dress from my practice. Unfortunately, the lining didn’t go so well, so it’s a bit uncomfortable, but still a beautiful dress) I’m so grateful for all the advice! Thank you all so much!
I’m glad to hear the dress turned out great, Ella. And it’s so cool that your practice dress is wearable also.
I would make sure your machine needles are new without any burrs. Older needles can tend to run the satin. Especially when top stitching. Good luck!
Thanks for sharing, Maureen.
Please consider a walking foot.
Another trick is to layer the satin with tissue paper under it when sewing. The tissue paper helps to keep it from sliding, then just tears away from the seam after. After you cut out your pattern pieces, you will have all those little offcuts of fabric to practice on before you start sewing the real thing. A large desk area is a must too, because the fabric will want to slide away.
Thanks Drusilla, Noreen, and Lisa for sharing such great tips.
Odiri Lana Odogwa says
The article is great! I just started learning how to sew from my mom. She tells me most of the things you said in the article but hearing it from someone else makes it sink in. I’m a culprit of always rushing to finish a project and end up missing some steps (my mom always tell me to start all over again which can be really frustrating…Lol). Anyway,I’m from a Country where patterns are not used anymore but I like the idea of using a pattern. How can I make one for myself or get one?
It sounds like your mother is a great teacher, Odiri. I know it can be frustrating to be told to start over, I had a teacher like that also, but you’ll be grateful for what you learn in the process.
This blog post is a good place to start if you want to make your own patterns: https://katrinakaycreations.com/custom-plus-size-top-pattern-free-resource-for-drafting-your-own/
It’s a free resource from Threads Magazine for drafting your own top pattern.
Then you can go through my free patternmaking tutorial that will teach you how to use darts to create different styles. The name of it is Patternmaking Plain and Simple. It’s also free and you can sign up here:
I hope this helps you to get started and I wish you well on your sewing and patternmaking journey.
I don’t sew on muslin, I sew more complicated garments on a less expensive fashion fabric that is similar weight and weave to my first choice in the fabric. If the first go-around in the cheaper fabric is a wadder, no harm done. If it works for me after the basted fitting, I have another garment from the same pattern. I recently made a jacket in a lovely wool crepe but because of the cost of the fabric, I made a “test” run jacket in a less expensive polyester crepe that mimics wool in drape and weave. It also holds up well in the wash. Would you believe I get more compliments on the test jacket than the nicer one!
That’s great, Rayanne. It’s an added bonus when you can wear your test garment. I love hearing about the different methods people use when they sew. Thanks for sharing.
Snap! I do the same. I recently designed and made a dress for my little girl, making the test dress out of a cheaper plain polycotton first, but i couldn’t resist binding the pockets in a contrasting fabric. It looks fabulous and my little girl gets lots of attention and lovely comments when she’s wearing it.
How nice for your little girl, Jane. Thanks for sharing.
Texas Susannie says
This is a fantastic thread. Very informative. I feel like getting up and sewing something right now!
I’m glad this motivates you to sew, Susannie. Thanks for stopping by!
You’re welcome, Adila.
I am brand new to sewing. Was looking at the insane prices for nice toddler clothes from some of my favorite brands and thought “surely to goodness I can manage to sew a simple dress (pair of pants, skirt, etc.)” Got my machine this week, picked up some patterns, and ready to dive in this weekend. I keep telling myself that I can do this, but please know that great articles like this are a Godsend to my nerves. Thank you, and your readers, for sharing your tips.
You are so welcome, Juliet. And yes, you can do this. Start with something simple and build on it. I also have a Facebook group for sew-ers who would also be of great support to you. If you haven’t joined the group already, here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thesewingcurve/. You can ask questions if you get stuck and they, along with myself, will give you feedback to help you with your project. So you don’t have to go it alone.
Wishing you the best on your sewing journey!
Something I tell anyone I teach is… We ALL make mistakes, even those of us who have been doing this for a long time. You will make mistakes and that’s okay, some of my best sewing skills I learned from my mistakes.
Plus, you don’t need the new machine with all the bells and whistles to be a good seamstress! No, really! My every day machine is about 60 years old, actually I don’t own a machine newer than 40 years old. I’ve tried newer fancier machines and frankly I hate them. Sure, they might not have a zigzag or button holer… But relying on those instead of learning how to do it by hand or without a zigzag will likely weaken your skills. So no need to hold out for hundreds (or more) to buy the newest machine. Just make sure to get the one you buy tuned up if it’s used.
Make it yourself of do it by hand. I know I know, so many people hate sewing by hand or making biased tape instead of buying it…. But trust me, it’s so worth it!! I actually LOVE sewing by hand, sure, I don’t love the time it takes, but I love the calm of it, the connection to all the people who’ve done it before me, and most of all the end result. Don’t be scared of hand sewing, after all it’s slower and easier to control. 😉 Plus, if your garment or project needs biase tape, NOTHING beats custom made tape. I once won a “division champion” ribbon at the state fair and I got TONS of credit of making the tape. It was the perfect shape, color and amount. Make that button hole by hand. True, a store bought garment will usually have machine done button holes (unless it’s a nice garment), but I’ve never made a single button hole by hand that didn’t beat every machine button hole I’ve ever made.
Buy extra fabric, even without a nap or direction. I’ve saved my bacon a few times when I made a mistake because I had extra. And don’t give into the draw to use the selvage, just do yourself a favor and skip it. It’s tempting sometimes but it’s a bad bad idea.
Finally, this should be fun, it’s not worth it if it stresses you out way to much. So always give yourself time when possible. I know we all end up with those last minute projects, I even fell in that trap this week, but if you do it all the time you’ll hate sewing. Don’t give in to being pressured to do stuff you know you don’t have time for. I know we all tend to be the only person anyone knows who can sew, but learning to say no will be the biggest thing you can do to keep sewing fun!!
I totally agree, Sarah. Sewing is not about being mistake-free, but about learning from them.
Older machines are work horses. I have one that’s at least 40 years old. The machine I bought new a few years ago lasted about 2 or 3 years. It was such a disappointment.
I’ve never made a buttonhole by hand but I’ve seen it done and they are beautiful. They make a garment look high end for sure.
Learning to say no! That’s truly a good tip. But all of your tips are great. Thanks for sharing.
Have to agree about the sewing machine. I learnt on an old tredle machine and still love sewing on it. I brought a portable Elna when I started work and recently – on retirement – brought a lovely Brother with all the bells and whistles – which is quite wonderful too – but I do find the whole sewing process can become very stressful. Maybe the old skills are just being overtaken by technology. Just hope my eyesight and patience last long enough to use all the materials acquired over the years.
Hi Jevan, the fact that you still sew on your old tredle machine shows how things used to be built to last, unlike today.
I hope you have a great sewing experience on your Brother machine. Don’t let the bells and whistles overwhelm you. No amount of technology can replace the skill you have.
Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
Thank you for the line, ” I love the calm of it, the connection to all the people who’ve done it before me.” I started sewing because it’s hard to find ready-made clothes that fit. I have very long legs and a short torso. But I haven’t enjoyed the actual act of sewing. What you said perfectly sums up what I enjoy about baking bread and never thought to apply to sewing. This is a revelation that might change my whole attitude.
While I hope everyone enjoys sewing as much as I do, if it brings calm and connection, that’s good too. It can be rewarding to look at things from a different perspective. Thanks for sharing, Laura.
tiffany cobbs says
not using a rotary cutter to cut out pattern pieces and not using a dress form for making the pattern pieces are fitting properly
A rotary cutter and dress form are useful tools that help us produce professional clothes. Thanks for sharing, Tiffany.
I totally agree with you about the machine. Some of thre best things I ever made were sewn on an old Singer that only did straight sewing, not even backwards or zigzag. I made some stunning Vogue couture garments on that machine.
Those old Singer machines were work horses. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Glenn.
Erin K says
How do you sew knits without a zig zag or serger? Or do you not work with knits? I mostly work with knits so I can’t imagine not having some different stitch options!
Hi Erin, I don’t work with knits that much. But most don’t fray, so I don’t see a problem with not having a serger or zigzag stitch. You can check out this blog post for more info about finishing knits: http://www.sewcando.com/2014/04/ways-to-sew-knits-without-serger.html
I learned to sew with knits, when the fabric first became available. (Yes, I really am THAT old!) There weren’t many zigzag machines at that time, so we were taught to slightly stretch the fabric as we sewed and to use polyester thread (which also stretches), along with a slightly longer stitch length. Unfortunately, I found that many of the garments I sewed with this technique had “popped” or had broken stitches. So I don’t recommend you sew knits without a machine that has a zigzag option (which most do).
There are machine stretch stitches now, as well as special stitches for elastic application. You don’t really need a serger to sew knits, but it does speed the process and beautifully finish your seams and facings.
Thank you for sharing your experience, emptynestquilter.
Stella Richards says
I would possibly recommend using wool to fasten the seams together of knitted fabric, so it will look like it was 100% knitted.
1. Sew the seam on the seam allowance
2. Cut the knit about half inch up to seam allowance
3. Running stitch is it? Or crochet a chain over the top to finish.
4. Go back a few stitches through with the needle and tie a knot in the end of the wool to finish off.
New buzz today, on PBS show, It’s Sew Easy. They said there is (new?) elastic thread, that can be used in bobbin and above, using a straight stitch, on knits. This elastic thread stretches 50%, so an 8 inch length stretches to 12 inches. I’ve not gone looking for it in the stores, so I don’t know how available it is, or how many colors it comes in. I would imagine you’d have to do some testing, to ensure bobbin and upper tensions aren’t stretching it, else every seam would ripple.
Emily McCain says
Thanks so much for the article. I was blessed with 2 members of my family who were professional seamstresses, and my mother who was a very meticulous seamstress, so needless to say I have been sewing for years. But; as most people, I get into a hurry to finish things up and have made many of these mistakes. However, things I have learned and I do….I have two containers one with white bobbins and the other with black. Since those are the colors I use the most. Also I have put my presser feet into the divided craft containers with a simple discription for each foot, it just makes it easier for grabbing a foot for the right type of stitches or fabric . But I must say my favorite thing to do is to place tape on my pattern where my pins are going to go. This way I don’t rip my patters with my pins, if they are baby or doll patters I will scan a copy of them so that I have a back up or if they are multiple sizes I don’t have to cut down my pattern just my copies for those extra small pieces. I also label and place all my pattern pieces in a zip lock bag and then hang them up on a peg board. This just makes it easier to find and to put away. Oh….and always buy extra fabric for stripes…..so you can match them up, your patters will tell you if you should or shouldn’t use stripped or diagonal lined fabric. 🙂
Such good tips, Emily. You are a very organized seamstress. Your tips are great and I especially love how you store your patterns in zip lock bags. I never thought to put them on a peg board, especially those used most often. Thanks so much for sharing your tips with us.
Susan Blair says
Use the correct sized needle for the fabric you are sewing.Buy quality thread.Change the needle before every new garment. Stay stich curved pieces,it makes a huge difference. People are amazed when I show them stay stitching,but that is how Mom taught me.Apply the correct interfacing for fabric and project. Sometimes I use stitch in interfacing,I just prefer the way it looks.Cheap poorly made fabric will make a cheap looking garment. Think about the time and effort you are putting into a project you want it to look nice and last so invest in quality fabric. Do NOT sew over pins !
I always stay stitch curved pieces. It makes such a big difference in the way final look of necklines, etc. Thank you for all the good tips, Susan.
Pls what is stay stitch? And how can you reduce the speed of the sewing machine? I am very new in sewing. I just finished sewing my first project yesterday after 2 weeks of trying! It was kind of frustrating while at it but I felt accomplished when I finished it. I just came across your blog today and I am hopeful to get much needed resources to help me learn to sew professionally.
Thanks a million Katrina for offering to help. God bless you.
Hi Lara, stay stitching is when you stitch around curved seams, like necklines and armholes, with a basting stitch (the longest stitch on your machine) to stop them from being stretched out of shape. As far a changing the speed on your machine, all machines are different. Check your manual or the Internet for your brand of machine.
If your machine came with a foot control, use that instead of the “go” button. A foot controller allows you to go as slow as you like, and the feeling of being in control is important when you learn anything.
Thank you for your input, Andria.
I find that I have better luck with controlling the speed of the foot control with bare feet or socks. I can control the speed better!
Me too, Jan. I started using my bare foot a few years ago and never turned back.
Doing the recommended two rows of gathering stitch is essential for nice gathers. However, somewhere I read that three rows is even better. I tried it when sewing prom and bridal wear and it really does make it so easy to get beautiful even gathers.
I totally agree Elaine. I do gathers with 2 rows when I’m in a hurry, but 3 rows is even better. It takes more time, but the outcome makes it worth it.
Thank you for sharing.
What a great article ! Thanks ! I am guilty of rushing to get things finished – and I have no idea about fit. I will definitely be using the muslin idea and hope I am capable f doing my own pattern alterations….eek ! I shall very much enjoy reading everything else you write !
I’m sure you’ll be able to do your own pattern alterations, Sarah. We all have to start somewhere so you’ll be fine. Thanks for reading.
If I’m using a commercial, tissue pattern, I like to iron the pattern pieces completely smooth before doing anything. Even without any alterations, the pattern will be so much easier to pin to my fabric.
Ironing the fabric is important, too! I just make sure to not press a fold in the center, in case I can’t get the fold out of a piece cut on the fold.
I like to fill two or three bobbins before starting to sew a new project, depending on the project. A new needle, appropriate for the fabric is a must, too!
My initial exposure to sewing was with my dear Mother. I don’t know where she learned to sew, but, bless her heart!, it was never her ‘thing’! She made her own shortcuts that never worked, didn’t follow the pattern guide, didn’t press as she sewed (and, boy, did it show!), and created more work than necessary. It is no wonder she didn’t like sewing! I, on the other hand, fell in love with sewing!
Lucky for me, there were great sewing instructors on PBS! (Before cable!) I read everything I could find about sewing! I made my wedding gown, learned to tailor by making a wool coat for myself, sewn numerous home decor items, craft projects, jointed teddy bears, prom dresses for my daughter, and so much more! I taught myself to piece and quilt, which opened up a whole other area of sewing satisfaction!
I’m so fortunate to have my husband’s support for my passion! My son and his wife bought a sewing machine (my choice!) to keep at their house so I can sew when I’m there. Last visit, I made new seat cushions for their dining room chairs! My daughter also got a machine for herself. She’s self taught about sewing and tends to do more craft items.
Sandy, you have awesome sewing habits! And how nice of your son and his wife to make sure you can sew when you come to visit.
I especially love your tip about filling 2 or 3 bobbins at the beginning of your projects. I started doing this some years ago and it’s such a time saver.
My initial exposure to sewing came from my mother also and she wasn’t crazy about sewing either, lol. Thank you for sharing your sewing experiences with us.
Stella Richards says
One piece of advice that happened to me recently, don’t overfill plastic bobbins, they will eventually crack with the sheer force of cotton in them. They’ll last longer if you fill them about 3/4, and I was always taught to fill them tightly, scratch a nail across the threads and if it looks like a new cotton reel from a store, it’s tight enough.
I love to hold the cotton and wave it up and down to fill the bobbin (an old machine I had used to do it auto, my new one doesn’t) ,watching it is fun. Just don’t hold the cotton too tight or you get friction burn!
I’m new to sewing so I figured I’d start with something easy like a hoodie for my dog. The pattern only called for straight and zigzag stitches, after reading your article I figured out a way to serge all my seams with Singer 7258. Boy am I happy!!! First words out of my husband’s mouth was ” it looks store bought, can you make me a hoodie too?” I’m beaming 10x the sun. 🙂
Wow, Violet! I know that made you feel good. In fact, it made me feel good. 🙂 And I’m sure your dog appreciated it too, lol. That is the greatest compliment a sew-er can get. Welcome to the sewing world and congrats on a successful project. You’re off to a great start!
Soo glad I am paying attention to more of these! I finally made my first muslin for pants, whew. I have one pair I took apart and need to redo because they are so far off of fitting. I haven’t gotten to finished seams, no serger, but that is really next in my skill category to find some options.
I have always been great about ironing, white shirts teach you that fast, But have been frustrated with hems forever. I am petite so I hem a lot of pants that I buy off the rack and they always look hand-hemmed and bug me. So I just did a beautiful skirt from a pattern I have used a few times (meaning I know how it fits) and used ribbon on the bottom edge, turned and hemmed from there. I used it because I also wanted a little more length, but it helped the hem not be as bulky because I only turned it under once instead of twice but it looks very neat on the inside. I got total wow’s when I wore it to a party because it did not look homemade.
Hi Anne, congrats on making your first muslin. They take extra time but are beneficial in the long run. I hope your pants fitting went well. Whatever it takes to get a great pair of pants or finished garment, like your skirt, is worth it. Thanks for sharing your sewing experiences.
You can zig zag your seams to finish them if you don’t have a serger.
Thanks Tavia. A zigzag seam finish does the job well in the absence of a serger.
Thanks for the tips, great. Will try and remember them. I must admit I hated sewing in school….waiting for my turn at the sewing machine, then the minute I get there, something happening such as the bobbin running out of thread or the needle breaking. By the time I was ready to sew, the school bell would ring and on to the next class. No wonder it took me two years to make a simple apron! lol. I never actually got to make very much during my school days.
Nowadays though I absolutely love sewing….not much good at it as I am one of those people who end to take shortcuts. I am improving…….I’ve seen the light so to speak and realise after a lot of wasted unpicking , r making corrections or even binning it (on some occasions), to take time out and do it properly!.
You’re welcome, Shez. It took me a year to make a skirt in school and I didn’t have a long wait at the sewing machine, lol. But I’m glad you finished your apron.
Shortcuts seem like a good idea at first, but when you have to rip and redo, you realize it would’ve been faster to do it the long way. But we live and learn. Thanks for your comment!
I was taught in home ec not to make the mistakes in your article. Consequently, my garments looked beautiful until I put them on because I knew nothing about fit. And nothing ever fit. Pretty sure I’m older than the rest of you and in those days resources outside of home ec were not plentiful. I solved the problem by not sewing for myself. But when my kids came along they had lovely clothes that no one else had. Right up until they started developing curves. That ended that. So I took up quilting. Never did learn proper fitting and alteration techniques and let me tell you, fit wise I made some real dogs. I’m very long waisted, flat chested, narrow shouldered with wide hips and short legs. I wound up buying tops and jackets in ladies department and pants in the petite section. Now that I’ve retired it’s t shirts and jeans and I love that
What else do you need in retirement, right? It sounds like you’re nice an comfy, Donna. I think fitting curves deters a lot of people because it can be frustrating and challenging. I’ve always wanted to learn quilting but never got around to it. It seems like it could be therapeutic. Maybe one day. Thanks for sharing.
So much easier than learning fit. Not like I haven’t tried. I’ve taken classes in person and online but, alas, it’s not my ball of string. Quilting is easier. Besides I’ve saved some of my better projects and my granddaughters are still young enough to enjoy wearing moms old clothes. That won’t last long but it’s cute. Maybe they can learn and make clothes for me in my old age. Muumuus ought to fit okay…..
I hear you the last thing I made was a kelly green skirt back in the 70’s home ec I miss those days. I must say technology has made sewing much easier Huskquvarna sewing machines are nice. Why are the seams on my store bought clothes turned under & stiched? I don’t see facing or interfacing on anything all the clothes I’ve seen are overcast . Happy Sewing
I’ve never had the pleasure of sewing on a Huskquvarna, Linda, but I’ve heard good things about them. The stores take shortcuts and then want to charge a lot of money. I’m always looking on the inside of clothes when I go shopping to see if it’s worth the price. Most of the time, it’s not, unfortunately.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Debbie Perkins says
Yep. That inside had better look just like the outside. My mother drilled that into my head for sure. The first thnig that I do to a dress? Why turn it inside out. 🙂 I do alterations, and I tell my Mom all the time ” don’t know if I should kick your butt or hug your neck” it’s ALL her fault. She made all our clothes when we were kids and taught my sister and I to sew. I also call myself the Village idiot, laughingly. Not too many of us do this anymore. Thank you for the tips. They are dead on.
I do the same thing, Debbie. I had a college professor who drilled that into us. So I’m always checking out the inside of clothes. I need to see the whole picture, lol. Honestly, I don’t think it’s stressed enough these days. Thanks for sharing.
My grandmother, who was a professional seamstress and taught us the finer points of sewing, always said:
*You want your garment to look HAND MADE, and not Home made.*
Grandmother knows best, Jenny. That’s good teaching. Thanks for sharing.
Cheap notions (buttons, buckles) and trims.
Eccentric patterns, weird colors (not everyone has a good eye).
Unmatched checks and plaids, unmatched large motifs.
Weird or distracting print placement.
Uneven machine topstitching, poorly executed visible hand stitching
Corners on collars and extensions that aren’t flat, anything wonky looking
They all scream homemade. Thanks for sharing.
Oh my goodness I am totally guilty of most of these! I as much as I like to make my own clothes having them look homemade is not always a compliment. I do always love the surprise on people faces when I say I made it myself. 🙂 These are great tips to keep in mind.
I know we’ve all been guilty of a few of these, Trinity. 🙂 But sewing is a learning process, so it’s okay. Thanks for reading and for your comment.
Linda Sue says
One mistake I have made is not hanging bias cut skirts overnight to let the bias settle. It makes a much nicer hanging bias skirt if you hang it over night after sewing front to back, but before the waistband or elastic is added. Use safety pins, if your fabric is amenable to pins, and pin the skirt to a wire hanger.
I enjoyed the article!
Thanks for the tip for bias cut skirts, Linda. Definitely good to know. I’m glad you enjoyed this article. Thanks for reading!
A wider seam allowance also helps to stabilize bias seams, especially long ones, or at the center back of the skirt (where sitting tends to ‘bucket’ the fabric).
Also good to know when sewing bias, evilcostumelady. Thanks for sharing.
Even with a serger, I hated sewing knits until I started interfacing the hems with strips of knit interfacing, and reinforcing the shoulder seams with the same before sewing. It makes so much of a difference!
That’s a good tip for sewing with knits, Tara. I don’t work as much with knits as I do with woven fabric, but I’ll definitely keep this in mind when I do. Thanks for sharing.
Linda Simpson says
Just wondering, since I love sewing with knits when I can find good quality ones; if the hems contain knit stabilizer will they still really stretch over my wide hips like hems of knits that haven’t been changed? I’ve tried using the temporary spray fusing that embroider’s use to spray (stick the hem allowance) up before topstitching hems & it worked well & stretched, but was a bit messy to execute.
Hi Linda, I would imagine that as long as the stabilizer stretches as much as your fabric does and doesn’t restrict the stretch in any way, it would still fit. But again, I’m not an expert on knits, as I work mostly with woven fabric.
Great tips. I’m guilty of missing some here and there to save time but it really does look so much better if you have time to do them all!
I’m guilty too, Linda. Sometimes you need to get it done quick. But the results are so worth it if you eliminate these mistakes, (and other mistakes mentioned in the comments). Thanks for taking the time to comment.
All good points. Something I began doing about 5 years ago is taking time to prepare my fabrics. Washing, preshrinking, freshening if something like wool or textured tweeds that have been stored, etc. Another is ensuring that underlinings, linings, interfacings, thread are compatible for care purposes. It’s very upsetting to create something beautiful only to have it pucker or something else that distorts the look and fit. By this time, it’s usually too late to make it right.
Cynthia, I totally agree. Preparing your fabrics is a very important step. I learned that the hard way when I made a coat dress and didn’t check to see if the wool was preshrunk. I pressed my first seam and lost 6 inches in length. It was a part of my final collection for college and it needed to be a dress. Making it extra long to begin with, saved it. But there are some problems that aren’t an easy fix or can’t be fixed, as you mentioned. Thanks for sharing such an important step.
I too learned the hard way. It is especially important to prewash cotton and linen fabrics so that they shrink befory the garment is made rather than afterwards.
Yes it is, Glenda. It’s very disappointing to spend your time making a garment and not being able to wear it after you wash it. Some steps just can’t be skipped. Thanks for sharing your experience.
I’ve just found your website and I am very excited. You see, I sewed, a LOT, for many years. I bought fabric and had plans for quite a few years after that. That makes a problem right there. A problem of space to store the stuff, a problem of “aged fabrics” that can make projects look funky (maybe there should be expiration dates on some fabrics!) and a problem of too many undone projects being depressing.
Anyway, looking at your tips makes me aware of two mistakes I make. 1) I sew under pressure and hurry through steps that take precision. 2) I don’t admit that I am no longer a straight out of the envelope size 10! It takes some humility to admit my true size, compare those measurements to what the pattern is saying, and then make the changes for my now sloping shoulders, saggy belly, bingo arms, etc. I like your kindly way and firm encouragement to do better. I need you!
Hi Greta, I’m so glad you found me and so happy to have you here. I can totally relate to the fabric and storage problem, unfinished projects and outdated fabric. One of the things I do with outdated fabric is use it to make a test garment to check the fit of my pattern. I pick an outdated fabric that’s close to the weight of the fabric I’m actually going to use. That way, I don’t mess up my good fabric if the fit is not right.
I used to sew something to wear to school the very next day. I also once made a gown in 1 week to help a friend out who was getting married. I never want to do those things again. Sewing under pressure is no fun.
I remember the day I was referred to by a college instructor as a plus size women. I looked in a full-length mirror and realized, “I am a plus size women!” Even though it was true, I still wanted to punch him for saying it, lol. But now, it doesn’t bother me unless someone means it as a put-down. That’s unacceptable. We’re not “less than” because we have curves.
So Greta, I’m here for you! Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to visit. We can do this!
Wow, I feel like I have a great new friend (I don’t name BFFs, but you are up there!). I love the idea of using outdated fabrics for fitting. I now feel authorized by you to make a pile of the ones I never want to wear. Sometimes sorting out the losers gets oxygen to the still gorgeous but suffocating good stuff.
Yes, Greta, you have been authorized, lol. And I always welcome new friends. I used to use cotton muslin to test the fit of my sewing projects, but the price keeps going up and up. Now, I just catch it when it goes on sale. But sometimes I need test fabric that’s a heavier weight for like a jacket pattern. Outdated fabric works great. And yes we must give oxygen to the good stuff.
Oh my, my, my, this is one of those articles that makes you face yourself and determine if you’re with the women or the girls. Okay, I confess, I’m a teenager then, LOL.
After learning the likes of Gertie, Sense and Sensibility, Sew Retro Rose, Lucky Lucille, other and now YOU I realized I “thought” I knew how to sew and really need to step back and start at Sewing 101. Thankfully, today we have You Tube, the Internet, and great bloggers/sewists like yourself that are willing to share.
I lost count of how many of these items I am guilty of. There is hope for me though. I am on a journey of recreating my wardrobe from that of modern to vintage-style 1930s – 1950s with a touch of Edwardian (hellooooo Downton Abbey), to be worn on a daily basis (https://www.sewlyricallyvintage.wordpress.com). Along with the journey I have made the commitment to take my sewing skills to greater levels. That is why I am ecstatic to read blogs like yours, Ms. Katrina.
Yes, Lyric, there are a lot of good resources available to us today, thanks to the Internet. We’ve all been guilty of some of these sewing mistakes at one time or another. And there’s always something new to learn.
I wish you the best with your wardrobe. You have some very nice creations on your Web site.
Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I’m glad to have you as part of the community.
My mom always said the underside should look as good as the top side. Hers always did. She was an excellent seamstress.
My sewing instructor in college told us the same thing, Sherry. I never forgot it. Thank you for sharing your mother’s sewing wisdom with us.
Deborah Good says
A great article, I have shared it with my sewing students on Facebook, to show I’m not the only one who nags to get things perfect!
One technique I always insist on is trimming seams, by layering the allowances, and under stitching, on facings and collars, yokes etc. This ensures there is little bulk and allows the turnings to ‘roll’ to the wrong side with no seam line showing on the right side of the garment.
Also use a tailors ham to press in curves and darts with no puckering.
Excellent tips, Deborah. Everything you mentioned is necessary to avoid the homemade look. When I discovered under stitching, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to press my facings and collars and how neat and professional they looked. Your sewing students are lucky to have a teacher who insists on getting things perfect. Thanks for reading and sharing this post with your students.
Yes, you named my top pet peave in hand-made clothes: facings that pop out of the neckline. When will we learn to understitch our necklines???!!!
Most people don’t want to take the extra step to understitch, but it is so worth it. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Lorie.
Using the cheapest trims to try to save money, or using the wrong trim for the purpose. This is also a problem for sewists who have poor access to supplies. Sometimes that cheap lingerie trim lace is the only one available. Don’t fall for it! Better to go without than to put that on the collar of your dress!
That’s a really good one, Happy. You’re right, trims can make or break a project. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Susan Ramsay says
You can find a zillion things online. Amazon is one source for almost Everything. But especially if you know what company makes trims, just put that in the search bar, and off you go. If you just put “Trims” you might get Home Depot for woodworking stuff. Or search” Joann’s” or other fabric stores. They have things online that they don’t always carry in every store.
If you’re making a lined jacket or coat, it’s worth spending the time to learn to make bound/piped buttonholes. They’re not that difficult; try them out on a piece of scrap until you get them just right, they look so much more professional than zig zag stitch buttonholes. 🙂
Yes, Andrea, bound buttonholes do look more professional. This is definitely a technique worth learning. Thanks for taking the time to share.
i have to share a funny story. When I was in high school my mom was helping a neighbor lady learn how to sew. She had trouble learning to sew the zipper and had to take it out several times. One day, when my mom was at work, the neighbor brought her latest attempt and showed it to me. It was beautifully done but I had to break her heart by telling her it was sewn in upside down!
That is a funny story, Penny. I think I can feel her heart break, lol. I think we’ve all had an experience like that at one time or another. Thanks so much for sharing.
Rosa Revella says
Make sure your sewing machine, is making even stitching on both sides, Test your machine stitch on a scrape piece, to see if you need to change the needle size.
I totally agree, Rosa. If you don’t want your clothes to look homemade, the needle size and stitch tension have to be right. Very important. Thanks for stopping by.
Annie H says
Other signs a garment is homemade – not well made
– turning up the hem without measuring to ensure it is even with the floor
– using invisible zippers and installing them poorly – most purchased clothes do not have invisible zippers
– this problem is also evident in many manufactured clothes too: failing to match plaids
All good points, Annie. I especially hate to see plaids that don’t match. Manufacturers do it to save money, but it just looks cheap. Thanks for sharing.
Shirley M. says
All great points for making better-looking garments. I’ve taken up sewing again and still learning. One suggestion for fitting if you don’t have friend to help or a dress form. Put the muslin or garment on inside out. Use pins or marking pencils to mark where changes are needed. Take the garment off carefully (because of the pins!) leaving it inside out and you are all set to correct the problem areas.
Shirley that’s a great suggestion for fitting solo. Thanks so much for sharing.
PS the pros just make the muslin for the top of a wedding dress, unless it’s a sheath, or you are making a jumpsuit or slacks. If you hate the “OMG, I have to undress to go to the bathroom” detail of jumpsuits, just make a matching top and bottom. A swath of fabric made into a tie at the waist, brings it together to look like a jump suit.
this tip is from “Ageberry”
Directional-sewing techniques are so very important and will ensure that your garments have that couture/tailored look and finish that makes handmade garments look as if they have been sewn professionally. Not only should oneuse directional sewing for the fashion fabric, but for the facings and for the stay-stitching, as well. It is a time-consuming task and can be quite annoying, and a bit challenging when trying to keep in mind “with the grainline, with the grainline” all the while, especially when one is anxious to complete the garment so that it can be worn; however, the results are well worth the extra effort. There are plenty of detailed instruction for these different types of directional sewing techniques — many that include diagrams and illustrations — to be found while searching the internet from trusted and tried-and true sources such as BurdaStyle, Threads, sewing.com, You Tube, etc. Thanks so much for the helpful “reminders”! Have a lovely day!
Cyrena, I’m so glad you mentioned directional sewing. That tends to get overlooked. Thanks for taking the time to share your comment.
Susan R says
Yes, I was taught that way also. At the curved neck, I stay stitch from the center to one shoulder, and the I go from the center to the other shoulder. Were you taught to sew toward the waist? Slacks and skirts from bottom to waist: Dresses and tops from shoulder to waist.
Excellent tips for a novice like me. Thank you so much!!
You’re welcome Sonya. Thanks for reading.
Katrina, thanks for the great article and the important do’s and don’ts. I understand about being impatient and with me being a not so new sewer, I am still learning, I am still impatient and I am still making a lot of those same mistakes! Sewing is indeed a great hobby and lifestyle but it’s folks like you that help us remember that what we do is also fun. We just need to remember that I guess (smile)! Kudos to you for sharing your tips and inspiration. Thank you and keep up the good work!
You’re welcome, Wanda. Yes, sewing is fun and sometimes it’s therapy, lol. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.
Great article!! It really is all in the details. I’ve got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for later today that links to your article:
I cut out a pair of shorts for my son the other day and still haven’t worked up the nerve to sew it together. It’s my first garment ever and I’m terrified it’s going to look awful.
Tara, don’t be too hard on yourself, especially since this is your first garment. I’ll tell you what someone told me when I hesitated in starting my blog: “Done is better than perfect”. And just like there’s a chance it may not look like you want it to, there’s also a chance it may look great! So go for it. “You got this!”
The first garment is always the scariest, but you have to start somewhere, right?
Let me know how it goes. I’m here cheering you on!
I am very conscious of all these tips. However, I have the hardest time sewing something as simple as straight seams! I’ve used markers, tape, tissue under the fabric. The fabric slips around no matter how I hold it and guide it. Doesn’t matter the fabric. Even if I sew at a snails pace. I’ve got too much fabric to give up sewing, but just about everything I make ends up in the trash. I’m still stuck in making simple tops and pants. Fitting is another issue, but I’ve gotten better at that. Still, my stuff looks homemade. I’ve come to the conclusion there’s something wrong with me. This is becoming a very expensive hobby. (shedding tears in Ohio)
Robin, let me just say, there’s nothing wrong with you, so please don’t think that. Without seeing what you’re describing I’m trying to troubleshoot so please don’t think I’m being insulting. I’m wondering if you’re not lowering your presser foot. Again, just troubleshooting. If you’re sewing at a snail’s pace with the presser foot down, the fabric shouldn’t slip, especially if you’re holding it.
Here’s a link to a video on sewing a seam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjRzeay8u-Q. I’m hoping this will help you figure things out. She actually gets into sewing the seam 4 minutes into the video. Maybe looking at her machine can help you determine what’s going on when you try to sew a straight seam.
Also, what kinds of fabric are you using? It probably doesn’t matter but I’m just wondering.
Please keep me posted because I want you to continue to sew without the tears. I hope I or some of the other ladies can help you figure this out.
I will watch the video and practice with different fabric samples. Hopefully a few practice sessions will boost my confidence level.
Robin may have inadvertently lowered her feed dogs on the machine…this would cause the problem she describes.
Thanks, MaryAnn. Hopefully Robin will see this.
There may be a tension component here — probably worth checking your machine. Then relax your shoulders and arms before trying once more!
some people are inclined to pull the fabric through when machining, whereas we all learn it needs guidance only. Using slippery or bulky fabrics when new to sewing is risky. I would encourage cotton types until one gained confidence. Even all these years later I still shy away from them if I can do so. I learn at school on a Bernina to make first a head band for keeping hair back when in cookery class, we then went on to make the apron, a nightdress and finally a day dress. it was only once I had my eldest son I hired a machine from the charity nurses who looked after the new mums at the Uk army bases abroad and I started to make little outfits for him. I bought Pfaff machine and then another but with internal motors , once they were flogged to death that was it. Then as a new wife to 2nd husband he knew I needed a machine and we went to a shop selling machines only. The man said forget all the fancy buttons doing this and that on a machine get yourself a work horse that have limited extras. he sold us a Bernina that cost then in 1984 £500, whether my new husband then had thought it dear or not I have never asked. It has what I would call a lot of extras like button holing and embroidery stitches etc, so I did wonder what the unnecessary extras were I should not boter with on other machines. This was when I learnt to buy a machine with an outside motor board or whatever it is called. This had to be replaced as I really used the machine non stop. Got to meet another man who sold and repaired this make and he said his wife owned the same machine and was the best one could buy at the time. it is now 2020 and last year having not done any sewing after the initial curtain making for this place a few years back the machine had been on the floor in the conservatory and I thought was okay in it’s case and not giving much thought that my husband was resting his fire kindling box on top of it, until I went to use it and when I opened it up it was full of dust bits that had got in side, I realised the machine was not working and thought , that’s it, better get another and ordered another make a lot cheaper but to tie me over. A friend said to me give the old one a really good clean as I was struggling to find a repairer with in 2 hours of my home, so I did so and it was really mucky inside. But it came alive again and the new machine is still in it’s box. My Bernina will probably outlive me, proving that one gets what they pay for. I imagine a machine of this quality now would be double the price originally paid. Most would probably think you must be joking, but look at the cost of phones and huge Tvs, the men in our lives want all these and we think they are mad as we often do not see the point of them. My only worry now is would I get the replacement parts when needed as I was told that is an old machine. Maybe the firm in Switzerland would help.
I hope after all this time you found your problem. It would help to drive the machine to a sewing friend’s or a sewing machine store. Sometimes some of the things we’d never think to ask you, would be obvious to an experienced user.
A friend asked if I’d look at her machine as it wasn’t sewing so well these days. I took about 5 stitches and with it going Plunk! Plunk! Plunk!, I asked, “When was the last time you changed the needle?” She said, “You’re supposed to change the needle?” She’d been using the machine for decades, with the one needle.
There’s no way I’d have figured this out over a phone or a chat board. She’d acclimated to the Plunk! Plunk! Plunk! and not at all likely would’ve mentioned something about that.
Sewing mistakes: 1- Trying to self-draft patterns/garments without ANY knowledge of what goes into making a garment wearable AND look GOOD. 1b- trying to self-draft a pattern without being able to read a ready-made pattern and construct a wearable garment from it. Very frustrating to see.
Drafting patterns isn’t as easy as it looks, especially if you can’t read a commercial pattern. Those are good ones, Cari. Thanks for sharing.
I have a question about cutting the pattern out of muslin first. Do you sew the pattern as if you were making the garment? Then try it on and pin adjustments where needed? If so, how do you do that on yourself? Or….do you place it on a body form and then adjust?
I do not have a body form, so I’m curious as to how to make the needed alterations on me?
I generally use knit fabrics because they are more forgiving.
Ironing the pattern pieces is another tip I remember getting years back when I started sewing. This helps in a more accurate measurement when cutting into the fabric.
Thank you for this post!
Yes, Loret, you sew the pattern as if you were making the garment, except for facings and hems. Try it on and if you can get someone to help you, let them pin (with your direction) where it needs adjusting. I wrote a post about fitting yourself if you don’t have anyone to help. You can read that here: https://katrinakaycreations.com/?p=2432. Most of the time I don’t have anyone to help me so I will try on the garment, estimate how much needs to be taken in by pinching out the excess with my fingers, take the garment off and then pin. I try it on again, see if I was right and make further changes if necessary. There’s a bit of putting on and taking off, which can be a pain in the neck, but it works out in the end.
Ironing the pattern pieces-very important and a step that definitely shouldn’t be skipped. Thanks for sharing.
Uneven top stitching ! Screams sloppy sewing !
Yes, Carol! I see it all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done it and tried to leave it that way, but couldn’t. It just bothered me. That’s a good one, thanks for sharing it.
Wrong colour thread to sew garment
That’s a good one, Molly. I’ve done that thinking I could get away with it, but no-it doesn’t work. Thanks for sharing your comment.
I’m assuming you have to leave a thread tail at tip of dart? If I cut too close I would think it may unravel even with tiny sfitches? Lovely original tip, thank you.
You’re right, Lesley, you can’t cut the thread too close. They tell you not to back stitch at the tip of the dart, but I do it anyway-just 1 or 2 stitches, then i sew off of the fabric creating a chain stitch about an inch long make sure it’s secure.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
On this issue my (dressmaker) mother gave me this tip. Sew right to the end of the dart without any back stitching, then knot the thread and cut the ends off pretty close to the knot. I make the knot by putting the thread through the loop twice and pull tight, then repeat but only putting the thread through once. Then I cut the ends off and I have a neat dart that doesn’t ravel.
The other thing that simply screams at me is zippers. If the zipper is crooked or not covered properly or there is no hook and eye at the top on an open seam, I avert my eyes, I feel unwell.
And while I’m on a roll, seams that don’t match are a dead giveaway (although it does depend on how much you pay for your ready-made clothes, I concede). But if your seam lines do match up then your garment looks couture.
Chris, you are so right. Bad zipper application, no finishing touches and unmatched seams scream homemade.
Thanks for the dart sewing tip and for commenting.
SUSAN KAPUSTKA says
I have made many transitions in 50 years of sewing. I sew to the very end or the dart, and then I put the needle inside the dart (maybe 1/4 inch from where I just was) and put in 5 stitches to anchor the thread.
Good to know. Thanks for sharing your method of sewing darts, Susan.
Janet kile says
Agree with all and all comments. I think for me- the number one is fabric choice with shape design.
A garment doesnt need to be complicated, but the simpler the linea, the more imprtant fabric choice is: quality, design, color. Seems as most people don’t have a good sense of that… Sigh
You’re right, Janet, fabric choice is very important and the first step to a successful project. Thanks for sharing your comment.
Two issues. We fall in love with a fabric, then go pick out a pattern, … without looking at the recommended fabrics (or don’t even know enough about fabrics to have a good idea what the list represents – that’s me). And the other, some of us just have bad taste, which doesn’t just apply to hand made. That’s me too – some days, I look in the mirror and say “What were you thinking? This is relegated to yard work days.” Yes, there are some REALLY bad fabrics used in store clothing for … well, at least 15 years now.
Surprisingly, the most compliments I get is on pair of jeans that shrunk dramatically within the first month of owning them. I ripped open the side seams, inserted a colorful strip down each side, zig zagged over the top. Really bad sewing on my part, but compliments even by men, when out and about.
That sounds like a very creative solution for your jeans. Thanks for sharing.
I am a 71 year old beginner sewest. I only make quilts for now, but bought a pattern for a top — 3 pieces only, plus interfacing. Bought the muslin. I am so nervous that I can only do one thing each day — day 1, read all instructions. day 2 lay out front and back of pattern, pin in place. day 3, cut. It’s been about 2 weeks now, the muslin fit, but still so insecure I found a piece of old fabric given to me that isn’t good for quilting and did the whole process over again. I am now at pinning on sleeves. Eventually I’ll get to the beautiful fabric that I bought for this top. I don’t think there is much hope for me advancing further. Back to quilting and funky pillowcases for the Women’s shelter. ~~sigh~~~
There’s nothing wrong with taking small steps, Karen. Take your time but please don’t let your insecurity stop you from going further.
Can I tell you a secret? When I first started sewing, I didn’t make one muslin-ever! I did everything by trial and error. That was the wrong way to do it because I wasted so much time and so much fabric. You’ve already accomplished an important step-making a muslin. And the good new is-it fit! And then you made another one that fit. You’re almost there and many steps ahead of most beginners.
A quilt is a very intricate, time-consuming thing to make. It’s not for the faint of heart. So if you can make a quilt, I believe you can do this, Karen. You’ve come too far to turn around now.
I’m cheering you on from the side lines. Let me know how it goes.
Hey, Sharon, don’t point out your mistakes. Let the critics find them themselves. My sister’s -in-law mother once turned up my hem to see how neat my stitches were. Nosy!
Susan Ramsay says
If you pick a simple patch pattern, or look for beginner patterns on Pinterest, quilts can be easy. Try Eleanor Burns on Public TV or in books. She calls hers, “Quilt in a Day” The secret is the quilt TOP is made in a day, you still have to use batting and backing, and quilt the quilt, or just stitch in the ditch or tie it, so the batting doesn’t shift. Quilting can take forever if you want an antique looking masterpiece.
Or it can take another day or two using straight lines, x’s or stitch in the ditch. Always label your quilts.
Made buy________on what date_______for whom______ the occasion_____ wedding, baby christening etc.
Zigzag stitch as topstitching. This one makes it painfully obvious.
I forgot that one and I’m so glad you mentioned it, Tricia. That’s another one that makes me cringe. Thanks for commenting.
Megan Patent-Nygren says
I would add a good working knowledge of under stitching. I use it frequently instead of topstitching, even in places the pattern doesn’t necessarily recommend it.
I agree, Megan. Under stitching is a lifesaver. Thanks for sharing.
Great post and great info!!! I’m so guilty!!! How about, not clipping curves and grading seams as well as not properly lining up seams before attaching to other pieces and or zippers? Yikes, im guilty, but getting better.
Quana, all the mistakes you mentioned I’ve been guilty of, but not grading seams, I’m still guilty. I’m going to do better, though. 🙂
Thanks for reading and sharing.
Sandy Kiser says
Great article and comments. Thanks.
You’re welcome, Sandy. Thanks for reading.
Brenda Pletcher says
I would add using the proper needle and thread. Ball point needles and pins for knits, etc.
That’s a good one, Brenda. I tried hemming a knit skirt and didn’t have a ball point needle and I needed it quick-no time to run to the store. The result was not good.
Thanks for sharing.
A poorly installed zipper, badly constructed buttonholes, cheap buttons, cheap fabric, most elastic waistlines, not prewashing fabric when you plan to wash the finished garment.
Yes, Marijka, those will all scream, “homemade! I’ve done at least 4 out of the 6. Thanks for commenting.