The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation


I read a morning roundup of RSS feeds which have a lot of interesting ideas.  But the other morning, I ran across something that reminded me again how important some basics are.

One is practice.


This sounds fairly boring, self-evident and plainly something you can skip and go to the next step.

The fact is that it’s anything but.

One summer I made the comment to my mentor and teacher that I was not comfy with lapels, primarily the notches of lapels.


Specifically that’s that little spot where the collar ends and the lapel starts.  This picture above is a peak lapel cause it comes up into a peak which is one of the hardest notches to do.

But RTW does this all the time and it looks OK.  Well, it looks good enough and passable.   The truth is that if you look at the photo above, there are some tell-tale signs of some problems: 1.) just below the point of the peak on the left side the outside seam of the lapel seems to dip in, 2.) the corner point of the lapel is pretty round for a peak lapel, and 3.) there’s some puckering on the upper seam of the lapel.  These are just some things that as sewists, we would expect NOT to be in our lapels, but it’s OK for RTW (another soapbox subject, another time).

Alas, back to lapels – you can see why I was not comfortable with these little delights, and mentioning them to my teacher/mentor, she said for me to go to the fabric store and buy 6 different pieces of corduroy and for me to make six jackets with lapels (fortunately she didn’t ask me to do peak lapels, just regular notched ones – like the pic below).


See how the notch here is more of a V rather than the peak model in which the upper seam of the lapel parallels the collar end.

Both are pretty hard to do, and get right (lay flatly with no “fly-away” strands of fabric showing).

So I begrudgingly went up to the local fabric store and got the corduroy and immediately set about on my first jacket.  Everything went pretty well, and when I took it in to be judged by my mentor, she told me I had gotten the collar on backwards (wrong side of fabric out) and told me to take out the collar and put it back with the right side out.  AND not to use any new fabric, use the collar as I had in the jacket.


So I did this, and the jacket came out looking very good.  Actually I was very proud of it.  But to be honest, I thought it was blind luck.  IOW, I hadn’t gained anything at all from that first jacket other than the mistake I made and fixed it but it was only luck and I had better not do that again because now that all my luck had been used up on this one jacket, the others were going to turn out like trash.

That sort of thinking (that something good is blind luck), hides so much, that it takes a closer look.  Knowing what I know today, (having sewn for as many decades as I have), I can see and realize clearly that this was not blind luck.  I had wanted to make a jacket and one that was excellently assembled using all the techniques my mentor had taught me, so I set out to do that.  Even though I made a huge mistake (close to the face and pretty obvious) – once I looked at it correctly, and had rectified the error, the jacket was a great look and a fabulous garment.  In truth it was anything but blind luck. I had the techniques and the know how and the skill to complete the project and yet I was assigning it as blind luck.

How in the world do you get over this misinterpretation?

And more importantly, say you make a mistake beyond repair, how do you get over that?

I’m afraid the answer is way more simple that we realize.


I’m also an artist and a musician.  Piano, guitar and organ (yes, I played the organ at the local church, when he regular organist was on vacation.  I made mistakes, but I kept those hymns peppy!!!!)  As both an artist and musician, I learned early on that practice was paramount in my ability to play my instrument(s).  Even if I had to sight read a hymn on Sunday mornings, if my sight reading had been practiced (I would do this by practicing a bunch of hymns I hadn’t played or didn’t know one right after the other), then I would be pretty good – not perfect, but good enough.

It was the practice that made the difference.  It gave me insight into the music, how to interpret it, how to perform it better and most of all gave me the confidence in front of an audience or congregation, to play the dang music with as few errors as possible and hopefully with some artistry so as to communicate a message with the music.

But that only comes through practice!

The next four jackets I made that summer nailed that notch technique and I even did a peak lapel in my final jacket cause I was so confident after doing 4 great jackets, that I wanted another challenge.  This time after I completed that fifth jacket and it was beautiful, I attributed the good fortune of being able to assemble the jacket with a professional result to my expertise not blind luck!

That’s what practice does for you.

It not only hones those skills and knowledge that you have just garnered, but it also changes your mental attitude.  This is key if you are to progress to the next step:  to feel that you have learned this step, then to progress to the second.

So if you’re skeered of buttonholes – do about 10 of them.

If you’re skeered of worked buttonholes – do about 5 of them.

If you’re skeered of collars & collar bands – do about 6 of them.

If you’re skeered of set in sleeves – do about 5 of them.

If you’re skeered of notched collars – do about 5 of them!

Whatever skeers you the most, do it over and over till you’re comfy with it.  This is such and easy solution it doesn’t sound like it’s the end all, but believe me it is.  Yeah it can be boring, and it can take up time you’d rather be sewing up a knit top, but practice also will give you more skills that will broaden your scope of sewing so that you can branch out and make things you never thought you could.

To this day, notches, peak lapels, lowered notches, roll lines, pad stitching and all the other things don’t scare me and the time it takes to make a tailored jacket isn’t daunting or off-putting.

Because I practiced it!



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