You’re a sewing beginner, excited to make your first dress (or top, or skirt!) You have the most gorgeous fabric painstakingly picked out. You have a brand new sewing machine. A vision of what you want it to look like… and you’re ready to go.
But after that first snip into the fabric… it’s a disaster.
The garment fits like a giant sack, the stitch lines are wobbly and crooked. As you try and take it apart to start again, an accidental cut into the fabric! The whole thing ends up in the trash.
As sewing beginners, we have ALL been there.
For me, it was a 1930s-style dress I was making for Halloween when I was a young teenager. Dark green, black fringe, and when I took the scissors to it, it went downhill.
The dress was atrocious and a waste of money. I’d cut into the center front seam, the fabric was bedsheet quality, and the seams puckered and didn’t lay flat. Not knowing what I was doing, my Beginner energy was crushed.
I knew I wasn’t the only one who had gone through these learning woes as a sewing beginner. So I posed the question to my fellow Vintagettes on Instagram, to learn more about their early sewing days.
I wanted to know…
- What were the range of problems people experienced?
- What was their approach to sewing?
- Where did their Beginner Enthusiasm run into problems?
From those conversations, I distilled the following list, to support your sewing journey.
THE TOP 5 PROBLEMS YOU’LL FACE AS A SEWING BEGINNER
Problem #5: Expecting perfection… from the jump!
Sewing is a practice in which skills build on each other. It’s difficult to make successful garments which don’t acknowledge that learning one or two things just isn’t enough.
Sewing skills compound.
Expect and account for your first several pieces to be straight garbage as you learn. And that’s ok.
Each piece is a learning experience, and even after 20+ years sewing, no garment is perfect. Even with hundreds of skills under my belt.
The stress and heartache from early-stage learning can be enough to turn a lot of people off from sewing. I recommend not planning for the first few garments being worn to a party or to a special event.
It’s important to get your feet wet in a way that makes the learning experience fun. Putting undue pressure on yourself to make a PERFECT _(insert garment)_ here is not going to do that for you.
Expect imperfection and lean into it!
Problem #4: Not combing through and analyzing the pattern directions or learning your sewing machine.
Sounds straightforward… but something easily overlooked and dismissed!
Take time to look through every diagram in the sewing pattern . Do Google searches for phrases you don’t know.
Similarly, spend time learning your sewing machine. Each machine has its own quirks. This includes how its threaded, how the bobbin is loaded, and where buttons live (or don’t live!) on the machine.
Doing this simple review will save you a lot of frustration as a beginner.
Spending time up front is important. Do Google searches for specific techniques mentioned in the instructions. Read the sewing machine manual. All this decreases the amount of simple errors you can run into as a sewing beginner.
Problem #3: Underestimating the Power of the Iron
Shouting this one from the rooftops:
An iron in the sewing world is NOT OPTIONAL.
Most of us live comfortably in knitwear or wrinkle-proof clothes, the Power of the Iron is REAL.
With heat, pressure, and steam, irons are an invaluable tool to manipulate individual fibers in fabric. They coax fabric to mold around a curve, lay flat, and encourage thread to meld into fabric.
It’s easy to be distracted by the sewing machine, with all its stitches, bells and whistles… and completely ignore the iron.
Prioritize your iron!
Pressing seams open and using steam and a tailor’s ham go a long way towards elevating your sewing. Lining things up as you sew them, encouraging seams to lay flat against the form makes your garment look professional.
Problem #2: Not Understanding Fabrics and Choosing the Wrong Fabric for the Job
Knowing and understanding fabrics is absolutely critical, but also one of the more challenging skills to learn with sewing. For a lot of people, this skill comes with time and experience.
It’s one of the biggest reasons I’m such a proponent of starting your own fabric swatch book as a beginner. Understanding the different fabrics on the market and how they compare to application, especially in relation to ready-to-wear is vital.
Looking at as much fabric as possible, feeling it and observing how its used out in the real world. It makes it easier and easier to see what fabrics are more appropriate for what purpose.
A pretty floral print might look gorgeous, but is it printed on fabric good enough for what you want to make?
I’ve created a free swatch book template to start building your fabric swatch collection. A swatch book is an important part of the learning process.
Get this FREE printable swatch sheet in your inbox!
FREE Fabric Swatch Printable!
Get this FREE printable swatch sheet in your inbox!
Print out a few pages of the free template and start collecting and noting fabric information. This practice develops a solid understanding of how to pick out material.
By doing this, your skills as a sewing beginner will be more fine tuned towards making more beautiful garments!
Problem #1: Ready to Wear Sizing =/= Sewing Sizing
The sad fact is, Ready to Wear clothing sizes are completely different than Sewing Pattern Sizes! A Size 8 from your favorite dress brand will be completely different from Size 8 in a sewing pattern.
Why is that? Each brand uses their own “block” or average measurements for their audience, which influences the fit for their brand. This also extends into sewing pattern companies, who also develop their own sizing matrix.
Also, sewing patterns tend to have more ease (or extra “space”) in their measurements, usually based on the design itself.
The main lesson is that your real-life measurements (when you wrap a measuring tape around your waist, etc.) should be the basis of what size you pick from the sewing pattern envelope. Not what you buy off the rack in a store.
Using your own measurements as the source of truth– not the number on your clothing label– will lead you to picking sizes which work better for you.
You *will* run into problems as a sewing beginner and that’s totally normal and ok!
“[Babies] ability to be bad [at walking] and have everyone be ok with it is how they get good.”Tom Vanderbilt, Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning
A positive, self-accepting Beginner Mentality (like babies learning how to walk) will do wonders in accepting the ups and downs of sewing.
Being OK with being bad at sewing and trusting that the more you sew the better you get will lift undue pressure from the process.
Leave me a comment down below, letting me know how long did it take for you to feel like you were a confident beginner sewing?