I still consider myself an amateur at sewing, especially since I haven't had any official training and I sew mostly just for fun and making gifts. I still make mistakes even though I've been at it for a few years, but that's all part of the process. I used to get so discouraged when I would mess up and my projects wouldn't turn out like the pretty pictures in the tutorials!
Having that in mind, I wanted to dedicate a post to all those who may be new at creative pursuits like sewing but sometimes feel like they want to give up. I went through a stage where I would avoid a project altogether because I knew it just wouldn't turn out like I hoped. At some point I began to realize that mistakes and all, the process is worth it.
Nowadays when I make a mistake, I take a deep breath and grab the seam ripper. If that doesn't work, or if it's too far gone, I chalk it up to a learning experience and remind myself of the times when things have turned out right, and that there will be successes despite the failures.
Although I find some imperfections in a lot of my projects, I have a few examples of some moments that were just not so stellar. Looking back, I see how I could have avoided these mistakes, but I had to make the mistakes first to even be aware of what I needed to avoid in the first place. If you are a beginning sewist, my aim for this post is to save you from having to grab the seam ripper, and to help you call your next project a success!
Blunder 1: Directional Fabrics Misaligned
It's so easy to forget to buy extra material if you are using a directional fabric to accommodate the pattern pieces and design them all in the same direction. I have messed this up more than once. What's worse is that I have actually sewn pieces together without giving any thought to the direction of the pattern and how it was going to look when turned right side out. This has set me up for disappointment, and it has taken me a couple times to really learn this lesson. Now I am much more mindful of making sure my pieces are all laying in the same direction!
Blunder 2: Failing to Press & Pin Every Time
The mess in this picture was due to the fact that I skipped two important steps, and they were mostly due to me being in a hurry. I failed to press the seams to get them to naturally lay flat to make it easier to sew. I also got a little lazy with failing to pin the fabric. These are steps that just can't be skipped.
If you're new at sewing, take the extra minute or so to press and pin, and slowly stitch to ensure everything is catching. I learned the hard way with being impatient, and I ruined the edges of this bag. I didn't realize the fabric was sticking out until after I had finished the whole project!
Blunder 3: Lazy Mitered Corners
The picture above is a corner of a sewing machine caddy, and it was the 3rd sewing project I ever made. As you can see, my thread tension was off, and the corner is a mess!
Binding corners can be tricky, but there are numerous ways to make them look great. If you do a Pinterest search of "binding mitered corners," you'll get numerous results of great tutorials of how to go about it. I chose not to link any particular one in this post simply because there are so many different ways to do them, and sometimes I change up my own approach in how I sew them.
Bottom line: if you get lazy here like I did and just try to fold them under, the results will be less than snazzy and you will be dissatisfied with the finished product. I told myself when doing the corner above that in the end, no one would really focus on the corners anyway. Now that I am looking at this project, I can't believe I thought it wouldn't matter back then. It definitely stands out as all the other corners look uneven. So to have your finished product look really polished, take time to read tutorials for intricate details like corners!
Blunder 4: Not Testing Thread Tension Before Sewing
In the beginning, I was always so eager to sew that I would just delve straight into the project as soon as I powered the machine on. Huge mistake! If there was an issue with the threading, or the tension was off, I sometimes didn't recognize it until halfway through the project. Then I had to decide if I was going to use the seam ripper or throw it out, and that is not a decision you want to be faced with when feeling so eager for a project to pan out. I recommend keeping a test piece of fabric of the same weight as your project (if you're sewing canvas, your test piece should be canvas, if you're sewing flannel, your test piece needs to be flannel, etc.) by your machine and testing stitches before you sew. You may save yourself a headache!
Blunder 5: Being Careless About Needles
A needle is a needle, right?
Wrong. Some needles are designed for certain fabrics, and it does make a significant difference if you use the right needle for your project. Do some research on which needle sizes and types are best for your fabric before you start. Also, even if you always sew quilting cottons and never switch out from a universal needle, at least change your needle often. Waiting to change your needle has disastrous results, as it will either wear down to the point that it won't sew correctly, or worse, it will break and you'll have a mess to navigate through. Paying attention to your needle will go a long way.
Blunder 6: Failing to Secure Your Stitches
Pictured above is my fun little sewing machine cover with cats all over it. It makes me smile everytime I see it, despite the visible problem of the stitches coming out. Anytime you are sewing something that will have a lot of use and stretching out, you will need to secure the stitches much more than usual. This seems like common sense, but when you are moving quickly through a project, it is easy to forget!
I locked the stitches in this scenario, but not enough. It needed some heavy duty stitching to handle the wear and tear that this cover has had. It's so important to do extra stitching around buttons, handles, edges, and corners of projects, since these areas get a lot of push and pull.
Blunder 7: Failing to Finish Seams
This one is kind of embarrassing for me, because all I had to do to avoid this ugly situation was to fold the fabric under, press, and sew. Or if it were a piece of clothing, I could have serged the edges to save time. Regardless, this just comes down to laziness on my part. I told myself it wouldn't matter. But then when those threads start unraveling, it definitely matters. When you look underneath and see unfinished seams, it screams beginner homemade. After seeing things unravel, I vowed to go about this the right way in the future.
That's it for the main sewing blunders I have encountered! When all else fails, you can grab your cat to help. Chachi helps me sew sometimes. Well, he watches the needle go up and down and tries to catch the thread. But it helps me remember to not take things so seriously when I fail.
I hope this post gives you some encouragement and insight if you are an aspiring sewist. Or if you're like me and sometimes things just don't pan out the way they do in the perfect pictures on the patterns. It seems that I tend to miss the most basic and obvious steps! But I will press on and keep being creative. It's so worth it!
What are some sewing missteps that you've ran into? I would love to hear about your journey in learning new hobbies.
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Hi, I'm Tessa! I suppose I could sum myself up by confessing I am a crazy cat lady, amateur sewist, nature lover, bookworm, fabric fanatic, mental health advocate, craft enthusiast, tea addict, and an 'old soul.' Jesus is my all in all, and I'm so thankful that His love NEVER fails.