I get questions almost every day in regards to tips. What are my best tips for sewing silk? What feet do I recommend for the straightest topstitching? How do I think people should cut slippery fabrics? What’s the best way to plaid match? How do I get such nice looking rolled hems?
Some of these things I learned in school or at work and took little to no effort to introduce into my sewing practice, like cutting silk through paper, but most of these things I learned via trial and error over many years. I always try to respond to these questions with some sort of answer, but in reality, the best tip I can give, that is always applicable to the situation, is practice.
The first garments I made as a pre-teen were pretty raw. Then years later when I thought I was getting pretty good, I went back to school for fashion and realized, nope, you’re still pretty sloppy. Especially when thrown onto an industrial for the first time! I remember stitching threadless on a piece of paper, trying to turn curves on an industrial machine the first night of my first garment construction class and just feeling totally and completely defeated that my stitching wasn’t perfect. Honestly I could barely follow the lines, my foot control was SO not used to the speed and quickness that those machines start up with.
Tools can be helpful but are not a magic pill to a perfect garment. Occasionally I find them to be overrated and expensive, but time spent honing your skills is always well spent. I sewed a LOT of really ugly rolled hems, mostly on industrial machines, before I became proficient. I don’t use a rolled hem foot, I find it’s easier and faster to just do it with my trusty 1/4″ foot, the same way Jurata, one of the incredibly skilled seamstresses at my old job, taught me. This is not to say that tools aren’t helpful, they are of course indispensable in many situations.
There can be a lot of pressure in the sewing community, especially with social media, to produce perfectly sewn garments. Sometimes I worry that it’s taken away our feeling that it’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to make garments that aren’t “perfect” and it’s actually really important that we do so. For every successful garment I’ve made there are hundreds and hundreds of garments, muslins, scraps, test pieces, horrific looking doll clothes, etc. that went into the making of it.
All of this is to say, don’t be afraid to try a new fabric that scares you or a new technique that seems way too hard. That’s the way you’ll really learn what works, just by trial and error, messing up, figuring out what went wrong, and correcting it the next time. Honestly one of the best ways to really figure out what fabrics will work well in different garment situations is to make something in a fabric that totally fails. I actually have found that more helpful over the years, assessing why something didn’t work, than when fabric choices go smoothly. In the end you’ll be so proud of what you’ve accomplished when you think back on the long sewing journey you’ve made to get where you are, as well as how much there still is to learn. I learn something every time I pick up a new fabric or sit down at my machine even still.
And yes, I still make weird ugly things from time to time, it happens to all of us! I’m still here for you with tips from my journey so far though, don’t worry.