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carobanano | Posted in General Discussion on

After browsing through the “what about the novice sewers?” thread, I’m curious: what’s everyone’s definition of a novice, intermediate, and advanced sewer? Novice, of course, is pretty easy, but when does one “graduate” to intermediate, and then onto advanced?

(This is also for somewhat selfish purposes, as I have no idea where I am in the nebulous world of intermediate-advanced, and would like to know.)


  1. carolfresia | | #1

    Hmmm....This is a good question. I think we all have our own definitions, probably. Obviously, as a Threads editor I meet a lot of "advanced" sewers, but I'd more fairly call them "professional." I guess I'd consider someone who would be unfazed by pretty much any pattern in, say, the Vogue pattern catalogue to be advanced. Of course, there are sewers who would take on any tailoring project happily, but wouldn't go near a yard of chiffon, and others who are delighted to make a fancy wedding gown but won't attempt a tailored notched collar--and both of those would be advanced, too.

    And then there are people who are advanced at designing, but intermediate when it comes to construction, and others who can put together a perfectly sewn garment that has no style and doesn't fit well....so as you can see, there are many areas of expertise involved in sewing, and there aren't that many people who excel in all of them. However, lots of sewers, even self-taught ones, become very accomplished in many of these areas.

    Here's how I'll know when I'm an advanced sewer: when everything I sew (OK, let's say almost everything) turns out the way I've planned. This may never happen, because my standards change as my skills improve, but I won't really mind remaining an intermediate sewer, at least as long as they let me stay at Threads!


    1. SewNancy | | #2

      I loved your answer.  When I filled out my profile I didn't quite know where to put myself.  I can make a notched lapel, but I am still struggling with pants fitting!  I also don't really want to sew on chiffon either.  I aspire to be advanced, but I am really intermediate. 


      1. carolfresia | | #3

        Well, based on your Chanel jacket, I'd have said advanced! But it's in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?

        Here's a secret: I have a PhD (yup, I actually do, though not in sewing!), and people are sometimes impressed by that. But for me, it really seems more like the way I describe it to my kids: I stayed in school through the 23d grade. I.e., it's just school, but more of it. I think once you get to be an advanced sewer, it might be similar--it's just sewing, but more of it. How's that for an anti-climax?! I'd like to think that once I'm "advanced" I'll always be thrilled with my creations and never intimidated by tricky details and squirrelly fabrics.


        1. FitnessNut | | #4

          I think you've got it right, Carol. I consider myself an advanced sewist, but that isn't to say that I'm madly in love with all my creations or even merely happy with some of them. Now and then, the garment may be beautiful and well-made, but it doesn't have that spark that just grabs me. And certain details/fabrics still give me pause, though I've learned to work through any second thoughts I might have (usually by making samples). For instance, even though I make about 8-10 tailored jackets per year (including the designing and patternmaking), I still hesitate over welt pockets.....and probably 6-8 of those jackets have welt pockets. I just make a sample pocket or two just before doing it on the jacket to get comfortable first.

          So....what field did you study for your Ph.D.?

          Edited 8/17/2004 2:05 am ET by Sandy

          1. carolfresia | | #5

            Well, that's reassuring to hear that even someone who does welt pockets fairly regularly needs to do a practice round for each garment. It makes sense, too--every fabric behaves differently, so you'd want to suss out any strangeness before working on the garment itself.

            I'm a non-practicing art historian (still a museum junkie, but in smaller doses these days).


          2. FitnessNut | | #7

            Mmmmm....I love art history. I come from a family of artists (me included) and I have a bachelor's degree in history, but was forced to abandon any idea of further study due to family circumstances. Maybe that's just as well, since I ended up in fashion design school 15 years later!

          3. carolfresia | | #8

            Fashion design school sounds pretty wonderful to me--I'll bet you're glad your life took that turn after all!


          4. FitnessNut | | #9

            Yup, sure am! And yes, it was a wonderful experience.....I wouldn't trade it for anything....even a Ph.D.!

          5. rjf | | #12

            "Now and then, the garment may be beautiful and well-made, but it doesn't have that spark that just grabs me. "

            But worse than that is the garment from gorgeous material with a fatal sewing flaw.  Something like shortening the same pants leg twice instead of both once.       rjf

          6. FitnessNut | | #13

            "Something like shortening the same pants leg twice instead of both once."

            Speaking from experience???? (I can see how that might happen ;-))

          7. rjf | | #14

            Not exactly that but once I was making a wedding gown with an asymmetrical front and cut the bigger piece wrong side up.  Had to buy another yard and a half but the the wrong piece made a nice background for pink, orange, yellow transparent shells (don't know the name but Cape Cod beach shells) sewn on with gold thread.  It did teach me to check twice, at least in that situation.  Sometimes the painful lessons are the most rememberable.  I do think someone else wrote about shortening the same pant leg twice and it stuck in my mind.        rjf

        2. SewNancy | | #10

          Thanks for the compliment.  I was really glad to see that even someone as experience as Sandy makes a sample welt pocket first!  I always make samples of more difficult details and I try out diferent treatments before I use them.  I did this on the Chanel jacket and on the skirt, which in some ways was more difficult than the jacket because of the silk.  I had lots of ideas on different trim and bought extra material to try them out.  I ended up with enought extra to make my daughter a little pleated skirt from the tweed.  She is tiny and less than a yard was needed.   I am using Chanel details and that Neue Mode pattern Threads reviewed.  I fringed the bottom edge and am going to fringe the edges of the pleats.  Very cool and  she is anxious to take it away to college. 


        3. carobanano | | #11

          OK. Consolidating posts here.

          Carol- it may sound anticlimatic, but going to school until the 23rd grade is still pretty impressive! Art history is one of the things I want to take classes in when I head off to college; fortunately, most art schools require it. :D

          SherryG- After reading these posts, I'd have to agree with you- I'm an advanced intermediate too. Barely! There really are so many types of fabrics and designs I haven't tried yet, but I design, so.....I let that count for something. :Þ

          Nancy- I saw the picture of your Chanel jacket, and I like it a lot! I just bought a pink boucle-tweed= fabric from Joanns (had to special order it because they ran out, eurgh), and I'm planning on making a Chanel-esque jacket from it. I hope it doesn't look toooo trendy, though....

          Sandy- Which school did you go to for fashion design? What was your experince there like? I'd love to get the details, as I'm planning on majoring in fashion design too. :)

          1. SewNancy | | #15

            They are still showing fringed edges and unfinished edges to the outside, so it seems to have become a modern classic.  The jacket can be really versatile, looks great with trouser cut jeans which dresses it down.  I like to make things that have multiple uses.  After all, spending all that time I want to wear it alot. 


  2. SherryG | | #6

    I consider myself to be advanced intermediate (if there be such).  I agree that there are no hard and fast rules for the distinctions.  I think the only you can define yourself, as to where your level is.  I have been sewing since I was a small child (at that time, most of the women in my family sewed) trying to copy what I saw my Momma doing to make doll clothes (without a pattern), but I feel that I still have a long way to go to be an advanced sewer.

    Sherry in Texas

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