What I Wish I'd Known When I Started Sewing

Designer and sewing expert Sara Alm

Picture an electric blue polyester-satin tube dress with spaghetti straps and a beaded appliqué — on a seven-year-old. That was my first sewing project, and it was not a costume! Since then, I've learned to deploy my glam style instincts more selectively, and I've also learned a whole lot more about sewing.

Here are a few things I wish I'd known when I first heard that blue polyester's siren song:

Seam finishes for the win

Finishing the raw edges of your seam allowances adds polish to everything you make, and you'll feel like a pro. Your pattern instructions probably have tips on basic seam finishes, but there are many options — have several in your toolkit. These days, serging is my favorite quick seam finish, and when there's time, I love a French seam or a flat-felled seam. If all of these terms sound like Greek to you, don't worry! Sewing is a technical craft, and learning the vocab is all part of the process.

Good fit is everything

When you sew, you can not only envision and express your personal style, you can make those one-of-a-kind outfits fit like a dream, no matter what your size or how your figure changes. Learn the basics of what good fit means and how to alter patterns to meet your needs. It just takes practice, and you can do it!

Muslins matter

"Make a muslin." It's one of those rules sewers hear and just ... ignore, right? A muslin (a test garment using the main pattern pieces, in a fabric that behaves like the fashion fabric) is always worth the time it takes. It's your go-to secret for great fit and finding out if the style is right for you before you cut into that amazing silk tweed or scuba knit.

Sew a statement sleeve with that perfect fabric

Get obsessed with fabric

Matching up the right fabric to the right style takes experience, but the more you can learn about different fabrics right up front, the better. If you have a local fabric store, go say hey and get to know the pros there, and ask questions!

Find your groove

There's a rhythm to sewing — set up your space so it's easy to do every step as you go, and don't put off essentials (like pressing) until the end.

Invest for big returns

As soon as you catch the sewing bug, start investing in the best equipment you can afford, especially your sewing machine. Get tools that will last, and as you advance, keep investing in your creative passion. Fun fact: I learned to sew on my grandmother's Singer Featherweight, a legendary machine that collectors covet. I still use it today!

Most of all, I wish I'd known how much being able to create my own wardrobe would let me express who I am. From tailored jackets to swimwear, I've learned that I can make anything. I love finding a fabric that scares me and looks impossible to sew, and making something gorgeous with it. But I'm never going back to electric-blue polyester satin — once was enough for that!

August 26, 2018
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What I Wish I'd Known When I Started Sewing