Post #3096: The way I used to sew


20180220_125345.jpgBesides cutting out a million things this week (seriously, I cut out three new projects yesterday) – I have pulled this collar-less, lined coat out of my unfinished objects basket. I can’t remember when I started this project, but I hazard to guess it was about three years ago, possibly even four.

It’s hard to tell from this photo, but the fabric is a jacquard with velvety green flowers that capture the light (as in this photo, the sun is shining on the bottom part of the coat). Eventually the sleeves will be properly set-in (they have issues as the moment) and then I will assemble the emerald-green lining and facings. At this point I’m not sure if I will do a button or clasp closure on the front – partly owing to the fact that I did not do a full bust adjustment, and also have gained a bit of weight in the interim. Depends what allows it to close once the lining is in.

Which brings me to something that has become apparent since I pulled this out for finishing: my sewing has really changed and improved over the past few years. Here are a few things I no longer do:

  • Cut up tissue paper patterns. Tracing a pattern off the sheet used to seem like a colossal waste of time to me – and as speed was one of my initial sewing objectives – I always went straight at the pattern. Problem is, if I cut the wrong size, there was no going back – also – tissue paper is problematic when it comes to pattern alteration which brings me to another thing I no longer do…..
  • Cut straight from the pattern. I have finally come to terms with the fact that all patterns need alteration, and except for a few patterns for simple knits like t-shirts I always take my pattern cut from swedish tracing paper, and cut and re-tape it in the right proportions for me before setting it to fabric.
  • Leave seams unfinished because it’s going to be lined anyways. On a woven finishing is essential even if the seams won’t show! The fabric on this coat is seriously unraveling at the edges just from sitting in a sewing basket. Finishing with a zigzag stitch will stop that right away.
  • Cut/sew imprecisely. Okay, I still do this to some degree – but I can tell from the pieces on this coat that a few years ago I was pretty approximate with the steadiness of both my cutting and sewing.

And although I still cheap out on interfacing much of the time, I see how the cheap, iron-in interfacing on this garment is wimpy and a total mistake. I’m going to go with it this time – but future long-wear garments will be a better class of interfacing.

Although a main message of the blogging/making world is “sewing is fun and easy” – I’m going to call bullshit on that. Sewing is complicated, and requires lots of small, separate skills that need honing for consistent success. This is not to say that it’s impossible to learn, or never fun – I love being challenged – but I fell for a certain amount of this rhetoric when I started learning to sew garments, and I couldn’t figure out why I was met with failure more often than success.

Looking at this garment, and the instructions for the pattern, I can see why that was – it’s not at all simple! And there are so many things you have to know before you can even follow a basic pattern.

Also, because I was not fashion oriented before I started sewing (and still am not), I had no clear idea about what kinds of fabrics and patterns would suit me,  and I made many things that taught me about sewing but never made it out of the house because they sat wrong on the bust line, or the fabric was itchy (always line wool crepe people!), or the colour was just *wrong*.

In other words, some steep learning curves. I was listening to a podcast by the Clothes Making Mavens last night in which Barbara Emodi from Sewing on the Edge talked about exactly this problem – to even follow a basic pattern from the Big 4 pattern manufacturers, a whole lot of knowledge is pre-supposed, even in those garments aimed at beginner sewists. (And honestly, it felt so good to hear that expressed. It wasn’t/isn’t just me!)

All that said, it is only in failing that we learn to succeed, and looking at this coat I can see how much my basic technique has improved, not to mention my ability to spot a garment that works for me and know why that is (another garment – that could have never been flattering on me – came out of the unfinished pile and went straight in the bin). If I can get the sleeves to sit right at the shoulder, then I’m onto the lining and that gets me to finished pretty quickly (fingers crossed). I suspect though that I will procrastinate a bit more and make a couple more things that I *know* will go into rotation immediately.

3 thoughts on “Post #3096: The way I used to sew

  1. Well said. I think whether sewing is easy or whether it requires skill, depends on the quality you’re after. Some people are happy to just put together colourful sacks – no shaping, no lining, no finishing. That’s easy! But any real garment requires skill.

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