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10 Things We Wish We Knew as Beginners

Episode 160: Sarai and Haley share the most valuable lessons they've learned over decades of sewing.

Posted in: Seamwork Radio Podcast • September 27, 2023 • Episode 160

This week, Sarai and Haley share the ten things they wish that they'd known as beginners—the most valuable lessons from their decades of sewing. Hopefully these lessons will be helpful to you, too, no matter where you are in your sewing journey. 

Below are the show notes for this podcast episode and a brief summary of what's covered, followed by a full transcript.

10 Things We Wish We Knew as Beginners

  1. Embrace your seam ripper. You're going to make a lot of mistakes. Sewing a project from start to finish without using your seam ripper is like finding a unicorn. 

  2. Don’t give yourself arbitrary deadlines. Is your sewing queue an unforgiving calendar of to-do items? Arbitrary deadlines are a slippery slope. A deadline an feel productive until it turns against you and leaves you feeling pressured.

  3. Learn how to read a pattern. Understanding the anatomy of a sewing pattern before you even start sewing is the best way to set a strong foundation for your entire sewing practice.

  4. Tackle a new skill with every project. Read sewing pattern descriptions and look for one that will teach you one new skill. Try to avoid something that will teach you three or more new skills or you might get overwhelmed. And don't be afraid to repeat projects so you really learn the skill.

  5. Learn about fabric. Your fabric choice will impact your finished garment more than anything else, so get to know your fibers. 

  6. Don't take shortcuts. Don't skip pressing—or you’ll hear from Haley personally—staystitching, clipping, testing, pre-washing, or marking. Trust your patternmaker to guide you through each step so you learn all the rules before bending them.

  7. Find a (single) trustworthy source to use. There are so many options for sewing books out there that it can be overwhelming. Pick one book, one sewing class at a fabric store, or one online sewing class, and use that as your guide while you are just getting started. If you are a total beginner, take our Learn to Sew: For Absolute Beginners course! In this course, Sarai and Haley walk you through each component skill you need to make your own clothing, from using your machine to sewing seams of all kinds to sleeves and facings. It’s perfect for anyone who is brand new to sewing, or for anyone who’s taken a break from sewing and needs a refresher.

  8. Your body measurements are just data. Learning how to take accurate measurements is the best trick to getting a good fit. Many feelings can come up while taking measurements, so if you can learn to treat your measurements as data, it helps. And while you’re sewing, don't wait until the end to try it on to see if you like how it fits. Instead, try it on along the way so you can adjust as you go.

  9. Take care of your machine and tools. You depend on a lot of stuff to help you sew. If something’s going wrong, it’s either your technique or your tool. So change your needles, clean your machine, and invest in notions that work so you don’t get frustrated by subpar tools.

  10. Have fun! Make stuff that excites you. Use that wild quilting cotton until you get a handle on other garment fabrics. There is so much room for fun in this craft.

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