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First project in almost 30 years — SOS!

Jillsifer | Posted in General Discussion on

Hello: I’m starting my first sewing project in almost 30 years — the last time I sewed was in early high school — and I’ve decided to make a top for my Mother. It’s got a plain neckline — slightly rounded, sits on the collarbone — is that called a jewel neckline? and long straight sleeves. Simple neck facing, doesn’t look too hard, but again, it’s been almost 30 years. Any hints, tips or suggestions to idiot-proof it?

Once upon a time, I was a decent seamstress — never brilliant but I could put a decent dress or blouse together.

I’m hoping my confidence will come back as I work on this thing, but would really appreciate any ideas.



  1. JanetM | | #1

    May I suggest finding a good sewing reference book and do some reading to refresh your memory before diving right into your project? A little time spent reading could give you the confidence you need right now as well as prevent a lot of frustration. The project you've described is simple and just the right type to use to get back into sewing. Refreshing your memory with the techniques you already know is what I'd recommend - then, simply enjoy yourself!


  2. rjf | | #2

    I'll second janetpinkpanther's suggestions and add this idea.  Why not buy some cheapo muslin and cut and sew the blouse without the facings just for practise and also to see if it fits properly? It might be worth the extra cost and time.  rjf

  3. carolfresia | | #3

    If you haven't sewn for 30 years  or so, there might be some nice new notions out there that you're not familiar with. Have you used any of the current fusible interfacings? If not, see if you can find a good fabric store where the staff can answer your questions about these. The early generation of fusibles wasa a bit iffy--stiff, with unreliable adhesion, but the new ones are pretty fantastic for general purpose sewing (you might not want to use them in ultra-fine fabrics). 


    1. Jillsifer | | #4

      Thanks to ALL for the suggestions. I bought Sewing for Dummies and am planning to read through parts of it before I even cut the pieces out. And yes, I'm kind of familiar with the newer fusible interfacings because my Mother sews and uses them.

      Sadly, the project is no longer a surprise for her because she popped into my house unannounced and saw the fabric laid out on my kitchen table. So I 'fessed up, which is NOT all bad because she's delighted that I'm making something for her (it's a bit on the cutesy side -- rust-colored fabric with Snoopy and Woodstock scampering amid a bunch of autumn leaves -- my red-haired, green-eyed Mother ADORES Snoopy) and also offered to coach me if I need it.

      I really appreciate your suggestions, all of you! Thanks a ton!

      1. SisterT | | #5

        Has your sewing machine been sitting idle for 30 years?  You might want to take it into a sewing machine repair place and make sure it is oiled and the timing is okay, etc.  That can eliminate a lot of frustration at the outset!

        Sr. Tracey

        1. Jillsifer | | #6

          No, actually it hasn't. I have a "castoff" from my Mother -- it's maybe 8 or 10 years old and she was using it as recently as a year ago.

          Thank you, though, for the good tip. Maybe now is a good time to ask if they need to be oiled/serviced/whatever-ed during regular use? (Awkward phrasing but I guess what I'm asking is will I have to take it to a repair shop periodically for maintenance?)

          Thank you!

          1. SisterT | | #7

            I will defer to the experts on this discussion board, but I think it depends on the age of the machine and the make.  We just treated one of our sisters to a brand new Viking, and I think they need almost no service.

            It really depends on the machine.  If it is an "older" model, I would get it checked out.  If you don't want to go that far, at least get the owner's manual and make sure it is oiled and cleaned according to the manual.


          2. Jean | | #8

            My Viking is almost 25 years old and I've only had it in for a tune  up twice.  Needs no oiling. :)

          3. jscraphappy | | #9

            I totally agree with all the above messages, isnt your Mother really lucky to have a dd like you to make her a suprise gift like this(:The newer fusibles are so so soft compared to the older generation of them I made a jewel neck dress once & the neckline was like a "halo"& would not lay down flat.Change the machine needle fairly often & use a good quality thread in bobbin & top.My machines are never oiled just brushed out regularly.Read a tip in "Threads" once.empty washing-up bottle (clean)aim it at the bobbin area & squeeze the air out of the dry bottle & it throws out the dust.Hope that makes sense.I tried it after I read the tip & it works.not as good as the air canisters but a lot cheaper.Best of luck with your sewing & reading

          4. Evie | | #10

            Hi Jilsifer. I like rjf's suggestion about trying the pattern in muslin. Women your Mom's age(Sorry Mom! I can say that because I am in your Mom's age group) sometimes have their shoulders a little forward, making a jewel neckline come up too high on the neck---hope you can picture what I mean. You may have to lower the neck just a little. Good luck to you and your "red headed" Mom.           Janet C     

          5. Jillsifer | | #12

            Thanks for the suggestion. Now that it's NOT a surprise (grrrrrr), we'll be kind of fitting and adjusting ON THE ACTUAL MOTHER, so I'll draw on her expertise somewhat to make it fit her the way she wants it to. (I'm eager to fly solo, though, so we've agreed that she won't be hovering over my every move!) Anything more complicated than this, though, and we're definitely going muslin.

          6. SisterT | | #13

            Ummmm, redheads don't "coach" or "hover."  We tell people how to do things and we expect you to listen!  :)

          7. Jillsifer | | #14

            I know. I AM one!

            And it was quite a coup just to get my redheaded Mother to agree to "coach" and not steamroll the whole thing. (The only way I'll learn, really . . . ) So far, she's failing miserably and I'm not even finished cutting the thing out (actual WORK got in the way). I've decided to do much/most of it when she's ELSEWHERE, which won't be easy because we're neighbors . . .

            So which redhead ya bettin' on?

          8. rjf | | #15

            Well, I was betting on Mom until I saw the last line "So which redhead ya bettin' on?" and now I'm changing my mind.  I've never resolved the mother-daughter thing. I would have died before asking my mother for help and now I realize how smart she was to leave me alone crying over a flat-felled shoulder seam that would NOT go through the sewing machine.  So when my own daughters were learning to sew, I tried to do the same thing but I'm not sure now whether that was the right strategy.  I helped when asked, I think, but I tried not to do it for them.  The trouble was that I couldn't bring myself to tell them an easy way if it wasn't the right way.   I'm sure my sewing standards were too high for anyone to reach.  Now that I'm writing this, I'm realizing that frustration doesn't necessarily generate loathing.  After all, if you do something really difficult, there's a much greater sense of accomplishment and a willingness to suffer it again if you know you'll get good results.      

            But I have an idea for you:  make two blouses.  When your mother comes over, pull out the one she can talk about and keep the other one hidden so you don't get unwanted advice and you can do it yourself.         rjf

          9. Jillsifer | | #16

            GOOD idea! I'll dash off to the fabric store RIGHT AWAY. (Even though I'm a beginner/retread, I already have that much-vaunted seamstress's disease: the pathological inability to resist buying fabric!)

          10. SisterT | | #17

            One redhead playing mind games with another.  Are you selling tickets?


          11. Jillsifer | | #18

            Naaaaaahhhh . . . redheads perform for the sheer joy of having an audience.

            (Okay, okay, I'll trade ya -- two redheads playing with each other's minds for SEWING TIPS!)

          12. anneelsberry | | #19

            Hey, Jill. Let me know if you need any help -- be glad to help out. (Is Gillen a red-head too? Three in one house, YIKES!)

          13. Jillsifer | | #20

            Oh, HI!!! I didn't know you hung out over here, and THANK YOU; I just may call on you! No, Gillen is a blond for now, but I see LOTS of auburn in there! (And Mother is TECHNICALLY not in the same house; we live "back to back" on two suburban streets with adjoining backyards. She's here constantly, though!)

          14. Jillsifer | | #11

            The "air squeeze" is a GREAT idea! Thank you.

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