Monday 6 June 2011

What are your best bits?

Tilly wrote a really thought-provoking post yesterday about how we categorise ourselves as stitchers.  When do we stop being novices or beginners and start thinking of ourselves as intermediate?  It really got me thinking...  I started sewing when I signed up for a dressmaking course in September 2009.  I only initially signed up for a term but loved it so much I ended up doing a whole year.  After that year I felt confident enough to embark on sewing my own clothes from patterns without the safety net of my sewing teacher permanently on tap.  It also coincided with the start of my blog.  I was still very much a beginner in all sorts of ways.

Since then I've sewn a lot of clothes myself, participated in several sewalongs and started selling things at craft fairs.  I think I can tentatively class myself as an intermediate stitcher now.  As Tilly points out though, the flip side is that there's lots of fearless trying out of new techniques at the beginning which tends to grind to a halt after a while.  Yes, my sewing productivity is high, but most of it is repeat makes of tried and tested patterns.  This is by no means a bad thing, in fact quite the opposite as I tend to make second versions of the clothes I know are a good fit.  But it's always good to push yourself a bit, so I'll definitely be trying to add some challenges to my sewing this year.

I then started thinking about what I've achieved this past year and a half that I'm really proud of.

My beloved handmade trousers
...after long consideration, I think making myself a pair of trousers and sewing a skirt from a  Japanese pattern book are the two things I'm most proud of. 

If you'd told me I'd be doing either of those things 18 months ago I'd have laughed long and hard in your face!  So I suppose nothing is too difficult if you set your mind to it (except bound buttonholes and sewing with slippery silk lining fabric maybe).

What I'd really love to know is what you're all most proud of yourselves in sewing terms. It could be a tricky technique or simply sewing from a pattern that doesn't say 'Easy' on the front. Don't hold back, I'm really nosy interested to hear.  It doesn't have to be just one thing either, tell me everything!  Let's all crow about our achievements.   Happy Monday x


  1. I saw this too Jane it got me thinking. I started sewing in 2006 at A-level and hated the way I was taught and felt I would never learn this skill or be good at it! Its now 2011 so technically i've been sewing 5 years.

    If you had told me then I would have my own sewing blog and that I would be so addicted Id have a breakdown if I didn't see anything sewing related for a day, I would have laughed too. (I'm pretty sure my college tutors would as well!)
    But I have made everything from corsets to a-line skirts in that time and I think I could call myself intermediate but certainly not any higher!
    I sew because I would like a wardrobe of fun individual clothes. I'm not so worried about being able to tailor a garment to within an inch of its life. Easy is good for me because it means fast. I am too impatient, but I do need a project to think about. I can pattern draft too but again, why draft when there are so many fab patterns done for you? Perhaps if I went back to class to learn a particular skill I might focus a bit better. But I am happy plodding along at intermediate. Great discussion! x

  2. I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but we both started sewing at the same time! I took a one-day intro class in Sept. 2009 and signed up for a bunch more after that.

    I'm definitely also proud of my trousers, no way I thought I'd be able to make a pair! I'm also proud of a self-drafted straight skirt I just finished, but still haven't gotten around to sharing yet. I think of myself as an intermediate, but that's just me. I still want to work on the fit of my garments, probably my biggest goal. Things have been so hectic this year I haven't gotten much sewing done, but I need to push myself to tackle something soon!

  3. I don't remember *not* sewing. I was 15 when I did my first all by myself project--shorts. But I'd been sewing dolly clothes before that. My grandmother was a seamstress, you see, and stuck a needle in my hand at the age of three. But I still only class myself as "Intermediate" because there's a lot I don't know how to do. I have to use patterns. Yes, I alter 'em, but I don't know how to draft one from scratch. I can't do bound buttonholes, and a whole host of other things. What I'm most proud of is a toss-up between the so-called "heirloom" dresses I made for my three-year-old niece over the past couple years and the ten or so quilts that I've managed to make. The quilts were probably my biggest learning curve, though. Lots of so-called "heirloom" techniques were things that I was taught to do years ago and did as part of the sewing process....

  4. I am still definitely a beginner but I'm most proud of the corset I made a while back. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it's a corset. And I made it. Me! Wow.

  5. Definitely most proud of tackling a gown, grading vintage patterns and working with some unknown (to me) fabric such as faux fur! All of those things were much easier than I had feared...ehheheheheeh

  6. I still consider myself a beginner, even though I've sewn several things this year. I really only started sewing garments for myself last summer, stopped for about 6 months, and have been sewing on/off since this January. I don't have very many big accomplishments, but I sewed a button-front blouse with a perfect facing that stays tucked in and isn't ripply (though on the same projects I wouldn't say the same about the armholes, lol). I hate facings so I consider that a real accomplishment for myself. :)

  7. I always think of myself as a beginner but I find that I know things that people who are just starting out don't, but I wouldn't draf my won pattern so maybe I'm a tweenie, between a beginner and intermediate.

  8. I've been sewing since I was about 13 and have tackled all sorts of garments - but don't consider myself more than intermediate. As you said, I tend to stick to things I know and make patterns as written and without many different techniques. It's only recently, and due to the inspiration found on sewing blogs of those with much less experience (in years) that I've realised how much I really don't know!

    So now I really want to up my skills and learn draping and get more confident in my experience by doing things differently/better than how the pattern is written.

    As for what I'm proud of - I'm glad I started learning to do fashion illustration, that I tried draping (and failed, but will try again!) and learned some pattern cutting techniques. And that I'm finally tackling the scary prospect of making my own jeans. I love jeans but have always been too scared of them not being professional enough to try them before!

  9. You are definitely at least at an intermediate level and the items you are most proud of are deservedly so! Gorgeous! The only thing I'm really proud of is my crescent skirt and that's just for being so neat on the inside. If I ever want to progress from being a beginner, I definitely need to challenge myself more!

  10. I went to fashion school years ago but always considered myself a sloppy sewist. Well this year I made a silk charmeuse lace bridal gown from scratch for a friends sister and it turned out beautiful.I guess I can now say I am advanced but still make stupid mistakes all the time!

  11. Hi, Jane, I agree, this is a great debate! All the comments above are really interesting too - & although I've been sewing since whenever, I'd never describe myself beyond intermediate, echoing what others have said - there's still so much I haven't tried. If I cast my mind back, I have made bound buttonholes & welt pockets via a pair of men's chinos. I even made a couple of jackets (with shoulder pads!) but that's decades ago! Recently I'm most proud of tackling piping & surprisingly entering the foray of mega alterations to the Crepe bodice which although not 100% right, was a huge learning experience. I should also say that learning to get what I want out of my overlocker has opened up lots of possibilities for using gorgeous & practical knits (love it!) Silky stretchy bias cut fabrics #shudder# - tried once & v tricky!

  12. And maybe I should add that considering myself "advanced" I would have to be 99% happy with the finish inside - I wouldn't say that all of my insides would pass !

  13. I have sewn my own clothes off and on since I was 14, and always turn back to sewing when funds were short. I think it is only now that I am allowing myself to buy "proper" fabric instead of the cheapest I can find. Despite making a tailored jacket, complete with horse-hair-backed collar at 16 (!) there is still lots I need to learn: piping, using the hem-turner on my machine, using an overlocker (eek!), and most crucially making "fitted" clothes instead of clothes that just-about-fit!

  14. I'm entirely self-taught; I just went out and bought myself a sewing machine from trusty John Lewis and started sewing. Maybe as a result I've never thought of myself as beginner, intermediate or advanced for the simple reason that I've never had anything (or anyone) to compare against. I've been sewing properly for 10 years now, i.e. since having daughters. I started making dresses for them (without patterns, regrading existing dresses in sizes up), I moved on to making shirts for my husband (from patterns) and gradually built up the confidence to sew for myself - i.e. for a body with breasts and a waist and hips.

    Since then, my only concern has been - am I able to make the clothes I want and to a high enough standard that they fit me well and don't betray their 'homemade-ness'? I mostly sew from vintage patterns, some more complicated and time-consuming than others (usually because I have to get my head around the instructions; but then modern patterns aren't much better I find).

    For me, being a good seamstress is all about undersanding how a garment works, i.e. why it does what it does and learning how to replicate it. It's not so much about racking up a number of new techniques - those are just a means to an end, and more about practice than any great skill.

    For me, what will propel me to a more advanced level is when I finally buy myself a dress form so that I can achieve a better fit, more easily. I had a recent disaster with a 40s silk charmeuse top, working from a pattern that was two sizes too small. I tried grading it up without thinking about how the pattern pieces worked in relation to each other and in relation to my own body, with the result that the supposed below-the-bust line sat slap bang across the middle of my bust! And of course I hadn't made a muslin... It was very much a 'duh' moment, and one that came about purely because I hadn't stopped to think about the mechanics of it. I'm ready to try again now, having learned a valuable (and expensive) lesson!

  15. I started sewing about the same time as you but would still class myself as beginner I think, simply becasue I haven't made all that MUCH! I'm proud though that I've acquired enough know-how to make a knitting bag recently to my own design (couldn't find a pattern I liked), and it turned out how I saw it in my mind's eye :) Not blogged it yet but it's coming soon.

  16. I've been sewing for nearly 3 the first 2years i did a college course and this last year I've just sewn whatever i feel like, although I can sew quite well and pattern cut i still hesitate at calling myself intermediate, I just feel that while i know a lot, there is so much more to learn and that sewing is a continuous learning curve.
    what I'm proud of is a pair of high waisted trousers i made for a college project which had a pleated waist band and this year I'm proud of the prom dress i made which I'd been itching to make for ages but didn't have the confidence.



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