A Year of Garment Sewing - 13 Things I've Learned.

This represents a year of garment sewing. (Minus one sweatshirt and two skirts hanging in other people's closets.) I am suitably impressed with myself.

A year ago I tried making a Linden sweatshirt, then another, and another. I made one more a few months ago. Two years ago I still would have said that I will never sew clothes. Now I have a collection of patterns in the To Make pile and I stash garment fabric. I hardly know myself!

Yet, I am so drawn to garment sewing. I know why, too. This has become my hobby. In order to avoid complete burnout with quilting being my career I needed another outlet. I'm not so keen on other crafts with a small house and limited time. Plus, I really, really like my sewing room. Sure, I could, and do, read in there. But sewing is what I really want to do. If quilting is just too much that day I pull out my tracing paper and already prewashed garment fabric. They are relatively quick finishes compared to quilts, another bonus. Finally, making a garment is a palette cleanser for me. A reward when I finish a quilt, a quick project between big quilts, something to take advantage of a clean cutting table before I mess it up again.

In this past year I've learned a few things about garment sewing.

  • When you are told to use a rayon or poly thread, use it. I had the quilting mindset and was all cotton all the way. But cotton thread has little give and ripped seams in my knits are the results. I've remade one sweatshirt and rehemmed a few others.
  • Make a muslin or test piece. It helps with fit and to work out any confusion that might come with construction. I've been making mine out of solid cottons when the pattern calls for a woven - they are generally cheaper and I can resuse them back for quilt scraps. I make wearables with the knits, knowing I can donate it if it doesn't work out for me.
  • Yet, there are times when you make something and it looks great, but it just isn't you. 
  • Adjusting a pattern isn't that big of a deal.
  • Spend the money on tracing paper. I always trace my patterns instead of cutting the original. It is easier to make changes and then make multiple sizes, if necessary. Like if your best friend asks really nicely for a sweatshirt.
  • Storing the patterns after tracing is a pain. So too when you print a PDF pattern. I've taken to saving paper towel and gift wrap tubes and storing patterns in those.
  • A serger would make my life so much easier, but I really don't know where I would put it. I might have to figure out that detail though.
  • Just because the pattern is popular doesn't mean it will be right for you, for your body. And that's totally okay. If you aren't sure, hit the mall and try on something in a similar style. Then determine if the style works and/or if you could adjust the pattern for yourself.
  • Voile, once washed and sewn in a garment does not drape as I expected.
  • It will almost always take longer than you thought it would.
  • Unless you have the most basic of sewing machines, there are a lot of stitches on your machine that are your friend. Discovering the blind hem stitch and how to use it was a game changer for me, for example.
  • Nearly every independent pattern I've used has extensive resources online. Maybe not from the designer themselves, but a google search will pull up blogs, reviews, and tutorials that can help you with your sewing.
  • Garment sewing is not nearly as scary as I remembered from my Home Ec days.

Here is what I have made this past year. When I hung them all together like this I was shocked. I didn't realize I had made this much!

There is a stack of fabric and patterns waiting for more of my time. I wish I could tackle the pants I want to make for the kids, the linen pants for me, a skirt out of Liberty, find the right pattern for the silk/cotton I recently picked up... The list goes on. And I'm pretty excited about that.