10 Sewing Lessons I Learned the Hard Way


I saw some versions of this post floating around the sewing blogosphere and thought it sounded like a lot of fun. I mean, who doesn’t have funny stories about learning sewing lessons the hard way? These lessons aren’t in any particular order, though the last one is my favorite 😉 I hope you can relate to them, or, at least, that you can laugh at my failures with me.

(Oh and all the random quotes are from recitethis.com because I just refound it on Pinterest and wanted to play around with hipstery quote lettering. The sassy e-cards are from Melly Sews.)

1. If you aren’t going to make a muslin, you have to be prepared for unsolvable fitting problems later on.

Truthfully, I’m still learning this lesson. Or, more accurately, I know the lesson, I just don’t do anything to avoid it. I hate making muslins because I have so little time to sew between school and homework that it just feels like a huge waste. I generally just check the pieces against a pattern I know fits and prepare for fitting the actual thing. It sometimes backfires. Badly.

muslin quote

2. If your dressform doesn’t fit you, don’t use it for fittings.

This one took a while, but I have successfully learned this rule, finally. I have an adjustable dressform (her name is Pinhead), who matches my measurements mostly in the chest, waist, and hips, but the vertical distances are totally different. Pinhead’s bust-to-waist measurement matches mine, but our bust-to-shoulder measurements are completely different, and not in any way I can easily fix.

Most of the time, it’s not a problem, but I have screwed up a few projects by fitting it to Pinhead’s shoulders and then trying it on and thinking nope.

3. Using the right needle and changing it often is super important.

I feel like the anecdote for this lesson is the same for all sewists: used the wrong needle, broke said needle, cried. I don’t really have that big of a problem with using the right needle, but I do have trouble tracking how long I’ve been using a needle.


4. You have to keep sewing, even when school gets crazy.

Sophomore year was pretty bad for a few months, at least in regards to keeping up with sewing/blogging. I still have some projects from that black hole of a time that I haven’t blogged about and aren’t very proud of. When I stop sewing actively, things get ugly. It’s not so much the homework load that keeps me from sewing as the insane tiredness that becomes my functioning normal during the school year. When I feel like taking a nap and binge-watching TV when I’m done with my homework (or *cough* before), it’s hard to remember how rewarding sewing feels.

cant stop wont stop sewing

5. Some commercial patterns are crappy.

Again with the stereotypical story for how I learned this: used pattern, didn’t make a muslin (whoops lesson #1), sewed it up in a nice fabric, it didn’t fit, cried, shredded pattern in rage. But seriously, some commercial patterns are just hilariously badly fitting, or the instructions are ridiculously bad, or it just looked nice on the envelope and looks terrible in real life.

6. Non-sewists don’t understand/care about the mechanics of sewing.

I’m still learning this one, to my friends’ chagrin. I’ll go off on tangents about my sewing projects and just get these blank stares in response because my friends have no interest in the difference between top-stitching and under-stitching or any real reason to. So I should remember to just stick with the finished projects pictures for my friends.

Also, people really seem to think the hems are the easy part. Honestly, my current WIP has been sitting on my sewing table for 2 weeks because I have to hem it (again, first time was too long) and I really don’t want to.


7. Fabric choice will make or break your project

I have a very specific horrible project in mind for this rule. I still cringe thinking about it. It was my 7th grade Semi-formal dress and I had been working on it for weeks and had told everyone I was making my dress and the night before I tried it on … and it was horrible. Just awful. To be fair, the pattern was totally wrong too, but the fabric was what killed it. It was this pale green polyester monstrosity of a fabric that I think I pulled from my stash and I kept thinking it would start looking better but it never did.

I had to go out and buy a dress the night before and then tell everyone that I failed at a dress I should have realized would never look good from the get-go. *tears*

Instagram fabric swirl

8. I will always have to take up the shoulders in bodices and that means lowering the armhole

I haven’t learned this one yet. Well, I have the first part down, I just forget the second part. I have a lot of dresses with really small armholes. It’s like my bust-to-shoulder distance is two inches less than the McCall’s pattern model’s.

9. No matter how large your stash is, you will never have fabric for the project you want to do

Or at least not enough fabric. There are literally no sewing projects that don’t involve a trip to the sewing store, and if you somehow get through a project without going to the fabric store, it’s only because you planned ahead and bought stuff the trip/project before.

road to recovery

And the eternal fabric store problem resulting from always needing more fabric, for a project or not…

fabric love

10. Sewing is awesome

Need I say more?

sewing is my life

What do you think of this list? Have you learned some of these lessons the hard way too? Did I jog your memory of any lesson you learned the hard way that’s not on my list? I’d love to hear about your sewing mishaps (or at least their informative results)!

Thanks for reading!

Samantha 🙂

PS: I finally found a new theme for my blog that I think I’m actually going to stick with. And I don’t think I’m going to be making any more huge changes, so my period of revamping my blog is pretty much over 🙂 thanks for your patience with the wonkiness.

PPS: Strings Attached now has an Instagram and it’s still pretty new so I feel like I should just keep ending my posts with it so that you all know/remember it exists: by_strings_attached

6 thoughts on “10 Sewing Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

  1. I did a post exactly like this once, it’s suprising how much I’ve learned the hard way:) You had some good stories to tell too! I’ve shredded patterns a couple times before too😀😅 I love the new layout of your blog, it looks fantastic!


  2. I’ve definitely done a few of these! Especially the ‘Changing your needle often’ and ‘Some commercial patterns are crap’ lessons. And I think everyone can attest to the fact that nothing in your stash- no matter how big or small- will ever be right for the project that you just thought up! lol Great post


    1. Thanks! I’m glad you could relate to them, though spending a ton of time on a commercial pattern and having it come out badly because the pattern screwed up is never fun 🙂


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