When I started sewing nearly a decade ago, I had very limited resources available, there was no one by my side to consult with and so I made probably every sewing mistake there is. From some mistakes I learned quickly and never repeated them again; some I didn’t even know were mistakes until I started learning sewing professionally at school. Check this Top 10 sewing mistakes beginners make list, find out if you are guilty of any of it (I am guilty for all of them… oops!) and upgrade your sewing game instantly with valuable tips!
Skipping pressing for every seam (yes, e-v-e-r-y seam).
Trust me, proper ironing is a game changer, that turns home-made looking clothing, into “wow, you really made this?!!” clothing. If you press each seam after you have just sewn it, it will be much easier to align all seams nicely; it will be much easier to fit the item on your figure; finished garment will look much better on you and you will even be able to cover some small sewing imperfections. If you will skip ironing – well, it will be visible and it will look sloppy (yup, you can tell even from looking at photos of finished garments if the seams were not pressed during process). Ironing may not be the best part of sewing, but sure makes or brakes the final look!
Tip: if you have a possibility, I suggest you pick a steam iron – I have learned how useful these things are within the first week of my sewing studies, and bought one for home on my second week. Pluses are that usually you can keep them turned on through entire sewing process (hence, you can use it whenever needed) and seams are easily ironed with the help of steam – honestly, now I can’t imagine sewing without it!
2. Choosing a not interesting or not challenging project…
While many articles advice to start with a small project, such as a pillowcase or a tablecloth, I suggest to choose something a bit more challenging, something you would be passionate to make – a skirt, a shirt or even a simple dress! Yes, it will be more difficult and will consume more time, however, it will be much more interesting, you’ll learn more along the way and you’ll be feeling much more accomplished when you finish.
Tip: when picking a pattern, look for projects recommended specifically for beginners (for example, Burda has a great selection of patterns, with one star difficulty level – those are great to start with). Also, try to find a pattern that will have a detailed step-by-step, preferably with pictures (again, Burda has one such pattern in each magazine – very helpful, when you are only starting!).
3. … or choosing an over challenging project.
This comes from a bitter experience: my first project was a skirt. There is nothing wrong with a skirt and I even recommend to do it as a first project (hence, the point above), but it was a pencil skirt. Now a pencil skirt may not be difficult to make, but for my pear shape, it requires knowledge how to make big adjustments as my waist and hips are two different sizes and it was definitely not a skill set I had with the first project. Needless to say, while I learned a lot from making it, I was really frustrated with all alterations and ended up never wearing it, because… well, let me just say it, it did not look good.
Tip: if you decide to start with a skirt, try A-line or circle shape patterns, as they generally fit more body types without grand alterations. If you go with a dress – don’t pick a slip type, as it might require a lot of altering, but rather go with a shift, t-shirt or A-line dress patterns.
4. Picking a wrong design, that does not suit you (whether it’s handmade or not).
The title says “mistakes beginners make”, but I still catch myself falling for this, even after years of sewing. Want an example? Okay, here you go: last month I wanted a new dress for a party. After lurking for ages on Pinterest, I got inspired by a gorgeous sunny dress. So I quickly made the pattern, cut it, stitched everything together, put it on and… realised how wrong it looks on me. The dress in the photo is beautiful; the fabric I chose was nice, but this dress model and my pear shape figure simply does not go along (in fact, such dresses never look good on me, whether it’s handmade or bought in store… ugh, what was I thinking?!). I skipped this project altogether as I did not want to attend a party dressed as a lemon (yes, it was that bad) and gently reminded myself that not everything that looks good in the picture will look good on me.
Tip: if you are not sure if a certain model will fit you, go to the clothing shop and try on a similar one – trust me, it’s better to find out that some item will not look good on you before you put all the effort into making it!
5. Selecting wrong fabric for a project.
Fabric plays a big role in project success, thus you have to be sure you are picking a material that is a) easy to handle with your skills; b) your machine will be able to sew it properly; and c) suitable for a certain clothing.
While these three rules look simple and easy, learning it usually comes with a frustrating lesson. For me, this lesson came within my first year of sewing, when I tried to make a light jacket from linen – the fabric was falling apart when I was sewing it (hence, my skills were not enough to handle it at the time), my machine refused to sew many layers of it at once and when I finally finished it, I never wore it, because the fabric was very uncomfortable for that type of clothing. So yeah, the lesson came with a price, but I sure did learn from it.
Tip: if you are not sure what type of material to choose, follow recommendations in the pattern (each publisher names most suitable fabrics for every project). If you are a complete beginner, I would recommend not to start with silky, bulky, easily-falling-apart or very stretchy fabrics; instead, look for project that requires cotton or jersey, as these fabrics are easier to handle.
6. Not altering patterns according to your figure.
This may not be an issue for figures that falls nicely to standard clothing sizing, however it might be an obstacle for every figure that is somewhere in between (yours truly including, as my pear shape and long torso requires to adjust every single pattern I decide to make – yes, you heard me right: every.single.pattern. Sight!). If the differences between your measurements and pattern sizing indications are not big, you can skip altering; however, I still highly recommend it, as altering is the key element that drives clothing from ready-to-wear to fabulously custom-made looking!
Tip: invest some time in learning valuable techniques for quick and easy pattern alterations, so that the finished garment fits you impeccably. You might pick a book on this topic from library, you might find useful free resources online or even take an online course – skills you’ll learn will most definitely pay off with great custom wardrobe!
7. Not trying a garment on before sewing it with machine.
I cannot tell you how many times I said “nah, I will just sew it, no need for hand-stitching and fitting first” and I regretted it soon after (oh yes, there are some mistakes that you “enjoy” so much that you repeat it over and over and over again). Personally for me, this is the most boring part of the project (is there anybody who enjoys it?), however, throughout the time I learned a valuable lesson that this step is needed and should not be skipped – it allows to easily make needed changes and saves from hours of seam ripping later in the project.
Tip: when you cut your fabric, spend an extra 10-15 minutes for light hand stitching pieces together and fitting the clothing on yourself – you’ll see how adding this step will pay-off immediately!
8. Missing fabric preparation before starting a project.
… because if you don’t pre-treat your fabric, you might have an unpleasant surprise after you wash a final clothing (I am looking a you, properly fitted sweater, that shrunk to size-too-small sweater after first trip to washing machine!). This is the most annoying mistake there is – you make a nice piece of clothing, it fits your perfectly, you wash it… and BAM! it’s now size too small! Whaaat?! Nooooo!!! (silently singing “If I could turn back tiiiiiime” in the background). Absolutely frustrating situation without no easy fixing, so it’s best to prepare for it in advance!
Tip: wash your fabrics or treat them with steam before cutting, so that it doesn’t shrink when you wash a finished item.
9. Improper laying of pattern pieces on fabric.
This one time I cut all my pattern pieces, except one, and I ended up not having enough fabric for that last tiny piece. The other time I placed pattern pieces on fabric not according to instructions, so my project was stretching heavily where it was not supposed to and ended up unwearable. I even cut a checkered fabrics folded in half, and had a weirdly placed squares on the front of the blouse. All these major errors that ruined entire project just because someone (aka me) did not follow very basic layout rules!
Tip: always check if all pattern pieces will fit on the fabric before cutting it. Never cut checkered or striped fabrics folded in half, because the print will not be neatly lined in the final look. And follow layout advices in pattern instructions.
10. Getting frustrated with a project (when it was supposed to be all about fun).
Well, we have all been there: we dream of how beautifully that dress will look on us, how amazingly pleasant and relaxing the making process will be, we put all our hearts into making it… and then we are wakened by a cold reality that this dress is still unfitting, even though ages were spent altering; and that zipper somehow looks wrongly installed, no matter that instructions were followed to the letter; and on the whole it neither feels nor looks right (oh, have I been there done that!). Throughout my sewing history, I had several projects so disastrous and so demotivating, that I even wanted to quit sewing altogether – but I really loved sewing and didn’t want to let some tiny failure ruin it, so I had to find a way around that. And so I did: I took a deep breath (sometimes veeery deep breath), calmed down (maybe again one more deep breath), checked if there is anything to learn from a failed project (there usually is), put the unsuccessful project aside (or threw it to the trash can altogether), took a short break if needed and moved on to some “light & nice” project, to gain my sewing mojo back.
Tip: there will always be frustrating unsuccessful projects or projects that just don’t feel right – I suggest not to stuck on it, learn from mistakes made, put that wrong project aside and move forward, to maintain the positive attitude towards sewing. As with all frustrations in life – it’s the approach that matters, so don’t forget to have fun with your sewing!
P.S. I am sure this list of beginner’s mistakes could go on and on (at least I could add a few extra points myself). So let me know in the comments below if you have some valuable “lesson learned” moments to share as well i it would be great to read your stories!