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sewing for beginners

Sewing is a skill. It takes time and lots and lots of practice to learn it and get it right, but we all start somewhere – everyone is a beginner at some point. One of the questions I get asked most often is what I recommend for a new sewist: the best machines, the easiest patterns, the most user-friendly fabrics. Quite frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken me the entire year and a half I’ve been blogging to address it. (I’ve been distracted by pretty fabrics!) So, I thought with the start of a new year it was a great time to talk about a few things you’ll need if you’re just starting your sewing journey.

First things first, a good quality sewing machine is absolutely essential. If you’re really serious about getting into the craft, buying the best sewing machine that your budget allows is the way to go. I always recommend that, because there are a lot of great sewing machines out there that don’t break the bank, and they do everything you need them to do. Last year, I took the HUSQVARNA VIKING® DESIGNER JADE™ 35 for a test drive, and it’s a great sewing and embroidery machine for a beginner. But if you don’t need embroidery capabilities, I would recommend the SINGER 4425 Heavy Duty sewing machine.

I own this machine, and it is reliable, sturdy, and has a lot of basic, built in functions that come in handy, like the automatic, one-step buttonhole. There’s also six basic stitches and four stretch stitches, so you can sew both wovens and knits with ease. I like the idea of a heavy duty machine for beginners because you can mess up and make mistakes (and we all do) and a machine like this is so tough it won’t miss a beat. And as you build up your confidence and gain experience, this machine comes is exactly what you need for sewing more challenging projects like handbags and jeans and heavy wool coats.

In the beginning it is really, really easy to tackle too much. When I first started sewing, I was so excited to learn and make things that I ended up with a bunch of so-so projects that were very rushed and I eventually tossed them. The best thing you can do for the first little while is go for one project at a time. I speak from experience – being overwhelmed only leads to frustration and you waste your time and fabric. Start with simple patterns, and slowly make your way up to things like zippers and buttonholes. Look for patterns with a wrap design and things that aren’t too fitted. Closures and alterations can come later.

Pajamas is a great place to start for a beginner sewist. Jammies are usually pretty straightforward (nothing too complicated to sew) and because they’re designed to be loose fitting you don’t have to worry about getting the fit just right. There’s a lot of basic concepts in pajama patterns that make a great foundation to build upon, like easy hems and seam finishes and drawstrings.

“Lifestyle” or “five easy pieces” patterns are also a great option for beginners. Oftentimes, the designs are more simple and easy to sew, so there’s usually a number of projects to choose from. I like this Vogue pattern because there’s a lot of really nice pieces in it, and not one is too complicated or difficult. The pants actually wrap around you with one button in the front and back, so there’s no worrying about a zipper, and the shell and poncho are fantastic basic pieces. How great would those pants be in linen at the beach?!

This pattern has even more concepts in it, like using bias tape, sewing French darts, attaching trim, and elastic waistbands (on the shorts), but not one of those things is something a beginner can’t tackle.

 Sewing is all about concepts that build on one another. Once you’re familiar with some basics and are comfortable with the construction process, you can apply those skills to more “advanced basics” like swishy dresses with bias tape finishes and blouses with sleeves and garments with pockets and gathers.

Butterick 6214 (a great little top for beginners and experienced seamstresses – it’s a great basic!), Butterick 5757 (a classic, easy to sew skirt), and Butterick 6350 (love that for summer).

When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the fabrics out there. Here’s my best advice: stick with cotton, linen, and lightweight denim and wool and ignore the rest. Just because you’re new to sewing and working with only a handful of fabrics doesn’t mean that your projects have to look like beginner projects, so don’t think that working with a few fabrics is limiting. I work with cotton and linen all the time, and I use simple patterns all the time too – simple and easy doesn’t mean it’s bad!

Save rayon, silks, sequins, and prints that require precise matching (plaid, stripes, directional prints) for later. Investing in a book that explains all the different fabrics and how to use them is a must. You’ll be glad you have that resource, and it’s something you’ll reference for years. There’s lots of great books out there, but these are two of my favorites. I own an older version of this Fabric Savvy book, and it’s a pretty comprehensive guide to fabric, and it gives you information on what size needle and interfacing to use which is really helpful.

All New Fabric Savvy: How to Choose & Use Fabrics

This is also a book I’d recommend. This one is nice because it shows different fabrics as they’ve been used by designers on the runway and in collection. It’s informative and inspiring.

The Fashion Designer’s Textile Dictionary: A Guide to Fabrics’ Properties, Characteristics, and Garment-Design Potential

Just like anything else, being good at sewing takes practice and time. But it’s also not an insanely difficult thing to master. Half the battle is accurate cutting and pressing, pressing, pressing. Invest in a nice pair of scissors and a good quality iron. I use these scissors, and I love them so much I have two pairs.

As far as irons go, there are tons of good, inexpensive options. I’ve used Rowenta for years, but Reliant is also good and Black & Decker makes a good iron too. This Rowenta iron is similar to the one I have, and I love it. (I have a “Master” and this one is a “Pro Master.” Either way, both are great.)

Rowenta DW8080 Pro Master 1700-Watt Micro Steam Iron

Beginners will also want to invest in a sewing kit with a few tools like a seam ripper, hem gauge, thread, and needles. Getting into sewing will cost a little money, but you can do it without spending a fortune. Nice cotton fabrics are pretty inexpensive, and grab patterns during a sale – which happens all the time. And here’s a few tips that will help lead to sewing success:

  • Take your time, and don’t rush. You’re learning, so don’t worry about doing things quickly. Speed and accuracy will come in time.
  • Read the pattern and sewing instructions carefully, and don’t be upset about starting over or ripping out a seam. I think most commercial patterns have pretty good instructions whether you’re a beginner or know what you’re doing, it’s just a matter of reading and understanding the visuals.
  • Take advantage of all the available resources out there: books, blogs, video tutorials, and anyone you know who may sew. Most any question you have can be answered by a quick online search – don’t be afraid to ask!
  • Your iron is your bestie. Good sewing and well made garments are a direct result of careful cutting and pressing like it’s nobody’s business. Press as you go: seams, darts, facings, hems – all of it. Don’t wait and press everything at the end.
  • Use good fabrics. There is nothing worse than the frustration that comes with working with poor quality, cheap fabrics. Just don’t do it. There are plenty of inexpensive fabrics out there that aren’t cheap. And the good stuff can come from anywhere. I actually found some really nice Oxford cotton at a local Goodwill store over the summer.
  • Study at your favorite stores. A lot of my “shopping” trips are less about actually shopping and more about looking. I’ll pop into J. Crew or Dillard’s and look at how the garments are made. How they’ve done the hem or what type of buttons are on a blouse. Same thing applies to designer shops. I take pictures of those things too, especially if it’s something I can use on my own projects.

I’m always telling folks to “go for it!” and “keep sewing!” because I know how rewarding sewing is, and I want everyone to experience it. And that’s not to mention how fantastic it is to be able to make clothes that you can’t find anywhere else that are a true representation of who you are and what you want to say with your style.

There’s no reason whatsoever to be intimidated by sewing. Besides a few obvious things like a sewing machine and fabric, you just need a healthy amount of desire and determination to get into it. I hope this post helped answer some of the questions you have, but if there’s anything I’ve forgotten let me know. Leave a comment or shoot me an email, and I’ll get back with you. I don’t know about you, but I have never been more inspired about a new year – let’s sew!

-Emily

P.S. I post updates on Instagram occasionally, but it’s been a while since I shared our first floor remodel with you here. Things are coming along, and we’ll have walls again next week. Cabinets will be installed at the end of the month, and we’ve picked paint colors and countertops. My dad was in town last week to help us, and I loved having him here. He helped me figure out a new furniture arrangement in my studio too, which was a huge help. I’ll write more about my studio in the coming weeks, but here’s a look at our house in its current state:

We’re going with white and grey, and quartz countertops. (Basically obsessed with everything in this picture!)

Ty and my dad taking out the horrible built-ins at the top of the stairs. Those are the stopping point for phase one of this whole remodel, and it’s so much brighter and open with them gone.

We’re finally getting to the point where things start to get put back and rebuilt, so I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. In the meantime, I can retreat to my studio and sew! 🙂

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getting to know the DESIGNER EPIC™

For years before I became an official brand ambassador for HUSQVARNA VIKING® I was already spreading the word about this brand and telling anyone with an interest in sewing about everything it has to offer. So this past year as an official ambassador has been very special to me, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to share my love of this brand with you. In 2017, I took four machines for a test drive, visited the headquarters in Nashville, partnered on a huge holiday giveaway event, and I’ve refined my own skills as a seamstress. It’s been immensely rewarding, and I think it’s quite appropriate that we capped off the year with DESIGNER EPIC™ sewing and embroidery machine. I remember when this machine made its debut a couple years ago. I was totally floored by it, and for good reason. With over 1200 stitches, more than 650 embroidery designs, an enormous tablet-like touch screen, built-in tutorials, WiFi connectivity, a larger sewing area with bright LED lights, and a fully automatic needle threader, this sewing and embroidery machine will absolutely spoil you rotten.

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I took this picture shortly after I turned the machine on for the first time. (And, side note, it plays a little song when the home screen comes on. It’s the cutest thing ever.) There was a brief moment when I wondered how I would even begin to navigate the screen, but you don’t even need a crash course to figure it out. If you’re even remotely familiar with a smart phone, you’ll have no trouble getting the hang of this. It’s so easy!

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Yesterday, I highlighted the embroidered jacket project I made on the DESIGNER EPIC™. Not only did I use the DESIGNER EPIC™ for the embroidery, but most of the designs on the jacket itself come from the machine too (651 designs come with it). I didn’t download anything from online – there’s plenty to choose from on the machine. That project was one of those “I pretty much know what I want this to look like, but I’m also kind of, sort of winging it” situations, so I actually embroidered one of the pieces twice when I saw there was lots of blank space that could be filled. I picked the designs from the EPIC (not the computer, ignore me when I say that), duplicated them, spaced them according to the size of the yoke piece, and embroidered them after I’d already done the chain stitch. The back yoke piece ended up being one of my favorite things about the jacket. It’s so interesting – and perfectly straight!

The really crazy thing about the DESIGNER EPIC™ is that through the mySewnet™ services cloud
you can access embroideries from multiple devices, including your computer or tablet or phone and even the DESIGNER EPIC™. The free mySewMonitor app sends you real time updates to your phone. So while you’re working on something else as the embroidery hums away in the background, you’ll get a notification to your phone when it’s time for a thread change or when the embroidery is finished. If you needed further proof that it’s 2017 and technology is crazy awesome this is it.

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Embroidery is just one of two things the DESIGNER EPIC™ is exceptionally good at, and the other is sewing – of course. After I embroidered this jacket I thought, “Okay, great, this embroidery is so awesome that I’ll just use the EPIC for embroidery” but this machine does everything with such precision and ease that to not take advantage of how beautifully it sews everything would just be silly. I absolutely want to make a leather handbag now!

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In a time of high tech gadgets (and sewing machines) and all the conveniences they bring, I still appreciate packaging and old school thoughtfulness. The DESIGNER EPIC™ is in a class by itself in terms of modern technology and sewing and embroidery capabilities, but it also comes with a canvas machine cover and a canvas suitcase for the embroidery unit. I wish I’d gotten my reaction on video when I unboxed all this. I mean, a machine of this quality should come with things like this, but that doesn’t make it any less cool in the moment. And, quite frankly, I’ve always wondered how/where to store embroidery units when they’re not in use but you want them easily accessible. Well, this is it.

In just about every HUSQVARNA VIKING® I’ve written this year, I’ve wrapped it up by encouraging you to familiarize yourself with the brand and visit a local dealer – most of which are in JOANN stores. I’m going to do the same thing today, because purchasing a sewing machine is no small thing. It takes research and thought, and seeing things in person and being able to do a little sewing for yourself before buying a machine is a huge benefit.

I always have been and always will be a cheerleader for HUSQVARNA VIKING®, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to shout from the rooftops how wonderful this brand is this year. I know this series has encouraged many of you to purchase new machines, and I’m very humbled by that – and I hope it continues!

Happy New Year!

-Emily

At the HUSQVARNA VIKING® headquarters in Nashville, June 2017. <3 

embroidery magic with the DESIGNER EPIC™

Right off the bat let me apologize for completely, totally, 100% getting off schedule this week. I’ve been sidelined by a nasty cold, and it forced me to slow down and take a little break. Now, if these posts had been mostly done more in advance of the publish date, this wouldn’t have happened, but I’ve been working down to the wire lately so here we are. That’s another thing I’m adding to my resolutions list for 2018: stay head of the game. Avoiding stress and headaches is a good thing, right?

As a brand ambassador for HUSQVARNA VIKING® this year, I’ve dedicated two blog posts per quarter to the machine I’ve taken for a test drive that season: one that highlights the machine itself and all the cool things it can do, and one that shows you everything I’ve made on it – or highlights a specific project. I tried to space these posts out so that they didn’t both go live at the same time, but the past couple of months have been so crazy busy and great that I haven’t been able to do that. All of that to say that I’m wrapping up 2017’s blog posts with a double dose of sewing machine love, and today I’m showing what I made with the DESIGNER EPIC™ sewing and embroidery machine.

All year, I’ve been working my way up the line of sewing and embroidery machines, so I knew the last one I’d get would be at or near the best of the best – so I saved a very special project for it. The DESIGNER EPIC™ is what I got, and it is the most magnificent sewing and embroidery machine I have ever used. The embroidery capabilities are especially top notch.

I’ve had the idea for this jacket for months, and when I bought the fabric for this dress in May I also knew I wanted a jacket out of it. For the pattern, I went with McCall’s 7549, because you put the jacket together in small sections – so I knew I could hoop each one and embroider in one go without having to worry about re-hooping and getting the embroidery perfectly straight. (I’m still a newbie at this, y’all.)

I wanted a mix of designs, but I also wanted them to all work together. Half the battle was already won because I used solid black embroidery thread throughout. So right off the bat there was cohesion simply because the color was consistent. I spent a lot of time researching jackets and coats with black embroidery, but there’s not a lot out there to reference, so I was pretty much on my own. I knew I wanted medallions on the sleeves, so that was a great starting point and I just picked the other designs to fit in with the medallions.

Putting the pieces together was incredibly exciting. All of the designs on this jacket came from one of two places: the DESIGNER EPIC™ itself (it’s loaded with more than 650 designs) or the PREMIER+™ EXTRA software. I used the software to create the borders along the hem of the sleeves, bottom of the jacket, and front band.

This was the most fun I have ever had making something, maybe ever. The challenge of picking the designs and putting them together coupled with only having about a yard and a half of this fabric to work with (couldn’t mess up too much or I would have run out of fabric!) and keeping the embroidery on grain and cut out so that both sides were balanced and symmetrical was absolutely exhilarating. I would take videos and send them to my parents, and we would just marvel at what this machine was doing. It was a blast. I can’t wait to do it again!

I measured each piece and created the border designs based on those measurements. The biggest hoop I have is the DESIGNER™ Imperial Hoop (360x260mm), so I had to be careful that each design fit onto that hoop. Again, I’m still a newbie and didn’t trust myself to re-hoop. (Definitely laughing at myself about that. I think I could handle it next time. Maybe.)

I separated each piece with black bias tape (no black piping on hand, so that was suitable alternative), and I really love how that makes everything pop even more. One thing I’ve learned during this process is to keep an eye on resizing designs. Increasing or decreasing 10-20% is fine, but I really stretched that guideline a couple of times.

I’m glad I saved this project for the DESIGNER EPIC™, because it made it so easy. The fun thing about embroidery is being able to just stand back and watch the machine do all the work. I can see areas for improvement (practice makes perfect), but this project cemented my fascination with embroidery, and my imagination is running a mile a minute at the possibilities. Embroidered hems, polka dot embroidery on a jacket, embroidery with sequin and rhinestone embellishment, whimsical embroidery on a blouse, and dresses with colorful, inspiring designs, or classics with monochrome embroidery.

There’s a lot of things I’m pretty good at, but embroidery is a whole new world for me. I’m officially hooked, and I feel very, very lucky that I was able to dive into it with the  DESIGNER EPIC™. If you’re interested in exceptional embroidery, I would recommend checking out this machine. And, if you’re a current owner and have lots of experience under your belt, I’d love to hear from you! Tips, tricks, what you like, what you really like – tell me!

Tomorrow I’ll be back with an overview of this incredible machine. And there won’t be any delays this time – I’m down to the last day of the year! Ha! 🙂

 

2017 in review: the hits

I live in a constant state of “Oooh, I want to make that!” and “I’m so excited about all the sewing projects!” My enthusiasm for this craft knows no bounds. I might need a sewing break every now and then after an intense project, but I’m never short on inspiration – and my sewing wish list is never empty. There’s always something to look forward to, and it’s especially enjoyable when you have a handle on your style and feel pretty good about what works for you and what doesn’t. This year has been great in terms of knowing my style well and making things that reflect that. And now that we’ve gotten the misses out of the way, I can talk about all the things I love to pieces.

Before we dive in, a little scheduling note. Last week I mentioned that we’d be talking about the embroidered jacket today, but I decided to push that post to tomorrow. There’s lots of pictures to edit and things to explain, and I needed the extra day to put it all together. So today, let’s spotlight the goods of 2017. (Hits from January through May can be seen here. This post covers June to December.)

Hit #1: The gingham dress & the navy satin dress.

These dresses make me so happy. Neither is an everyday dress or the most practical item in my closet, but they are nonetheless the epitome of my style and pieces I treasure. It started in the spring with the idea for the gingham dress. I wanted something with a tie element but I needed more coverage in the back – so I drafted the pattern myself. I love the midriff piece cut on the bias and the frayed edges of the ties. I worked hard to get the fit right for this dress, and it paid off.

I wanted another version eventually, and when I got this navy satin from TÉLIO I knew it would be perfect for this design. This version is slightly different, and there is horsehair in the hem band and black bias tape in each seam for some separation and visual interest.

Hit #2: the cardigan.

What makes a “favorite” or “most successful” project? How well it’s made? How often you wear it? I think any number of things contribute to “hits” status, but cost per wear is definitely a criteria. In 2016 I made a cardigan coat (please look beyond the not-so-great photos), and it was a fun project and also quite practical. In terms of casual style, especially in the chillier months, I wear lots of jeans and cardigans over a tee or button up blouse so cardigans are a practical, everyday item for me. Just like most everything else I make, I don’t want a basic, plain cardigan. I want something with just a little more style to it, and and I love that there’s a little extra swish to this cardigan. I also love the color, and the addition of the sash belt makes it much more my style. I’ve worn this cardigan a number of times since I made it, and I’d like to make it in a couple more colors.

Hit #3: the red Christmas dress.

 This is my favorite dress of the year. I love every single thing about it, especially the fabric and color. It’s another second version of a previously made pattern (see the first one here), and this is a silhouette that works well for my body type. I made some changes to the pattern so that I could add side seam pockets and move the zipper to the back – and I’m just as happy with those alterations the second time around. There’s horsehair in the hem, and the dress is fully lined in bemberg rayon. It’s nothing short of dreamy to wear. I see a lot more red projects in 2018.

Hit #4: the fitted dress.

Boy oh boy, this dress. The versatility of this dress is what lands it on the hits list. That, and the fit and how good I feel in it. I love the long sleeves and the higher neckline. To me, there’s something so special about a dress that fits well but leaves pretty much everything to the imagination. I’ll be making this again in a couple lighter, more cheerful colors and prints this spring. It’s also an easier, less time consuming project which I can appreciate after something more involved like a lined dress with a hem band or a dress in a finicky fabric that took days and days to make. I love the challenge of the more difficult projects, but I also appreciate the balance of making something easy right after.

Hit #5: the embroidered jacket.

A hits list without a mention of this jacket is incomplete.  It’s taken me the better part of this year to gear up for the embroidery projects I have in mind. I’m both glad I took the time to get comfortable with the process and annoyed that I didn’t get into embroidery sooner. I made this jacket over the course of three days, and it was the most fun I’ve had making anything this year. I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like, but bringing that vision to life was both hilarious and awesome. Some of the designs are made on the software I have, and some come with the DESIGNER EPIC™ sewing and embroidery machine. This project kept me on my toes from start to finish, thinking about the proportions, making sure the designs fit the size of the patterns, mirroring each one, and then cutting each piece out so that it was perfectly symmetrical. All this while working with less than two yards of fabric and keeping each piece on grain. There was no room for error or I would have run out of fabric!

I can see tons of areas where this could be improved, but given the fact that it’s only the second embroidery project I’ve made (see the first one here), I am absolutely ecstatic to tackle even more embroidered and embellished projects in 2018. I’m looking forward to a new year and a fresh start because I love the possibilities that come with the unknown. In terms of specific projects and content, I have a number of ideas but the exciting part is what you can’t plan for, the opportunities that may come up.

Plans for 2018:

More tutorials: This year, I wrote a number of tutorials, ranging from button extensions and the striped skirt to slanted front pockets and adding a back vent in a straight skirt. All helpful and informative, but there’s so much more I can contribute. Next year, look for these (and more) tutorials: plotting for embellishment, tips for sewing blouses, working with lace, underlining, hem bands and facings, using bias tape, and tutorials for sewing bags.

A wider range of projects: For the most part, I make things that I wear in my real life. I wear jeans in the fall and winter, but I rarely wear pants or coats. It occurred to me recently that that might be because I don’t have either of those things in my closet, not because I don’t like them. I actually love wide leg pants and I can’t stop thinking about a couple of coat ideas, so 2018 will be the year of new styles in the mix.

Added details: I will never make undies or tees or workout clothes, because I just don’t care. I’m not making my own clothes in protest against excess or as a way to reuse or up-cycle old fabrics. Not that there’s a thing wrong with that if it’s your thing – I just can’t resist new, pretty fabrics, and there are plenty of places that sell fantastic white tees. I do, however, have a need for a few basics, but I’m the girl who favors “elevated” basics. Why can’t a wool cape have rhinestone and glass bead embellishment on it? I’m looking forward to new projects with interesting elements and embroidery and embellishments.

I’m ready for a new year and new challenges. Here’s to a new year of possibilities!

-Emily

P.S. One funny note: two of the dresses on the hits list have broken zippers. Both the navy satin dress and the red Christmas dresses were finished and steamed and ready to go on picture day, and the moment I put them on the zippers broke. So, in all of the photos of both of those dresses, I have it clipped together in the back – which is why there are no pictures of the back of those dresses. So, not only will I not be using invisible zippers for quite some time (curse you, you hateful zippers that only work about half the time), I can’t even wear either of those dresses until the zipper is replaced.

Broken zippers and frustrating things happen to all of us, even in our best projects. Keep going, keep sewing! <3

2017 in review: the misses

Oh, 2017, you were a doozy. The first half of the year was smooth as silk, with no major life events or big time stress. There were trips to Florida and Nashville and Alaska, and I was slowly coming into my own in this space as a blogger. Then, July hit and we bought a house and decided that renovating the entire first floor was a good idea. (Because it was, but more on that later.) We packed up our old house, moved into this one, and then I spent the next month sprucing up my new studio space. New paint, an accent wall with pink checkered wallpaper, completely refinished window benches – the works (pictures coming soon). All this while we planned the renovation and I jumped at the opportunity to work with TÉLIO. There were other projects peppered throughout, our beloved Olivia died on October 22, I got to work with McCall’s, and then there was the giveaway event last week. There’s good and bad in each passing year, but as long as the good outweighs the bad we’re in good shape – even if the bad leaves a lasting impression.

Today, we’re looking back on the projects that didn’t work. We all have them, and I think we do ourselves a disservice not to acknowledge them and pinpoint where things went wrong. Being honest about the mistakes also gives us the green light to highlight the successful things. Without saying “okay, here’s where I messed up” makes patting ourselves on the back pretty icky. You can’t have one without the other. I reviewed the first half of the year in this post from May, so this post will cover everything from June to now. My biggest flops primarily come from two places: forcing myself into a design or trend or silhouette that doesn’t work for me simply because it’s popular and everyone else is doing it, and stumbling when I try to do something different because I think I “should” because otherwise the project would be too plain. That said, let’s kick things off with the first flub, the fall wrap dress. I’m spotlighting this one first because it’s hardly a total loss, and I’m in the process of fixing it by removing the sleeves.

Miss #1: The Fall Wrap Dress

This dress is a lot of my favorite things rolled into one project: fabric in a pretty print, a fit and flare silhouette, a flattering design. It went wrong with the sleeves. The print, while lovely, is smaller in scale so with so much dress – and uninterrupted by a belt in a solid color – quickly becomes overwhelming. The hem of the sleeve also hits right around the waistline, so there’s a lot going on there. I included the sleeves because this is a “fall” dress and I thought I should, and because it’s a little less interesting without them. Or is it? As I type this, this dress is on my worktable to be fixed. It will be as easy as removing the sleeves, finishing the edge with bias tape, and replacing the belt with a solid black one.

Lesson: Overthinking trends. Who cares if it’s the “year of the sleeve?”

Action point: Stop overthinking everything and go with your gut. Also, make this dress again in a solid color, because it really is beautiful and super flattering.

Miss #2: The floral blouse. 

This blouse just makes me laugh, and I’m still surprised no one said anything about it. What do you see on the front? A big pink blob, right? I cut both of the front pieces at once, not noticing that it created a big pink flower right across the front of the blouse. Maybe it’s just me and my over-critical eye, but once I noticed it I couldn’t unsee it. I still wore this blouse quite a lot over the summer, but whenever I post it anywhere I now use this picture:

Lesson: being lazy when cutting results in mistakes. I knew better than to cut those pieces together. Cut one, then cut the other and make sure to avoid “flower blobs.”

Action point: Pay more attention.

Miss #3: the black and white dress.

Everyone, I’d like you to meet my robe.

Before I really unleash on this dress, I want to acknowledge those of you who liked it. In no way am I disregarding your opinions; in fact, there are elements of this dress that are quite lovely. But, ugh, as a whole this dress was a disaster. This was yet another “everyone is making it and looking fabulous in it” pattern, and I let that influence me. The dress itself is really fantastic, and maybe in a solid color would be okay on me, but I ruined it with the lace. I love black and white together, but black lace on white in a faux-wrap dress just looks like a robe. And the fact that I have to wear a necklace with any garment that has a neckline below my collarbone only further adds to the mess. (I have a 4″ scar at the base of my neck that I have to cover up. It’s why I’m always wearing a necklace with lower necklines.) I saved the lace, but this dress went straight into the trash, and I am perfectly content with that decision.

Lesson: Chasing trends has never, ever worked for me.

Action point: Stop chasing trends and being influenced by what everyone else is doing. Stick with what you know works and forget the rest. Seriously, stop it.

Miss #4: the red gingham dress.

This dress just irks me, and I’m including it on the list of misses (mostly) for one reason: it’s too long. I think it would be much more fresh and current right above the knee. When I made this dress, I made two versions, and the other one is white and one of the most beautiful, dreamiest dresses I’ve ever made or worn. I went with the same length for this dress, but it just doesn’t translate. It’s too much print. And, while I’m very pleased with the print matching on the bodice, I actually need to take this dress in around the bust and I can tell that it’s too big there just by looking at these pictures.

Lesson: hems that are too long are (sometimes) silly and sad.

Action point: enough with long hems on everything. Sometimes, shorter is okay.

And, while we’re on the subject of things that are too long, this cutie could also use a chop. Then, it’ll be perfect – and I have enough fabric for a top to go with this in the spring.

The lemon print skirt.

2017 was an incredible year. Busy, productive, fun, exciting, heartbreaking, promising. All the good life throws at us. In terms of this blog and what I’m trying to do with it, I did a lot of things exceptionally well, but there’s plenty that needs improvement, like photography and graphics and consistency.

Things to improve in 2018:

Photography: I could spend days telling you how challenging photography is for me. I take all of my own pictures, and I learned earlier this year that outdoor photos are more trouble than they’re worth. I need an environment that I can control, which is why my photos are all indoors in front of a white wall. Getting the lighting right, showing the garment well, and making sure the pictures are the right size is something I’m always working on. For Christmas, Santa brought me a professional white vinyl backdrop and stand and a new set of softbox lights so hopefully we’re on the right track.

Graphics: I’m using graphics as a broad term that includes text on photos, website quality, videos, and social media content. I don’t have any fancy software or programs like Photoshop, so I just do the best I can with what I have, but I’d love to completely overhaul the website. There’s links that haven’t worked all year (yes, you should be directed to a “tutorials” page when you click on tutorials, sheesh), and I would love to get a handle on creating cute videos. Occasionally I get questions about doing tutorials on YouTube, and I have no plans to get into that any time soon. Just thinking about the time involved and the learning curve for editing the videos literally gives me a headache. Maybe one day, but for now pictorial tutorials will have to do.

Consistency: I’m a quality over quantity kind of gal, but there are too many lags between blog posts. I don’t necessarily think time in between posts is all bad, but sticking to a schedule would be good for us all. I’m also excited about posting more tutorials in 2018, because that’s the content that really benefits those of you who read this blog for the information.

I want to sincerely thank you for reading this little blog, and following along my sewing adventures. I can’t tell you how much fun I have creating and sewing and sharing it with you, and I look forward to even more of that in 2018. And now, with the “misses” out of the way, we can talk about all the things that did work – which is always fun and inspiring.

See you tomorrow!

–Emily