The Sew Weekly Sewing Circle

As yet we're still to see what Mena plans to do with the Sew Weekly for 2013 (but please bear in mind the news that her grandfather passed away on Christmas Eve so she's having a hard time finding energy) BUT.....that doesn't stop you if you want to start next week your own personal adventure making something weekly for 2013. You could always pick some of the themes we had in 2011 or 2012 to get you started, or think up your own.

But I thought that we could swop tips to help you make it to the end of 2013 with a new adventure completed under your belt.

So, if I was asked what tips I could pass on to get through a year of making things weekly (i've done my 52 weeks and made 67 garments), these would be they (and please everyone else wade in and give us your advice for any young (and old) sewing padawans wanted to take up the challenge):

  • Stick to the deadline, even if this means you have to you cut some corners, only tacked in a zip, left the zip out, didn't hem.....once you drop behind, even by a day, it's incredibly hard (mentally and physically) to get back on schedule.
  • "Done is beautiful" - I can't take credit for this, its Miss Loran Watkins mantra, but it's got me through some difficult weeks.
  • Know that you're not going to make a superstar garment every week.....some weeks you'll get halfway through and for your sanity's sake have to accept that this week's piece is a learning piece, one that you'll learn something on to help make superstars in the future.....not everything has to be perfect, and to be honest VERY, VERY few things are.
  • Don't be afraid in the early weeks to make wearable muslins or make things out of thrift store sheets and duvet covers.....this is a learning process and NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE PERFECT.
  • Take risks, make something you'd never have dreamt of making if the challenge didn't stir that mad little idea in your creative soul. Some weeks, you're going to look at the challenges and think "that's not for me"......ignore that doubting whisper, think creatively, CHEAT, just make something. Don't be afraid to make a tie, a hat, an apron.
  • But sometimes make something ridiculous that you don't know where you'll possibly wear it. I've made styles of clothes I would never have made if it hadn't been for the Sew Weekly, and some seriously surprised me that I liked them. Some didn't, but you learn from every experience.
  • Decide what you're making on the 1st day of each week and stick to it no matter what, if you chop and change ideas throughout the week you'll run out of time and stress yourself out.
  • Once in a while, totally ignore that last piece of advice - if you're at day 4 or 5 and seriously hate what you're making, QUICKLY choose something else to make.....because and this is the most important tip:
  • Make yourself a dedicated space to sew in (I know this can be really hard if you're short of space, but if you're serious about doing a year of this stuff, you need to be serious about having the proper space.....and proper tools) - invest in yourself, you're learning stuff that's going to change your life.
  • Take breaks. If it's not going to plan, stop, leave it and come back later. Though sometimes it helps to come back and just do something for 20 mins if you can't tackle the big problem - I've often found hemming a skirt great to be getting on with if I can't work out how a bodice yoke fits etc.
  • Don't buy patterns full price. SERIOUSLY. Don't waste your money on paying $17 or equivalent pounds, euros etc. The big pattern companies have online sales almost monthly, get on their email lists. If you're lucky enough to live in the USA, Jo-ann's and Hobby Lobby frequently sell the big name patterns for $0.99 or $1.99 a time (sorry rest of the world). Look out for online out of print pattern sales at least twice a year. Go and buy patterns from charity shops. Ask relatives if they have patterns they don't use you could have. See what your library has on it's shelves.....and get them to order new sewing books for you and others to borrow. Sewing every single week is expensive, you don't need to stretch yourself further.
  • Look after your sewing machine. Clean it out properly at the end of each week. Add oil as required. Check out the free course on Craftsy (I think it's called something like Sewing Machine Maintenance 911) as a starter. You need to look after the poor thing, it's going to work like a warhorse for you throughout the year.
  • Clear and clean your workspace to free your head at the end of each week.
  • If you can beg, borrow or steal (ok, not the last one) a serger/overlocker, it will halve your sewing time. I didn't manage this, I've only just got one for my Christmas present from nearly all my family pitching in, but I really really wish I'd had one earlier in the year.
  • Don't worry about matching the threads or zips exactly to the fabric's're on a tight schedule here, remember done is beautiful. I often used white, black or red on the lower bobbin and it's fine (I noticed often on Project Runway they sew only with white or black), and if that zip colour clashes, hey call it a feature and make it an exposed one and own your funky fashion style!
  • Choose your battles - if you decide that 'this week's make' is going to be a learning piece or a wearable muslin, don't knock yourself out finishing it perfectly - IT DOESN'T HAVE TO PERFECT......but it you're making the dress of your dreams you want to wear forever, spend that time on it's french seams or binding them. Having it torn apart in a washing machine breaks your heart.
  • Use the internet.....when your machine breaks, when you don't know what a french seam is....Youtube especially is your friend.
  • AND the one thing no-one ever told me as a self-taught sewist, and I don't care if the experienced among you laugh at this, if I can save just one beginner the trouble it took me months to learn - when you finish sewing and pull the fabric out to the side and the threads seem stuck, and you keep getting two threads pulling from the lower bobbin and you don't know what you're doing wrong..........when you finish sewing, use the side manual handwheel to return the metal thread take-up lever (the metal bit that goes up and down when you sew) back to the top, this releases the caught thread inside the bobbin case and stops everything getting caught up. I know this seems absolutely straight-forward, but because I was self-taught, I never knew this and for months thought my sewing machine was rubbish and probably caused my first machine loads of damage forcibly pulling the threads out sideways. Does that make sense? I hope it does and helps at least one self-taught beginner like I was.

Last thing, just do it, don't procrastinate making plans about perfect projects, just start sewing, do a little bit each day, YOU CAN DO THIS 'IMPOSSIBLE' THING, AND DONE IS BEAUTIFUL!

Anyone, else got any tips?

Sorry I waffled on so much ;)

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Lovely! Thanks so much for sharing.

This is really great, Tempest.  Yes, sewing every week is far, far (FAR!) more expensive than I thought!  And it's why I stopped early in the year.  I realized that if I was sewing and spending cash on the all the linings/interlinings, I wanted to learn more finished techniques which time didn't allow for.  I still love Sew Weekly, and think it's brilliant in concept and have loved watching everyone finish on into the year.  I did learn tons for the few months I made the attempt to keep up, and have ended up with 2 fairly wearable dresses and some couture sewing books for Christmas.  I also learned more about my self-perceptions, threw some to the wind, and questioned my own levels of procrastination and perfectionism tendencies.

The take-up lever at the top position means the stitch has been completed.  Your sewing machine makes a "lock-stitch."  If you're caught up in the bobbin area, the stitch is only 1/2 way through it 's process and moving manually to highest needle/take-up lever position completes the stitch.  Yeah, learning this is really key.  Also, on most machines, if you try to pull on your needle thread  just a bit, (because it's too short to start stitching and it's sure to fall out of the needle on the first stitch) you'll meet resistance if your pressure foot is still down.  Raise your pressure foot, gently tug to give yourself the needed length in the needle thread, then put the foot back down so you can start to sew.  (And put your tail between your toes, to the back of and under your pressure foot.)  These few things really helped me out.

Great list and Big Congratulations on your 52 weeks!  Champagne all 'round!


 Congradulations on  making your 52 weeks..Great work, I really enjoyed  watching as each of you posted your garments, So much fun, I did it in 2011 and it was fun [I didn't do 52...but I did about 1/2.ha] I am sorry that I have not been posting comments , but something went wrong and it would not let lots of us post comments.


  Thank you for all the tips.. SO helpful. Hope you and family have a wonderful and blessed New Year..  God bless.

ps thanks for letting  us know about Mena and her loss. Our prayers are with her and her family..

 Happy sewing 2013.

Thankyou Tempest, I hope you have a wonderful 2013. I have just completed 17 continuos challenges in the sewing circle and it was a whirlwind! I was mostly able to use fabric from my stash ( I have know idea why I still have so much fabric) Sewing to a theme challenged me to step out of my safety zone, I will never wear a western shirt but I used it as an opportunity to expand my skills, sewing with sheers,colour blocking, simple pattern alterations, french seams ,stand collars I have tried so many new things I will never consider it a waste of time making something I won't wear.I have truly fallen in love with sewing again.Thankyou for the months of inspiration !

Thanks Tempest! I know that we don't now what is happening yet (and I too join the prayers for Mena and her family), but I think I am going to be crazy and try to do this challenge this year! I am pretty sure I will not get one a week done, I will be working 4 days, finishing my masters and have kids, so time is always a bit nuts, but I aim for one every two weeks. there is something very cool about wearing your own creations! I have heaps of material in the stash, and a bunch of patterns, so for a while it is only zips and bits like that I have to buy, so here goes!!! Good luck every one!

Tempest- I have told you before but I so love your style and your creativity, you inspire me lots!

Great advice, Tempest.  Hope you have a wonderful 2013!

Hello Tempest

What a legacy you are giving us!!! You have master the unmasterable, well you the other gals.... hats off on all of you. I can see it requires dedication, discipline and TIME..... I still wonder how some of you did a garment in 3-5 hours??? does that mean from cutting the pattern???

Any ways after reading your suggestions I am very discouraged to do it all 52 weeks!!!! Love to try some challenges, but I see my self totally stressed trying to meet all challenges.  Which takes me to my other point I sew for fun to relax and not to be pressured and stressed. lol

Any how..... I utterly admire all of you who were able to meet the 52 weeks very IMPRESSIVE!!! and congratulations.

I have followed you  guys every week since May (I believe when I discovered this website)

I look forward on this 2013 creations and I hope I will be able to post my comments and some of my creations.  So far I am still awaiting to be approved by Mena. 

I am praying for her and her family and to soon she will be back on track!



Tempest, this is fantastic! I love all of these tips.

Wonderful Post! Very good tips.

I hope Mena is doing ok, I know how hard it can be to have a grandparent pass over christmas. All the best to her family at a very sad time.

Oh, you gave some wonderful advice. I also have a serger and wouldn't sew without one!  Saves sew much time...... I won't comit to this as I sew for a museum and do alterations for others and may not make MY quota.  But, I'll  be here cheering everyone else on.

Sewing can be expenive, but you must remember in the long run your clothes are MUCH better made.  They'll fit better and will last longer.  And once you buy a pattern you love  I bet you'll find.... like I do... you'll make more than one dress or blouse or whatever from it.  I've taken 2 - 3 different patterns and made one dress before.  I call it my mix and match pattern dress.  I go through magazines and find clothes I love and then go pattern looking. You can always find one that's pretty darn close.   Their dress will be $100.00 .... but we can make it for $20.00!    I love it!


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