Category Archives: Sewing

How Not To Sew In 10 Easy Steps

Good morning Everyone!

I made a trip to the fabric store yesterday.  The only place I like to shop at more than the fabric store is the craft store, which is why I try to limit my visits to both.


From Print Shop Professional 2.0

I would love to tell you how to sew, but I find I am better at explaining how NOT to sew.  Following any one, or all, of these 10 steps will ensure that, sooner or later, you will have attempted and failed to make an item of clothing that you can wear. Lest you be afraid that I am not speaking with authority, let me hasten to assure you that I have committed each one of these mistakes at one time or another in my 32 year career as an intermittent seamstress hobbyist.

Pattern Maker, sewing

Not This Kind of Pattern Maker!

1)  Fail to remember the name of the pattern maker. 

This one works especially well if you purchased fabric some time ago, picked out a pattern and now find that you need a different sized pattern.  Kind of like automobiles in America used to have the Big Three, in sewing, there are what I think of as “The Big Four” – Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick and Vogue.   Here is an example to help you visualize how properly to perform this step.  I have two different kinds of seersucker fabric that I would like to use to make a short/top outfit.  When I bought the fabric a couple of years ago, I selected pattern 4097 to go with it.  Yesterday, I noticed that it now appears that I need a different size pattern 4097.  I spent several minutes at the pattern store confirming that Simplicity 4097 no longer is available, only to discover when I got home that it was McCall’s 4097 that I needed, thereby delaying the construction of the garments further.


From Print Shop Professional 2.0

2)  Do not pay close attention to what you are doing while shopping. 

Upon entering the fabric store of your choice, enter the same kind of trance that I enter in a craft store, where I come out of Nirvana with little memory of the past hour, and suddenly realize that in that time I have purchased a latchhook kit, a “how to knit” book for the 30th time and a picture frame that I have no picture for.  (I don’t do latchhook, can’t seem to learn how to knit – it’s making the second row that seems to defeat me – and normally only buy picture frames that fit pictures that I want to hang.)  Doing this in a fabric store greatly aids you in completing steps 3-6 along with ensuring that you walk out of the store with $100 worth of a smashing burgundy swirled taffeta fabric for which you have no use.

Pins, sewing

3)   Assume that pattern sizes are the same as ready to wear sizes.

This step will ensure that your clothing will not fit.  The sizes aren’t even close.   A pattern size that fits is usually at least four sizes higher than the size you would buy at a department store.  Pattern makers never bought into vanity sizing.

Scissors, Pin Cushion. Buttons, thread, tape measure

4)  Don’t bring your measurements with you.

Hey, I’m with you on this step.  I know it is much more comfortable just guessing at how many inches wide your bust, waistline and hip is.  Doing so has the added benefit of ensuring that you buy a pattern that is not going to fit you when it’s done.  You really get triple bonus points for this manner of not sewing, because you not only end up with something you can’t use, you also get to put in all the time and effort into sewing the garment before you realize it.  In the unlikely event that you want a garment you can wear when it’s finished, bring your (updated, true) measurements to the fabric store for pattern selection, even if you have to store them in an underground dungeon guarded by a dragon and two trolls to conceal them from the rest of the world the rest of the time.


From Print Shop Professional 2.0

5) Believe Vogue patterns when they say a pattern is easy. 

Vogue labels its patterns in terms of difficulty.  The other three of the big four do so with at least some of their patterns.  However, unlike the other three, Vogue’s idea of easy is very different from a beginner’s idea of easy.  I have begun to think that perhaps by “easy” they mean “easy for an accomplished career seamstress.”  Or maybe it just means “easy for anyone else except you, Nancy.”  For those few people who actually want to end up with a garment they can wear, you are pretty safe with Vogue’s “pretty easy” or lower ratings.

My Seersucker Short Stash – Try saying that three times fast!

6) Buy the fabric amount listed for a smaller size. 

I am a pro at doing this.  The back of a pattern contains a wealth of information, and does it in two different languages.  This means that the chart listing the needed amounts of fabric is very crowded and it is easy to select the wrong fabric size for the garment.  In addition, this step has the added benefit of being unfixable, since the fabric normally has sold out between the time you bought it and the time you discover the mistake.  For those few wishing to avoid such a mistake, the pen is your friend – circle the correct size and fabric amount on the garment before you start looking for fabric.

My Sunday Go To Meeting Scissors, with a case to ensure that no one but me uses them!

7) Use the wrong layout for the pattern size you need, and cut out part of it before you notice your mistake. 

Sewing patterns show you how to lay the various pattern pieces out before cutting.  However, to minimize the amount of fabric needed, a pattern will normally present several different layouts.  It also matters whether you have purchased a fabric 44 – 45″ wide or 58-60″ wide.  The best way for this mistake to occur is to use the 58-60″ layout for a 44-45″ wide fabric, and do it for an incorrect size.  44-45″ fabric is never big enough to complete a 58-60″ layout.  For those few who might care to avoid this mistake, remember your mantra – the pen is your friend.  Circle the correct layout(s) before you begin to place and cut out pattern pieces.

Brother Sewing Machine

My Sewing Machine

8) Use someone else’s sewing machine. 

Sewing machines have a life and a mind of their own.  They adopt one primary owner and throw the rest of us under the bus.  It was at least 15 years before my mother’s machine reconciled itself to the fact that her children would be using it also.  Until then, each of us faced a myriad of tangled threads, knots and machine malfunctions while our mother never faced one.  Mom recently gave it to my sister, who had to remind it at one point that it was not going to get to go back home to Mom, so it might as well reconcile itself to her.  I’m not sure it has done so.

My Gingher Scissors Are Perfect for Step 9.

9) Trim seams recklessly and with abandon. 

Picture the Swedish Chef meets  “Sewing with Nancy.”

Black lab, crazy Dog

With Darwin around, we don’t need to borrow a lab puppy.

10) Leave the garment lying around carelessly. 

If, in spite of your best efforts, you end up with a garment that you can wear, there is one last-ditch effort you can try to be sure that you are “not” sewing.  It does require an extra ingredient – at least one animal that likes to chew.  If you don’t have one, borrow a friend’s Labrador puppy, age 1 or older.  Leave the garment somewhere where the animal can easily reach it, and go away.  The outfit will be destroyed in about 10 minutes, tops.

Sew, Sewing Tools

From Print Shop Professional 2.0

And so there you have it, ladies and gentlemen – How Not to Sew in 10 Easy Steps.

Have a great weekend!