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Sewing Tips For Perfectionists

It's difficult being a perfectionist *plays world's tiniest violin*.

I am most definitely one and I struggle with anything that requires just diving in head first without knowing exactly what I am doing and being confident I can do it correctly.


Most people find it quite difficult to start something new anyway, but as a perfectionist I find it extra difficult because there is a lot of pressure (in my own mind) to be good at something straight away. It's therefore really hard to get started on a new hobby, especially when it involves learning a skill from sewing.

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Rainbow threads photo by DurhamDundee.


As a result, I put off learning to sew for the longest time, and I kept buying more and more fabric and gadgets - even before I made my first stitch - in order to make me feel ‘ready’ to begin. I know that it makes no logical sense, but it’s so hard for me to just start something when I know I'm going to be a bit rubbish at it!


If you recognise these symptoms, then here is a pep talk that would have helped me when I started, so I hope it will help you...


Firstly, accept that you WILL make mistakes.

Your first projects (and indeed most projects you ever attempt) WILL NOT be perfect.

Accept it.

Accept that your first stitches will look terrible; you’ll have wavy stitch lines even though you tried so hard to keep them straight; you’ll break a needle, stab yourself with a pin, have bad thread tension and not know how to fix it, and you'll accidentally sew stretchy fabric into a big bunch of pleats.

You will attempt to make a neatly curved seam and end up with a line that is anything but smooth; you'll cut out fabric pieces too small despite measuring them twice; you’ll need to remove all of your stitches with a seam ripper and start again (repeatedly); you will waste some fabric that you really like; you’ll sew pieces of fabric together back-to-front and upside down…and if you're really lucky, you may even sew your shirt sleeve to your project.


Frankly, if you’re a beginner and you haven’t managed to make all of these mistakes, you’re  clearly not trying hard enough :p

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A well organised setup by Christa.


So what tips can I give to a perfectionist and sewing beginner? Well, here is a list of things that helped me so hopefully you'll find a couple of these useful:


- Set aside time: When you have first bought your sewing machine but haven't used it yet, set aside a good couple of hours to read your manual and set up the sewing machine so it is ready to use. It's much easier to do this all at once when you have designated a long stretch of time for it.

By 'setting up' the machine, I mean: having fabric ready, having your machine (and bobbin) all threaded up, and having any tools like scissors and pins within easy access. Have a chair set up at a good height and enough space to work in.

Then set aside a good stretch of time on another day to actually start sewing. This way, you have nothing to distract yourself with because everything is now set up ready to go straight away. No procrastination! Have a play around with the different stitches in your first session, and test out all of the settings you have.

I find that if I don’t have my machine set up ready to start sewing straight away, I end up faffing around getting prepared for far too long and not actually doing anything constructive. So I therefore try to always leave my machine in a ready-to-go condition.


- Use cheap, plain fabrics: Have a supply of cheap, plain fabric to practice on without caring if you totally ruin it. If you are wary about diving into sewing your ‘proper’ (more expensive) fabric straight away, get your cheap fabric out and have a play and a practice to start with, so you ease yourself into it. I advise buying the cheap fabric in two different colours to keep practice more interesting and to keep your seams more visible…everything just seems to blend together and become confusing when you are just using one plain colour.


- Buy a sewing kit: I've written this tip before, but it bears repeating because it was ideal for me. I really think that starting with a sewing kit when you’re a beginner is great because (except for some basic tools) the kit will supply everything you need in one package. I find it a lot easier to ‘jump in’ if I have everything organised and ready, with instructions on hand to guide me through...which is exactly what a kit offers.


- Plan what you are doing, but don’t plan for TOO long!: Find a pattern or project you actually want to sew and focus on just getting all of the fabric pieces cut out ready for sewing. Don’t think about the sewing part before you get to it because it might seem like a more overwhelming task then.

Before you sit down to sew always make sure you have everything you need, all fabric cut out and ready to sew, and you have a plan in your mind.

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Although containing knitting tools in the above example, you could utilise the same idea to keep your little sewing bits 'n' bobs in their own compartments.

Photo by Meagan.


- Try different ways of doing things but then stick with your favourite way: This is a tip for any beginner really, but I think it saves time for perfectionists too.

If you try different ways of sewing in a zip for instance, you’re likely to find one method you prefer or that you’re better at. If you stick to this method afterwards (unless it’s not possible in a particular project), then you stop yourself getting overwhelmed by the different technique options.

Too much choice overwhelms me, frequently, so I find it helps to try everything at first then narrow the choice down to my favourite. This goes for any technique where there is a choice of options – a good example is seam finishes where you can do all kind of different seams (French seams, piped seams etc.)


- Have plenty of your vital materials: I find I get very precious about fabrics, tracing paper I use for patterns and anything else that is a limited supply and could soon ‘run out’.

To combat this, I make sure I have enough fabric to do a project twice over (I sell any leftovers), and a large amount of pattern paper at the ready. This way, I feel like I have backup, so the fear of running out of materials due to me making mistakes is prevented.

It really helps me to know that I could have another go at something if everything goes terribly wrong!

I find there’s nothing more demotivating than having to shop for more supplies in the middle of a project, or because you’ve made a mess of the first…especially if I can’t get any more of the same fabric.



So that concludes my guide for perfectionist beginners...

I hope it's been at least a bit of help!

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I think these neat fabric buckets must be the work of a perfectionist!

Photo by Vintage Modern Quilts.

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