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What ‘s your sewing style?

jensauer | Posted in General Discussion on

Dear all:

I was talking with a friend yesterday about different sewing styles, and I thought it would be great to have some input from other sewers.

I love the “macro” tasks of sewing (making the patterns, sewing the big pieces together, and sewing fast on a good machine). My friend, on the other hand, enjoys the “micro” work (finishing the fine details, and quietly sewing and embroidering by hand).

So my question to all of you is this: What kind of sewer are you? Macro, micro, or maybe a little of both?


Jennifer Sauer, Threads


  1. JudyWilliment | | #1

    This one really got me thinking - what do I enjoy most?  I think rather than any type of sewing, I enjoy the moment when disparate pieces of fabric come together into a garment.  I'm making a coat at the moment (run into inspiration crisis over closures, but that's another story...), which is made of an outerwear fabric, quilted calico lining, satin lining and interfacing.  I like the fact that a couple of days ago, they were all flat pieces of fabric in bags.  Tomorrow it'll be a coat.  I think the satisfaction of creation is my favourite thing.  Using imagination to envisage what these things will be when they grow up.  I can't wait to hear what others have to say - hope this is a popular thread!

    1. rjf | | #17

      You could substitute an apostrophe for "g".  At least in some cases.  So it would then be "a 'a''le of 'eese".  Interesting possibilties.

  2. rjf | | #2

    Hi Jensauer,

    When I sewed (and I sewed a lot), I took great pride in making shirts entirely on the machine, buttonholes and buttons included.  (This was the old days, ladies, before computerized gizmos to be turned on at will) "Untouched by human hands", I called it.  On the other hand), I also took great pride in hand-sewing one(!) piece of lace to cover the entire bodice of a wedding dress.    Thanks for the interesting topic.   rjf

    1. anneweaver | | #3

      When I was a kid, my mother sewed all the time.  For her, it was about the end result.  She had two kids on a schoolteacher's salary, so she was all about using bargain fabric to create copies of the clothes in the stores we couldn't afford.  And being a single mom, the more she could create in the least amount of time, the better.  There were too many other things to do for her to enjoy the sewing.  Now that we're grown up, she has quit sewing.  It makes me sad, since she is so incredibly talented.  But I think sewing out of necessity for so many years took the joy out of it for her.

      For me, I think it's mainly about process.  I find it very calming to focus in on something at the level of detail that sewing requires, from following the pattern directions to making sure that seams are sewn together correctly and everything hangs just right.  It's all these little steps that make the whole project a success.  I generally don't sew for long periods of time - just long enough to complete a couple of steps in the garment.  I find it relaxing to focus on the small things and then, miraculously, at the end I have a finished garment I am very proud of!

      There's also the creative side, since what I sew are the clothes that I wish the stores would sell.  Unlike my mother, I don't sew to make copies of what I see in stores - I sew to make my own version of what I see in stores, with my own style and cut to fit ME.  I know I've got a good project planned when anticipation of the end result makes me laugh out loud.  (I just ordered some honey brown cordouroy to make a winter pantsuit.  It's going to have mustard colored cording on the jacket yoke and down the side seams of the pants.  Hah!  I can see it now!!  Everyone at work thinks I'm nuts, but they'll see...)

    2. carolfresia | | #5

      That wedding dress turned out great and I loved wearing it. And even though I learned to sew from rjf, I don't know if I'll ever be up to a project like that lace bodice.

      However, I can say that even with the "untouched by human hands" ethos, rjf's other garments were usually pretty creative--my wardrobe was certainly more interesting and individualized than what the other girls wore to school, and that's one of the most important lessons I learned from her. Of course, I didn't really understand till I was an adult how big a difference there is between making, say, a winter coat and a bathing suit (or 2 dozen clown suits and reupholstering a chair): just about anything was fair game, and I don't seem to recall much cursing and swearing, either (except from us kids). Oh, yeah, and maybe that time my little sister cut the sleeve off a coat that was waiting to be finished...I think there might have been a couple of blue streaks then.

      I, too, like a mix of super-efficiency and labor-intensive handwork, with the emphasis on the efficient part at this point (with two little kids I don't have a lot of time to sit around with a needle and thread). Most phases of sewing are enjoyable to me, with the exception perhaps of fusing interfacing and shortening pants. Lately I've liked making kids' clothes because I feel no need whatsoever to follow any rules--as long as the garment is sturdy, you can use any technique you feel like, and that's kind of fun. And fit isn't such a big issue, either, which is certainly a relief!


  3. HNYMAMA | | #4

    I guess I am a little of both.  My favorite part though is changing the pattern in whatever way and playing with the fabrics,  I love how personal the item seems after I make it

  4. ShannonG4d | | #6

    I think my style depends on the project.  If I'm making shorts for my 6yo, I want them done yesterday.  Right now I'm working on a chiffon jacket with channel stitched exterior facings; I want it to be just right, and I'm taking my time. 

    I probably base my style on the fabric being used, as well.  Some fabrics lend themselves to fine detail work.  Chiffon is a good example.  You have to take your time and do a lot of basting with chiffon or you'll have new grey hairs sprouting out of your head!LOL  On the other hand, denim is one of those fabrics I hardly have to think about when sewing. 

    Lately, my favorite part of the project is the "head work" that goes into preparing the project.  I love the idea of taking my own designs  and technique ideas and transferring them into fabric.  I also enjoy snoop-shopping for technique ideas; what a great learning process!

    And then, of course, I do love the finished projects!


    1. jensauer | | #7

      Good morning.

      I really enjoy reading everyone's views on this topic. From the discussion so far, it seems like maybe the issue isn't so much micro vs. macro, as I originally thought. It seems to be more about the enjoyment found in the creative preparation, the process, or the end result.

      I also think it's thought-provoking to hear the differences between mothers and daughters who sew. I know my style of sewing is very different from my mother's, even though she was the one who taught me to sew!

      Keep up the discussion and hopefully it will take some more interesting twists and turns!

      Jennifer Sauer, Threads

      1. sewchris703 | | #8

        I've enjoyed the discussion and want to add my thoughts.  I love most everything about sewing except cutting out (starting).  The last stitch of the garment is a happy/sad experience.  I get to see the project finished but now I have to start something new.  I really enjoy making historical costumes.  I like the balance of machine and handwork.  I find fine handwork (embrodery, beading, crochet, etc) to be calming  and relaxing.


        1. silkscape | | #9

          Gosh, how to decide.  Can't really, I'd say that I enjoy most all of the steps of sewing.  Well, there are times I dread pattern alteration and cutting, but once I've got the cutting table cleaned off and I'm "into" it, I'm fine.  I love to see the pieces come together. I love the shapes that result....like sculpture.  Sometimes once something gets to the point of finishing, I'm bored with it and ready for the next thing.  sometimes I savor hand working the hem (something I can do in the living room with the rest of teh family)

          The best thing about sewing is how good it feels to have things that fit and and are unique!  I may not be a size 2, but I have nice looking clothes appropriate for any occasion...and I never have to worry that someone else will have the same thing.  I really appreciate this b/c I've always had trouble finding RTW that fits. 

      2. rjf | | #11

        Hi Jensauer

        I remember clearly dresses and skirts and blouses that my mother made for me and I remember being impressed that she could do that but I'm sure I never told her.  But when I learned to sew in 7th grade, I would die before asking her how to do anything. I'd just have screaming fits because I couldn't flat-fell a set-in shoulder seam with four layers of Indian Head (anyone out there remember that one?)  It was my first experience in realizing that the pattern directions weren't gospel.  Well, we both survived but she never did sew much after that.

        My own daughters didn't have much reason to learn to sew because I did it all. (And I think I was a tough critic.)  But all of them, after leaving home, sew.  Different styles, but very effective.  I think I've passed the torch along.

        Next time.........my Grandmother's yo-yo pilows.        rjf

      3. sanderson | | #12

        I've had the wonderful experience of attending several sewing retreats coached by Marcy Tilton and Diane Ericson.  One of their thinking/design exercises that has really stayed with me involved splitting the group, by self appointment, into being either a "techno weenie" or an "artsy fartsy".    We then picked a partner of the opposite bent to use for problem solving and brain storming over the course of the session. 

        I'm an artsy fartsy and tend to get myself into frustrating situations because I'll launch into a project, being able to see it in my mind, and then find that I don't quite have the technical knowledge to pull it off to my own satisfaction.  What I brought with me from Marcy and Diane's class was to look for a local techo weenie who will coach me through the nitty gritty mechanics when I get stuck.  I don't call her a techno weenie though;  she's more a techno wizard.  Now I don't feel like I have to apologize for i.e. how I handled a mitered inset cause she helps me get it right!   It's just great to appreciate other  sewing styles and borrow and learn techniques as we go.

        1. rjf | | #13

          You have the advantage being the "artsy fartsy" half.  With various amounts of effort, almost everyone can learn the "techno" part.  It's harder to come up with unique designs or color schemes  if you're not so inclined.  How did your partner at the workshop deal with those problems?  How did you help her?  Fascinating group dynamics!

          1. sanderson | | #14

            We're all lucky in our joy of creating.  Since the label of artsy fartsy was self imposed vs something tested for I'm guessing that there's some form of psychology going on here.  For me a lot is based on permission to play vs doing it right.  My first sewing experience was along the lines of doll clothes and costumes.  My mom handled the serious stuff like real clothes and mending.  Maybe that was the initial concept that this could be fun...if it worked right.  That always left the skill of perfection a ways away from where I was coming from.  My first skilled sewing was a 4-H project and I found it very tedious, to put it politely.  Now as an adult I hope to find satisfaction in both a great concept as well as doing it right.  Diane and Marcy's classes give great direction to seeing the world as design options.  They were wonderful in urging us to listen to what tickles us visually, identify its attractiveness and then play with those images as fashion elements.  I think I helped my partner hear what she said she was excited about and helped her to translate that to options by asking "How can you make that image, i.e.  be on your vest?"  For example...I just ate my first tasty strawberry of the season...yum.   To translate the event I want to make a vest that reflects what that strawberry was.  As an artsy fartsy I would look at that berry for all of its colors and textures and go to my stash and pull a pile of fabrics together.  From our conversation I'm guessing my techno weenie partner would be right with me up until this point but her stash would probably be better organized than mine.  Her techno skills would help keep her from putting unsuitable fabrics together....my artsy fartsy asks how to make it work;  so together we push our own envelope further and further.  It kind of boils down to me learning how to use the natural laws better to my design advantage and she gives herself more latitude to break the rules.

          2. rjf | | #15

            Boy!  Your last two sentences sum it up just right!  So the trick is to find the "other half" or maybe, "halves".  I think there's more opportunity to get together these days or perhaps it's just easier for me than before.

            It makes me smile to hear you talk about "the Stash".  It seems to be a universal cry (or hushed tones of reverence) no matter whether "artsy fartsy" or "techno whiz".  We all deplore the money we've spent and the space we've filled up but there's a real satifaction in acquiring a beautiful piece of fabric or a good piece cheap and always to have the right interfacing or cording or thread. 

            That's why I'm so fond of this site.  I now know I'm not the only secret hoarder.

          3. JudyWilliment | | #16

            I really enjoyed your description of "other halves" - sounds like such an obvious idea, and yet not done.  I have one in my best friend, but hadn't really thouht of it as another half.  I've been sewin for many years, and she has only been doin so since she had her first child (8 years old now).  We joke about me bein her technical consultant, and her bein my disin consultant.  I talk to her about desin thins, and she talks to me about how to do stuff.  Works really well.  Bouncin ideas off each other can be so helpful - sometimes it's just the talkin about it that leads to a solution not previously thouht of.  (Sorry for the lack of the letter after "f" - computer has just responded badly to havin hot chocolate spilt on it).

          4. quilterqueen | | #18


            I hope you don't mind my buttin' in... :)  I noticed your post and had to tell you......  my keyboard has had hot coffee and soda, among other things, dumped on it!!  I just unplug it, turn it over, undo the screws and take rubbing alcohol and q-tips to it.  My brother actually tells me it is okay to put some keyboards in the dishwasher (but I woudln't try that one without further instruction!!!)  I have even done this (the q-tips and alcohol) when I haven't dumped anything, as I have noticed that the dust and (I guess) grease of hands affects even down under the keys. 

            I hope I haven't stepped on any toes, just didn't want you to have to do what I did the first time I dumped somthing in my keyboard and run out and buy a new one.

            Have a great week!!!

          5. anneweaver | | #19

            My husband washes our keyboards in the dishwasher.  (He's been a computer tech for 12 years now.)  I'm not sure exactly how he does it, so I wouldn't dare to give instructions.  I do know that we have to wait a couple of days after washing it before we plug it back in, so we can be sure that everything has completely dried out.

          6. JudyWilliment | | #20

            Thanks to everyone for the suggestions for my keyboard - as you can see, my "g" is now working.  I'm rather ashamed to say it's due to brute force - after I'd logged off, I just hit that key till it went!  My partner (who owns the computer!) was very understanding :-)  I'm going to try the q-tips and alcohol though - even though all the letters are OK, the keyboard is still pretty dusty.  One more reason to love this site - great suggestions for any problem!

          7. cottonbets | | #21

            I don't even to know where to start to reply to the trail of messages I just read! First, I was interested to hear about how others approach designing. My thoughts would echo others already expressed, stressing read, read and read some more. On the advice of a friend (a self proclaimed computer geek, who does the most technically advanced and exquisite sewing I've ever seen), I often grab an old Threads magazine when I'm going to have time to read on a plane, in a doctor's waiting room, etc. It's amazing how much interests me that just didn't apply the first time I read the magazine. (This couldn't be due to memory lapses, could it?) Anyway, try getting more mileage out of old magazines, it's a cheap way to learn. Another friend is a costumer, and has wonderful, unique approaches to design questions I have. True, many of her "fixes" include glitter, but that often provides the humor I'm ready for at that point in the design process. Her ultimate advice can be "screw it, and glue it"; that's often delivered at the appropriate point too. My third sewing friend is one with whom I sewed with for about a year and a half. She was the design side, and I was the how-to-make-it-happen side.I loved working with her, and I think that we both learned something everyday, even if it was only what not to try. What I'm getting to is that I think it's the collaboration that helps achieve what you want to make or express, collaboration of ideas from others and from books. Good luck, and just think of pieces that didn't work for you as things that might be perfect for someone else.

  5. SewingSue | | #10

    It's refreshing to find so many others that share my passion.  It seems like in todays fast paced world most don't have the time or interest to sew anymore.  In my little part of the world there is only JoAnn's and WalMart's for fabric selection.  Usually nothing very interesting being offered.  Buying fabric on the internet just isn't the same. 

    To me, sewing is a total sensory thing.  I enjoy the feel of the texture of the fabric.  Be it a humble cotton or a majestic velvet.  And, the colors and the prints.  Better therapy can't be found.  I find the entire process rewarding.  The challenge of altering a pattern to fit.  Figuring out new options when things don't go as planned.  How to lay out the pattern pieces so everything fits when you're a half yard short.  Coming up with options when nothing works.  It's all fun and stimulating and relaxing and calming at the same time.  The end results.  Something creative that no one else has.  After more than 30 years of sewing I learn something new with each outfit.  At the moment, I winding down on completing a skirt and top.  Just finishing up the details, hem, buttonholes and buttons, etc.  And my cutting board already contains the fabric of my next project.  As I do the handwork on the one I am considering the direction of the next and the next.  Nonsewers don't no what they are missing.

    Thanks for the great topic.

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