The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

What I See A Lot Of

You would think it would be a mess of fabric that is so tangled there is no hope of help much less detangling it.

But no.

What I see the very most of with my students and people who come to me for sewing help is

  1. They are on the right track and they’ve done so much that’s right, all they have to do is take the next step, and
  2. Pressing

Yep, that’s it – and that’s today’s blog – so see you later!!!

OK, only kidding.

The point here is two things.
Yes you may be on step 145 of 165 steps and you may not know how it’s going to end and that may scare you, but take a coupla deep breaths and go on to the next step, then the next, and on and on.  This process of sewing is a lot like taking a grand adventurous trip.  When Walt and I hike out in Yellowstone, we are never sure of what wonderful surprise might be lurking around the corner.  We have a map that says there’s a creek here and a bridge there, but we look ahead of us and we can’t see it.  I trust the map and know that when I get over a rise or two, the creek bridge will be there. But the real truth is that I can not see that next ridge or that creek from the beginning of the hike – I trust my map and take one step, then the next and the next and then I’m at the creek.

Sewing is a lot the same way.  Often all you have to do is go on to the next step and you’ll see how this part goes together

And pressing – honestly, you should never prejudge a seam till it’s pressed.

This is exactly the same cipher with the one on bottom straight out of the machine and the one on top pressed minutes later.  Do not think that your clothes don’t respond the same way.  Many a time I’ve been with a student in class who thinks that she has to take the whole sleeve out cause there are puckers in it.  A good pressing can often solve that whole problem – that’s why the presser is paid more than the seamstress on the clothing manufacturing floor.

Here’s a great case in point.


This cute bride had her whole dress together except at the upper v in the front and the zipper on the side.   She had done an excellent job of facing it and the v at the sweetheart neckline was gorgeous.  Her straps were beautifully detailed, the lacework she had done was excellent.  The lace on the skirt was a separate overlay and the seams and darts matched beautifully.  When she asked for my help, I thought “like what help do you need from me?”  She then showed me the V in front.  It needed a little trimming and then pressing.

I have been using this Flatter stuff and I love it.  If you think this doesn’t make a difference – get some – cause it will surprise you.

I’m in love with this stuff.  We were at the shop so I used some of this, and like magic, the whole V flattened and looked like a pro.

Then she had the zipper that was a little tricky at the top.  She was a little tight on the lace overlay, and after working with it for a minute, there were two solutions – pull the lace so it matches at the top (the lace was about ½” short of the edge of the zipper) and it would cause wrinkles that you could see all the way to the front or let the edge of the lace be flat against the fabric, OR we could let the lace not match, which would be under the arm, and mostly out of view guaranteed 90% of the time.  So we elected to do the later and you can see the result above – a beautifully fitted bodice.

After we finished these two small alterations;  pressing the V in front and allowing the lace to lay flatly even though it didn’t cover all the zipper.  The under fabric did cover the whole zipper so it wasn’t that there was no fabric there, it was simply that the lace didn’t cover all the upper zipper – it lacked about ½” of doing that and believe me;  if someone actually saw it, they not only need a life, but they shouldn’t be that close – you have my permission to slap ’em!

These are the common sorts of decisions that do stop some people dead in their tracks.  Sometimes there are simple solutions and sometimes the choices between two bad choices that are hard, so you are left picking the less bad choice (sorry for the bad grammar!)!  This not always anything you’ve done wrong, or has a perfect solution. I think that too often we sewists are our own worst critics, and we have to learn to let that go.  This is a constant problem with me.  I have to remind myself that on a galloping horse, people won’t notice.  And that’s a funny take, but here’s the bottom line.  Look at what RTW gets away with, and most of the time, they get away with it because everything is pressed within an inch of its life.  It’s basically molded into what it’s supposed to look like.  Now, if your sewing what half as good as that, then you’d be fine.

The facts are that you are probably sewing much better than you think, and hitting a wall or blank spot, usually can be solved by sitting down and thinking through what you’re doing or by putting it aside and that’s that.

This is a creative process.  And the creative process is fraught with all sorts of problem-solving.  That means that inevitably you will run into a stumbling block or a blank wall.  That’s the very nature of the creative process.  If you don’t want to run into a brick wall, then you can do the same thing over and over – now truly – really….how creative is that?  Not very.  This is not a safe or clear path sometimes, but that’s what makes it more interesting and way more fun than doing the same ole boring thing over and over.  This is also a chance to stretch yourself and learn more than you thought you could.  Yeah, that sounds way scarier than doing the safe thing that you already know over and over.  But pushing yourself, although exciting and scary, also allows you to expand into areas and doing things that not only you never thought you could do but expands your creativity beyond bounds.

Most of the time, I find, it takes
pressing your seams and
traveling onto the next step (after a deep breath!

  1. Thank you for such an excellent post. Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in despair and frustration. Now I will go to the ironing board and give my garment a good press. Such great advice.

  2. BRAVO!!!! I have been sewing enthusiastically for 45+ years and never tire of making new garments. Lately,I have been really carefully seeking independent designers to see what they can offer me.Apart from ‘too much of the same’ one thing stands out glaringly!!! Many (not all,but many!) garments have obviously not been near an iron during construction, and even before photographing!!! At times I have been gobsmacked! Can ALL designers/sellers of patterns PLEASE emphasize the need to press every seam before sewing the next one? And have some pride, and PRESS your offering(s) before showing it/them online.

    • I think “pressing” comes off as too simple a solution. Often people think the solution has to be very hard, or very expensive or something like that to make it work when it’s simply pressing! Sometimes it is the simple solution that is the best.

Leave a Reply