Joyful Sewing: 12 Tips for Enjoying a Stress-free Hobby

on January 25 | in Sewing Inspiration | by | with 82 Comments

joyful sewingIf you read the title of this post you might be thinking, I LOVE sewing! Why would anyone think it was stressful? Of course most of the time it probably isn’t and it might never be for you, but the truth is that I get many emails, comments on the blog, questions in my classes, and even phone calls that lead me to believe a lot of people experience at least some stress and anxiety about sewing as a hobby. Even browsing through social media I can tell that some people are weighed down by their craft in that they have too many projects, too much fabric, not enough time, and not enough self-confidence. Sewing isn’t bringing them the joy and satisfaction a fun hobby should.

I’m certainly not perfect and I carry my fair share of stress and negative thoughts. I’m working on being a more mindful parent, but I still go to bed sometimes with regrets about how I interacted with my kids. I’m working on being nicer to myself about my appearance, but it’s hard to undo a lifetime of self-bullying. I try to be mature and real in all my relationships, but sometimes I feel as insecure  and sensitive as I did when I was 16. I’m a work in progress in a million ways, but I do feel good, calm, centered, and confident when it comes to sewing. I think I have a more relaxed attitude about it than most people would expect given my job. I do spend a lot of time thinking about sewing, how to engage more people, and how to help them become passionate about the craft, so here are my thoughts, coalesced into 12 gentle suggestions.

  1. Tackle one project at a time…OK, maybe two. I know you love new fabric, new sew-alongs, and new patterns–we all do. But having a box, or shelf, or room full of unfinished projects can be burdensome and doesn’t really make a lot of sense financially. It’s more satisfying and less stressful to finish what you start. I try to limit my WIPs to two–a big project like a quilt, and something smaller like a bag. I’m ok with taking a month or two to finish a quilt, but I try to knock out a bag or a garment in just a few sewing room sessions. If you dread working on a partially-completed project, consider letting it go by recycling the pieces, passing it along to someone who will finish it, or just throwing it out.
  2. Enjoy the process and the ritual. There is a zen proverb that goes, “when walking, walk.” It’s a reminder to live in the moment rather than worrying, planning, or multi-tasking. Try not to cook, help the kids with their homework, or take phone calls while you’re sewing. Give your full and complete attention to setting up your supplies, prepping your fabric, and putting together your project. You might enjoy it more and see better results.
  3. Give yourself permission to do things your own way. In one of my Craftsy videos I’m seen inserting pins in the fabric parallel to the edge. In the comments, several people were astonished that I pin the wrong way! Others came to the defense of the right way! Clearly you have to do whatever works for you. Learn different techniques and talk to people about their methods, then experiment. Whether it’s cutting your fabric, basting a quilt, sewing binding, or finishing seams, there are usually several different ways to get the job done and none of them are the “right” way–some of them simply work better for different people in different situations.
  4. Accept the imperfections. I recently made a quilt block for a book blog hop. My block was far from perfect–my corners didn’t match up in several places and I think the overall size was a 1/4″ smaller than it should have been, but I didn’t change it for my blog post. I think it’s important to show each other our imperfect work. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive to improve your skills, but I am saying you should accept the fact that mistakes are part of the journey to becoming a better sewist. I still haven’t reached Destination Matched Points, but I’ll keep at it.
  5. Don’t box yourself in with a label. Modern or traditional. Quilter or generalist. Seamstress or sewist. Team pachycephalosaurus or team ankylosaurus.  There aren’t any rules, so be who you want to be.
  6. Banish the language of fear. I often hear people say they’re “terrified of zippers” or “scared of buttonholes”. Really? It might be daunting, but are you really afraid? What’s the worst that could happen? Eliminate words and ideas from your thoughts that are holding you back and replace them with positive affirmations–“I don’t know how to sew a zipper yet but I’ll figure it out” or “I’m gonna rock the button-down shirt by the end of the year!”
  7. Destash. Those tubs and shelves and piles of fabric that you aren’t using and will never use might be stressing you out. If they’re making you feel guilty or burdened or overwhelmed, get rid of them. If it makes you feel better, sell them. If you can swing it, give them to a school or charity organization. You’ll breathe easier and feel lighter with them gone.
  8. Make time. It’s hard to just “find” the time to sew. If you wait for a break in your schedule to finish a project, you might be waiting for weeks or longer. I like to get my sewing on the calendar and on my family’s radar. I try to have sew days with friends, and every once in awhile I arrange with my husband to get the kids out of the house so I can sew uninterrupted. These aren’t the only times I sew, but they are days I know I can count on it. Making your hobby a priority not only makes it possible for you to get things done, but it reinforces with your family and yourself that your needs are a priority too. 
  9. Learn and teach. No matter where you are in your journey to becoming a better sewist, you have something to learn and something to teach. It’s a wonderful hobby in that way–with thousands of applications and techniques, the possibilities are endless. Keep learning–the internet and and the rising popularity of neighborhood sewing studios are making it easier every day. And don’t forget that even if you consider yourself a beginner, you have something to teach. Write blog posts, participate in online sewing discussions, and teach your kids. I sew and weave with kinders once a month and it’s one of the most rewarding things I do.
  10. Be happy for other people. This gets to the point that as humans we tend to compare ourselves to others, and sewists, bloggers, authors, and designers are no exception. If you participate regularly in the online sewing community, it’s hard not to occasionally feel jealous of someone else’s book deal, sensational fabric line, award-winning quilt, or top-ranking blog. Keep in mind that their success does not diminish your awesomeness in any way. Being green with envy, however, does. Next time something wonderful happens to an online friend, rejoice with them! I believe karma is real in the sense that you get back what you focus on, so spend your energy on the good, hopeful, positive things–you’ll never regret it.
  11. Make something for yourself. As much as we all love to sew for other people, when we’re only sewing for our families it can begin to feel like a chore or duty rather than an enjoyable hobby. Take the time to make something wonderful for yourself often, whether it be a quilt, a bag, or a garment. No one will appreciate the amazing sense of style and incredible talent that went into the construction more than you!
  12. Don’t take it too seriously. Remember, you don’t have to sew. You can probably buy the things you need for less money than it takes to make them.  Have fun! Try new things and don’t be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes. It’s an incredibly rewarding craft and creative outlet that can help you relieve stress, so if it seems like it’s adding to it, step back and try to figure out what’s bringing you down. Pull out out your sewing supplies and photograph them with plastic dinosaurs.

What stresses you out about sewing? Do you have other suggestions? Thoughts about these 12 tips? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments!

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82 Responses to Joyful Sewing: 12 Tips for Enjoying a Stress-free Hobby

  1. Rachael Anderson says:

    Just came across this post and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I am a perfectionist and have been constantly putting off starting things because “I don’t have the time right now”. I have decided that time for me is as important as doing anything else. I must make time to feel fulfilled any my “crafty” projects help in that. I have already sorted my stash and sold some fabric that I knew I would never get around to using. The rest has all been sorted into boxes (yes I still have sooooo much) and I’ve just got my workspace to sort out. You have made me determined to finish this major clear up, schedule sewing time and chill out with my craft projects. And most importantly ….. “when sewing, sew”……. and enjoy every moment! Thank you so much x

  2. Joana says:

    Thank you! It’s easy to lose the joy in pursuit of the perfect. I’ll take joy any day.

  3. Lynda says:

    I find this too sometimes! I have twin girls just turned two, plus I work and run a business. But sewing is one of the hobbies I have to have time to myself, which is very important. I think sometimes we have to let our expectations slide a little bit. Do our readers really mind if we don’t blog regularly? Most will probably understand exactly what it’s like for us!
    Keep persevering! Good luck, and mostly, enjoy it!

  4. This post was perfect timing for me. All these points are so necessary. I’ve written in a little “Sewing Time for Me” on my calendar! Thanks for a very useful blog!

  5. LIndy says:

    This is the BEST advice. Hopefully we can all embrace & claim this wisdom in our quilting circles.
    THANK YOU for expressing it so well : :)

  6. Joy says:

    I love this! Yesterday I finished a quilt for my second son (arriving in April) but it was only by the encouragement of a friend. When I was joining the strips together I noticed the seams were off and was worried about it not looking perfect. My friend encouraged me not to undo it and try to make it perfect; it’s the imperfectness of our quilts that show they’re made by humans, not machines, she said.

    Anyway, I finished the quilt and am delighted with how it looks! Imperfections and all.

    Thanks for the encouragement to remember that quilting / sewing is a hobby and something we should ENJOY more!

  7. Aless says:

    I am totally self-taught in all areas of the crafts that I love (books are wonderful teachers!), and I have been on this road for over 40 years.
    When people ask me how I got started doing e.g. stitching , I tell them that I never assumed that I COULDN’T do it. I just ‘gave it a go’, and I got better as I did it more and more (and kept reading those books, and now the internet). I never negatively compare myself to others- I just aspire to keep improving my techniques. For now, though, what I’m doing is my best… now !!

  8. Jo says:

    You rock! This was a wonderful post with lots of valuable info thanks you so much I think it will help me quite a bit as I suffer from a # of the ailments you have listed and given suggestions as how to solve.

  9. Mary G says:

    Love your article – great! And also, with the “pins”, I actually found that pinning some things that way (sort of out from the center) took the stress off where I was sewing and the fabrics actually laid flatter and smoother to sew (like felt animals). :-) I enjoy your post.

  10. Nupur says:

    Wonderful, wise words! Thank you for this thoughtful essay!

  11. Hugabit Quilts says:

    I agree with everything you say! And I know which Kraftsy class you are talking about because I enrolled in it and do remember those comments about pinning! I love quilting and all the projects related to sewing; so I decided to start a quilting blog a few months ago. The thing that stresses me is not being able to post often enough. I am working three days a week and I also have a 20 month old boy who needs my attention and care. No need to say I have a husband who is not very happy with me spending time on quilting rather than being around him. Also, when I start a project, I just want to finish it quickly because I don’t like dragging it for too long. I want to be able to balance the two; home and quilting, but at the same time I want to be able to do more firstly because I enjoy it and also because I want to keep my blog alive and I want to create some audience. So far, I am not very successful and this is stressing me…

  12. sheri says:

    Your list is wonderful!!! Thanks so much!

  13. Elaine says:

    What a fabulous, and very true, post. I can relate to many of the 12 things you’ve talked about. Time to make a change I think! Elaine, Ellie’s Treasures

  14. Joy says:

    This was such a helpful, encouraging post. Thank you!!

  15. darlene macdonald says:

    Thank you for posting these! I loved your 2 Craftsy classes!!!!! Was hoping for more! I’m terrible at some things so I just keep practicing. What more can you do? If some people have nothing better to do than criticize others for the way you pin, sew, cut fabric, even do your hair…. they need a life. I love your website and help! Keep on sewing Kristin!!!!!!

  16. Beth says:

    You are my new hero and your suggestions are my new mantra. Actually its always been my mantra, but your stated it so well.
    Thank you

    • Kristin says:

      Oh good! I feel better and more committed too, having put them down in writing.

  17. Jessica B. says:

    You know what, Kristin? I nominate this for blog post of the year.

    I know, I know… it’s only January. :-) But seriously, this is all stuff that needs to be said and we all need to take it to heart. Afterall, this is the fun stuff in life (unlike doing taxes and standing in line at the DMV)!

    I always tell my kids when activities they normally enjoy stop being fun that it’s time to take a step back and give it a break. I do the same with my quilting and sewing. We need to cut ourselves some slack; we need to stop fretting over whether we’re doing something the “right” way; and we need to embrace the process and imperfections with levity and joy.

    • Kristin says:

      Ha! I’ll take it! Thanks, Jessica.

  18. jennifer ward says:

    Thanks so much for your inspiring honesty & encouragement. I’ve been sewing off & on for 50 years but only now concerned with skill development. It’s easy to judge myself negatively compared to others or not show my work. But you are so correct-we all have something to give & something to learn.
    Thanks to Becky too. Your courageous & insightful persistence is also inspiring to me!

  19. Patricia Hines says:

    I always seem to be a mess because I have too many things out at one time, then I feel stressed.

    Perfection always escapes me and I find that very frustrating.

    • Kristin says:

      Having a bunch of stuff out stresses me too. For better or worse, I sew in the kitchen/dining room so I have to put everything away to feed the family. ;-)

  20. Ciara C says:

    I’m trying to teach myself patchwork/quilting but I’m losing the enthusiasm
    I had because of self-bullying and above all because of the following words I had the
    misfortune to read “remember very time you waste a scrap of fabric even an 1/8″ it soon
    mounts up and look at all the money you have wasted”
    . After reading this I actually went
    through my bin and took out the smallest pieces of fabric without any clue about what
    I was going to do with them. The next day when the garbage was being collected
    I dumped them.
    I got to the stage where I hated my fabric and felt it was a burden. I’m still rather fearful
    of cutting and when I make a mistake I castigate myself.
    Telling myself I’m too stupid to do anything right.
    Reading quilt blogs did me no good because everything these
    people did always seemed so perfect. Everything in their lives seemed idyllic
    Like some of the other writers I too have no one to ask for advice. Thanks to people like
    Kirstin who offer encouragement.
    Commonsense came to the fore and I have told myself all the self-bullying and negativity
    is/was destroying my spirit. I’m now making a simple quilt and determined to finish
    mistakes and all.

    • Kristin says:

      Good for you! I’m sorry you’ve had so many struggles. I hear you about the fabric scraps. It can be a big hurdle to get over if you’ve been taught not to be wasteful. I do have a bag for really small scraps that I keep a “stuffing” for projects for the kids, like toys and pillows that they make.

  21. Heather says:

    These are great guidelines. For me, I find that taking on one project at a time is very important, so that I can focus and not rush the project. In these way I relax and enjoy my sewing much more.

    • Kristin says:

      Me too. I have time in between projects too. Sometimes I like to switch to knitting or something, which feels wrong to me if I have incomplete sewing projects.

  22. Tricia says:

    I learned to sew as a young girl..my momwould make awesome coats, dresses, shirts, for my sisters and me…matching plaids, lining garments, really skilled sewing and dressmaking…funny, that was sooo long ago,,, i never heard of a clear roller type machine foot for velvet, pin tucks were measured as were ruffles etc.. No gadgets on her machine except zigzagging…so much has evolved … I am learning less exact sewing, and enjoying the fun ideas i see on pinterest..i love to refashion clothes and have more fun…….i remember when i wanted to put denim and velvet together,
    “But it didn’t go”????

    • Kristin says:

      Have you checked out Improv Sewing by Nicole Blum?

  23. Bonny says:

    What great words of wisdom! Thanks!

  24. Annette Z says:

    What a fabulous post! I recently started a blog because I wanted to “belong” to something. All the guilds in my area are older women doing traditional and complicated but fabulous piecing. But maintaining the blog and comparing it to others I follow is a lot like the self-bullying you talked about. I think I’ll go look for some plastic dinosaurs. Loved this post and your photographs!

  25. Karen says:

    These are excellent tips! I heed many of these but most recently learned the beauty of giving up on a quilt that I couldn’t stand from the start. I usually only work on one quilt at a time and I wasn’t feeling it to continue or sew at all…then I donated the blocks! So liberating :)

  26. Cindy says:

    Take time to exercise. You can develop a lot of tension working on projects and not notice it, sometimes. If I don’t exercise, and sometimes it is only to stretch, I end up hurting myself.

  27. Marion Knights says:

    Thanks very much for sharing these hints. I am one of those people who can quilt for one hour a day or 8 hours, whatever I want. I am lucky I know. I have a friend with very little time to sew and never gets anything started. My suggestion to her was that you can get something done in as little as 15 minutes. These short periods all add up, so go for it.

  28. This is right on target with where I’ve been for the past few months – you can read my take on overcoming fear on my blog post today. Thanks for sharing, it helps to be told “it doesn’t have to be perfect.” http://redo101.blogspot.com/2014/01/sunday-morning-12614.html
    Mary

  29. Mary says:

    Nice list!

  30. Donna says:

    You are a genius! This puts our hobby where is should be – FUN! And it reminds me that I am allowed to enjoy it. Thank you for putting it all into words and sharing it with us.

  31. Becky says:

    I’m kind of in that boat too and it is a personal challenge for me to be patient with my mistakes. My mother was an amazing seamstress. She said she was “built funny” with long arms & legs and a high waist so she made all of her own clothes and she did take the time to show and teach me. The problem is that she is left handed. So I learned everything by mirror image. Believe me, THAT has been a serious problem now that I’m an adult and watching righties show me on a Craftsy class. As a child, I never processed that what she was teaching me I should do a different way. I even iron backwards! (Large end of the board is to my left). I insert pins the “wrong” way, I cut from different angles, and to visualize a technique takes me some serious time. It literally took me a dozen attempts and used of most of my background fabric to learn how to paper piece a quilt block – to the extent that I didn’t have enough fabric to complete the quilt…oh well, it’s a table topper now. While simple now, the concept escaped me even with videos and blogger assistance. It seems like every single time I start sewing that day, my first attempt is wrong. Always. Instead of getting frustrated with myself (I only get frustrated when I do it wrong the third time…seriously) I step back and tell myself out loud what was wrong and why so I can learn from the mistake. I also learned to buy a little extra fabric to fit those mistakes into my sewing. I guess I’ve kind of come to accept them as part of the learning process. I’ve also come to accept that I’m better at crafts and quilts than garments. I have yet to successfully sew a garment for myself and I’m enrolled in every Craftsy class there is on the topic from the Tailored Shirt to Making Blue Jeans and every pattern drafting class in between. Now my son who is 6’8″ asked me to make him shirts with longer tails because store-bought shirts are too short for him. I wonder how many of those I will screw up until I get it down. Muslin is my best friend. (smile)

  32. Tisha says:

    Wonderful thoughts and insight on what should be fun. I have been wavering so much on really destashing and just working on a couple of things. Over the last couple of years I have tried to turn my hobby into a business. Not easy to devote the time to get a business going when you work full time, have a baby, are a wife, and love to exercise.

    It’s great that there is such a wonderful sewing community that loves to share, answer questions and inspire. That little green eyed monster, envy, can definitely rear it’s head. I have taken your advice, before you said it, and just supported people. They have worked hard to get to that point.

  33. Barbara Sprague says:

    Some great advice for a beginner like me. Thank you!! :-)

  34. Wapiti says:

    Like these suggestions!
    One more: don’t hurry and keep it simple. Even difficult patterns are simple, when you analise them and you take your time to do so.

  35. *take 3* IT issues abound!!
    Thanks for this post. Recently returned to sewing and blogging and it can feel daunting at times. I love your tips on making the hobby an important and integral part of the work-life balance. Being a working mum to a two year old and wife to a self emotes photographer does often skew the scales. I’ll be working on addressing this now!
    Thanks again. Sew HappyNess.

  36. Thank you for this post. I’m just starting again with my sewing and blogging and it can be daunting at times. Your post helps put things into perspective. I like how you provide ways up help making what can at times be a stressful and oft times neglected hobby an important an integral part of the work-life balance. As a mother of a two year old and wife to a self employed man the balance is not always equitable. Thanks again. It’s always a pleasure to visit you here.
    Sew HappyNess

  37. Kathryn says:

    Thanks Kristin for such a grounded post. As a perfectionist in real life I am learning to embrace the imperfections!
    I love Sew Mama Sew’s ‘new’ direction, and the 31 inspiring quilters feature has been really inspirational. Keep up the fab work!!

  38. eva says:

    What a great post! May I add * “Sew in Peace”. I try to sew and put in a load of washing and keep checking on dinner in the oven and have a quick chat to my boyfriend about his day…and I end up stressed and make mistakes and then spend time ripping the seams to do it again. I had to justify my ME time with sewing, forego the guilt and do what I like for a few hours a week, closing the door to other people and chores. Once I accepted it is ok to do that, sewing is relaxing and a joy!

  39. Catherine says:

    loved your post! all true! I recently de-stashed-feels good to be almost clutter free! Gave a lot to a group of learning sewists who meet at a community center with a friend of mine as the teacher. again-Loved your post!
    I’m keeping it to 2 projects also and it feels better that way to me.
    I do so love to sew.

  40. Catherine says:

    I liked your 12 notes about sewing and life. You are right about all of them. I have recently cleaned out my sewing room and my entire house. Took 3 and a half weeks, after which I got the house painted inside-every room-, and new carpet/flooring all over, too. It felt really good to de-clutter. Funny that the sewing room took the longest to clean as I sorted every little thing. I gave a huge amount of stuff to a group of women who are learning to sew and have their lessons and fun sewing time with a friend of mine who meets them at a community center. I had been saving scraps for 10 years-out they went.
    no regrets!

  41. Erica says:

    Thank you for this article, I agree with your sentiments and these are things that I think about often. One thing that I have really focused on is enjoying all parts of the process. If I only enjoy choosing fabrics or piecing the quilt top, there is a lot of non-enjoyment going on. At this point I can honestly say that I enjoy basting and cutting, I really enjoy 98% of the process.

    I will say that I am not a big fan of destashing because I really try to focus on only buying fabrics that I will use. Sure, I still buy more than I will ever use, but I like to work toward having a stash that gives me options and I try not to buy things that don’t help me work toward that goal.

  42. Pamela says:

    I have sometimes been guilty of having too many things in the air at one time but keep it to 2 or 3 now. The only part that gives me grief is cutting the pieces for big projects, it seems to go on forever. I have found that once I am in the happy place of being halfway through a project I can pull the fabrics for the next one and get it cut with little stress. If I am not happy with a block I put it with my improvised blocks and cut it down and reuse, I look on it as a bonus, all those “mistakes” add up to a lively quilt for donating. Love the dinosaurs, I have a Koala watching over my sewing.

  43. Jennifer says:

    Hi, you can check the sewing classes at craftsy.com or creativebug.com…i think that is going to be awesome for you and you can just ask your mom if you have a question with some

  44. Meriel A says:

    Aww. Thank you. So much of this I can relate to – I needed to read this :)

  45. ara jane says:

    there’s so much to love about this post, but what really resonated with me was be happy for other people. i find myself comparing my work to others all the time and it makes me feel so sad and defeated, which often leads to me not wanting to sew even when i have the time. but if i can feel happy for others i can find so much more inspiration, and then that leads to more sewing… it’s a win-win-win. yay!

  46. Beverly says:

    This is awesome advice. I have the most trouble with #1. I always want to do 3 or 4 things because I am always seeing new ideas on the internet. That in turn makes me feel rushed so that I can move on to the next thing before another great idea comes along. :)

    The thing that frustrates me most is….I have a hard time understanding directions sometimes and it makes me feel incompetent. Wish I knew why I have a hard time with some of these projects!

  47. Such a nice well written post! Thank you for sharing. Sometimes we do need to be reminded especially in this fast growing pace life with social media all over. I find that lately I am overwhelmed with inspiration but so little time to sew and it made me stressful. This article had definitely lifted the stress away and today I am back at sewing with joy! Thanks.

  48. katie says:

    Love this post — great advice indeed.

  49. Tamie says:

    Thank you for a wonderful post. This is one to pin and go back and read again and again.

  50. Suzanne C. says:

    This post is so true for me. My “stress” comes from not having anyone to share my passion of sewing with. None of my friends or family members sew, and they have no interest in my hobby. So, I kinda feel alone in what I do. Thank goodness for sewists online that I can read about, get tips from and interact with. (My daughter, who is 30, is starting to get interested in sewing — so I may have a “friend” to share my love of sewing with!)

  51. LiEr says:

    Amen! Well said, Kristin!
    I take breaks often. Like long breaks. Official ones, in which I close up the machine and say, “No sewing for you. Come back later when you’ve done something else and try again.” Helps me regain sanity when I’m at an impasse, helps me prioritize when I’ve just had a baby, helps me balance when I’m feeling obsessed. My longest break was about 10 years (!!) because I really needed that after my first commercial sewing business back when when I was in college, but most of them are quite a bit shorter, and just as recharge-ful.

  52. Miriam García says:

    What stresses me most is that I have nobody to learn from. My mother can sew anything from scratch (she sews wonderful costumes for my niece), but she says she doesn’t have the patience to teach so I never learned anything from her besides the basics of hand stitching. So it’s always just me, my machine and the internet. Not having anyone to learn from means nobody to point your mistakes or help you out with them, not knowing if the mistakes you’re making are normal at your stage of learning or you’re just learning to do things the wrong way…

    But I enjoy it so much and I feel so proud when I finish one of my little projects, I keep going. Your tips are very welcome and I will certainly keep them in mind from now on.

    • Sue Harrison says:

      I so understand the need to learn from others! So now I’ll start telling stories.

      When I was about 16 my mom send my sister and me to sewing classes at a fabric center. I made myself a fitted sleeveless sheath dress, something that has come back into style but is about 6″ shorter now. And I ate myself out of it in 3 weeks of biscuits at summer church camp and 2 youth conferences.

      That winter Mom gave me a length of wool jersey, and I made a long sleeved jewel neck belted sheath dress fully lined and attached only at the waist and neckline. Mom later admitted she didn’t have the nerve to make that fabric, and I didn’t know enough to be afraid. Jersey is actually easy to sew.

      About 5 years later I was married with a small child in another state and took a tailoring class taught by the county home extension agent. I was trying to solve the problem of hemming by machine stitching narrow hem tape to the raw edge and hand stitching it to wrong side of garment.

      Problem was that the stitching line showed through when it was pressed.

      I got on the phone and asked the extension agent who described her solution to me. I mentally looked at it and said, “But that looks so ugly!” And she answered, “That’s only because you’re looking at it from the inside. From the outside the hem is invisible.” She was right! Of course if you wanted the inside to look beautiful, you’d have to cover that ugly hem with a lining that was about an inch shorter than the garment.

      I called up my next-door neighbor and told her about it, thinking she could use it on the skirts she made for her daughter, but she couldn’t “see it” at all over the phone. She had to see it visually, and not following the words. So it helps to know if you’re talking with someone who can visualize or someone who needs to be shown in person.

      Y’know, there are seamstresses all over the place, but we have to ask or put up a question on Facebook or ask the people at the fabric store. And maybe it helps to go on Craftsy for a course or to a class at a good sewing center nearby. I even got college credit for knowing how to tailor a coat and showing the instructor what I had made. So there are adult ed. classes, college classes. I’m finding great tutorials in recent issues of THREADS magazine. My favorite source is the Vogue Sewing Book which dates back to the gorgeous clothes of the Jackie Kennedy era and the art of fashion photography that was at it’s peak then. But it shows techniques that ordinary patterns don’t quite cover. Lots of underlining, interfacing, lining, stabilizing curved seams, etc etc. You can find it out there if you start asking.

      Best wishes.

    • Kristin says:

      I do think some people are better at learning on their own than others. I know how fortunate I am that my mom gave me a good foundation and I even had home ec as a kid. Maybe you can find some sewing classes or a sewing circle to join?

  53. Claire says:

    What an awesome post, thank you! I especially like your suggestion on being ‘in the moment’ with sewing – it always goes wrong for me when I’m trying to juggle too many things at once. I also find that if I do my sewing in stages with no time pressure rather than trying to finish a project in one big session I enjoy it so much more.

  54. Manya says:

    Quilting is my happy place.
    I am there for the pleasure, the process, the creativity.
    All of your advice is well said.
    As well, I loved the dinosaurs posing with the sewing stash, as models of good quilting behavior. Yes! Mix it up a little!!!

  55. I think we should all find our very own “dinosaurs” to liven up our sewing spaces. Great suggestions! I recently cut the components for a block totally wrong, but I sewed it together anyway. You know what? It works for me! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  56. Darcy says:

    I LOVE ALL THESE!! Seriously, these are all realizations that I’ve been coming too myself, thanks for putting it so eloquently :-)

  57. Beth says:

    Great advice! Sewing should bring us joy. This is such wonderful advice on how to help us all get there. Thanks for sharing it.

  58. NadineC says:

    #3 is the most important to me. I grew up learning to sew (starting at age 5) from my mom and 4-H. At that time (1950s and 60s), there was ONLY one “right” way to do most things sewing. I had so many ideas, but was told I must do it the “right” way or I wouldn’t get that blue ribbon at the fair. After I grew out of 4-H, I stopped sewing for many years because it just wasn’t fun. Then Nancy Zieman came along and all of a sudden there were MANY “right” ways to do just about everything! I’ve enjoyed sewing again ever since! It’s important to experience the basics, but never let them stop you from being creative…you might just stumble on a better way to do something!

  59. Cathy says:

    Thanks for a great post. I also love the dinosaurs that help you sew!

  60. Kate says:

    Lots of food for thought in your 12 points. My biggest source of stress is self imposed deadlines for quilts, so I try not to do that if at all possible (I work full time and occasionally have project demands that can pull me away from my sewing room for weeks).

    • Kristin says:

      My time problem is that I decide to make someone a birthday present or anniversary gift, and I don’t give myself nearly enough time.

  61. Lovely thought. I can’t agree more.

  62. Tina says:

    What a great read, I really related to your personal story as well as many of the tips. I’ve been one who for some reason gets to the end of a project and fears finishing it, I think I’m afraid of messing up all if the other work but once I do I feel accomplished and proud of myself. Lately my goal has been to destash so I’ve been tackling rag quilts for my kids and I just started my own blog but I’m learning to take it one day at a time.

  63. Manuela says:

    Thank you for your tips. It’s a good reminder to enjoy our wonderful hobby instead of being stressed. Especially the point of “allowing yourself being imperfect” encourages me.
    Have a good time. Manuela

  64. Samina says:

    Bravo! Thanks for this, Kristin. You’ve addressed a bunch of points that have kept me from enjoying my little bits of sewing & knitting time. I definitely need to take a deep breath & realize that I’m never going to be perfect at this, there’s still so much to learn, & that I need to enjoy the learning process & not get frustrated when things don’t go quite right.

  65. I love 5, 10, and 12. These, to me, are key.

  66. Thanks! I’m trying to up my sewing output for 2014, but it has been so stressful thinking about all of the projects I want to do. I will really try to practice #1 and #2, thanks!

  67. Teresa l says:

    Very insightful article. Thank you! It put my sewing obsession and business/hobby into perspective for me.

  68. Kay says:

    I love this post! This year my special word is Relax, and one of the things I am trying to be more relaxed about is my less than perfect sewing. I have decided that other people don’t notice the imperfections and just love that I made something special for them. If it is something for myself (rarely) then noone else will notice my mistakes.

  69. This is a great post, Kristin! These tips apply to all if us who sew, whether it’s a hobby or a profession. Making time, enjoying the process, learning new things, getting rid of the guilt, and just playing with materials and ideas gets us back in touch with what brought us to sewing in the first place.

  70. Dottie's Daughter says:

    Mostly I feel relaxed when I sew but your post really hits the mark. I have so much fabric stashed away and still purchase more. Hopefully this year I can make a dent in it. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one.

  71. vicky myers says:

    I think there are some brilliant suggestions for taking the pressure off yourself, particularly the “you can probably buy the things you need for less”, really made me smile!. Fully agree that it is as important to share the imperfections on your blog – I am loving the sewing journey, developing my skills, and mixing with other creative people in a local group:) Go and join a local group:)

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