I think the reason that so many of us find it difficult to wear what we sew is simply because we don't like what we've made.
After 8 years of sewing, I am sad to say, that it's only been within about the last year and a half that I've started to wear clothes that I made. Actually, at the moment I am so poor and my taste is so expensive that probably 90% of the things I wear I've made. So, in my infinite wisdom (ha!), I thought I'd share the guidelines that I follow when I make a garment, so that I'll (almost) always like it enough to wear in public!
Choose your fabric wisely ! - This is the most important tip!
- So many fabric shops (especially in Australia) are dismal indeed and it's so tempting just to buy something because you can't find anything better. When you're choosing fabric, ask yourself "if I saw a garment in the style I am making made out of this fabric, would I buy it?" NEVER buy fabric that you wouldn't ordinarily wear.
- If you live in Australia, Spotlight and Textile Traders are fine for zips, thread, calico, lining and interfacing, but don't expect to find any decent fabric there. I have never once made anything out of Spotlight or Textile Traders fabric that I didn't despise.
- Polyester and nylon are heinous and should be avoided at all costs. Anything shiny (especially satin) also invariably looks bad (unless you're very thin and a very good designer). Wool, silk, linen and cotton (or a combination of any of these) always look classy.
- You're asking for trouble if you try to mix stretch and non-stretch fabric in the one garment.
- Unless you're ultra brilliant at sewing/designing and VERY creative, only use fabric for the purpose for which it is designed. Curtain, upholstery and quilting fabric should be used for making curtains, cushions and quilts only! Similarly, shirting fabric should only be used to make shirts (or shirt-dresses), and don't try to make a skirt out of a knit!
- Don't make anything in a style that you wouldn't ordinarily buy.
- Only make things in styles that suit you! If you're not sure if you look any good in high-waisted pleated pants (for example), go to your favourite shops and try some on. If they look hideous in the shop, chances are they'll look even worse if you try to make your own.
- The whole point of sewing your own clothes is to make them fit better than the stuff in the shops! If you MUST use a commercial pattern, make sure you measure the pattern to determine the appropriate size. Don't just make a size 12 because you usually wear a size 12 or because the back of the packet says you're a size 12.
- This is the only way to tell if it is going to look any good or if it will fit. Today I made 3 toiles of my next dress (it's reversible and amazing, can't wait to show you!). If I'd just made it from my first pattern I would have wasted 3 metres of silk.
- Keep it simple. Know your limitations as a seamstress and designer. Some of the easiest things I've made are my favourite clothes.
- Make sure it doesn't take too long. If you've been looking at something for too ages, you'll never wear it.
- Don't rush and don't cut corners. This ALWAYS ends in tears and ends up taking you 10 times longer than it would have if you just did it properly in the first place.
- Don't get bogged down in rules. I have no idea how to put a zip in the "correct" way. Instead of getting angry and frustrated that I haven't done it right, I just make it up as I go along and try to do it as neatly as possible.
- Hardly any of the things I've made actually look the way I've planned. Often I'll be mid-way through making something and I'll realise that it's not going to work. If you soldier on and make it anyway: disaster. Don't be afraid to change your plans; often you'll end up with a more interesting and more fabulous garment that you originally imagined.
- Don't keep things for special occasions. You've made it, so wear it before it goes out of fashion.
- There is nothing worse than something you don't like languishing in your wardrobe. Every time you open your closet it will remind you of your failure. Get rid of it and move on.
If you couldn't be bothered reading any of that (fair enough!), the golden rule of sewing is: Never make anything you wouldn't ordinarily wear, or want to wear. If you wouldn't buy it, don't make it!