10 Tips to Prevent Frustration When Sewing

1. Research

There are so many great sewing blogs out there and a lot of them share tips for specific patterns or dilemmas. Before I start any new project, I do research on what other people have to say about the pattern regarding fit and construction. It can save a lot of headaches to see what other people have done and what has or hasn’t worked for them. For example, it’s great to see if other people of a similar body type sized up or down or needed to change any other design elements. 

2. Make a muslin

A muslin (or toile) is just a test version of a pattern. The first time making a pattern, it can be hard to know how the fit will work for your body or if there are any tricky construction steps. The fabric you use for the muslin should be similar in type and weight to the fabric you plan to use for the final garment. For example, if you’re going to use a stretchy light weight knit for the garment, use the same for your muslin. A heavy non-stretch woven would not give you a true representation of how the garment would fit.

By making a muslin, you’ll be able to do all the fiddly adjustments on a cheap fabric and not worry about ruining it. Then when you get to the important, expensive stuff, you can just breeze through and get ‘er done and feel confident that it’s going to work. It’s also helpful to pin together the pattern and put it on your body to see the positioning of the design lines (and it won’t waste any fabric).

It’s a good idea to have fabric for making muslins on hand. If I find something cheap or on sale, I occasionally stock up so I’ll be ready to go when inspiration strikes. I often make a wearable muslin. Which if you’re not familiar, is a test garment made out fabric that is suitable for wearing (as opposed to plain old actual muslin fabric) and it’s fully finished. Making a test garment to completion is a great way to practice your skills. And if you end up not liking it, you can always give it to a charity shop and let someone else enjoy it.

3. Collect your supplies

Before starting a new project, it’s ideal to have all of the notions and supplies ready to go. There’s nothing more annoying than having to run to the store to pick up a zipper or more thread. During sales I like to stock up on interfacing and basic colors of thread so that I’ll always have some available. Likewise, if there’s a certain kind of zipper you often use, it’s not a bad idea to keep a few on hand just in case. 

4. Test on scraps

Anytime you’re about to start a new project test stitches, needles, thread and seam finishes on a scrap of your fabric. When I’m cutting out a new project I make sure to save a few smallish scraps to use as test pieces. Then when I’m ready to start sewing, I test out my selected needle and thread with a few test stitches on the fabric scrap.

This is most important when checking serger tension because it can change a lot with different fabric weights. But it’s also good to check just a straight stitch and whatever stitch you’ll use for finishing the seams. If you’re using a special fabric like vegan leather or swimsuit fabric, it’s really important to make sure that your needle and fabric are going to cooperate with each other. Testing on a scrap a fabric means if something goes wrong, your garment fabric is still preserved and you won’t be reaching for the seam ripper.

And don’t forget that when you’re ready to press, use the fabric scrap to test the heat and steam of the iron first. 

5. Do it your way

Is a technique just not working for you? Then forget it and do what does work for you. If you don’t like to sew a lapped zipper, then don’t. It can be great to try out new techniques but sometimes it’s better just do what you know will work. 

6. Take a break

Nothing good can happen when you’re frustrated or tired. Set the project aside and don’t push it. It’s the late night, hangry moments when the worst things can happen to your project. Come morning, the solution will likely be more apparent than in the wee hours.

7. Do more research

So maybe you’re in the middle of a project and just can’t figure out a certain step? It’s time to pull out a reference book (I love the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing) or head to the inter webs for a little googling. Someone else has probably encountered this problem before and if you’re lucky, they have shared a solution.

8. Go with what you know

There’s nothing wrong with using a pattern over and over again, especially when you need a break from something that’s not working or a project that was particularly complicated. I often feel most satisfied making something that is easy to do and that I know I’m going to love because I’ve done it before.

9. No deadline sewing

Some of my worst pieces have been done when I’m rushing (even as recently as this year). When I’m in a rush, I’ll accept all kinds of mistakes that I’ll regret later on. Leaving on a trip tomorrow? Now is not the time to make something new. Trust me. I know this from experience. And if you just can’t resist, then see #8 and heed its advice.

10. Have perspective

This isn’t life and death. It’s just stuff. For me (and hopefully for you too!), a big part of why I sew is that I enjoy the process. And remember everyone makes mistakes, even people with a lot of experience. That’s why we have seam rippers after all. :)

Do you have any tips for preventing or dealing with frustration while sewing? Share in the comments.

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