Thursday, March 27, 2014

Three Sewing Breakthroughs

I'm thinking a lot about learning these days, as I progress into my second month of intensive Swedish class. Learning a new language is a huge time commitment, and between that and a small business that keeps growing, it is often challenging to find time to do the things that I love -- sewing and blogging. I'm sure many of you will relate to this challenge!

As I learn Swedish, it's interesting how it's not just Swedish that I'm learning, but a new worldview (according to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, anyways, or the latest version of it). It's kind of exhilarating to feel yourself learning -- thereby transforming -- so quickly. Grown-up life can be mundane sometimes, between kids, work and everything else, so it's a real treat to be in a position where I'm still learning, and I feel very grateful and privileged for that.

So today I want to talk about learning. Learning to sew. And experiencing breakthroughs in our learning journey. Here are my three biggest sewing breakthroughs:

1- Embrace hand-sewing. I used to think: Hand basting? Pfff. That's what a sewing machine is for! Erm, actually, hand-sewing is quite important. It's the difference between off-the-rack, fast-fashion garments and high-quality, custom-made ones. Also, if you haven't discovered the handpicking method to zipper insertion yet, well... do yourself a favour. :-) I also started enjoying hand sewing a lot more when I realized how much of a difference it makes to wax your thread and then to iron your thread to seal the wax, preventing those annoying knots from forming. Then I found I could really appreciate the relaxing nature of hand-sewing as a true tactile experience -- feeling the fabric in your hand, the thread as it passes, and having full control of the fabric.
The thimble is actually made of moose skin, and made exactly to fit my finger. It is definitely among the most memorable gifts I've ever received, from someone who had spent a lot of time with the Cree First Nations of Abitibi, my home region
2- Always, always, always make a muslin. At the very least, make a wearable muslin. It took me all too long to realise this! With experience, it is possible to get away with measuring the pattern pieces themselves against our own body measurements. But more often than not, there are elements of a pattern to tweaks and perfect that can only be noticed with a muslin, even for an experienced dressmaker.
3- Fifty percent of your time should be spent by your ironing board. I had previously never heard of the three-step pressing, but that simple rule instantly took my garments from "Becky Home-ecky" to "designer quality". Really, this point is as much about realizing that sewing is just as much about putting different pieces of fabric together as it is about shaping the fabric with your iron. This is traditionally especially true when working with wool, and this is what tailoring is all about. But it is also true of all fabrics. (And this is why some garments can absolutely not be washed and must be dry-cleaned, at the risk of damaging the shaping that has taken place during pressing. Another thing that took me far too long to understand!)
Have you experienced sewing breakthroughs in your learning journey? I'm curious to hear about them! If you're fairly new to sewing, what are you finding the most challenging?

17 comments:

  1. Very insightful! I am an avid follower of number 3 (to the point where I think I need a second iron as my husband gets very cross when I get interfacing stuck onto the iron...), a mostly faithful adherent of number 2, but I am yet to realise the full epiphany of number 1! My main challenge at this point in my sewing is trying to choose the most appropriate fabric for a project - I'm getting better at not being dazzled by pretty things all the time, and try to choose the best quality with the most longevity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I'm still struggling with that one, learning to chose the proper fabric. But as I was just writing in Joëlle response bellow, the internet can be useful for that. :-) Thanks for your comment!

      Delete
  2. I love handsewing. I am rather new to dressmaking but I see the worth in finishing off the insides of my garments well. It makes such a difference

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww, I also love a beautifully lined interior.... There is nothing like it. It gives me dignity to wear something that I know is perfectly finished inside as well as outside. :-)

      Delete
    2. I agree. Finding French seams was my breakthrough. I have a dress that should have been finished weeks ago, but it's only now I have had the breakthrough on how to finish the armholes properly.

      Delete
  3. so glad to hear that your learning of Swedish is going forward! it is indeed like a new world opens up when you learn a new language. and i do believe that language affects, maybe not how I think, but how i perceive thing. the way you can express something (an idea, a feeling) affects how you interact with the world. which is a great deal why it can be so frustrating to learn a language: even when you are fluent, there are still some thing that you cannot express the same way you would in your mother tongue! language is fascinating :)
    but back to sewing! i totally agree with your three points (even if i'm not always following them as i should). i would add a fourth: the value of good fabric. i'm not always following that one either, but quality fabric, that responds well to the stitches and pressing is invaluable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Joëlle! Nice to hear from you and thank you for your encouragement with my Swedish. You are such an inspiration to me. :-)
      Your point about fabric is so important as well. It's not only important to invest in quality fabric, but also to know which fabrics go with which pattern. I love how helpful the internet is in that regard, because a quick Google search of a pattern number will immediately lead us to several makes and it's easy to see which fabrics were more successful, in this case. Pattern Review is also very helpful, of course, but the pictures are quite low resolution which doesn't allow to see it in great details.

      Delete
  4. Thank you for the 3 step pressing link. I'll be doing that in future! I've just started sewing lessons and am learning so much from being shown how to do things. Sleeve plackets are the latest - love them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Sleeve plackets are fun. They really give that professional finish! Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  5. Oh what a wonderful post to read. Oh was lucky enough to have a mother that could teach me about the importance of pressing. I think what is most helpful to me now is knowing to make my shoulder then bust adjustments before my first muslin. It's one of those things that you only get with experience.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Interesting, including the article you've linked to about pressing. Like ladykatz, my mum always said the most important part of sewing is pressing. If its advice from mum its got to be good.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think the same way about hand-sewing as you use to do. I don't like to do things by hand when it could be done automated ;). But sometimes you have to do things by hand, I know... I too did discover the importance of pressing and ironing while sewing clothes. It realy gives a much better result. In addition I learned to use a gluestick for making nice (double folded) hems

    ReplyDelete
  8. Excellent points all around - all three I pay regular homage too!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have gotten as far as handsewing and maybe 20% ironing, but have yet to make a muslin... :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you for a very interesting blog post! I haven´t been sewing for a very long time, but I´ve Always been doing a lot of pressing, but I get very curious at the 3-step pressing method and will practice it in the future!
    You end your blog post with a question: since I am fairly new to sewing, what do I find the most challenging . Well, it´s the fitting. The fitting, the fitting, the fitting... sigh. Seems like I have a lot of problem areas which I haven´t been aware of all my adult Life. :) It´s the area around the shoulders and the back, though at a Quick glance they look fairly normal... :)
    I read in Another comment that you are Learning Swedish. This is a greeting from Sweden. Ha det gott och lycka till med din sömnad. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow, I've learnt something about pressing, my slightly half hearted ironing needs to become full blooded pressing. Noted. Thank you.
    My tip is not sewing past bedtime as it always results if a re-do the next day!

    ReplyDelete
  12. my sewing breakthrough lately is the use of grey thread - it blends in to what ever colour you sew it on, it seems to take on the colour. all you need is a light grey and a dark grey. i found that out by volunteering with a local tailor. we overlock everything in a mix of greys and sew most things in either the light or dark grey.
    btw I found your blog while I was searching for pattern drafting courses in Toronto. I'm moving over from Australia in about 6 months. Thanks heaps for your review of the George Brown(i think) place that you posted back in 2012, good to hear a first hand experience.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts! Comments are moderated on posts older than 20 days, so they won't appear immediately. :-)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...