The worst thing about sewing

12 Jul

.. is mistakes.

I hate how the cost of a mistake in sewing is so high.

If you mis-cut a piece, you have to have more fabric in order to cut a new piece. You miss sew something together, you can unpick it (even though unpicking it will take longer than it did to sew it wrong to begin with.. AARG), but you still might need to cut a new piece if your stitches were too close or got knotted and you can’t unpick it without making a hole. You would be surprised how often this happens to me.

And as the garment progresses, the cost of mistakes rises. Messing up the button holes after everything is all together, and the seams have been cut and flat felled down.. well you might as well scrap it. Could you save it? Maybe. But after all that time and effort you put into a garment, it’s inevitable that at some point you’re just going to say “good enough” and be done with it. It’s no wonder “home sewn” has such a bad name!

I get so mad at myself for making a mistake. Especially a mistake that I don’t notice until after I’ve finished the seam finishing for the piece. Because seriously, after the seam finishing is done, it’s done. D-O-N-E. I’ve probably cut off the allowances to the point of no return and the only way to fix it is to cut a new piece and do it all over again.

This is the absolute worst thing about sewing. Mistakes.  Especially ones made further on in the project which end up scrapping all of the rest of the mistake-free sewing that took you forever to painstakingly do.

So what can you do about it?

I have learned

  1. It’s best to try out a new technique on something that is quick and easy to put together… like a pillow. That way if you mess up to the point of no return you can just cut off that seam/area and start again. After all, a pillow doesn’t have to fit your body, so who cares if it’s not a perfect square? You can stuff it with just a little bit less filling.
  2. Always have more fabric than the pattern calls for. Mistakes happen. You may cut out two backs instead of back and a front, or two left sleeves instead of a left and a right. Or get a little scissor happy and put a big hole in the middle of a piece.  Yes, this happens.  Having extra fabric lets you do it right instead of coming up with a “creative” solution that will make you end up hating the final result.
  3. Baste all your seams together first. This increases your sewing accuracy and shortens the time you spend correcting mistakes. Check out how to machine baste for tips.
  4. Use the longest stitch length you can get away with. Looking at my store bought clothes I realized that the stitches were actually really far apart. Way farther than the “recommended” stitch lengths for the type of cloth. Especially in areas not under strain, like hems.  Commercially they probably do that so they can sew faster (and cheaper). A longer stitch length = faster stitches and not as much thread. So what’s wrong with increasing the stitch length at home? You’ll benefit from a slightly faster sewing time and slightly less thread usage, plus if you’ve made a mistake even after basting, it’s much easier to unpick. And when it comes to unpicking seams, every little bit helps.
Do you have any other tips for easing the pain of sewing mistakes? What do you think the worst thing about sewing is?

4 Responses to “The worst thing about sewing”

  1. punkmik July 12, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    basting has been such a revelation for me! And I do always buy extra fabric especially when I use a print fabric. I so often have cut something out upside down! lol

    I was v scared of buttonholes. But I practiced on scraps of the same fabric to see how mx machine behaves.
    I would say planning is a great help. Make sure you set up correctly and allow yourself time so you dont rush.

    And if you can research other ways of doing a particular technique. Like inserting a sleeve or attaching a collar. It does not have to be done how the pattern says. 🙂

    • allisonvictoria July 12, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      Great tips! I often get sucked into the “I must follow the sewing directions to the letter” mentality, but I have slowly learned that there are sometimes better ways of putting the pieces together. Do you have any resources you find yourself going back to when you’re sewing?

      • punkmik July 12, 2012 at 10:27 am #

        I have only just started sewing myself (well 4 months ago). So now I am getting into the spirit that there are other ways.

        My most recent project was a sewalong from and she posted loads of tutorials or links to tutorials. I also love the tips and tricks section on the colette patterns website. I haven’t built up a tutorial library yet, and have used most techniques only once so far. 🙂

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