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michellec | Posted in Talk With Us on

Hello all,

it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I want to sew.  I want to sew great, but end up frustrated everytime.  I watch project runway and would love to be able to sew free style like they do.  I am experience and can make clothes.  The problem is I get a vision in my head and think it will look great.  When Its all done I don’t like it.  It is either the fabric, the fit, the style or what ever.

Girls, help me!  I need motivation!  I don’t know anyone else who sews and many are impressed with my talent.  Honestly, though, few turn out the way I envision it.




  1. Meg | | #1

    I've spent a lot of money and time on patterns which don't suit me, even though they're the latest design... I came to grips with my shape and try to select patterns which are better-looking on my person. The next problem I've had to conquer is acquiring the correct type of fabric for the garment I want.

    Would you benefit from a refresher class? What about a fitting class? Threads just sent out an email about a fitting DVD set which might help.

    1. michellec | | #10

      Thank you so much for your comments.  I feel rejuvenated!  I made a knit top yesterday and, as expected, got frustrated at the binding.  I recognized that by redoing it would help me to improve at my talent.  After all that is my goal.  So, I took it apart happily.  I haven't put it back together yet.  But, I will and I bet it will better.


      1. dollmarm | | #11


        I agree with several previous responses, my only other suggestion would be take a class when one is offered at a Fabric Shop.  I took one many years ago and I learned as much from all in the class as I did from the teacher.  Someone elses'eye on the fabric can be a great benefit, plus they see where we do not.  Too, I took a class to make a Log Cabin Quilt and it was taught by an Amish lady and the stories she told were delightful and insightful. Several ones helped other pick out the colors of their fabric for the quilt.

  2. Katina | | #2

    I share your frustration! Meg's points are very good; don't forget to try your ideas out on a muslin first.


  3. starzoe | | #3

    You know, it comes with experience. I know that sounds trite but it is true, everyone to some degree has the same frustrations but keep at it and you will have success (most of the time!).

  4. solosmocker | | #4

    I second Starzoe. It comes with experience and experience comes with effort after effort. Try to work up for your self 2 or 3 very basic patterns getting them to fit just right. I recommend Nancy Zieman's "Fitting Finesse" for an easy to understand and carry thru book on fit. Then once you have the fit on the basics worked out go to town! There are some great articles on embellishing on the Threads home website. Be careful with your fabric choices. The wrong choice is often the reason for that "loving hands from home" look instead of designer panache. Use your hands to feel and drape the fabric. Would it look good skimming your hips or bust? And above all, IRON METICULOUSLY! Iron every seam as sewn, and then iron open on the inside and then outside, always using a press cloth. Ironing is critical. YOU ARE MOTIVATED! I can tell by your post. Just keep at it and it will come.

    and for what its worth - I read somewhere, maybe Pattern Review, that the designers on Proj Run have an army of invisible seamsters stitching and helping them out. This info was from someone whose sister worked behind the scenes on the show. She shared lots of secrets. Also, many of the designers are already educated, experienced, and working in the field professionally. So don't get frustrated when your efforts aren't quite as wonderful as theirs. Good luck. You will get there!


    Edited 2/29/2008 12:26 pm ET by solosmocker

  5. sewelegant | | #5

    I wonder how many of you have the problem I always encounter in a fabric store these days... THERE ARE NO MIRRORS or else the mirror they have is so placed that you really do not get a good look at yourself, either up close or from a distance that would make it seem like looking at yourself walking down the street! 

    I am not for sure what you mean by having a vision or sewing free hand.  I have never watched the program Project Runway, but I get the feeling it is for wannabe designers.  Until I put on weight I must have been a perfect size 10 (in yesterday's sizes) and did not have to fiddle with fitting problems so I concentrated on perfecting my sewing techniques until there were no more books to buy or magazines to read that gave me any "new" information.  I sewed everything I wore and never felt "home made".  Now I am frustrated by fitting problems! Big Time!  Just when I think I have tweaked a pattern enough, the next garment I make requires tweaking again (same pattern or not).  I love something I make in a knit and even though the pattern ok's woven, the woven doesn't work and I end up with all those hours wasted (unless maybe I learned from a mistake, but I wonder) It seems I love fabric that does not suit me!  Hence, my problem with the mirrors.   I have just about every fitting book published, it seems.  I do like Fitting Finesse by Nancy Ziemer, but I have gleaned something from everything I have read.  I took digital pictures of myself and made a croquis and discovered why my shoulder bags feel better on my left side and why my necklines always slide to the right... I couldn't see that slight slope of my right shoulder until that croquis outline.  I think that was in the Fantastic Fit For Every Body by Gale Hazen.  My sewing daughter helped me make a dress form and that was a big help to visualize things.  Anyway, I think my point is:  fabric ... you really have to get a good feel for fabric to be able to manipulate it ... you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. 

  6. Teaf5 | | #6

    We've probably all experienced similar frustrations, not because we've failed somehow at sewing but because something else is going on. In my case, it's that my imagination conjures up something gorgeous for the young, svelte person I used to be, but the finished product doesn't work on the full, mature person I am today.

    Also, I realized that I have to try on at least fifty rtw garments to find one that flatters, so it's unrealistic to think that I might be able to make a perfect one on my first try.

    From all sorts of wardrobe references I read while grappling with this same problem, I've learned to 1) take cues from my favorite garments when planning new ones, 2) re-draw the garment on a croquis that is closer to my own shape so that I can judge it better, and 3) use my current garments as fitting guides for new ones.

    My own guidelines based on these are: 1) smaller shoulders & petite bodices fit better, although I'm 5'8", and I'll wear something only if it's comfortable & simple, 2) those drapey, unconstructed garments look great on a model but like a slipcover on me, and 3) no matter what trends or colors are in fashion at the moment, I'm always happy with deep jewel tones and v-necks.

    That said, I still donate to charity at least half of what I sew for myself because it just doesn't work the way I had hoped. But I've also made things that I have worn every week for twenty years, too! If nothing else, I get practice on every garment, whether it works out for me or not.

    Don't give up!

    1. starzoe | | #8

      You speak of a croquis - years ago when Threads had an article on it, I coerced my partner to take the pictures, he was not a good choice being short on temper and wanting skill as a photographer, but after a rather interesting afternoon we did accomplish the task and I now have the croquis shapes - they are hidden deeply in the filing cabinet but I have found them so helpful in choosing shapes that suit me.It is a relatively easy way to see yourself as others see you, no matter how shocked you are to find what your shape really is.

  7. damascusannie | | #7

    My daughter can envision a garment and then put it together successfully--MOST of the time. I work a bit differently. I imagine the garment, make sketches of it then look for a pattern or patterns that has the various components of the garment I'm planning. I make up the pattern for the new dress or whatever from the appropriate pattern pieces. The tailoring class I took many years ago is invaluable for this sort of sewing because I learned how to alter patterns to fit my own body, how change a sleeve cap, etc... It really helps to make a mock-up from muslin or non-woven interfacing to be sure the fit and style are working for you.

    When choosing fabric be careful about things like the drape, weight, and color. ALL of these need to be right for the garment to work.

    Do lots of window shopping and try on ready to wear to determine which styles look best on you. I'm 5'2" and thin but curvy (I've had seven kids, so I have hips!) so there are many styles that I love that simply look ridiculous on me (ankle length dresses just make me look shorter and a bit pudgy) and other styles that I wouldn't necessarily choose that look great. Case in point, the pencil skirt dress and swing jacket that I got to wear to a nephew's wedding last summer. I tried on the dress for a hoot and found that it looked great on me. Go figure.

    Keep in mind that in the real world of fashion design, many months are spent designing and sewing the garments with teams of experienced pattern designers and sewists working on the clothing. A dress may be made in several fabrics that are tossed out when the garment is made because the drape or weight just doesn't work right with the design before the right fabric is found. Project Runway is NOT reality! The whole point of PR is to put these young people in unnecessarily stressful situations and then wait to see who blows up. Who wants to work like that?

  8. ellaluna | | #9

    Hi Michelle!

    You said, "It's either the fabric, the fit, the style, or whatever". I don't know if it is different every time, or if you are not sure which of those things is awry when you are dissatisfied with something you've made. The first thing that I would suggest is that you go back and look at the garments you've made and identify what it is that you didn't like about it.

    Having said that, I will say that the number one reason I see for a handmade garment looking homemade is fabric choice: either choosing the wrong fabric for the garment you are making, or simply using cheap fabrics. I've seen talented designers with wonderful ideas choose cheap or unsuitable fabrics and end up with cheap-looking garments that don't hang or fit properly.

    If you can, go to a higher-end fabric store and handle all the fabrics. Pick them up, scrunch them in your hand, drape them over a bolt, then stand back and look at them. Even if Joanne's is your only option, compare their higher-quality fabrics with similar, cheaper fabrics. For example, grab a bolt of "Linen-look" fabric and compare it to linen, or compare the costume satin to silk satin. Or unroll the bolt of velvet onto the floor and roll around in it. (Okay, they probably won't let you do that)

    Good luck!!!


  9. scrubble4 | | #12


    "I want to sew great, but end up frustrated every time.  It is either the fabric, the fit, the style or what ever."

    Oh I feel your pain.  One of my solutions was to spend a fair amount of time in dress shops (second hand as they have a broader range of styles I think) trying on different styles learning what is okay, what is great and and what is a disaster.  Also, recently I have been at home on a medical leave.  One of the things I have indulged myself in, as I have not been able to do a lot, is revisiting articles in my old Thread magazines.  I re-read so many articles that Threads has published over the years about how to figure out why some things look good and others don't.  Things like the shape of our face, length of our neck, width of our shoulders and size of our bust all meld together to create the upper framework that an eye takes in at once.  There are fashion guidelines for each of these that have at various times been published in Threads.  Then there is the width (and location) of our waists, high hips, low hips (thighs) and length from waist to shoulders, and waist to hips, knees and ankles.  The proportions of each of these is critical to what works and doesn't work for each of us. 

    Then of course there is the fabric, texture, fluidity, print size and frequency.  These also blend in with all the above proportions to create a style that is great or a disaster.  So it is no wonder we can all admit to having created disasters, also rans along with our favorites.  However, I often see people in RTW clothing that is completely ill suited for them for all the above reasons as well.  And they could try their outfit on finished before they bought it. 

    Maybe it is time for us to ask Threads to revisit what works and why.  I know we can break the rules, but I always think free wheeling is less disaster prone when I know what the rules are and why I want to break them.

    Sooooo, go to some stores with different heights of shoes, as large a mirror as you can fit in your purse, and start trying on outfits.  Different shapes, colours, lengths, fabric textures the whole works.  The amount of time we put into fitting, sewing and finishing touches makes the above foray respectful to yourself. 

    Again, I will suggest second hand stores as they will have the different heights of shoes, scarves etc right there for you to use as accents as you try away.  I also think they have more variety within arm reach, but that may just be my experience. 

    Good luck and let us know how it goes.  Scrubble4


    Edited 3/4/2008 9:35 pm ET by scrubble4

  10. ctirish | | #13

    Michelle,  In reading your post, I thought I was reading something I wrote - it was like a recurring dream I keep having, it was deja vu.  I have that problem all the time.  A couple of months ago, I was reading or listening to one of 'pros' in sewing talk about her experiences.  She commented that early on she threw out more of her projects than she actually wore. She said something like 70% of her project went in the trash...  I was stunned but was happy to hear I wasn't the only one who made things and then never wore them.  Following this announcement she added that shortly after realizing that, she took several lessons on how to fit herself and make changes to patterns. 

    I have been sewing for 30 years and I still can't fit myself or alter a pattern to my satisfaction. In 2001 I took a class where the women fit a pants patterns to us and they were great. But I couldn't leave them alone, I decided I was going to lost weight and made the patterns just a tad smaller.  I made the pants and they fit beautifully for about a month, then my first grandson became ill and that was the end of the well-fitting pants.

    My goal for 2008 is to learn how to fit myself and make or get a dress form that is my shape so I can make tops, dresses and pants for myself.  I am more active in my ASG chapter and I realized the other day the only way to promote sewing to other people is to sew and wear what I create so other people can see it.

    Keep your foot to the pedal...... jane


  11. PattyP48 | | #14

    Oh, did your message hit a cord with me. I could have written it a year ago. I have the experience, the tools, great sewing room, etc. yet I was so dissatisfied and discouraged. I would layout a great piece of fabric and stare at it paralyzed with indecision. It would either go back to the stash or be made into the same safe and boring garments I had been making for years. I wanted change (new, edgy, stylish, age-appropriate and flattering fit. Well, duh).

    So what happened? I was fortunate enough to attend the ASG conference in Sacramento in the summer of 2007. The conference was four solid days filled with inspiring hands-on classes taught by sewing superstars. Add a fabric mall, fashions to touch / try-on, great events and the 1000 other attendees who loved nothing more than to share the passion and you can see how the floodgates could open.

    What that event did was get me out of the box in which I had trapped myself. Am I where I want to be? Not a chance but each new garment is better than the last and I am excited once again. The skills are there but unleashing the creative side is the challenge and that comes with doing. Take classes and take chances. This is a very personal journey for you and it will not happen instantly nor will you reach a destination. It is the process that builds on itself.

    1. michellec | | #15

      Yes, paralyzed is exactly what I had become.  Sewing can be, for me, a lonely endeavor.  no one I know is interested.  That is important for me to stay motivated to work through the frustration.  I am so thankful for this discussion group because I can talk with others about my ideas, dilemmas, etc.

      1. sewelegant | | #16

        Does the shop where you purchased your sewing machine have "gatherings"?  The reason I ask is because the Bernina shop has the Bernina Club that meets once a month.  They do charge a fee, but you get discounts on anything in the store on the days of the meeting.  And... you DO NOT have to have a Bernina machine to join.  Of course they would like to sell one to you, but it is not a requirement.  What I like about it is you do meet other sewing enthusiasts from your area and everyone brings something to show and tell so it is quite interesting.  The class itself is to highlight a foot or technique using Bernina products, but you can adapt it to whatever you sew on.  Other machine brand stores probably offer the same type of meetings.  The American Sewing Guild is another place to meet other sewers, if there is an active group in your area.  It does enhance your interest to talk with others about one of your favorite hobbies.

  12. ineedaserger329 | | #17

    Do you have a dress form? Just pinning the pattern pieces to a form in yor size and shape can mean all of the difference

    1. decoratrice | | #18

      Oh, dear--the fit, the fabric, or something! I have been sewing for more years than I care to remember, and that's often been my song, but not as often now as it used to be. All the comments have been great. I would add: buy some cheap, muslin-like fabric to which you have no allegiance, and make a test garment. If it works, bonus, you can wear it. Some of my favorites have been these "what the heck" garments. I'm working on the current Vogue Issey Miyake with the long drapey jacket, using a lightweight, odd-colored wool that I paid $4 a yard for. If it works out, I'll happily buy the 6 yards or so in an expensive and thrilling fabric. I also cut up my failures and recycle the fabrics into my art-to-wear jackets. Or even potholders--I have such fabulous ones! The dress form is a great, great help. A friend helped me make the duct tape model shown on this web site--cheap, accurate, and fills the bill. Dive in, and keep us posted!

  13. thumbsx10 | | #19

    I feel your pain, and am glad I am not the only one. After years of research and a few more of pattern and muslin workups, I have found the taking off, putting on; taking off, putting on wore down my mojo. Add to that the body changes and it seemed I was setting myself up for failure. I am thinking of a body form and hope this is the answer for me. Do you think this would help you?

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