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The 10 Biggest Sewing Mistakes You Can Make

Expert tips to help you avoid these common sewing mistakes.

Posted in: Creativity & Mindset • May 29, 2023

Have you ever realized that you’ve been making a mistake for YEARS and didn’t even know it?

In today’s video, Sarai and Haley are covering the top 10 sewing mistakes we see and how to avoid them.

See if you agree with these 10 big no-nos, and if not… add your own in the comments!

  1. Not pressing. It can be tempting to skip this step or save everything to the end, but ultimately, your garment will suffer. Pressing is one of the most powerful ways to make your garment look professional. Want to learn how to press from the very best? Read this article by the late great David Page Coffin. Tip: Save up your pressing steps so you can go to the iron once, rather than hopping back and forth all the time. For example, if your unpressed seams aren’t intersecting another seam, you can wait to press them all at once.

  2. Not reading the instructions. As your sewing skills grow, it’s tempting to sew without reading the pattern’s instructions. There are a few downsides to this. Sometimes, the construction steps may need to happen in a certain order. Or, the seam allowance will vary throughout a single pattern. For example, Seamwork patterns often use a much smaller seam allowance on certain parts of collars to reduce bulk. So trust your patternmaker, and give the instructions at least one quick read-through. Plus, you might learn a really cool new trick.

  3. Not measuring your body. Most ready-to-wear uses vanity sizing, and these sizes don’t translate to sewing patterns anyway. Our bodies can change frequently, and knowing your current measurements is the most powerful tool to getting the right fit. Here is a tutorial showing you how to take measurements.

  4. Not making a muslin. You might think skipping a muslin saves you time, but at what cost? If you’re making a new pattern that you really want to fit right, it’s always worth the extra step. You’ll probably learn over time that making a muslin isn’t necessary for every single project but don’t resist it at all times. You can also just muslin the steps that affect the fit most, and you can skip details like pockets, zippers, and topstitching. Want to see how one Seamworker uses muslins as part of her practice? Read Trudy’s inspiring article here.

  5. Don’t sew when you are tired or hangry (and don't sew buttonholes at night). Sewing is fun, but if you reach a breaking point when you aren’t eating or drinking—or it's suddenly really dark outside, and you're squinting to see what you're doing—stop and take care of yourself first. Here are some gentle movements you can do when you take a break.

  6. Being a magpie. What does this mean? It means constantly getting distracted by shiny new things and not sewing what you'll actually wear. Sewing is an empowering way to overcome what you think you should wear and make things that you truly love to wear. Here are 5 tips for sewing clothes you’ll actually wear.

  7. Letting your fear keep you from trying new things. Is there a fabric in your stash you are too afraid to cut into? Did you find a pattern you love, but don't think you have the skills to make? If you actively try to sew things that make you a little nervous, you’ll learn that building your sewing skills is always done step by step, and there isn’t a vast difference between sewing a dart and sewing a welt pocket. Here’s an article that walks you through a process to learn new sewing skills.

  8. Not pre-washing your fabric. The main goal is to eliminate shrinkage, but fabric is also dirty when you buy it straight off the bolt. It’s been shipped all over, it’s probably hung out in a dusty warehouse for a while, and your fellow makers have probably touched it (because that’s the best part about fabric shopping). So be sure to pre-wash the same way you will care for your final garment. Want to see how bad shrinking can be? Here’s an experiment sewing the Bo and Orlando tops without pre-washing.

  1. Picking out the wrong fabric. This is a mistake you will probably make a lot. Trust the pattern recommendations and browse finished projects to see what others do. The more you work with different textiles, the more familiar you will be with their properties. Read (and watch) How to Overcome a Fabric Fail to see just how common this can be.

  2. Not practicing a new technique. Learning a new technique isn’t only about following the steps. You’re also developing an understanding of how two-dimensional fabric turns into a garment. Practicing a new technique a few times will help you develop the muscle memory and confidence you need. This is the foundation of our Learn to Sew for Absolute Beginners course. You get a practice journal and sample pieces to practice essential techniques over and over until you can practically do them in your sleep. Then whenever you encounter that technique in a pattern, you’ll know exactly what to do.

So, what’s the biggest sewing mistake you’ve ever made? Comment and share! You’re probably not alone.

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