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Ask the Sewing Experts: The Best Advice for New Sewers


Maybe you’re just learning to thread your sewing machine. Or perhaps you’re a seasoned sewer who wants to take the leap into designing on your own. Either way, wouldn’t you love some expert advice from a designer who’s been there and done it? In this latest edition of Ask the Experts!, we’re excited to bring you these exclusive tips from five of our sewing authors.

What’s your best advice for new sewers or up-and-coming designers?

AMY KAROL, author of Bend-the-Rules Sewing and Bend the Rules with Fabric: Keep sewing! The more you sew, the more fun it is. And use the Internet! I can’t believe how cool sewing websites are now, including BurdaStyle and The Sew Weekly. There is so much support for sewers to share tips and advice. Jump in and show your stuff!

CAL PATCH, author of Design-It-Yourself Clothes:
My first thought is just that new sewers are very lucky! Learning how to sew or design today must be awesome, with online sewing communities and on-demand video tutorials at one’s fingertips. My advice would be to learn and study traditional methods, and then reinterpret them for modern life and needs. The world can’t keep producing boatloads of disposable clothes every season. We should be careful to use only sustainable and biodegradable fabrics, and to make, buy, and wear only what we need, not what the trend forecasters say is “in” this week. And obviously, as consumers, we need to rethink our own addictions to shopping and acquiring the latest look. My hope is that artisans who produce quality goods will be appreciated once again, and the next generation of designers will be integral to that movement!

KATHY CANO-MURILLO, author of The Crafty Chica’s Guide to Artful Sewing:
Explore, experiment, and keep sewing! Instead of being afraid of bobbins, read your user manual and work to master it so you’ll be in control! Don’t be limited to comfort zone color schemes, surprise yourself and everyone else and do something unexpected with your patterns and fabrics. Try to develop your own style!

MARY ADAMS, author of The Party Dress Book:
To new sewers I would say: First, be patient. Learn how your sewing machine works and get comfortable threading it. Second, learn basic sewing skills before jumping into more advanced projects. Third, practice, practice, practice. To up-and-coming designers: Don’t forget your creative side. Discover the past. Remember that it’s not all about fame and fortune.

STEFFANI LINCECUM, author of Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit:
Be fearless about trying new things. I learned a lot of what I know about construction from being really curious, taking things apart, and figuring out how to put them back together. Straight out of grad school, I was the assistant costume designer for three years at the Alley Theatre in Houston. I was in every fitting for every show and got to observe some of the most amazing designers, like David Woolard, John Conklin, Judy Dolan, and my friend Kij Greenwood, who’s a genius patternmaker. It also meant I had to be the eyes and ears of the costume shop in dress rehearsal with the incredible artist Robert Wilson. I had to observe, hear, and interpret exactly what he didn’t like so we could go back and fix it. No pressure, right? For any up-and-coming designer, it’s important to find a mentor, absorb everything you can, and load up your own bag of tricks.

WENDY MULLIN, author of Built by Wendy Coats and Jackets and Built by Wendy Dresses:
Practice makes perfect!



Karla Smith September 28th, 2011

I’m making a wool jacket and am using pieces of leather for the cuffs, collar and part of the front facing. How can I get pressed seams on the leather part?

Kevin April 2nd, 2012

I want to put custom designs on socks would it be better to screen print the designs on to the sock or simply sew them on



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