Bother or Don’t Bother? Some Sewing Tips

Inspiration from What Katie Sews has struck me twice lately…inspiration to sew up the terrifying-yet-chic clown suit, and also inspiration to ponder the sewing techniques and tools that are worth it or not after reading Katie’s Lazy Sewist Tips. Here are a handful of my own thoughts on what to bother with and not bother with. You’re sure to agree with some and disagree with others…let me know what you think!

Bother: Having a wrist-band pincushion
With your pins attached to your arm, you can never lose them somewhere in the chaos of your sewing area! Like faithful minions, they follow you wherever you go. (Which makes me think I should probably also get idiot strings for my reading glasses, because I seem to spend a good chunk of my sewing time looking around for where I left them last.) And as you sew you just remove pins from your seam and stick them back in the pincushion — no pins rolling off the table and hiding themselves in the carpet. But a word to the wise: when you begin a seam, check to make sure your pincushion is indeed on your wrist! More than once I almost did some unwanted amateur acupuncture on myself.


Don’t Bother: Pinning pattern pieces for cutting out
I bought 10 of these metal discs from the hardware store’s electrical section for about a dollar a piece and they’re all I use now to hold my pattern pieces in place on the fabric when I’m cutting out. Especially if you print out PDF patterns at home on regular paper, trying to pin that thick paper is sure to distort your fabric, not to mention your patience. Pattern weights for the win!

Using round electrical cover plates as pattern weights


Bother: Owning a serger
Not everyone will agree with me on this, as of course you can sew anything you want quite well without a serger, but I absolutely adore having one. I wasn’t convinced I needed one at first, but when a sewing studio was going out of business and selling some used ones at a good price, I figured it was worth snapping one up. It turns out I find sewing with a serger really satisfying, and I wouldn’t want to do without it. (Why do I get the sense that now that I’ve put that out there to the universe something will go horribly wrong with it on my next project??) Anyway, I sew a lot of knits so it’s very handy for doing stretchy seams, and I like finishing woven seam allowances with it.

Don’t Bother: Measuring seam allowances for patterns that don’t include them
Need to add a 5/8″ seam allowance around your pattern pieces? Eyeball it. It’s fine. If there’s one thing you get to know really well as a sewist it’s how wide 5/8ths of an inch is.

Bother: Having a high-quality pair of scissors that feel great in your hand
Enough said, amirite?
Related: having a high-quality seam ripper. ‘Cause if you’re like me you spend waaaaay more time using your seam ripper than you care to admit. 😉
Also related: having more than one high-quality seam ripper. Because no one’s invented a seam ripper wrist band yet.

Don’t Bother: Plowing ahead when you are tired, hangry, in need of a cup of tea, having a hard time with a procedure, and/or feeling like Sewzilla is about to pay a visit for any of the forgoing reasons
Don’t cave in to that voice in your head that says, “But you only have two seams and a zipper left to sew…just get it done!” I have learned that I will regret heeding that voice’s advice. That voice is Sewzilla’s auntie, and only has Sewzilla’s best interests in mind. Sewzilla always shows up if I heed that voice. And then I have to spend extra time with my high-quality seam ripper.


This is Sewzilla. My husband hates it when she shows up. (Image cleverly doctored by Henry Warwick)

Bother: Pre-washing fabric
As someone who craves instant gratification there have been times when I’ve cut into fabric the moment I get it home from the store, but I have learned to throw it straight into the washing machine the moment I get home instead. I have seen fabrics that bleed like crazy so I’ve also learned to wash the fabric by itself (or maybe with some crummy old cat blanket) to spare myself the pain of accidentally dyeing my clothes an unwanted colour. I should note that sometimes I don’t pre-wash ponte knit. Because ponte knit is such a fabric-of-the-gods that it doesn’t even need pre-washing.

Don’t Bother: Trying to sew everything perfectly
I marvel at blog posts that depict close-up detail shots of sewing perfection. (You know, the ones that are often accompanied by an apology that there’s some small thing wrong with it: a slightly crooked top-stitch, or a seam binding that doesn’t quite line up properly at the corner, or some wrinkles in the fabric. Something you probably wouldn’t have noticed yourself if it hadn’t been pointed out to you.)  At first when I came across sewing blog posts like these, I figured this was probably the bar I was supposed to try to measure up to if I was going to be part of this sewing blogger community. But I quickly realized perfection is not my bag. Sweating details like that sucks the joy out of sewing for me. I do understand that for some sewists, striving for mastery of the skills is part of their joy, and I respect that. But if the cost of perfection is frustration and less joy, stop worrying about the imperfect details.

What about you? Does anything on this list resonate with you? What’s on your Bother and Don’t Bother lists?

The Terrifying Yet Chic Clown Suit

I sewed myself a clown suit — and I liked it!

B6312 Jumpsuit

This cute thing is B6312, a ‘very easy See & sew’ pattern from Butterick. I modified the pattern by flaring out the legs, because I was going for the culotte-look rather than what Named Clothing aptly calls “carrot leg”, which tapers in towards the bottom.

B6312 Jumpsuit

The following pic is a bit blurry, but I love the way the background looks, so just squint, k?

B6312 Jumpsuit

B6312 Jumpsuit

Below you can see that it actually is a clown suit, with props to Katie from What Katie Sews for making me almost laugh out loud when she wrote of her own version that “the pattern pieces looked terrifying like a clown suit, but once it’s made up in a soft fabric and belted, it’s secret-pyjama dreams come true.” Clown suit? Secret pyjamas? How could I NOT try this pattern?? Thanks for the inspiration, Katie!

B6312 Jumpsuit

The face on the wall behind me agrees that this is a terrifying clown suit.

B6312 Jumpsuit

Does my ass look fat in this clown suit?

Here’s a better look at the fabric, which is a Japanese cotton print I bought at Designer Fabrics on Queen Street West in Toronto last summer. I was just there yesterday and this still have some for sale. The belt I bought a few years ago from Peeko Apparel on Etsy, who seems to have since closed up shop, unfortunately.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 B6312 Jumpsuit

I still need to do a bit of altering to the top half. I cut the top in the smallest size and graded the pants part out to the next size up. The top is still rather wide and the armholes are very deep so I think it will look better if I resew the side seams to cinch it in a bit more.

B6312 Jumpsuit

I had to use these awesome shoes for this photo shoot, because if I attempt to wear them In Real Life I have to mince around very slowly and carefully or else be carried around on a divan. The latter never happens so basically I just don’t wear them. 😦  I’m sure you have a story about a pair of shoes that function more as a sculpture in your home than as practical tools for locomotion, amirite?

B6312 Jumpsuit

I find I need to fuss a little bit to get the fabric to gather just right under the belt. I wonder if I should’ve just gone for a jumpsuit with an actual waistband instead. What do you think?

B6312 Jumpsuit

It was the most perfect Spring day when #UnsungSewingBlogHero and I shot these pics, with the lilacs and crabapple trees in full bloom. Glorious!

crabapple blossoms

Thanks so much for stopping by for a look!

M7127: The sweet sound of sewing block crumbling

This is my new cozy-yet-kinda-sexy shirt that I just *loooooooove*.

McCall's 7127 houndstooth crossover top

There’s something kinda saucy about a low-cut back, don’t you think?

McCall's 7127 houndstooth crossover top

This is McCall’s 7127, view B, a very easy top that has only 3 pattern pieces to cut. It was just what I needed to break through the sewing block wall that kept me from finishing any sewing since December. On a whim I pulled this pattern out of my stash, grabbed this fabric that I had been saving for something else, and got down to business without thinking about it too much. Within a few hours I was done. It gave me a great sense of relief to finally complete a sewing project! Sometimes I spend way too much time deliberating, second-guessing, hesitating, etc., and not enough time just sewing.

McCall's 7127 houndstooth crossover top

I love the houndstooth pattern that also looks a bit like Space Invaders. The fabric is a polyester stretch jersey I found at Fabricland. It’s very soft and all kinds of comfortable to wear.

McCall's 7127 houndstooth crossover top

Some notes on the pattern: it does not include bust darts, which isn’t a problem for me but may be for gals with a fuller bust. You can even see in the picture below where the fabric bunches a bit near my armpit, which a dart would take care of nicely, but this sort of thing doesn’t bother me. Also of note is that the line drawing for the pattern doesn’t really convey the fact that the shirt has drop shoulders. I thought at first that the shoulder fit was way off but it’s clearly drafted this way, and works just fine for me.

McCall's 7127 houndstooth crossover top

McCall's 7127 houndstooth crossover top

My cats like to follow me around if I’m doing a photo shoot in the back alley. Look at dis guy!!!


Thanks to my lovely #UnsungSewingBlogHero for the pics!

Thanks, Mom, for Teaching Me to Love Sewing

My mother sewed my prom dress for me. It’s a MASTERPIECE. It was 1988 and we were big on, well, BIG. Big hair, big flounces, and lots of taffeta.

Taffeta prom dress

Look at that sweetheart neckline and that flattering drop waist. And there’s boning in that bodice — boning!

But wait, there’s more icing on the back:


Look at those layers, and that BOW!


Points to anyone who can identify the pattern this came from! I don’t have the pattern anymore, but it would’ve been one of the big 4 pattern companies, published around 1988 or so. Mom and I picked it out at our local Fabricland where we also bought that gorgeous teal taffeta.

Here’s the dress in action in 1989. My friend Sue took home the award for biggest sleeves, and we both got honorary mentions for having had our shoes dyed to match our dresses exactly. 😉

prom dresses

I *looooved* this dress. I still do. The taffeta is crisp and makes wonderful swishy sounds when I move in it. If you look closely you can just make out a sort of wood-grain pattern in the fabric. And that colour? Best. Ever. What are the chances 80’s gowns will come back in fashion so I can wear this out somewhere?

I can’t believe my mother made this for me. She spent countless hours, and did such an amazing job. It’s hard to express adequate gratitude for such an extraordinary and personal gift…but here goes:

Thanks, mom, for your effort and sacrifice in making this dress! And for teaching me to sew when I was young. I think the first thing we sewed together was a few small stuffed Christmas ornaments that showed up on the tree year after year, remember those? Then there was the Grade 8 graduation dress you made for me:


You taught me to knit, too, and I still remember that ridiculous forest-green “scarf” I made, complete with unintentional dropped-stitch “eyelets” and featuring a “stylish too-short-for-a-scarf look” because I got too frustrated to knit a full length scarf. I think dad might’ve actually worn it out. I’m still blown away by the curling sweater you knitted for dad in the 60s — I found it in the cedar chest in the basement the 80s and wore it religiously for a while — even in the rain, sorry! — and it’ll be a cherished keepsake for years to come.


Mom, you’re a great role model who instilled in me a love of creative arts such like sewing, knitting, and baking, too. Thanks for making those things part of my life as a kid growing up. And thanks for giving me your old Singer sewing machine when you finally decided you wouldn’t be doing any more sewing yourself. Having that in the house allowed me to dive back into sewing when the notion took me a few years ago. Thanks for all of that, and for being the best mom ever. I’m a very lucky person to have a mother like you. Love you! xo

Mom & dad on their wedding day in 1957

Mom & dad on their wedding day in 1957

Ok, you didn’t think I’d be able to write another sentimental post without adding a little smart-alecky-ness here at the end, did you? This may actually be my favourite photo of me wearing the prom dress in 1989 (sorry, mom):

Flipping the bird in my prom dress

A little teenage contempt was just the right accessory for this frilly dress.