Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Sewists Questions...

Sewingmama wrote this a few days ago:
"I think these things are made for people like myself who can't cut a straight line. I am thinking of giving up sewing because I made a wadder that should not have been a wadder (it was a basic shell). The neckline was completely out of shape and I could not figure out what to do. I am becoming frustrated with fashion sewing."

Okay this saddens me because I want everyone to love my artform...however, I have a few questions.

1. Did the pattern give you any indication of some things that you should do to the neckline prior to sewing it together? Things like ease stitching or adding interfacing or fusible strips? Did you follow them or did you skip them?

2. When you got lost did you ask for help? Either on this blog or another person's blog or on one of the internet sewing boards - Stitchers Guild or Patternreview? Both have great beginner sections where you can ask any question and get a pretty quick response.

3. Do you have any sewing books that you can use as resources? Because even I get lost at times and need a reference book to tell me what to do next!

4. Do you have a sewing buddy or mentor? Can you ask them questions? This buddy doesn't necessarily have to be local...they can be someone you can correspond with via email. However, having one will go a long way to helping you when you feel like you are totally lost!

And finally...and most you want to sew more than you want to eat? Do you want to make what you see in your head but can't find anywhere else? Does fabric sing to you and make you see visions? If so...I hate to tell you this but you have it...the thing that makes you want to take a piece of flat fabric and turn it into a three dimensional object.

So here's what I'm gonna do...well at least I'm gonna try?! *LOL* Every week, let's say Thursdays we will have "New Sewists Questions Day!" Submit your questions to me via the blog or my email address which can be found in my profile and I will post one or more if they are related, to the blog. I will give my opinion based upon my experience and I will also open the question up to the public. We will attempt to answer any challenge or solve any sewing conundrum you find yourself in. I will also accept pictures if you think that will help us understand and post them so that we can better comprehend your issue.

Now here is the codacil...please do not get upset with me if you get some information or advice that you don't want to hear. I'm just the faciliator. Please only submit your work and not the work of anyone else. If your question(s) do not appear right away, please do not constantly email me about when it will appear. Questions will be taken on a first come, first serve basis.

Finally let's keep this fun people and remember that it's meant to encourage new sewists so that they can gain confidence and revel in the joy of wearing a garment that they have made themselves!

Now the floor is open...any more suggestions for Sewingmama? And Sewingmama, thanks for being my first new sewist and email me, okay?


  1. Carolyn, very kind of you to do this! Sewingmama, you write that the 'neckline was out of shape'. Did you cut it out that way, or, was it stretched while being sewn?

    The questions she asked were good ones... did you follow the directions in the pattern? Did you easestitch the neckline? Easestitching helps control the stretch.
    I'm also wondering what kind of fabric you were working with... was it a knit or a woven? That may have something to do with what happened.
    At any rate, please don't give up!!! We've all felt like that at one time or another, but, believe me, my sewing mistakes have taught me a great deal.

    Hang in there!!!

  2. Great idea Carolyn! I thought it was such a shame that sewingmama felt so bad about her wadder that she wondered if she should give up. Like you I wondered if she had not stay stitched or something similar - it is easy to by pass those boring bits to get to the good stuff (haven't we all done that?? I know I have!)
    It is very generous of you and fairly typical of sewists, to offer to help. I have always found people who 'craft' to be willing to help/share if they can.

  3. What a wonderful idea! Sewingmama, did you follow the grain of the pattern and fabric? Don't give up! No one starts being a perfect sewist. It'll get better, I swear.

  4. This is a great idea. I'm sure that even experienced sewists will learn things from your experience. Sewingmama, please keep trying. It does get easier with practice!

  5. Here is my oponion to sewing mama. I have been sewing off and on for thirty something years and I still have wadders. Go to your local library or bookstore and look thru the sewing books to see if it would be a good reference. There are two books you should look for one for fitting techniques and one for construction techniques. I have stong oponions on which books and DVD are good but this is not my blog. Certain pattern companies even though the measurements seem to indicate the pattern will fit will not look like the picture. I DO NOT go by the price of the patteren. You can have the exact same pattern by two different pattern companies ( the same size measurments) and they will turn out looking different. So get to know which pattern company is good for your body type.

  6. Hang in there Sewingmama... help is on the way.... hopefully! We've all had those types of sewing problems... just know that if you want to continue to sew... mistakes happen. Can it be fixed? Maybe... then again... if you can learn from this... maybe next time (and hopefully there will be a next time!) you'll be telling yourself... why didn't I pick up sewing a long time ago???
    Great Idea Carolyn!

  7. Another thing is instead of staystitching, if you are using a knit, before I do too much with the pieces or even before I lift that garment piece up, I fuse stay tape ( has some bias stay tape) to the neck and shoulders. I have had knits stretch out before I sew them purely from the handling. So fuse them or staystitch the wovens quickly...

  8. Ok so here's the thing. No matter how long we have been sewing we all make mistakes. Accept your mistakes as lessons being taught to you. If you don't learn your lesson it will only repeat itself to you until the lesson is learned. Take the time to learn the lesson.

    And..the sewing community is a giving people. If you can't find someone to help you - there's always hanging out at the fabric store and just start talking to people. There are seasoned sewers that are more than willing to help you.

    And hey, if your in South Florida you can always come take one of my sewing classes to help you get over your hump. :)

    Thanks for taking the time to do a post like this Carolyn. It will be fun to see what kinds of questions you get. I bet the same one's I get in my classes.

  9. I'm fairly new to garment sewing, so will probably be asking questions!

  10. I'm definitly in the new sewing camp, and have had my confidence shaken a bit from a few wadders I've put out. I've come to the conclusion it's not always my sewing (though sometimes) but my fitting techniques. I'm reading lots (of blogs) and trying to figure it out all slowly. Just need to get my confidence back before cutting up some precious fabric from metro fabrics from my trip to NY!

  11. This is awesome Carolyn! Thank you for doing this. All of the new sewists (read me here) need this kind of help! Thanks again.

  12. Carolyn, this is such a wonderful service! You are a sewing angel.

  13. What a wonderful idea and a great service to the sewing community. I am not a beginner, but am looking forward to learning a lot. I already have learned so much since I began reading your blog. Thank you Carolyn.

  14. We'll all help! As a jr. high Home Ec. teacher I ride herd on my students as they sew (I also structure their projects and limit their choices to better ensure success).
    Here's my two cents (for what it's worth) - Sewing Mama - the advice here is all great. I encourage you to keep at it - sewing is a skill, not a talent, you're not born knowing how to do it. If you are super frustrated with garment sewing - try sewing something like a pillowcase, bag, curtains...not so many fitting issues and it's nice to have a success.
    Good luck and don't give up!

  15. Great idea Carolyn. Sewingmama could use a mentor....

  16. Fabulous and generous idea, Carolyn!

    Sewingmama, echoing what everyone else has said: don't give up, learn from the experience, and know that you're not alone with having wadders.

  17. Sewingmama - you wrote that you can't cut a straight line - do you use real good scissors (and use them ONLY for fabric)?


  18. I am glad that there is someone out there that feels exactly the way I do. I have been sewing on and off for the past 2 years. I have not been consistent because of my job hours that tries and succeeds in taking up most of my life. When I do go for my lessons sometimes I am stuck on stupid. I have problems sewing a straight line myself, but somehow I manage to make a few pillowcases without major damage to any vital organs. Yes there are times I want to give up and throw the machine out in the street, but, alas! I spent part of my tax return on this machine 2 years ago and my husband said it was enough to put a down payment on a house or at least closing cost. I went expensive on my machine thinking it would motivate me into sewing, something I've wanted to do for years but something keeps getting in the way and I am teetering the fence on giveing up, but $3500 is too much to throw away. I feel her pain.

  19. Sewingmama, I have been sewing like forever. I make wadders and say things like, I am going to guit sewing and just start quilting. But a few hours later, I am back to give it a try. Like Carolyn said, if you want to turn a beautiful flat piece of fabric into a garment, then you really do want to sew. As the old adage goes, practice, practice, pratice. Your sewing will continue to improve and those bumps in the road and those wadders are just opportunties to learn more.

  20. Carolyn,
    Could she do a "save" on the neckline? It may be possible, this year there are so many drapey necks and interesting necklines. Saw an Ann Taylor dress that had a pleat folded in each side of the center front of a rounded neckline. We have all seen the cowl retun this year. This is an opportuniy to grow as a sewist. Sometimes creativity can do wonders giving you a designer original...not a wadder. The only rules about how something looks or is made are yours. Are you happy wearing the garment?

  21. I have not found many fabrics that are really difficult to work with but once I spent way too much time once with a bargain fabric that was really awful and a lot worse than I realized but I was determined to not let it conquer me but should have moved on before I did.I am not knocking inexpensive fabrics just this particular one I was using. Even with using proper sewing techniques it was horrible to work with and looked terrible every step of the way. It just refused to be conformed into any shape and stay that way even though I have worked with lots of fabrics with fluid qualities with no problem. Maybe the fabric was this type and she needs to just move on. A few fabrics(not so many but some) out there aren't good enough for even making muslins or perhaps the fabric was not the right choice for her chosen pattern. mssewcrazy

  22. That is an awesome idea and great service to the sewing arena. Although I am not a beginner, I am looking forward to learning more.

  23. Carolyn, what a great idea! I was going to answer her directly, but this is so much better. The only thing I would add at this point is to see if there's an American Sewing Guild neighborhood group near her. That would be also be a great resource. If she doesn't jell with one group, look for another. I should have know you'd think of the perfect way to help!

  24. Carolyn,

    I think this is great of you to do this... I am sure a lot of us will benefit for it....thanks again....

  25. Carolyn, once again you inspire us all!!! THANK YOU.

    To Sewing Mama, I have felt the same frustration and for a long time did not sew clothes for myself. Instead, I sewed for my kids (easy stuff).I sewed bags (everyone needs cloth grocery bags these days). I sewed scarves. I sewed pillowcases. I sewed gift bags. I sewed wallets. I made handbags. Only in the last 2 to 3 months have I started sewing simple tops for myself again. Carolyn, Lindsay, Cidell, Kristy and many other bloggers are the reason. I'm still a beginner but I find nothing (well very little) more satisfying than creating something and being able to wear it.

    Thanks Carolyn for giving your time and expertise. It is much appreciated!


  26. Sewingmama, Please don't give up. I've been sewing for 46 years and still make wadders on a regular basis. Everyone does. It's how we learn, and that's what seam rippers are for. There are many reasons why things don't work out quite right and it's hard to say that any one thing caused the could be a combination as well. I advise you to try the pattern again using fabric that's not important to you and try again utilizing the good suggestions above one at a time. Once you find what works, you then have a wealth of knowledge. It may take two or three attempts, but it's well worth it just for the knowledge.
    Carolyn, what a terrific idea. I learn so much from you and others through your blogs, and this will help us all learn even more from each other. Kudos.

  27. I, like you, am terribly saddened by this comment. Sewing is so empowering and can be very freeing. I no long live under the dictates of the fashion buyer at the store, or the designer who thinks I should eat one rice cake a week. If I want a white blouse that is snug, I make one up. If I want an LBD for summer, winter spring or fall, I make one or four up. I see so many of my clients who are son conditioned into settling for one thing after another, that it is a wonder that we American women even have an opinion any more. Heaven forbid if your not that once-a-week-rice-cake-eating-fool, and want something that fits correctly. Fit is a whole other subject.

    Please use me as a resource, cause I would love to see more people get into sewing. It doesn't have to be hard, and there are so many easy and worthwhile techniques that make the process easier and the results WOW!

  28. It's so generous of you to offer your time in this way.

    I too would love to offer Sewingmama encouragement. I've been sewing on and (mostly) off for 30 years and still get things wrong. But that's part of the learning curve. In modern society we are so conditioned to instant gratification that we forget that sometimes the process is a important as the end result.

    When the end result works out, the feeling of success is beyond compare.

    I'd recommend she keeps with simple shapes and fairly easy to handle fabric such as cotton whilst she practices her skills. I'm always trying to do something more complex than my skills allow, rather than building up slowly and avoiding major frustrations.

    Good luck, Sewingmama, but remember you're amongst friends.

  29. oh Carolyn Thank you!!! I read your blog all the time and think to myself "one day, I hope to be as awesome a seamstress as she is...even just a fraction of the skill level..." you'll share your secrets and advise for us beginners? THANK YOU!! I can't wait!

  30. The thing that I learned the best was that patterns almost always have to be altered and tested. Rarely will a pattern fit out of the envelope. Muslins are a necessary evil. They will save you a lot of time and stress.

    The sewing community is so giving and supportive. Anytime you need help, just ask a question and someone will offer assistance. Sewing and the internet community gives me the arena to constantly learn new things in my time frame and interest.

    Don't give up, the reward and freedom are worth the stress and struggle to learn to sew. After many years, I love the look and feel of something that I have made with my own hands. The freedom to wear the clothes that I want instead of being dependent on RTW.

  31. I have a suggestion for sewingmama - I'll bet if you post a picture, there are many of us that could tell you what went wrong, and how to avoid it next time. Also, turned under and stitched necklines are much more difficult to get flat than one that is lined, bound, or faced. It is really tricky to turn under the neckline and give it the right amount of stretch without stretching it out. Also, if the neckline was too big to begin with (pattern bought by bust size rather than upper bust) that only makes the problem worse. There are many of us out here that are willing to help (believe me, I have been the recipient and give of that help)if you're willing to ask. I will also repeat what Carolyn said, and that Pattern Review and/or Stitchers Guild are both great places to get help from others. You'd be surprised how many people are stumped on the same things.

  32. OH, and Carolyn, great idea for making the beginners questions day.

  33. Carolyn you are so generous, thank you

  34. You are very, very kind to do this for new sewists....I have been sewing for as many years as I can remember but I don't step out of my comfort zone very often...anyway,I came across a dilemma while trying to make a welt pocket for the first time and decided to ask for help on Stitchers Guild, well the ladies on there took me through making that welt pocket and my results were absolutely stunning, even though I say it myself. I thought the ladies of the stitchers guild were wonderful and I wouldn't hesitate to ask them for help again.
    Afew days later I was reading blogs, as you do, when I came across someone's blog who was writing about new sewists who ask for help for the least little bit thing and they should do there own research, the way she did, and make there own mistakes and learn by them. This put me off asking for help again incase I was making a nuisance of myself. Although I have been sewing for years I am still very inexperienced at things outside of my comfort zone.
    You are so very kind to give your time and experience to people who are just starting to sew or to people like me who still haven't tried new things.

  35. A wonderful and generous idea. I have been sewing for many years, but when I discovered Pattern Review and sewing blogs my sewing life became so much richer. Everyone has a wadder now and then and discovering why it happened is part of the learning curve.

  36. Carolyn, let me say thank-you for your offer to help newbies to sewing such as myself.
    I want to answer some of your questions.
    1. I do have books and belong to PR as Toni39, but I do not feel comfortable asking for help here because it does not always come across correctly when someone asks for help(even in the newbie forum). I did not look at the books because I thought that I could put together a two-pattern pieced garment without any help. I was wrong. I did not stay-stitch the neckline.
    2.I will take a picture of the shell when I get a new USB cord. My cords are not working with the computer.
    3. Yes, patterns and fabric make my heart sing. I love to dream about fashions that I can make my own. But that is where the problem occurs. I only dream. I never put any action behind the dream. I have some fear about "messing up my good fabric." I do not know where this fear comes from, nor do I know when this began. I have also had some neck problems and when I sit down at the machine I often have a neck strain that make me want to stop sewing. Some of this pain is tension, because I am stressed out about being perfect. I am trying to work this out and the comments that I received have encouraged me more than anyone could know. I do not have any friends that sew, nor do I have any family living that sews. I have always enjoy fashion sewing and began as a senior in high school. I did not continue in college and did not pick up a needle again until I went to the Gulf War and I began to cross-stitch. I did this for a while and then I stopped. I began quilting in 2003 and continued until I returned to the mainland in 2005 where I have made about three or four things in the last four years. My goal this year was to do more sewing, but somehow the job and life got in the way. I will look forward to the questions you get each week from the new sewers and I know that they appreciate your help. I really am so grateful for you sharing your knowledge.

  37. Could you talk about underlining? How, when, why? I've never done it.

  38. Sewingmama, If you don't want to mess up your good fabric, make the garment out of some crummy fabric first. Use half yard scraps, old sheets, torn clothing, or any other cloth you can think of. Try the thrift stores. I have found bags of fabric for about $2. Also they have plenty of sheets.


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