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Sewing for Others, by Sara (@sarasewingjourney)

Sewing clothes for others: a story of failure and success

You may remember from my first article in this amazing collective blog, that I have been sewing clothes for just over a year, despite having been into sewing for over three.

Initially, the only other person I’ve been sewing for (and mainly jumpers) is my boyfriend, who, funnily enough, is my harshest critic (it helps, I promise!) as well as my best supporter.

Photo : a selection of jumpers I’ve made for my boyfriend.

Jumpers are relatively easy to sew for others: the relaxed fit partially removes the stress of fitting and using thicker fabrics encourages the use of the overlocker and helps prevent those snags which are more common with lighter, floaty fabrics.

Nevertheless, I personally really feel the stress and pressure of sewing something for other people. When you sew for yourself, more often than not you are satisfied with an item resulting wearable: you know where you made the mistakes, it’s a useful learning experience, but if you can wear it, then great!

When sewing for other people, I want the item to be as perfect as possible, despite the limitations of being mostly a self-taught sewer. Well, I cannot lie, it will likely NOT be perfect.

And you need to accept and embrace it.

Let me give you some examples: aside from jumpers for my partner, recently I’ve sewn an I Am Zebre jumper (by I Am Patterns) for a dear friend’s birthday. I felt relatively confident, as I’ve sewn two of those for myself and, although my friend’s size was different, I knew how to construct the different parts. I couldn’t be more wrong!

Don’t get me wrong, to the untrained eye, the jumper looks pretty good, but I still managed to sew the button placket the wrong way around: it was supposed to be front over back and I did the opposite. Even when I thought I was being extra-careful. And it still nags me to think about that. But my friend loves the jumper and she keeps telling me how she would wear it all the time, if only she could. And I believe her, she is not saying it out of kindness.

Photo 2: my friend Isabella and her "I Am Zebre"

Another project that went slightly sideways is a summer dress I’ve made for another dear friend. She was telling me how she was struggling to find a summer dress she liked, so I offered to make one for her and let her loose on my pattern collection. She found a design she liked, but one I hadn’t made before.

She selected a lovely viscose, but to be extra sure, I made a toile out of another viscose, to fit the bodice, which was the tricky part. The fit was good, but the toile did not include the facing and that was a mistake! When sewing the actual dress and getting to the facing steps, I ended up pressing the life out of it, so that the fabric stretched out of shape and now she has a dress she likes, but with a slightly gaping neckline. I was so gutted about this and she was so nice to me: she likes the dress and she will wear it, but to me, that was a failure.

Photo 3: my friend Alice with her summer dress

But there are many successes: I did sew her another dress (without having her measurement) as Christmas present and the fit is great and she has been wearing it loads! And she also has an "I Am Lion" which she loves and wears all the time.

Photo 4: Alice again, with her "I Am Lion"

Sewing for others made me realise that I need to take a fitting course, which I intend to as soon as possible, as well as learn to be kind to myself: yes, I need to improve, but I should not chastise myself for mistakes. After all, I am not a professional : sewing is a pastime and something that I enjoy doing, I haven’t been doing it for long and look where I am today! It’s a learning process and I am getting better the more I practice.

I have learned that until you take the plunge, of course you won’t feel confident that you can do it, but believe me, if you are sewing for yourself, you definitely can try and sew for others. Just as for your piece of clothing, it takes practice and you will learn from your mistakes and get better!

My suggestions to those of you who are thinking about starting to sew for loved ones are: start with easy patterns, possibly something you’ve made for yourself before, make a toile with cheaper fabric if you are really nervous about the fit, take it easy, do not rush, try not to stress, stop when you are feeling tired, as that's when you're more likely to make mistakes and most importantly, : enjoy the process!

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