I am a run-of-the mill, self-taught home sewer.  My sewing style is not couture, but time-challenged.  I would have named the site “Sew Quick and Dirty” if I wasn’t worried about attracting the wrong kind of traffic.

I admire couture and its painstaking perfection.  But I can’t sew that way myself.   I lack the mindset, the time, and to be truthful, the social life, for couture sewing to be my thing.  My own approach is best described as “get it done so I can go on to the next fun thing”.  The next fun thing being the next sewing project.   I blame it on genes.  Once upon a time as America sashayed into the Roaring 20’s a pair of artistic Irish blues smiled upon a set of capable German browns.  The ensuing marriage spawned an entire family line of crafters afflicted with a love of handwork and a desire to produce as much as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Hence I find the painstaking part of creation to be too painful.  Why hand-sew a hem when even the stuff I buy at department stores is machine finished?  The machine makes a better buttonhole than I do, so it makes sense to use it.  Over time I have learned that aligning my sewing methods with techniques that emulate store-bought clothes makes the most sense for me.

Now I purposely Sew Store-Bought.  But it hasn’t always been this way. 

I began my sewing journey in the late 70’s and early 80’s when making your own clothes was seen as a bottom of the barrel,(are you nuts!)  kind of hobby.  Nurturing immature preteen hopes of fashion finesse I joined 4-H thinking it would teach me to sew.  Everyone and their mother, (including mine!), assured me that sewing your own clothes was once the done thing.  

So I figured how hard could it be?

Much harder than my precocious adolescent imagination envisioned.   I was taught traditional sewing methods and it was assumed that if I mastered the technique then I would have a lovely well-fitting garment in the end.  Both patterns and people kept using words like “basic”, “easy”, and “you’ll pick this up in no time!”  Ironically these are the very words that discouraged me the most because “by the book” techniques resulted in dorky homemade looking clothes.  I was devastated and assumed that something was wrong with me.  I was a bad sewer.

Dorky results just about kept me from ever sewing again.

Getting around the dorky and homemade look has been, and still is, my biggest sewing challenge and the impetus behind this blog.

Over time I have come to believe that this one thing, working so hard on a garment that you never want to wear, is for beginning sewers, the biggest impediment to staying with the hobby.  Most of the time we are working alone, with no instructor nearby, wading through strange terminology, squinting at huge sheets of paper trying to decipher the instructions, and in so many other ways, left to our own devices.  Many things can go awry and they do, leaving a new sewer, often a young woman, thinking that she has no talent.  And she quits sewing.  I hate that!

I don’t want anyone to quit sewing!   

I enjoy watching fashion trickle down from runway to ready-to-wear, and I admit to admiring the store-bought version more than the extreme designs paraded by haute couture.   I look for patterns that match up to popular fashions and I want my sewing to so closely emulate the ready-to-wear look  that it passes for store-bought.  I am happy to be complimented on any garment I make, but I am happiest when the viewer does not ask, “Oh, is this something you made?”   

For most of us going from making our first square pillowcase to sewing something that could pass for store-bought is a huge achievement.   Getting past the dorky homemade look and into the flow of sewing has been for me, time-consuming, expensive and difficult.   But it need not have been.  I was going it alone.

Now that I have gotten some success under my belt I see that many of my difficulties could have been quickly averted if I had another sewer nearby who truthfully told me how she went about her work.    As I go about my own sewing today I am reminded of my past mistakes, and often I have wished for a forum where I could offer new sewers some of what did not get as a beginner.    I want to tell others and still sometimes need to hear:

  • “Don’t give up. “
  • “Yes, we all sometimes cuss out our sewing machines.”
  • “Disobeying the pattern instructions isn’t a criminal offence.”
  • “Don’t be afraid to do it your way!”
  • “It’s not you.  It’s the pattern, or the technique, or the instructions, etc.”
  •  “Here try this. “

Encouragement, honesty, humor and, I hope, some useful information.  That is my aspiration in creating this blog as I reach out and connect with others as obsessed as I am with the amazing craft of making your own clothes.  

Happy Home Sewing,


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathleen
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 09:01:28

    FYI: the cattiest thing one fashion student will say to another is “did you make that”? It means it looks like it -and not in a good way. Iow, never wear it again, take it out and burn it. A gracious person would never ask that, it’s gratuitously unkind and deliberately rude. In homesewing, it’s considered a compliment. I’ve never gotten used to that 🙂


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Sep 10, 2010 @ 10:24:47

      I know. Non-sewing friends who know I sew will glance at me in Levis’s and gush loudly enough for all to hear, “Did you make that?!” Heavens no!
      When another home-sewer asks I figure it is just a question.
      It is primarily the hapless masses whom I am trying to hoodwink into thinking I have bought my garments at a high end RTW store 😉


  2. ACutAbove
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 16:36:36

    I am so glad I found your website and I am hoping to learn quite a bit from it. I am a beginning sewer and I am (gasp!) a guy! I want to create items that are of as good as or better quality than store bought.

    Yesterday I found a website called something like patternreview.com. I;m sorry, but I just have to say that it was absolutely awful. There were all of these women posting pictures of garments they had made. I was looking at pictures of shirts they had made for their husbands. They were absolutely hideous! I wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing some of that stuff.

    And then to make matters worse, all of the other members of the site would come on and comment and tell the original poster how wonderful their garment looked and that their husband looked so happy with it etc. etc. etc. Ewwwww!!!!

    I’m a beginning sewer and even I can tell when the wrong type of fabric is picked for a particular garment… There was one picture of a man wearing a long sleeve “t-shirt”. The ends of the sleeves had no gathering or ribbing or binding. They were just left flapping open with plain old straight flat hems! Absolutely awful!!!

    So like I said, I’m glad to find your site, and I’m hoping to learn alot!


  3. Brandy
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 23:10:28

    I fall right into your category. People that know me know that I sew. I’ve tried to look fashionable. What makes it even funnier is that People think I know what I’m doing. Really I just copy stuff from books. Also I just cut out fabric with out a pattern and see what I can cup up with. The patterns are hard for me to follow. I brought secondhand men tshirts and used decorative stitches to make them look more fem. I can really appreciate your sight. Sometimes I get frustrated with myself because my stuff doesn’t look store brought. That’s the look that I would like to have, but I do enjoy sewing and get inspired by stuff I see on other blogs.


  4. Paulette Hackman
    Jul 23, 2012 @ 11:18:35

    I am so happy to find this site and a like-minded craftsperson. I am primarily a rug hooker, a wonderful outlet for my addiction to fabrics and fiber. But I also love nice clothing–i.e. simple and classy. Here are two aspects of sewing that I’m looking for feedback on. What’s the best way to treat a neckline other than a clunky facing? I think facings generally give away the “homemade” rather than the more classy “handmade” look. What about necklines–such as V-necks, my favorite–that are simply turned over? When I’ve tried this it usually doesn’t look quite right. Any suggestions? Any like-minded sewers out there? It would also be helpful to know a technique to do this if only for those of us who actually “borrow” a top that we like from a store and then set about copying it (and returning it. ). My other frustration has to do with trying to make simple tops and pants such as those made by Flax. Their appeal lies in their simplicity and, most of all, the linen they use (often light weight). So once the pattern is conquered–quite easy–the goal is to find similar linen. Has anyone any tips? Linen I’ve found, online or at JoAnn, is just not really like it. Thanks for listening to me drone on and I look forward to hearing comments.


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Jul 27, 2012 @ 09:57:45

      Hi Paulette! I am so glad to hear from you. 🙂
      You are right, facings can be clunky. I am wondering is the V-neck finish actually turned over fabric, or is it a mini-facing – look for a seamline right on the edge. Also binding can be applied in so many ways. I sometimes troll the department store and then take the item into a dressing room, have a good look, write down a few things in a little notebook I carry, or take a quick digital photo of just that seam or design detail. My other thought is find some cheap fabric, cut out only the neckline of a pattern and practice different seam finishes. This takes time but may give you the finish you want. Again a good look at RTW will help you compare what looks to be their method versus what is shown in the standard sewing manuals. Then I find I sometimes have to wing it.
      About the linen – shops that cater to heirloom sewers, you know smockers and hand embroiders making baptismal gowns and such – they may carry the linen you want. Martha Pullen is the current doyenne of heirloom techniques and she may have a shop or links to various sources. They may send you swatches for you to compare. Heirloom linen does come at a price, so I would have a perfected practice muslin of high yardage items like trousers.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment and let us know of any great finds! 🙂


  5. Paulette Hackman
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 10:32:18

    What excellent suggestions one and all. And thanks for the source information. Right now I’m not able to decode RTW. Is it something obvious? PH


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Jul 29, 2012 @ 10:32:06

      Well, there is decoding RTW and there is ripping it apart. One can go into a department store and try to imagine how the manufacturer got this item together. Sometimes easy, sometimes hard. The other thing a lot of sewers do is hit the clearance rack at their local thrift store, buy a garment in any size that has some feature you want to duplicate, then using scissors and seam ripper take it apart. Time-consuming but very informative. You don’t have to rip the whole garment, just the neckline or pocket detail, whatever you are questioning. And don’t feel bad about ruining the garment- ending up on the clearance rack at the thrift pretty much guarantees that it wasn’t in hot demand in the first place. I hope these suggestions help and I hope you are able to share the results of your decoding adventure! 🙂


  6. Michelle James
    Aug 28, 2013 @ 01:47:46

    I read your blog on how to even out an uneven hem by trimming off the extra fabric. This works okay (I’ve done it myself), but the best solution is to avoid the uneven hem line in the first place. Here’s how. Pin vertical seams (sides, center back, etc.) at the top and the bottom with edges matching. Pin seam in the middle and again in the middle of each unpinned section,distributing fabric evenly. Stitch from wide to narrow part of garment removing pins as you come to them. The reason your hems turn out uneven is that one side or the other stretches. This method prevents stretching. Also, don’t pull on seam as you sew. Allow the machine presser foot and feed dogs to pull the seam forward.

    Michelle James (retired home economist and Cooperative Extension Sewing Specialist)

    Take a look at my shop at http://www.etsy.com/shop/MickieSueToo

    PS-French Bias Binding (double fold bias) is a very high end method of finishing necklines and armholes, and is super easy. Lots of tutorials on line.


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Sep 09, 2013 @ 08:17:02

      It took me a moment of re-reading but I think I get it. Normally I allow the feed dogs to use up the excess in the fabric by holding them together at bottom the Islander way. You are saying match the top and bottom seams and then distribute the excess throughout the middle or let the machine do it for you. Also I will try stitching from the hemline to the waistband and let any excess go there.

      Thank you for the terrific advice! 🙂


  7. Monica G.
    May 26, 2014 @ 21:48:29

    Sewista Fashionista, are you still sewing? I found this lovely site but don’t see anything recent.


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Jul 11, 2014 @ 17:17:39

      Thank you for the compliment, but your are right, nothing has been recent. Your comment has reminded me how much I need to check my site regularly and post about my recent life experiences. I am just beginning to sew again after about a two year hiatus. Just getting back into the crafting saddle again. Promise to post more soon!


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