Six Steps Toward Greater Sewing Room Tranquility

OK– Our topic today, might be the best kept secret in the sewing industry… ANGER while sewing, or maybe not! Don’t give me that shocked look! If you’ve been sewing for any length of time, then you know how frustrating it can be at times…

When You Can’t Figure out the Instructions

Or… When You Have to Rip That Seam Out for the FIFTH TIME!

Or… When You Find Out In step 36… That You Omitted something VITAL in Step 4!

So…did you recognize yourself in any of those videos?

Or worse still… would one of your family members have recognized you?
Don’t feel bad either way. Sewing is a wonderful pastime, but as we all very well know… It can really be infuriating at times. That’s why we’ve assembled this list of six proactive things you can do to keep emotional outbursts like the ones displayed above, a rarity in YOUR sewing space.

1. Follow the Instructions (in the order they are presented)- This may seem obvious, but you might be surprised at how often I hear from folks who feel they are experienced enough to not NEED instructions, except for an occasional reference. And it’s important to note, that it’s advisable to follow instructions in the order in which they are presented, since one step often builds on another (ESPECIALLY with small items like handbags). 

2. Take Regular Breaks– It’s important to take occasional breaks. Patterns often provide natural breaks at certain spots, so why not rest your eyes and your brain by leaving the sewing area, getting a cool drink, and thinking about something completely different for 10 minutes or so. You’ll come back refreshed and renewed!

3. Avoid Sewing on a Close Deadline (even self-imposed ones)- Why do we do this to ourselves??? Why do we feel we’ve GOT to finish it tonight? Why do we over commit by trying to finish a project by a certain time? I must admit that I really prefer stopping for the day, at one of those ‘natural breaks’ referred to in step 2, and I have learned to force myself to do just that, particularly when I feel myself getting fatigued or hungry (a deadly combo). 

If, after following steps 1-3, you still find yourself stuck, you’re confused and not at all sure how to proceed, go to steps 4-6 immediately, BEFORE your “personal meltdown sequence” initiates.

4. Try Reading the Instructions Out Loud to Yourself (just ignore the quizzical looks of family)- Sometimes this really works for me. I’ve also been known to read the instructions to myself immediately before going to bed at night. I know it sounds a little Zen-like, but I really believe that the mind will continue to work on a problem for you, even as you sleep. On more than one occasion, I have woke up either in the morning, or at some point in the night, knowing exactly how to proceed. (Do yourself a favor and keep a little pad of paper and a pen at bedside so you can write it down, unless you’re getting right up, or you may forget it!)

5. Ask for Advice– If you’ve reached an impasse at a particular step, it might help to get the advice of another experienced sewer… a friend or a local sewing instructor. If you have access to the pattern writer or designer, you might try calling her. You never know, there could be a mistake in the pattern instructions. (Try to limit your calling to normal working hours. Just because you are sewing like a mad woman at 2 in the morning trying to finish a project, does not mean that’s the right time to call… and yes, I have received calls at all hours of the day and night.)

6. Set the Project Aside– Everyone has their own personal limits and when you start feeling tired, you’ve begun making silly mistakes or you can feel yourself getting increasingly annoyed and frustrated, do yourself (and everyone else) a favor, and just STOP! Set your work aside for the day (and preferably for the night as well). When you resume work on your project, you’ll very likely have fresh eyes, as well as a fresh perspective. And besides, it’s better to take a self-imposed break from your work, before you wind up in a video like the ones above!   🙂

But what about YOU?

How do you know what you’re getting ready to lose it, and do you have anything in particular you do to avoid sewing room meltdowns? And remember, we love reading your comments and answering your questions too, so please feel free to leave either or both in the space provided below.

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  1. Mary L on September 17, 2020 at 7:01 am

    When I’ve made a series of mistakes—usually stupid ones, I rip out my last effort, clean it up, and walk away for a while. When I come back, my mind is clear and the project is ready to go!

    • Kat on September 17, 2020 at 8:38 am

      We all get frustrated at times, but this is great advice! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jo Lacy on September 17, 2020 at 10:13 am

    I never start sewing on the day I cut my fabric. I usually trim and read the pattern and pieces. Cut the fabric another day and still wait another day
    for the preparing of interfacing and and making sure all pieces are labeled.

    • Kat on September 17, 2020 at 5:51 pm

      these are good ideas! Thanks for sharing them! 🙂

  3. Beth on September 17, 2020 at 5:57 pm

    My mom told me that if I was struggling with a sewing project, it probably meant I was getting tired (even if I didn’t realize it yet) and should quit for the day. Over the years I have found that to be true. She also got me through an especially challenging 4-H sewing project when I was in grade school by telling me that if I’d keep trying, she’d keep ripping until I got it right. And she did! I never forgot all that ripping she did. It kept me from giving up. Thanks for a fun lesson on handling sewing frustrations!

  4. Anne Wiens on September 18, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    When I hear myself say “close enough”, that’s my first clue that it’s time to take a break and go do something else for a while. When I catch myself unsewing, then RE-sewing the same error, then it’s time to pack it in for the day.

    • Kat on September 18, 2020 at 5:31 pm

      So true! I’ve been there too! 🙂

  5. Cheryl Baker on September 18, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    I am always a little sad when I read comments from someone sewing something and it is not working out, so they blame the pattern, or the pattern designer. Why do we have to find someone to blame? If we took some time to think it through, or maybe stepped back for a moment or an hour or two, things would look clearer. I am thankful that I was taught “don’t try and blame someone” for my mistakes or missteps. Thank you for your wonderfully clear directions….and yes, sometimes I have to read something over and over until it clicks!!

    • Kat on September 18, 2020 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks Cheryl for your kind words, but actually, all designers make a mistake once in a while, but it is bothersome when when folks call us in the throes of anger, which does happen occasionally. 🙂

  6. CAROLYN MCGLINCHEY on October 15, 2020 at 4:57 am

    Thanks for the laugh! Sewing is a great teacher of patience and tolerance. Noticing my breathing helps me cope with the frustrations. If I notice myself becoming upset, my breathing is usually shallow. I’ll consciously take some deep breaths and focus just on the breathing and how it feels in my body. And when all else fails, walking away is also a good tip!

    • Kat on October 15, 2020 at 7:23 am

      All good ideas! Thanks for commenting!