9 Tips For Joyful and Stress-Free Sewing
Sewing can be exhilarating and it’s easy to get into the flow of creating and experimenting. But sometimes it feels like there is more stress than joy and the whole process becomes frustrating.
Here are 9 helpful tips that will keep you smiling while you sew.
1. Be more realistic about your deadlines
Many times you will want to sew something for an event or occasion. You see it as your time to shine and prove to yourself how far you have come with your sewing.
But oftentimes, we DIYers, in our excitement, underestimate the time it takes to complete a project.
We don’t factor in any unforeseen bumps in the road. Therefore, it is wise to always allocate more than enough time for any challenges you encounter. This way, you won’t feel as stressed when things take a lot longer than you expected.
Of course, there are times when you are feeling spontaneous and want to challenge yourself with a tight deadline! That’s fine – just be kind on yourself and tell yourself to be content on the final product, whatever may happen.
2. Take regular breaks to cool down
Sewing requires a lot of mental, emotional and physical work. If you’re not careful, you will start to feel overly strained. Sewing burnout is real! When you continue working in this state, it very quickly becomes counterproductive.
Learn to recognise when you need to take a break from it all to cool down. This could be daily, weekly or monthly breaks. Just make sure you take some time to refresh your mindset and look back on your work with fresher eyes.
Personally, I sew almost every weekday, so I try not to sew on the weekends (although I may do a bit of pattern drafting if I’m up for it). Take a close look at your routine and find what’s best for you. Consciously incorporate breaks into your sewing routine.
Everyone has their limit. Learn to know yours.
3. Adjust your expectations
This is a hard one to come to terms with, depending on your personality.
When I first started sewing, I thought it would be a breeze. Watch a few tutorials here and there, following every step exactly and I’ll get an amazing, flaw-free product.
I quickly found out that’s not how it works.
I now realise that I had unknowingly subscribed to the idea of “instant gratification”. The truth is, any tutorial you watch or read (including on this blog!) has many years of hard work and making mistakes behind it.
If you are a beginner, you probably won’t stitch every seam correctly. Your basic bodice might need a lot of improvement. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Even advanced learners aren’t 100% satisfied with all their work.
Sewing is a journey of constant improvement. And that’s the amazing thing about it. You get to see your growth over time.
Even things you are happy with right now will probably be improved and tweaked later down the line.
This leads me to my next point:
4. Be proud of what you have achieved so far
You will rarely be 100% happy with a project. Even after so much practice, there will be times you slip up on something and make a mistake.
But let’s be honest, most people will see your finished dress and be amazed! They will be astounded that you managed to make something so beautiful for yourself. Most people won’t see that it doesn’t fit perfectly at the sleeve or that the hem is crooked.
We are often too hard on ourselves because as I mentioned before, we are so emotionally invested in the result. We think that everyone watched all those tutorials with us and will therefore know exactly what the finished project should look like.
That’s obviously not true, so cut yourself some slack. So instead of being upset about the 25% that didn’t go well, celebrate the 75% that did. And then get excited about learning how to improve that 25% for next time.
But if we continue to be honest with ourselves, we will admit that it has something to do with our ego.
We told our friends and family that we can sew, so if our clothing is anything less than perfect, they will judge us and think we are playing around. We cringe at the thought of loved ones seeing flaws in our much-treasured work.
We begin to see the final physical product as a reflection of our worth. We want to bask in the praise of others.
This is a toxic mindset. It’s not easy to tame, and I struggle with it too sometimes. But it’s important to not let it take over you and suck the joy out of sewing.
Remember that you are sewing because you want to. You are doing it solely for yourself. Not for your friends, not for your family. For yourself.
If you are content with the final result, that’s all that matters. Regardless of what anyone else might say.
5. Listen to podcasts / music once in a while
It’s very easy to get upset when things don’t go your way. This is especially the case with sewing, because you are so emotionally invested in the end product.
Once in a while, when you need a positive emotional boost, try listening to some music as you work. The genre is up to you, but just choose something that will uplift your mood and help keep you motivated.
Likewise, a podcast (sewing or non-sewing related) can give you some inspiration. A burst of energy you need to keep going!
6. Be diligent and don’t cut corners
This means that you take the time to, for example:
- Wash your fabric according to the manufacturer’s guidelines before you start cutting.
- Change to a new needle and clean your machine (especially the bobbin and sewing feet areas) before each new project.
- Test a strip of your washed fabric on your sewing machine (and overlocker, if you have one) to determine the necessary tension settings and needle size.
I know, I know, there’s no time and you want to finish your garment quickly.
But if you don’t do all things, they will eventually slow you down and could even ruin the final garment!
Your sewing machine won’t sew neatly if you don’t clean it regularly or select the correct tension settings and needle size.
This is even worse with an overlocker, which cuts the fabric as it sews. Testing a strip of fabric with your overlocker will ensure a beautiful finish that you can be proud of.
Lastly, if you don’t wash your fabric before sewing it up… well just expect your finished clothing to shrink after washing your project for the first time. A real pain if you spent so long testing the fit of your patterns!
7. Have a dedicated place for all your tools
I have a confession to make. I am not good at putting tools back in their correct places. I’m always looking for something, whether it’s a pencil, ruler, paper scissors, mobile phone… just about anything.
I do have a dedicated place for all these things… I just don’t put them back after using them.
If you want to save yourself time (and anxiety), firstly organise your sewing. And then, perhaps more importantly, put everything back in their correct places after using them!
8. Invest in the right tools
If you are a beginner, you can be content with the basic tools.
However, once you become more comfortable with sewing and pattern drafting, I highly recommend investing in the right tools.
Having the right tools makes the process more efficient, accurate, and ultimately more enjoyable. Sewing and pattern drafting would be a lot more cumbersome without these tools.
These are my personal favourites, which I use for every project:
- Tailor’s ham – for pressing and ironing curved seams, such as darts and princess seams.
- Bias Tape Maker – by far the easiest and quickest way to make your own bias tape for finishing necklines and armholes.
- French curve – to easily draw curves e.g. for princess seams and armholes
- Pattern square/ruler or quilting square – helps to find angles, add seam allowances and draw perpendicular and parallel lines while pattern drafting (features vary by product).
Save time, improve accuracy, reduce stress!
9. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else
This is such great advice for life in general. I’m sure you have heard it many times before. But do you regularly follow this advice?
There is a difference between seeking inspiration in someone else’s work and getting upset that your work doesn’t look like theirs.
Look for inspiration online, but you have to draw a line when it starts to get you down.
You already know that a picture on Instagram doesn’t tell the full story.
When I post my dresses and skirts on Instagram, you wouldn’t be able to tell that it took literal blood (from pricking myself with needles so many times), sweat (doing muslin fittings in the summer heat) and tears (many, many tears) to get to where I am today.
It may take you 5 years to figure out something that took me 2 years to achieve, or it might take you 1 month to accomplish something that takes someone else 12 months to work out. That’s fine, because we are unique human beings with different strengths and different talents.
My story is different to yours, and yours is different to the next woman’s. When you compare yourself, you diminish your victories.
Your story is wonderfully unique to you. Be proud of it.
You will notice that most of these tips are about improving your mindset and how you organise yourself.
To maintain the joy of sewing and creating, it is essential to keep yourself happy!
Keep learning, be kind to yourself, and you’ll be just fine 🙂
What are your own personal tips?
What do you think of these tips? Do you have any of your own to share?
Share your top tips for making sewing more enjoyable and less stressful in the comments! 🙂
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