Sew Clueless

A post by Tivian:

Ok, err….sewing.

I cannot really sew. I’ve made a cushion for my mum, which to be honest did come out a little weird. Think overly pointy corners. That said, I’m pretty confident that I’ll get to grips with sewing fairly sharpish(famous last words). I used to work as a carpenter so sewing does feel like a natural progression of my skills, in theory…

Speaking of theory, my first garment will be the Strathcona Henley by Thread Theory Patterns. I’m going for the short sleeves version with a standard t-shirt neckline as opposed to a placket as it’s my first time, yikes! The fabric is the Isabella Wool and viscose mix jersey.

Pattern, fabric, thread, needles, fabric, thread, machine, finished garment. Easy…

I cut and washed the fabric (always wash before cutting, always cut before stitching. Wait, that one’s obvious!) Then I began to iron the fabric or as it’s called in sewing: Press, press and press again.

Sewing should really be called ‘Sewing and Ironing’ or perhaps ‘Seworning’ for short.

Like most blokes and I think people in general, I don’t like ironing. I don’t iron unless social rules absolutely demand it, but I did think ironing a large piece of fabric might be alright, you know, almost fun. Wrong. I’m not a natural, it took me 20 mins to achieve 50% less wrinkles. I can’t even iron…despair…. I don’t know if sewing is for me….self loathing… Head in hands…. No no, chin up lad, persevere, you haven’t even started.

Then I pinned the pattern to the fabric. I liked that, almost therapeutic in its slowed down simplicity. Do it quickly and it might hurt, so if pain isn’t your cup of tea, keep it slow and steady.


This could be a good time to mention that sewing and carpentry share a very useful golden rule that is ‘measure twice, cut once’. A maxim which is still easy to ignore at our own peril.

And cutting began…. Why did I agree to this?! Beyond fiddly…Isn’t there some kind of power tool to make this easier?! …Must be the jersey… I think I’m in need of some motorised patience.

I’m reading the instructions for sewing the main pieces together of the T-shirt and I am baffled. 3 options that seem like 6: Fold this, fold that, right side, wrong side, interfacing, some plastic stuff, stay knit fabric. Primark, all is forgiven. Well not everything…

Originally I’d decided to make this garment without help but quickly realised, that is quite a stupid idea and that a misguided bout of stoicism isn’t going to help me make a decent garment but help will. Fabric Godmother, where are yee?!

I’ve ironed on interfacing near the top of the shoulder seams to reinforce them. I’ve stitched them together using the sewing machine. Now that was fun, sewing machines are fantastic, who knew.


I sewed the neckband together, easy enough. Did I mention I like sewing machines?!

I won’t go into further details of the step by step process as this is not really a how to but more of a ‘how not to’, or ‘a why did I?’, or a ‘I don’t want to do this ever again’, or a ‘yes I will do this again asap so I don’t forget how to’.

Here’s some pics. Let’s call it proof.



So the garment is finished, the Claret colour goes great with the Black and the fabric is lovely. But there’s a problem.

It DOESN’T FIT ME, well it does fit, but it’s waaaaay too tight, not really my thang. But on the plus side I can sew a bit now, my mother’s day present is taken care of(kidding) and I’m going to make another one straight away but much bigger so I can actually wear it after spending 5 hours or so of my time making the thing.

Also, I would be happy to tackle a pattern with way less assistance due to the things I’ve learnt, such as: How to thread a sewing machine needle and use sewing machine basic functions, seam allowance, zig zag stiches, testing stitches on scraps of fabric to see what stitches work, the importance of ironing haha, yeah I know.  The fact that as I was making the garment it felt chaotic and messy but as I neared the end of the process, I realised that order had occurred and I was actually going to have a piece of clothing as opposed to a series of random scraps of fabric which is how it felt after I’d cut the pattern out.

There’s been ups and downs. Sewing machines, yes. Making chalk marks on jersey fabric not so much.

Adidos Muchachos…





14 thoughts on “Sew Clueless

  1. Sarah J says:

    What an awesome summary of making a garment for the first time. Great job Tivian! Yes, sewing is a lot of ironing (still hate it) and yes sometimes you make a thing and it just doesn’t work (darn it). Using knits first time around is very tricky.

  2. Jeni says:

    Haha, yes, that ‘measure twice cut once’ mantra, that also applies to measuring yourself first, and checking that against the garment measurements (allowing for ease, of course)! Just kidding, we’ve all been there. You did a really neat job. Good luck next time.

  3. Brenda says:

    Go Tivian! First big achievement.

    It doesn’t actually sound like an easy peasy sort of beginner project. Lots of things to learn at the same time, but maybe the fabric is a bit challenging, too. I’m saying that as I sit pretty on top of no less than 3 pieces of the Isabella woolen jersey, myself. So here’s hoping it doesn’t really have a slippery sort of life of its own!

  4. Alyson says:

    Well done! Good start. It took me years to tackle jersey. Measure self first may be your new maxim.

  5. Jillian says:

    Well done Tivian. Most of us start with something simple – like a cotton skirt. I’m guessing that’s not your thing? Maybe it is – who am I to judge! Keep up the good work.

  6. Sabine says:

    Hi Tivian – and well done!
    That was an enjoyable read and I am glad that you have devided to keep it up 🙂

    Regarding cutting and marking tools for jersey: as jersey stretches and, therefore, tends to shift whilst cutting, using a rotary cutter (like an ultrasharp pizzawheel) is, IMO, the tool of choice, rather than scissors. You will need a large cutting mat as well, though, to protect the table top. So that’s an extra investment.

    As for marking jersey: there are things like washable fabric markers that look like a felt tip pen. In fact, you can replace such a marker with most washable ink felt pens (do test on a scrap piece first, though, to make sure the ink truly dissolves, and in any case, always mark within the seam allowance, just to be sure).
    You have to apply a lot less pressure on a felt pen than on a piece of chalk, so you don’t push away the jersey.
    Chalk is a very good choice for more stable fabrics (i.e. thicker wovens).

    Lastly – and possibly redundant – but pressing and ironing are two different things. Pressing means putting the iron down on the fabric and literally press down (often using steam), *without* moving the iron over the fabric. Instead, you lift the iron up, put it down on the next spot and press again.
    Ironing, on the other hand, does include the ‘swiping’ over the fabric itself and can do away with light wrinkles, but it doesn’t really set the fabric, and more serious wrinkles do need actual pressing and steaming too.

    Good luck!

  7. Zareen Hussain says:

    Reminded me of myself a year ago. Keep practising and u will get better. Good luckx
    Things that dont fit.. We all have that one body in the family that it will fit to. So dont throw away any work. Give it to the family

  8. amcclure2014 says:

    My husband made himself a garment for the first time at the end of last year – and wore it. He had no help whatsoever. I was impressed. It was a monk’s outfit for a fancy dress do. Not even from a pattern He managed to use the machine himself though for another time worked out that more attention to tension would be helpful. He hasn’t done another since but has plans for a camera bag and photographer’s gilet in leather. Starting high! He did say just yesterday that perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea. He has his own sewing machine which he bought to stitch leather but feels that perhaps the leather we have (already bought for the project) might be too thick and damage the machine.
    That’s great looking T shirt and will surely fit someone you know? I have to confess I’ve given away more than half of what I’ve sewn…

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