Mid-Summer Lessons Learned in Sewing

After my last sewing post on beginner friendly projects, I had several pieces on my to-do list for June and beyond. Since then, I’ve made the following:

While none of my projects are “perfect”, they are perfectly wearable and I’ve learned a lot from the so-called “imperfections”. I do plan to review some of the more popular patterns separately since I’ve made multiple variations, but wanted to summarize a few lessons learned that can be applied to any project. I hope these are useful for anyone who is also on the beginner sewing train like I am.

When copying existing clothes…

Create a large enough opening for armholes and neckholes

When making my Only Child Alta top copycat (a top I love and reviewed here), I traced around my existing top with a ½” allowance for french seams. However, I did not widen the armholes and necklines by the same allowance, resulting in slightly-too-snug armholes. They’ve stretched out slightly since, but would fit even better had I done the aforementioned. The neckline was easy enough to fix, since I did the armholes first.

Make sure to adjust based on the type of fabric you are using

Up until this point, I was only familiar with large 1”+ hems that are used on the Shirt No 1 and Willow Tank patterns. This works very well for items with somewhat straight hems, but the Alta top has a high-low curved hem. I sewed a ½” hem on this piece, but you can see the wrinkles and bulk in the hem due to the delicate nature of silk. A slimmer rolled hem would have been a better choice for the curve and the fabric. Now I know!

When working from new patterns…

Making a practice item with a muslin or toile is key

While I did this previously with the Willow Tank, I was able to slide by with the boxy Shirt No 1 since we made it in a class. With more fitted garments, making a practice item before diving into your more expensive / special fabric is critical. With the Willow Tank, I learned that while I fit a Size 2 overall, I need to add room in the armpit area for it to fit comfortable.

Similarly, with the Axis Dress the neckline was a little too high and the torso too long at first fit. Knowing this, I adjusted my pattern for the “real fabric”. Realistically, you could slide by without making a practice toile on some fabrics. For example, cotton is easier to adjust as you sew if needed. And you can pick stitches and smooth out the holes afterwards. However, this isn’t always the case depending on the alteration — so it’s safer to practice on inexpensive fabric beforehand.

And in general…

I repeat: fabric matters

This echoes what I mentioned above in terms of adjusting your projects for your fabric. I made the uber popular Ogden Cami in a raw silk material — one that I love and own in several styles from Only Child. However, I should have taken into consideration the thicker material of raw silk. While the tank is great (and I’ll do a more in depth review), it’s a bit bulkier than I would like due to the double layer of fabric. To be fair, the pattern does recommend lighter weight fabrics with some drape (ex. rayon, silk, lightweight linen), so this was on me!

I hope this is helpful for anyone fortunate enough to be working through sewing projects. It is important to temper expectations around your projects – even if something doesn’t turn out the way you desired (which, for me, is most of the time), there are a ton of learnings to be had for future iterations!

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