Five Things Friday: 5 Things I’ve Learned This Year About Sewing aka Personal Myths Debunked

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A few years ago my husband started swimming. He’d always enjoyed swimming but wasn’t doing it regularly. And then he changed that. He started going several times a week and that’s a habit he’s kept. For the first few months, as well as near the anniversaries of his start, he was always mentioning it. “I’ve been swimming for 3 months now,” he’d say casually. And I always thought it was a little funny remembered the date so well. But now I think I understand it a bit better. Although I’ve been sewing most my life, I really started getting into clothes sewing a little over a year ago, in mid January of 2019. And I know I’ve mentioned it about a billion times here on the blog and maybe that’s annoying to you, but it really was a huge turning point for me. Not just in where a lot my energy is focused, but as a starting point of things I started paying attention to and learning about. It’s a spot where I can start and see tangible, actual progress, if that makes any sense. I can see a distinct shift in my way of thinking from before that time to now, and it’s all happened because I’ve changed gears in a small but significant way. Yes, I loved sewing clothes before, but now it’s more of a lifestyle, rather than something I pick up two or three times a year.

There were certain things I believed about sewing that I’ve since come to realize weren’t true at all. It’s been so refreshing to understand the sewing community on a different level. I know there is still so much more I have to learn and understand. But these things listed below, although basic, required huge shifts in paradigms, and have only been beneficial for me since allowing those shifts to happen. So here are the things I’ve learned:

  1. The sewing community is huge. For whatever reason, I was certain that absolutely nobody sewed clothes these days. I thought it was a thing of the past; something only our mothers and grandmothers did. How grateful I am that that is not the case! The sewing community is huge and that’s awesome! I first found just a couple of sewists on Instagram but since starting my sewing specific Instagram account I’ve been flooded with hundreds of talented makers. I’ve slowly been following those who inspire me most, but there are thousands of makers out there on Instagram (and I’m sure thousands more who aren’t on Instagram) who are creating amazing stuff. This community is huge and it’s growing bigger everyday.
  2. Joann Fabric is NOT my only resource for creating. Hopefully I’m not the only person who believed the only place to get anything sewing related (including inspiration) was Joann’s. I guess I should note that my mom is a quilter and she did teach me that independent quilt shops have the best quality quilting cottons, but aside from that I thought that Joann’s was the only place to go for fabric, patterns and notions. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Joann’s for certain things and I’m so grateful for it (especially the fact that there’s been one in or near every town I’ve lived in {minus two-but they were very remote}). But it isn’t the end all be all in sewing supplies. I’ve since found that there are amazing resources outside this already fairly expansive resource. Each of these places has an emphasis in different items. Some focus on quality. Some quantity. Some have all the fabric. And some are just about the essentials. And if there’s something I need quickly or feel the need to touch or see in person, I know Joann’s has my back. All these resources absolutely have a purpose and place in the creative community.
  3. Independent pattern designers are awesome and worth the money. You know those thick pattern books on the table in the back of Joann’s? Simpliclity and Butterick and McCalls? I literally thought those were the only patterns one could buy. And I had had experience with these patterns but they didn’t give me the most confident feelings-in them or in myself! One experience I had was making a dress for a formal dance in high school. The pattern was supposed to be one piece but somehow mine ended up being a two piece (I don’t even know!). Another experience I had was when I made a shirt and it turned out okay but I remember calling my mom several times throughout the process to have her explain things to me. The pattern wasn’t very forthcoming with instructions which made things rather difficult for me as I didn’t really know the lingo. Anyhow, discovering how vast the sewing community is, I’ve also discovered Indie Pattern Designers! And they are awesome! Buying patterns from independent companies can be kind of pricey, but so far, in my experience, it is worth the cost. These patterns often come in wide size ranges, have various printing functions, give specific and thorough instructions, and are paired with online tutorials or sew-alongs. Once you download the pattern, you can print it as many times as you want. And you also have almost direct access to the pattern designer (via Instagram or email), if you have any questions about the pattern. Especially if you’re mindful about which patterns you purchase, it is absolutely, 100% worth it to buy those patterns. (And I don’t want to make it sound like mainstream pattern companies aren’t worth your money; I know a lot of these companies are working to come out with more modern designs and easier-to-follow instructions. I tried a Simplicity pattern in December and had no problems with it…heeeey! I still need to blog about that make!.)
  4. Breathe in, breathe out, and remember it’s okay to buy fabric online. I had so much fear about buying fabric online. How are you supposed to know if a fabric is good if you can’t touch it in real life?? Well, you can’t…BUT if you do a little bit of research, you can find online fabric retailers who are committed to selling quality fabric and you can feel pretty confident that what you see is what you get…in the best way possible. I tried my first online fabric purchase after seeing a particular fabric shop show up several times on Instagram. It was a great experience and I’ve tried several other shops since then. Not all purchases have turned out to be the best ever, but no major disappointments and, on the flip side, I have been seriously impressed with quite a few of the fabrics I’ve bought online.
  5. I’m a beginner, and that’s okay. When you think the clothes-sewing world is all but non-existent, it’s easy to think you are at the top of the class. When I started adding sewing into my daily life, I remember thinking at some point with every pattern, “Oh, I’ve never done this before.” And then it dawned on me that I was not nearly as skilled as I had let myself believe. Now, if I let it, this realization could have absolutely made me retreat. But I really just had to shift my mindset and remember that being a beginner is okay. Lucky for me, I love learning and when you are a beginner you are always learning and that doesn’t scare me. But being okay with it in the comfort of my own sewing machine was different than being okay with it when I was scrolling through dozens of makes that are infinitely better than anything I’ve even imagined creating. At first, when I got on Instagram, I start felt so inadequate. Again, this just took a major shift in how I understood what I was seeing. When I get on Instagram, it’s important for me to remember that everyone is at a different place than me. Not just in their sewing but in their lives too. Some women I follow don’t have kids, or have older kids and seem to have more time to sew than I do. Some people have bigger budgets for sewing. Some people have been sewing for decades and have the handmade wardrobe to reflect that. Some have studied sewing or worked professionally in the field. Everyone is at a different place in their creative journey. I have my sewing Instagram account not to compare, but to find inspiration and to share the joy that I find in sewing. I am a beginner, but every time I do something even remotely sewing related, I am getting better.

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Ugh…this post is huge. I though a lot about doing the below in a separate post but I just don’t feel I’m well versed enough for that.

I wanted to share a list of the companies I’ve used because when I first started out, I was clueless to any of these and would have loved a list of places where I could get started (Google, Kim, Google!). Listening to the Love to Sew Podcast has been a great place to learn about different pattern/fabric companies (as well as learning about anything else related to sewing clothes) as has following lots of different people on Instagram. I haven’t been sewing for a crazy amount of time, so I’ve only had the opportunity of purchasing from a small number of the companies that are available. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, just a list of ones I’ve used.

Independent Pattern Companies:

  • Hey June Handmade -Super cute and wearable styles and her patterns are very affordable (Willamette shirt, Union St Tee-haven’t blogged this one yet, but I love it)
  • Sew Liberated – I love her patterns. They are also very wearable and have more of a bohemian vibe. If her designs aren’t your style, I still highly recommend following her on Instagram and/or signing up for her newsletter. She is where I first heard the term “mindful wardrobe” and I love her perspective on clothing yourself (Hinterland Dress, Arenite Pants)
  • Closet Case Patterns – They have lots of pattern basics that you’ll wear a lot. The instructions for their patterns are very thorough (Ginger Jeans)
  • Megan Nielsen Patterns – Another big pattern library and I really loved the fit on the pattern I bought here (Ash Jeans)
  • True Bias – This is where I got our Hudson Pants patterns (his and her). They are great patterns that I’ll definitely make again
  • Grainline Studio – I don’t know how I’d describe the aesthetic here, but it puts off a more polished vibe and the patterns just seem so professional (Tamarack Jacket, Driftless Cardigan, another un-blogged true love)
  • Chalk and Notch – This was the first indie pattern company I discovered! The patterns here are very sweet. She mostly designs for women now but she has some kids patterns as well as great opportunities for twinning (Fringe dresses)
  • Straight Grain – very cute patterns for my girls

Online Fabric (and notion) Companies:

  • Wawak– This one is just notions (thread, buttons, zippers, etc.) but they have GREAT prices and, although the packing job was sub par, the shipping was crazy fast. Awesome resource for essential sewing stuff
  • Raspberry Creek Fabric– I believe this was where I made my very first online fabric purchase and it was a good place to start because they have great prices and great quality fabric. I mostly check them out when I’m on the hunt for a good French Terry, but they have a lot of other knits and they often stock linens, rayons (for cheap) and even denim (I got my Cone Mills Tencel blend denim here that I really love). I had one piece of yardage that started pilling almost immediately but otherwise I’ve been really impressed with the quality of their fabric
  • Blackbird Fabrics– They say they are committed to high quality fabrics and that definitely comes across when I order here. They generally stock wovens and knits in gorgeous solid colors, but they throw in funkier prints every so often. They are a Canadian company but the shipping isn’t as bad as you might think plus all their prices are in CAD and when you transfer that over to USD you’ll be pleasantly surprised
  • Style Maker Fabrics– They have a huge selection that I just drool over! I haven’t sewed up the fabric I bought here but it is just gorgeous and seems high quality
  • LAFinch Fabrics– Their selection isn’t huge but they do stock a good variety including performance wear and denim. What’s more is they have insane sales (I just bought several yards at $5/yd for their end of bolt sale-still going on) and amazing customer service
  • Sew So English– These guys have a huge selection of knits-French terry, brushed poly, modal cotton, and it’s all pretty good quality and very affordable. I did have a small problem with my order here but it was fixed (although it took quite a bit of time)
  • Girl Charlee Fabrics– This is another spot that has a big selection of affordable knits. In either of these stores, just make sure to read the description; if the fabric is lightweight, it might be see-through
  • This list of fabric stores has also been very helpful for when I’m trying to find something pretty specific

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