What I Think About When I Think About Sewing


When I think about making a new dress, this is what I think about:

  1. Fabric. Is there some in my stash or lurking somewhere on the internet that I simply can't live without? Have I been obsessing about a particular event for which a stunt dress is necessary? Have I been thinking about a particular theme, like stripes or eyelet or giant florals? Do I have a new cardigan in a weird color (yes, I'm looking at you, Land's End) that needs a mate?
  2. Pattern. Is the fabric the right weight? If not, how do I compensate for that? Does it have pockets? If not, can I put pockets into it? Where is it tight? Where is it loose? How will it move? How low or high is the neckline? The hemline? 
  3. Construction. Are there difficult bits that WILL cause swearing, like gussets? Can I change a facing to bias binding? Is there a lining, and if so, can I skip it? Can I move a back zipper to the side, or change a placket zipper to an invisible one? Where are the stress points, and how will I reinforce them? Are there places where too many seams meet, and will my fabric make those points lumpy or bulky? Where will I have to match prints or plaids?
  4. Time. Is it a simple pattern to cut out (looking at you, Heidi), so that I can do it late at night, while watching Chuck on Hulu? Or is it complicated, so that it needs me first thing in the morning, when I'm fresh, while listening to podcasts? If I start after breakfast, or after dinner, when will I hit the putting-the-zipper-in place, and will I be awake or cranky? Have I drastically underestimated how long hemming a very full circle skirt will take (the answer to that last question is always YES).
  5. Interest. If this dress will take a long time to make, will I still care by the end? (There are several dresses lurking in my sewing room RIGHT NOW that I gave up on in the middle.) Is there an event driving me to make this dress, and what will happen if I don't finish it in time?
  6. Visualization. Where will I wear this dress? Who will be there? Will I wear it once, or over and over again? Will I blog it? 
  7. Shoes. Which ones? Do I already own them? Would this dress require shoes that do not, in fact, actually exist? (E.g., every pair of boots I've ever wanted.) Do I have a pair of shoes in a weird color that I need to make a dress to match? Am I looking for an excuse to buy a new pair of shoes in a weird color? (Lather, rinse, repeat for "Coat" and "Bag".)
  8. Fun. Will the whole process involve more fun than not-fun? This is my hobby, not a job or a chore. If it starts turning not-fun, can I bail and go watch Dr. Who? Where are the possible not-fun parts, and how can I make them fun? (See Chuck, podcasts, stunt fabric, etc. above)

I'm sure there are other things I think about while sewing, but these are the things I think about, or try to think about, before I start. What do you think about when you think about sewing? 

23 thoughts on “What I Think About When I Think About Sewing

  1. As I was finishing reading this post, I glanced just slightly to the right and caught the Amazon link TO YOUR BOOK!!! (Sorry about the yelling.) I gasped very audibly. I’m surprised the kids didn’t all run in to find out what all the commotion was about.
    And now all thoughts of fabric and sewing have flown out of my head. I can tell you that I think about sewing while trying to fall asleep at night. And at church when I see all the great dresses the other ladies are wearing. And at meetings of my women’s group (I really should apologize to the lady across from me and explain so that she understands that I was staring at her shirt, not her chest).


  2. What I think about is always always always: Do I really have the time necessary for this project? If I manage to carve out the time for it, will I regret it if the project turns out far more difficult than I first thought? And I’m always thinking: no more pattern/fabric buying until this current batch of projects is finished. But that one never sticks, because the batch of projects is never finished, and there are so many good patterns out there and so much beautiful fabric out there. And when I’m supposed to be working and thinking about other things, my mind invariably drifts to one of my current sewing projects and how to solve whichever problem I’m currently running into with it. Or to ideas for new projects.


  3. So, I was catching up, and I cam to the phrase, “I made five Heidi’s in one day.” OK, then, we need details as well as pics, like, how long was that day, did you stop to eat?


  4. I’m vain and all I think about is: does this impact the type of visual I want.

    At that point, I email a photo of the fabric and pattern to my best friend and get his opinion and tell him generally what I want to make it over. 21 years of knowing me, shopping with me, and seeing me semi-nude (after 21 years, he is the only person on the planet I will wear a bikini in front of)and tell him what I want to accomplish.

    He’s never failed me yet.


  5. What sort of zany crinoline/underskirt will be needed to make this skirty have the required poof? Will people look at me like I’m a freak when I walk down the street looking like June Cleaver? Do I have a stylish hat to match?

    My biggest problem is that I buy fabric when I see it, and patterns as I find them. I don’t often make the match until I have them both at home for several weeks. Translation: I always have way too much, or way too little fabric for what I would really like to make. Solution: Buy 6 yds of everything I find (and make a heck of a lot of quilts out of the leftovers!), or learn to plan better.


  6. I think about pretty much EXACTLY the same things you do, particularly the swearing-inducing %$*#-ing gussets and the zipper-timing step. Oh, and the wretched circle skirt hemming (can we say “Fashionably late to more than one event”?).


  7. I’ve also decided that I don’t like facings and I love bias bindings! For some reason, I can almost never get a neckline facing to lie perfectly, and even though you don’t see it on the outside, it bothers me.

    Circle skirt hemming does not bother me. I can sit in front of the TV and hand-stitch a hem for as long as it takes.

    I also think, as I’m rifling through too many bags and bins and boxes looking for the right fabric/zipper/interfacing “I should organize my sewing stuff better . . .”

    And I think, “I don’t have time for this! I have a gazillion things to do . . .” But like you said, sewing is a hobby, not a chore (usually) or a job. If I can carve out some sewing time, I enjoy it.


  8. Since I do all my cutting on a hardwood floor, I tend to think “Will I be able to get up after I’m done this?”


  9. I have so many of the same exact thoughts – zipper timing is especially critical. And I agree that the 5 Heidi’s need to make a debut. And DID you stop to eat?


  10. ZOMG! I love Chuck. The music on that show is simply outstanding.

    A lot of my thoughts go back to shoes. I spend all my money on fabric and patterns, and as a result I have a very limited shoe wardrobe. So I have hardly anything in navy blue because that would necessitate buying a pair of navy blue shoes, which I haven’t.

    But then I also think “where will I wear this” and “how will I respond to strangers’ compliments?” Yes, it’s sort of like eating dessert before slogging through the broccoli of cutting, pinning, and stitching, but I am a naughty girl 😉


  11. All I think is “How can Erin (and other sewing bloggers) possibly sew so fast?” It takes me at least two days to make a shirt, a week minimum for a whole dress. And I hear Tim Gunn in my head telling me to “Make it work!”


  12. I ask myself:

    (1) “how much wine will it take for me to finish this without getting annoyed?”

    (2) “will my bra show with this pattern?” because HELLO – the twins need support, preferably not of the visible variety, and

    (3) “is it worth the effort to get out my sewing stuff?” because i currently live full-time in an RV (we travel for work) and my sewing stuff is stashed in about 5 different locations.

    Love the look of the new blog!!


  13. Mostly I ask myself how in the world I’m going to cram the finished project into my closet…

    But really, my list is similar to yours, with the additional question of “With what color is my serger currently threaded?”


  14. It always starts with the fabric. If I love it (boyfriend fabric) I will work until I find a way to use it. Which is why some of it sits for a very long time. I think about the design and how much I will have to modify the pattern.

    I try for wardrobes — will this fit my current plan for Retro Summer, for example, where everything is black and white with hits of color, or what ever fantasy I currently have in mind.

    I love hand sewing for night time and TV when I am too brain fogged to really sew.

    I sew in my head to fall asleep — imagining each piece fitting to the next.


  15. I realized a couple things while ready this post. One: I don’t really *think* before jumping into a sewing project. I let my imagination take over and my senses take over and jump into a sewing project head-over-heals in love with either the fabric chosen OR the pattern chosen. I very rarely ask myself any questions.
    Two: It’s about time I start a list of questions to ask myself BEFORE starting future sewing projects.
    Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂



  16. I think two things when I am sewing; If mom could see me now and wow, I am completely out of my league:)You see, I am a novice dress maker/seamstress with no formal training. I just had a mother who insisted on teaching me the sewing basics.


  17. I think about whether the recycled material from which I am TRYING to make a nicely fitted dress can possibly live up to my imagination of the garment the day before I began. I am currently making 3 dresses: Green crowd control fencing, white plastic 6-pack rings, and the legs from black and tan nylon stockings. *sigh*


  18. Hi Erin! I love your blog… And the comments are so helpful! I am someone who loves loves LOVES clothes. I’m also someone who really likes making things. I”ve wanted to learn how to sew since college and now here I am 10 years later. I’ve barely learned how to do a thing. Any suggestions for a beginner sewer? Please take into account im not totally retarded with my hands ie I like to cook. Would love any suggestions.


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