Keep calm & carry on sewing

Sew-ttitude dodomaison

Sewing glitches every newbie sewer will encounter and how to overcome or avoid them.

When you first start sewing you are going to make some mistakes and that is a good thing it means your trying. Even professionals make mistakes its called ‘Research & Development’. There are so many potential hiccups it can be disheartening when your project doesn’t go to plan. Just appreciate that everyone who sews has come across at least one of these potential slip ups, I know I have made most of them. So view the following as a lighthearted cautionary lesson that if you keep your eye out you can avoid completely.

Choosing the wrong thread

You’re over the moon you’ve found that perfect shade of grey ‘misty fog greying greyness’ only to discover you needed polyester thread and yes that’s why its puckering. The thread you use really needs to have the same qualities as the material. For instance if you are using a stretch fabric you need a thread that will also have some ‘give’ or stretch in it such as a polyester or nylon. It’s important to choose correctly as this will help with the tension of the stitches and avoid you needing to unpick.

Not reading the pattern

You ‘sort of’ read the pattern, the interesting bits anyway. You’ll cut all the pieces and suddenly whats that? Was that the side? Was I supposed to have 2 like that? They never said to cut a mirror image! Well maybe they did but who reads instructions? Well I have to admit to not always reading instructions even now. My excuse is that I’ve been doing this for years and usually have an idea of how its made. But even experienced sewers can learn new ways of doing something. A really obvious comment I know but read all the instructions completely.

Running out of thread  

You’ll almost be finished just need to sew the hem, perfect. What! How can that be? No thread? No one told me! It will most definitely be the fault of whoever happens to be in the room at that moment. The silent enemy is when its the bobbin that runs out as its inside the machine so you can’t see it happen. This can and does happen to everyone. With larger project I always find it helpful to wind up at least one extra bobbin and start with a new reel of thread or to be mindful to keep checking.

Sewing on the wrong side

Sewing something inside out. This is really easy to do especially with lightweight, transparent fabrics and those without an obvious right side. Some linens and pattern-less fabrics are more tricky to see too. One way to overcome this is to place a piece of tape to signify which is the right or wrong side. It acts as a visual reminder for you just remember to do this on all the pieces.


Having to do this for all the reasons mentioned here and a whole host more. Actually unpicking is a blessing. I’ve never been so grateful for the ability to unpick until I started sewing with leather. The needle creates a permanent hole in leather and yes you can unpick but you will have to trim back which can result in losing valuable seam allowances and if it’s a topstitch detail you will have to cut a completely new piece. To make your life easier if you haven’t already, its worth investing in an unpicker/seam ripper because this will become your go to tool.

Machine not threaded properly

You won’t feel like it is but its a lot kinder when the stitches are obviously skewed from the top as you will notice them sooner. The worst scenario is when it looks beautiful on the surface and you’re happily sewing and only once you remove your work from the machine do you notice all your beautiful work has been ruined by the tangled mess of stitches underneath. Sometimes its just a simple as winding up the bobbin in the wrong direction. Make it a habit to check that the machine itself is threaded correctly and that you haven’t missed any of the loops/thread guides. Most machines are threaded to form a ‘Z’ shape, you’ll soon become accustomed to just needing to glance over in order to check. 

Sewing the wrong pieces together

And if you manage to get through all that without a single glitch congratulations, you’ve finished your garment and you’re now ready to try it on for size. Which is when you may discover that you have either sewn the legs together, have 2 left sides or sewn up the armhole so you can’t even get in to it. And it’s always quite funny when someone sews up the legs together to resemble  a mermaid costume, really funny. But when its you….  Its generally in the rushing through stages which leads to some of the most annoying and avoidable slip ups. I always recommend pressing the seams in-between the different stages of sewing. This not only gives you the opportunity to take a breather from the machine but also to recap on what your next steps will be.

One of the most effective ways to insure that these little glitches don’t compromise your beautiful creations in any way is to make a Toile first. This is a replica of your design made up in a cheaper fabric but which has the same characteristic as your main one. So if its for an item of lingerie you will need something with a little stretch in it, a crisp cotton won’t have the same flexibility. With a toile you can ‘learn’ all your mistakes and not waste any of your precious material. It’s also good for tailoring the pattern to fit your physique and make any adjustments because as we all know not all women who share the same size have the same body shape.

Most of these suggestions are really obvious which just makes it even more annoying when it happens. And trust me there are alot more to add. The moral of the story is to take your time, prepare in advance, read all the instructions and do not be discouraged with any of the potential hiccups, above all remember that with the right attitude everything can be rectified. Happy sewing.





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