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Episode 113

The Sewing Scaries!

In this special Halloween-themed episode, Sarai and Haley share 5 of the most common sewing monsters and give you plenty of tips for taming them and conquering your sewing fears.

Podcast Transcript

Sarai
I’m Sarai.

Haley
And I’m Haley.

Sarai
And this is Seamwork Radio. Welcome back to Seamwork Radio, where we share practical ideas for building a creative process so you can sew with intention and joy. And today we’ve got a spooky episode for Halloween. We’re talking about the sewing scaries. Boo!

We’re going to be covering five sewing skills that seem to really frighten people. And that’s what we mean by the sewing scaries. But just like monsters under the bed, once you take a peek, they are not so intimidating. I love this. I’m really looking forward to talking about this today.

So we’re going to start with our icebreaker, as usual, before we dive into the topic. So this one comes from Vladivos, and she says, “What is your earliest fashion memory? For me, it’s the red dress my mom put on for entertaining at home and for when my parents went to grownup birthdays. She wore this when I was four through eight, and it was her favorite. I most remember the vivid red because she didn’t wear a lot of color. I even recreated it when I started to sew, and my mom says it’s a great copy. That’s so cool. I love that.”

Haley
I know, it’s such a good story.

Sarai
I can almost picture it in my head, this, like, vibrant red dress and how that would stick in a kid’s mind.

Haley
Yeah, it’s such an impactful color. I’m trying to think of my earliest fashion memory. I have a lot of early fashion memories because I was very interested in fashion from such a young age. I think the one that really stands out to me the most is when I was about four years old. I was in a wedding. I was a flower girl, and I got to wear a fancy dress like you do when you’re a flower girl or in a wedding party. But the dress was custom made, and it was just like deep, emerald green crushed velvet. And I remember going into the tailor’s and trying it on and going to the fittings and stuff, and it was such a delight. I thought it was so fun. And it was this crushed velvet. And I would tell anyone that I met anywhere, anyone who would listen to me about this dress, except I would call it crashed velvet, which still to this day, when I see crushed velvet, I’m like, yeah, look at that. Crashed velvet. Yeah, it was crashed velvet and taffy from the very early 90s. These huge sleeves and drop waist and a big skirt.

I could draw an exact copy of it to memory. So I guess that’s it. That’s probably the one. What about you, Sarai?

Sarai
You know, I have a few early fashion memories. It’s hard to know which one is the first, so I’ll mention just a couple. One of them was a dress that I had when I was little that I really loved. And I might have talked about this dress before, but it was watermelon themed. It had, like, pink and white stripes, and then it had a little appliqué watermelon on the pocket and some green, and it was really cute. But it was also really, like, a fluffy little dress, and I really loved this dress, and I always wanted to wear it. My mom always wanted to dress me in more practical things, like little Oshkosh overalls and things like that. But I always loved a pretty dress, and I remember it. I have this distinct memory of it hanging in my closet and just seeing it in my closet and wanting to wear it. That’s one early memory. Another one, which I might have also already mentioned is my grandmother had this box of scarves that we would always play with when we over to her house, and I think that’s where my early love of fabric came from.

We used to just, you know, play dress up with the scarves and drape them around our bodies and make little dresses out of them and little costumes and things like that to play different characters. And I think maybe that really imprinted on my mind early on in my life. Those are the two that I remember the most that I think are pretty early.

It’s a great question, and I love the story that a lot of us told about the red dress. Again, it’s just so interesting to think about where our fascinations that go through our entire life come from and these memories that may have influenced us. It’s so cool.

Well, thank you so much for that one. And if you have an icebreaker for a future episode, if you’re a member, you can go to Seamwork.com/go/icebreakers and share it with us there, and we’d love to use it on a future episode.

So into our topic for today, which is the sewing scaries, what we’ve noticed is that sometimes there are just certain sewing skills that people really build up in their minds as being very scary. And we’ve seen some common themes with this, with sewers of all different skill levels, and I think people really create boogeyman out of them, and it holds a lot of people back from making the things that they want to make.

And usually when you conquer that skill, when you actually try it, it’s not as bad as you thought it would be. So we’re going to uncover the monsters under the bed and show you why it’s really not as scary as you think. So, to start us off, Haley, was there a skill that used to scare you that doesn’t anymore? Have you had this?

Haley
Oh, yeah, definitely. I think that the one that stands out to me from early in my sewing journey is sewing knits. It was just something that people told me was really hard. And finally, when I set out to sew my first knit project, I think that I had this mindset that it was going to be hard. And I did choose a really bad fabric for my first knit project, and I decided to make a V-neck T-shirt. V-necks are a little finicky, maybe not the easiest thing to try with, like, a really lightweight knit with no recovery. I made, like, a unicorn horn in the center of this shirt because I got so stretched out. Angular, uni boob, kind of a look. And so then in that moment, I’m like, oh my gosh, all of my fears are confirmed. Sewing, it sucks. I hate it so much. And then it took me a couple of years to circle back to trying knits, and I made a T-shirt, and I was like, this is really freaking easy. What was I so scared about?

Sarai
Yeah, once you learn how to do knits, they’re much easier to sew, I think, than wovens. They’re much faster now.

Haley
I probably sew about, like, 50% knits and probably like, I’m busy. I don’t have a ton of time to sew, so sometimes I even favor them.

Sarai
Yeah, I think I had a misconception when I was learning to sew that knits required a serger, and I didn’t have a serger, so I thought I couldn’t sew them, which is not true. You can sew knits without a serger. A serger makes things easier, but not that much easier. It’s just a little faster. I think that was something that I don’t know if it scared me or if I just didn’t understand that it was even possible or possible to do it well.

Haley
Yeah. Is there anything that scares you now?

Sarai
I think yes, one thing that scares me now. Scare is maybe a strong word, but it seems to intimidate me because I can’t seem to work up, I guess, the courage or something to do it, which is free motion quilting. I really want to try, and I have the things that I need in order to do it. My sewing machine has special features that make it easy, and I just need to sit down and learn how to do it. But for some reason, I just have a mental block around it that it’s going to be really hard or I’m going to screw it up a lot, and I have to practice a lot, and for some reason, that is sort of a hang up for me. What about you? Do you have anything like that?

Haley
I don’t know if there’s anything that scares me enough that would scare me off from trying it. I’m at a place, I think, with my sewing now where I’m like, I’ll try anything, and if it sucks, then I probably just need to learn a new technique or get a new tool. I’ve reframed it. I think that something that gives me pause every time I run into it in projects, is welt pockets. I know how to sew them, but I’m always just like, ugh, I need to be in the right headspace to sew this.

I have to be fresh. I have to be feeling very precise and not in a place where I think I’m going to be easily frustrated by something. Because you need a lot of patience to, like, trim. It’s really about the trimming and the pressing and accuracy in your stitching. So I think it’s not so much scare, though. It’s just like a little bit of a hesitancy. I think that I’ve transitioned my sewing fears into sewing hesitancies.

Sarai
Yeah. I think for me, a part of it is I know it’s going to take time. And that’s what makes me hesitant, is I have all these things I could be doing, and I know that I can do well, or I can work on this thing that I know I’m not good at and won’t be for a little while. So I think that’s where a lot of but I do think a part of it for me is fear based, or at least kind of a fear of failure, I guess. Fear of not doing it right, if you’re like, having a bunch of disappointments along the way, that sort of thing.

Haley
Yeah. That leads me right into my next question, which is, what do you think that we are really scared of when we’re intimidated by a skill?

Sarai
I think those things the fear of failure is a big one for a lot of people. And it might be not be failure with a capital F, but failure with a small F. It’s disappointing to spend time doing something that you’re not great at yet and to see that you’re not doing it well. And I think that it’s kind of a fear of facing your own limitations in a way, which is the only way to get better. But I know that you know that, and everybody listening knows that, but it’s still there. It’s still uncomfortable for everybody.

Haley
Yeah, I totally agree with you that for me, and I think for many people, it’s really that fear of failing. And, you know, I think that a lot of us are walking around this earth like a little bit traumatized on some level. And I think failure brings up a lot of icky feelings for us, that we’re not good enough, we’re inadequate in some way. And something that I’ve done in my own personal work and I think actually sewing has really helped me with is recognizing that I’m not a failure. The project might have been a failure, but even in that failure, I’ve learned something and maybe figured out what I want to do different next time, or has encouraged me to do a little more research and find a better technique or a tool. That’s something we talk about a ton on this podcast. So I think failure, you got to practice failing.

Sarai
Yeah.

Haley
I always remind myself, like, what’s the worst that’s going to happen?

Sarai
Yeah. And sewing is such good practice for that, which sounds terrible. There is a lot of failure in it though. And I feel that one thing I’ve noticed, this has been coming up for me lately, and maybe other people find this to be true, but the more stress and anxiety I have in my life, the more my perfectionist tendencies tend to come out. So, for example, the last couple of weeks I’ve been pretty stressed out just because I have a lot of work right now and not a lot of time. And so I’m just feeling rushed all the time. And I’ve noticed that all of my bad perfectionist tendencies have really come to the forefront in the last couple of weeks where everything feels urgent, everything feels like it needs to happen at the same time I have to do it perfectly or the world is going to collapse. So I think if you have a lot of stress going on in your life outside of the sewing room, you can see the sewing room as a respite from that and a chance to fail in a safe environment and kind of subdue those tendencies.

Or you can exacerbate them by making yourself even more stressed out, not getting things right the first time. So that’s what I’ve been trying to keep in mind lately because we all go through those periods and some people, more than others, have stress in their life. And if you’re experiencing that, then maybe it’s a chance to consider how you use your hobbies to address that stress. That’s just something I’ve noticed for myself personally.

That brings us into our tips. We have a lot of tips today, so we’re going to dive right into them and we’re going to be talking about five things that really seem to scare a lot of people when it comes to sewing. Some of these are things that I think beginners really struggle with. And some of these are things that even more experienced people seem to struggle with. So the first one, the first scary monster is the sewing machine itself. I think a lot of people, especially beginners when you’re new to sewing, have fears around the sewing machine. I know that I did when I was first learning to sew and beyond the sewing machine, but just understanding what all the parts did, what all my feet did.

I mean, I went for years with my first sewing machine, keeping all the feet in the box because I only used like two of them and never bothered to investigate the rest. So here are some tips for really overcoming that fear, if you have it, of your machine itself. So first of all, find a YouTube video on your specific model and watch it. That can really help because every model is different, obviously, for sewing machines. And although you can learn a lot from kind of a general video about sewing machine itself and understanding how it works and what it does if you can find one on your specific model, it’ll really help you to understand what all the different parts are, where they are, how you can switch things or change settings. So that’s the first tip is to find something. Just do a search for your specific model of sewing machine and watch that. You can also find a diagram of a sewing machine just so you understand what all the parts are, what their names are, and what their functions are. That’s really, really helpful. So if you can do that, that can be a really, really big help, just in kind of understanding the concepts behind what the sewing machine is doing.

And I think that alone can really dispel a lot of the scariness of using this machine that honestly, it’s not super intuitive how it works. I don’t think most people would just look at it and say, oh yeah, I get what’s happening here. It’s actually kind of magical the way that the thread form stitches. So understanding how that happens is just, I think, really, really helpful. The next thing is a little bit more practical or logistical, which is to photograph each step of your threading process. Or you could take a video with your phone. Either way, include the process of bob and winding in that and then actually thread your machine. Take those photos or a video of yourself doing it, and that will help you in the future the next time you need to go to thread the machine. Because a lot of people, when they’re new to sewing, really fear threading their machine. I think this is true for both a straight stitch machine and also for a surgery. A lot of people really are afraid of threading their serger because it’s so many steps. So if you can take some photos and have some documentation for yourself with your specific machine, that is super, super helpful.

The next tip to overcome the scariness of the sewing machine is to make a list of maybe five or so five things that you want to be able to do with confidence to get started, and then just focus on those one at a time. So if there are certain things that you want to be able to do with your machine. Like maybe it’s just threading it and being able to do a straight stitch. Being able to do a zigzag stitch. Whatever it is for you that you want to be able to do with your machine that’s going to give you confidence. Go through that list with yourself and learn how to do each of those. And that alone is going to give you a lot more confidence with the machine. And if you’re more advanced, if you already know a lot about using your sewing machine, you can extend this to learning about all the stitches that come with your sewing machine or learning about all the feet that you can use with your sewing machine. So that’s really helpful, too. And like I said, I went years without and really understanding all the specialty feet for my sewing machine, and now I love feet.

I love collecting them. They make sewing so much easier and specialty techniques so much easier. And then finally, the last tip for overcoming the scary monster that might be your sewing machine is to just practice, do it over and over until all your fear is gone. Just take maybe ten minutes each night to rethread and sew on some scrap fabric. And if you do that, if you just take a few minutes for even a couple of weeks, you’re going to see a big difference in your confidence level with the machine, and you’re going to understand exactly how to thread it. It’s going to become second nature to you. You’re going to have no fear of putting some fabric under there and doing some stitching, and that is just going to really give you the confidence to keep going. So that’s my tips for overcoming the fear of the scary sewing machine, if that is one of your sewing fears.

So we talked about the sewing machine, so let’s talk about monster number two, which Haley already brought up, which is knits. Knits can be really scary for a lot of people if they haven’t used them before.

But like we were saying, once you know how to do it, they’re actually faster and easier to sew than woven fabrics, and it’s much faster to complete a project. I mean, I can make a knit T shirt in an hour. I could probably make a couple of them in an hour. So this is one that, if you’re interested in sewing nets, it’s definitely worth conquering. So the first tip is to don’t do what Haley did. Start with non sneaky knits. So Haley mentioned that when she was first trying to sew with knits, she used something not the best fabric for learning. So you want to use something that’s not going to be super slinky, that’s not going to be shifting all over the place. You want to start with something that’s going to be a lot easier to sew. So you could even start with something like a ponte or something that is super stable like that, which can almost be sewn. Like a woven a ponte is a great choice. Pontes usually don’t have as much stretch as something like a jersey, but for the right project, they work really well, and they’re much easier to sew if you’re used to sewing wovens.

So something super stable like ponte. I think French terry is another really good choice for beginners because it is, again, pretty stable. It doesn’t shift all over the place. It’s pretty easy to sew. And then the next thing is with your fabric is to just check the recovery and make sure that it’s something when you stretch it out, it’ll spring back into shape. So you want to choose something that has some spandex or Lycra in it, because that will ensure that it’s not getting stretched out as you’re sewing, which is very helpful because that can be very frustrating.

And Haley mentioned the unicorn horn on the front of her T shirt, which might have had a few causes, I don’t really know. But that’s something that can happen if you have a fabric that doesn’t have great recovery because it gets stretched out as you’re sewing and then it doesn’t spring back into shape. So that’s a great tip for choosing your fabric when you’re first starting out with knits.

And then the next tip is to make some small samples. So do some little samples of parts that you might be sewing when you actually make a garment. So like a hem, a stretch seam, so a seam that you can actually stretch a band along a curved edge and just test out those parts. If you have a project in mind that you’re going to sew and it has a few of those little details like that, and you want to make sure you know how to do it, just test them out. Do some little test squares. You can buy a little extra fabric. Usually knit fabric is not very expensive. I mean, it can be, but it’s usually not very expensive. When I sew with knits, I usually get a little extra, and that gives you the opportunity to test some things out. And if you do notice something like gets stretched out while you’re sewing or a band needs to be cut a little bit smaller, you have your extra fabric, so you can do that and not have to worry.

My next tip is to make a low stakes T shirt as a project. So make a T shirt, but keep your expectations really low on it and just tell yourself, this is a Tshirt that I’m going to wear just around the house or just to sleep in or to garden in.

It doesn’t have to be something that you’re going to wear for a night out. So if you keep your expectations low like that for your first project, you really don’t have to worry so much about what it looks like. And you can still use a cute fabric. You know, you can make a cute sleep tee that has a fun print on it or is in a color that you love. And if it’s not perfect, that’s okay. Maybe your next one will be better. So that’s a good tip, I think, for your first time sewing, really anything new is to start with a project that’s not going to make or break you. But with a T-shirt, I think, and especially something that you can wear so casually, I think it’s a great opportunity to say something like that when you’re first experimenting with knits. And then if you want a little more guidance with nets and you’re looking to sell something like a T shirt, you can check out our Orlando sew along. So that sew along is part of the Seamwork membership, and it goes through all of the component skills that we just talked about.

So it really walks you through the process of creating a T shirt. And it’s a really cute T shirt with a scoop neck, and I really, really like that T shirt personally. It’s more of a fitted tee. So if you want to try something like that, I think the Orlando sewing is a really, really great place to start. And then we also have an article called how to Sew Knits Without a Serger. We’ll link it in the show notes, but that can help you if you don’t actually own a serger yet. Like I said earlier, you don’t need a serger to sew knits. It does help, but you don’t need it. So that’s knit. Those are my tips for knits, and I’m going to share one more monster with you before I turn it over to Haley to share the last two monsters.

And monster number three. This is one that I hear quite a bit, and it is zippers. So zippers can be really scary to people if they haven’t sewn them before. So here are my tips for learning how to do zippers and overcoming that fear. First of all, buy a nine inch coil zipper and a nine inch invisible zipper. Start with those.

So just go to the store and get one nine inch coil zipper and one nine inch invisible zipper and start with a coil zipper. And take some practice muslin or any practice fabric you have that is easy to sew. And start with learning how to do the coil zipper. So you want to make sure that you have a zipper foot and then also an invisible zipper foot for when we get to the invisible zipper. So go ahead and get those two zippers, make sure you have the feet for them, and start with the coil zipper. To learn how to do zippers, the next thing is to get some Wonder Tape to help you with basting and really keeping that zipper in place while you sew. If you’re new to sewing zippers, Wonder Tape is a really great tool that can help you kind of glue base it in basically for you. It holds it in place so that you can sew it really easily without worrying about the zipper shifting around so you’ve got what you need. You want to practice with that centered zipper first. So use the coil zipper and practice doing a centered zipper.

And you can find a YouTube video or a tutorial on this that makes sense to you. And then just write down the steps that you need to follow to do it. So watch the video, write down the steps that you need to follow, and then practice three times, at least three times in a row to really get those steps into your brain. So take that zipper, sew it in, and then you can just rip it out with a seam ripper and do it again, and keep doing that until you really feel like you understand the steps. That’s the best way to learn how to do a zipper. And then you can repeat these steps for an invisible zipper. So once you’ve got that centered zipper and you know how to do that, repeat that process with an invisible zipper, find a video, watch it, write down the steps, and then practice it three times until you feel like it’s embedded in your brain and you know how to do it. And then once you’ve gotten to that point, you can start making a simple project that has a zipper, like a pouch or a pillow, just something that you can use around the house, and that will be a great step between learning how to install the zipper and using it in a garment project.

So I think projects like pouches and pillows and things that you can use around the house are super underrated. They seem kind of boring to people, I think, but you actually get to use them all the time, which I love, or even like a tote bag with a zipper. If you want something, you can bring it to the grocery store every week. I think there are a lot of little projects that you can make using a zipper just to try it out. So those are my tips for conquering the monster that is the zipper, and Haley’s going to share the next couple.

Haley
Yes. Something that just occurred to me about zippers, too, is even this could be a really great practice. If you’re a more advanced sewer and you’re interested in trying something like a lap zipper or a zipper fly, you could use these very same steps to practice a little bit more advanced zipper technique as well. I know that every time I do a lap zipper, because I do them, like, once every few years, I need a little refresher, little reminder of what I’m doing to orient myself.

Sarai
Yeah, it would be really fun to do a little, like, mini course on zippers that have all the pattern pieces you need so that you can do this practice over and over again.

Haley
Yeah, I’m filing it away in my list of ideas that someday maybe we’ll get to.

All right, so I am going to share our last two monsters. Monster number four. I hear this one a ton, is buttons and buttonholes. I think this really intimidates people, mostly buttonholes, but even buttons, I feel like people are like, am I doing this right? I think a lot of us have figured just intuitively stone a button over the years, but there is a little bit of method to it. So here are my tips to conquering this monster. Number one is start with your manual and follow the steps on. Some like scrap fabrics, some muslin. Really your manual for your sewing machine is going to be a great place to start because every sewing machine is going to be just a little bit different. You can also, like we mentioned in the section on the sewing machine Monster, you can look up your specific sewing machine on YouTube for your make and model and see if there’s any tutorials there that can help you. And again, writing down all of the steps, not just following along with the video, but for some people, depending on the way you learn, you might find it really helpful just to write down those steps because this is forcing your brain to make those new connections, those new pathways and engage with the information in a little bit more dynamic way.

Then I would advise you to just make a ton of buttonholes, make buttonholes until you are bored to death. I know that when I’m bored of something, that is a sign that it has become easy to me, maybe too easy. And that’s what we’re looking for with these buttonholes. Once you have it, you can write down the settings that you used. This can be a really great starting place for you in the future of what stitch length, what stitch width you really preferred when it came to creating buttons that looked pleasing to you. And you can just keep that a post it note on your sewing machine manual, a post it note on the back of your sewing machine somewhere that you’re going to be able to reference it pretty easily when you need to. \

My next tip is one that I use personally all the time. If your machine is struggling with flimsy fabric, you’re going to want to stabilize it. So how you know that this is the problem with your buttonholes is your sewing machine is going to keep sewing right in the same place. It’s going to create a big huge bird’s nest instead of moving forward when you are sewing your buttonholes.

And a lot of times this is just because the fabric is too thin. So you have two options. You could either interface behind where the buttonholes is going, which is pretty common when you’re doing something like a placid, say something like that. But sometimes you don’t really want to interface. It might be kind of weird. For instance, if you’re making a drawstring pair of pants, it might be kind of weird to interface that waistband. It’ll add some bulk that you don’t need. In that case, you can use tear away stabilizer so that you have the added stability of a stabilizer. But then once you’re done sewing your buttonholes, you just tear it away. So I think that’s a really handy tool to keep around. My next tip is do a few tests every time you’re going to sew a buttonhole because this is going to be different. With every single fabric that you sew, you might want to adjust those settings a little bit. You might need to, like I said, add some tear away stabilizer. And just recognizing that this is always going to be a step in the sewing process that takes a little bit of trial and error if you don’t nail it your first time.

I mean, I would say 50% of the time when I’m sewing buttonholes, the first one turns out weird. That’s just kind of the nature of the beast. And it’s not you. That’s just how buttonholes are. And then my last tip for this monster is if the button is what’s really intimidating you, or if you’re listening to me and you’re like, I don’t know that maybe my button technique needs a little bit of help, I would definitely recommend checking out the best ways to sew a button. It is a great article, and it gives a great few pointers that I think even a season seamstress can benefit from. All right?

And our final monster is sleeves. I know that this is such a big one for people. They’re so intimidated by sleeves. And, you know, with good reason. I think that sleeves can be kind of finicky. I mean, a lot of the time when I sew a sleeve, there’s a little portion that I need to seam rip and finesse a little bit. I don’t always nail it on my first try. And so what I’m going to recommend for people who are struggling with sleeves or find that their body goes tense every time they get to that page and the sewing instructions is number one, is you want to start to understand why sleeves and armholes are the way that they are.

I think this is kind of like sewing machines for my brain. When I understand how something works, then it’s so much easier for me to learn the skill conceptualize. It just makes more sense for my brain. So my, like, short version that is podcast friendly with no visual aid here of why sleeves are the way they are is that the sleeve cap is curved at the top of the sleeve piece, and this curve is what fits around the curve of your shoulder, allowing that joint to move the height of that sleeve cap. So that kind of hump at the middle and top of your sleeve is what gives your arm mobility. The more fitted a sleeve is, the higher that cap is going to be. And the higher that cap is, the more easing you need to sew. And the more easing, the more challenging it’s going to be. Because when you’re easing, you’re trying to fit more length into a smaller length. In doing that without getting puckers, especially on a curve like an armhole, it can be challenging. I’m not going to sugarcoat that. That can definitely be challenging. But by recognizing what is challenging about sleeves, you can select sleeves and projects that are going to be a little bit easier for you.

So, for instance, anything that has a slightly shallower sleeve cap, a sleep cap that is not so high is going to be easier for you to sew. So you can select a project like that that can be like a men’s wear style shirt. It could be something that has a drop shoulder. Things with drop shoulders also have lower sleeve caps. Another route you could go is you can go with a sleeve that has gathers at the cap of the sleeve rather than being eased in. Because when something has gathered, then you’re not having to worry so much about all of those puckers and easing perfectly because you’re going to be gathering that sleeve cap into your armhole. It is a lot easier to sew. So if it’s your first go at sewing a sleeve, I would say go with one of those two options. It’s going to be a lot easier for you and you can focus on the steps and the mechanics rather than getting a very challenging sleeve style perfect the first time.

Next, I’m going to recommend to take a ton of care with markings. I know that this is a really easy thing to skimp on.

I know that sometimes I can be lazy with my markings, but sleeves is not the place that you’re going to want to do that. Make sure that all of your circles are marked. The big circle at the top of the sleeve that will correspond with your shoulder seam. And that’s going to help you get that sleeve. And at the right orientation, the notches on the sleeve should match with the notches on the armhole. If you neglect to put those markings in, you’re going to be driving blind and it’s going to make the whole thing a lot harder for you.

I am also going to recommend just being really aggressive with pins. I always have put a ton of pins in when I am sitting in a sleeve for a couple of reasons. More pins equals more control. Also the more pins I have in place, the slower I have to sew, right? Because I don’t want to sew over my pins. And I think that it’s definitely a point in a sewing project where you don’t really want to rush. You want to take your time. And having a pin every couple inches as a reminder to slow down, it’s not such a bad thing here.

Haley
I also recommend sewing with the sleeve side up towards you so you can see what you’re doing. I think that a lot of times people might want to use their free arm and lots of times that’s going to kind of encourage you to sew with the sleeve side facing down. I like to sew with the sleeve side facing up. I just think it’s easier to be able to see what I’m doing. And lastly, don’t get too frustrated if you get a couple of folds or puckers I’m telling you, this happens to me a lot of times when I sew a sleeve. It’s just, again, kind of like buttonholes. It’s kind of the nature of the beast. So don’t get frustrated. It’s really easy to just unpick a couple of inches and resell that portion. You don’t need to rip the entire sleeve out. You can just deal with the problem area.

Sarai
Yeah, awesome tips. So I’m going to recap for all of us. So if you have trouble with any of these things or if you are just scared of trying them, I hope that this is going to be helpful for you. So scary monster number one is the sewing machine. And if that is the monster under the bed for you, our tips are to find a video on your specific model and watch it. Find a diagram of a sewing machine so you can really understand the parts and their functions. Photograph or video every step of the threading process. Make a list of the things that you want to be able to do, maybe just five things to start that are going to give you confidence. And then build those skills one at a time. And make sure you build in a lot of time for just practice and doing it over and over again until your fear is gone. So those are our tips for overcoming fear of the sewing machine. And then for knits the next big monster, make sure you start with a knit that’s easy to sew so something that’s not slinky and that has good recovery.

Make some small samples of parts like hems or stretch themes or whatever you’re going to need to sew and test them out. Start with something really low stakes like a T-shirt that you plan to just sleep in or do chores in or something like that, just to keep it real easy for your first time. And if you want a little bit more guidance, you can check out our Orlando sewalong to walk you through every step of creating a T-shirt.

The next monster is zippers. So for that, we recommend getting a nine inch coil zipper and a nine inch invisible zipper and some muslin. Make sure you have a zipper foot and an invisible zipper foot. And then get some Wonder tape to help you base it in place and hold everything while you’re sewing. Then you want to practice the centered zipper first so you can find a tutorial or a YouTube video and write down the steps in order to do that. And then practice at least three times in a row in order to get those steps into your brain. And this is something you can use with any technique that’s new to you.

And then repeat the steps for the invisible zipper. And then finally make a real simple project like a zipper pouch or a pillow or something very simple like that. Maybe a tote bag that has a zipper in it to get those into a regular project that you can actually use.

And then monster number four are buttons and buttonholes. So you want to start again with your manual and follow the steps and just use some scrap muslin for that. Again, you can look up a YouTube video for your make and model if you need to understand how to do it with your specific machine. And again, write down those steps and make a ton of buttonholes until you’re just bored to death of them. And then once you have it, write down exactly what you did, what settings you used. Make sure that if you’re having trouble with a flimsy fabric to stabilize it or to use a terrorist stabilizer to help you if you find that you’re getting those nests while you’re sewing a buttonholes. And then every time you do a buttonholes, make sure that you sow a few tests before you put them in the actual garment, because everyone is different, and it just really depends on your fabric.

And then finally, Monster number five, is sleeves. So first, understand sleeves and why sleeves and armholes are shaped the way they are, and this is going to really help you to understand how they’re put in and why you need to do each step. Take extra care with the markings, so make sure that all the markings are in place before you sew. Start with a really easy sleeve style. So if you do something with a flatter sleeve cap, like a men’s wear style shirt or something with a drop shoulder, then that’s going to be a lot easier. Or you could do something that has gathered so more of like a puff sleeve so that if you’re easing isn’t perfect, it’s sort of hidden in the gathering, and you don’t have to worry about that so much. And be aggressive with pins. Use a ton of pins if you need to, and you can even hand baste it if you need to just to keep the sleeve in place while you’re sewing. Haley and I both like to sew with a sleeve side up so you can see what you’re doing and you can see if you’re getting any folds or puckers while you’re sewing.

And if you do, just remember that you can always unpick, and it’s not the end of the world if you get some puckers. Happens all the time. It’s just kind of part of the process.

So I know that was a lot of tips, but hopefully you gleaned something no matter what your particular fear is. Hopefully we touched on it today and offered you some tips that you can take away.

So my big takeaway from this episode is I think it’s so important when you’re learning something new to keep the stakes low and to start with a project that is or maybe even not a project, maybe a goal that is small enough that you can succeed at it. Instead of moving on into your dream project, maybe you have a dream project that involves a zipper that you want to sew. But maybe the first step is to get to the point where you can put a zipper in a pillow or something simple like that. And I think that is so applicable to any skill you want to learn. If you keep your goal small and build that goal over time, you’ll just see a lot more motivation and success early on is going to keep you going.

So that’s my big takeaway. What about you, Haley?

Haley
My big takeaway is maybe more of a reflection that might be comforting to some folks and that is by kind of going through all of these five scary monsters that we’ve identified. It made me remember times and even specific projects where I was a new sewer and I was really struggling with one of the skills and just so frustrated. Everyone knows that feeling when you’re like, I just cannot get this right. And now all of these skills feel like old familiar friends. You know, practicing all of these things over the years has really turned all of those scary monsters into old friends. And anyone can do that. It’s not something special and remarkable that I did. You can do that too. And practice makes perfect. Do all of those low stress practicing techniques like Sarah was just talking about and you can get there too.

Sarai
Yeah, I really like what you said about doing it until you’re just bored of it. Because I think that’s when it feels like an old friend, not only does it not seem scary, but it’s just part of your every day. It’s not even something you think about anymore. I really like that.

Haley
Yeah.

Sarai
Alright, well, if you want to learn more about this, I mentioned a few articles and things that might help you. So those are How to Sew Knits without a Serger, which is an article we’ll link to in our show notes, and also The Best Way to Sew a Button, it’s another article. And then we also have the Orlando sew along. So if that’s something that you’re interested in, we’ll link to that as well. And I also want to mention our new course, learn to Sew Clothing for Absolute Beginners. It’s a brand new course that we have available over at Seamwork.com, and Haley and I put this together and we are so proud of it. So if you are a beginner and any of these things still seam scary to you, I think we can help.

So in this course, Haley and I are going to walk you through each of the component skills you need to make your own clothing. From using your machine, just sewing seams of all kinds, doing sleeves and facings. We cover the skills that you need to really get going in your sewing. And it’s perfect for anyone who’s brand new to sewing or for anyone who’s taken a break from sewing and needs a refresher on those skills so you can find it at seamwork.com/go/learntosew

And that will do it for us for Halloween today. I’m Sarai.

Haley
And I’m Haley.

Sarai
And this is Seamwork Radio

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