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5 Things Sewists who Know Don’t Sew

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In the 30+ years that I’ve been sewing, I’ve learned so many lessons (and made some silly mistakes along the way).

Probably the lesson I’m the most grateful for – is how to say no.

There are lots of sewing things that I say ‘no’ to. Here are five…

1. Sewists who know don’t sew cheap stuff.

Cheap items are available everywhere. If you want something speedily sewn with inexpensive materials you won’t have to look very far or pay very much for it.

Sewists who know (including me) will buy the cheap stuff (let someone else make it) and use their precious sewing time for making something unique, high quality, and not found anywhere else.

2. Sewists who know don’t accept projects they can’t finish in time.

I’ve been guilty of this in the past – accepting projects that come with a deadline, especially deadlines that I can’t meet.

My sewing place is only my happy place when I’m not rushing (or not rushing too much). So I’ve learned to say no if a new project would cause me undue stress or make me drop everything else that I’m already working on.

3. Sewists who know don’t sew too long in between sewing machine cleanings

Sewists who know (and love to sew) take good care of their machines. 

I used to hate looking underneath the needle plate – I avoided seeing all those dust bunnies any way that I could!

Now I try to never go more than a week without a quick brush-out and more intensive cleanings are a must (here’s how to clean your sewing machine the safe way).

Depending on your machine, you might also take your it to your dealer for a professional checkup on a regular basis.

4. Sewists who know don’t sew without interfacing.

When I first started sewing, I thought there was nothing as annoying as interfacing. So I left it out.

As you can imagine, my facings were floppy and my bags were, well, baggy. 

Now I keep a stash of the interfacings that I love and I never leave it out. Sometimes I add interfacing when it’s not even called for – like to reinforce a buttonhole or a tote lining.


Free basic leggings pattern!

Free basic leggings pattern!

5. Sewists who know don’t sew clothes with fabric that’s not pre-shrunk.

I admit that I rarely pre-shrink fabric when I’m making quilts – and there are experts who take either side of that argument. 


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As for me, I don’t pre-shrink any of my quilt materials. When I’m done with a quilt, I wash and dry it and let it get all wrinkly and cuddly. That’s just the way I love my quilts.

But when I sew clothes? I always pre-shrink my fabric. Sometimes I’ll wash cotton knit fabrics more than once, just to make sure they don’t have any more shrinking to do. 

I don’t want to work hard on anything – even a shirt – and then have it become unwearable.

I’d much rather be safe than sorry so I wash and dry my garment fabrics using the same settings that I expect to use on the finished piece later.

What about you? With all you know, Is there anything that you won’t sew? 

Tell us in the comments. I love hearing your stories.

Happy Sewing!

P.S. If you want to know more about any of the projects in these photos – just click the pictures. I have linked them all so you can read more! 🙂

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Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂

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29 Comments

  1. I would love to see your interfacing recommendations. I have one fusible interfacing that I believe I bought at a quality shop that puckers EVERY time I use it. Interfacing or operator error?

    1. Maria White says:

      Cotton interfacing can shrink, so if either your fabric or the interfacing might shrink, I suggest preshrinking. Most puckers and bubbles come from this, or from fusing at the wrong temperature/wrong amount of time

      1. The orange peel effect you get after washing is from moving the fabric before the fused interfacing has cooled and fused properly. Wait until it cools completely before you move it at all.

  2. Bambi Pearson says:

    All great points! I used to do alterations but got so burned out that I quit sewing altogether for awhile. Now I mainly quilt and only do an occasional alteration here or there and only for special friends.

  3. My "washing rule" is if it’s going to be washed during it’s lifetime of use, it gets prewashed. The reason I use very few precuts in anything other than art quilts or wall hangings. I used to wash and dry batting, but these days shrinkage is very, very minimal and I, too, love the crinkly look for quilts. I have found that if I prewash my quilt fabric and not the batting I get the look I love w/out risking any bleeding and inconsistent shrinkage from the various fabrics I used in piecing.

  4. It was a helpful article, especially the one about cleaning the sewing machine. I haven’t been annoyed about interfacing. Sometimes, I even use muslin in place of the iron-on interfacing. But one thing does annoy me (and I know that you didn’t coin the word) but "sewist," and "sewer," really annoy me. Doesn’t anyone use the word, "seamstress," anymore? It sounds so much better. So as a seamstress and aspiring customized dressmaker, one thing I’ll never do is use those ridiculous, genderless, and non-words of sewer and sewist.

    1. Great points. I love the word ‘sewist’ because I feel like it’s a combination of ‘sewer’ + ‘artist’. And that’s how I feel! ❤️

    2. Caroline Cuthbert says:

      There are men who sew… I would like to think that we are inclusive of everyone, whatever we create.

  5. I do not sew for money. I only sew for people I love. It helps me to be joyful about every project I create.

  6. I am often asked to make formal wear clothing, as I did for my kids. Last one was 5 neon orange bridesmaids dresses, 2 were pregnant. After 2 months of no reply from the bride, I declined. I’m a self taught seamstress, and sometimes have difficulty with alterations. Why do people think it will be so much cheaper than buying one from a store. 🙁 One young girl (17yr) asked if I could do a short prom dress for less than an online store, $149.00 than, me? She said she could probably make it, but didn’t have the time. I told her I would ‘help’ her, but she had no sewing experience. Ekkkk Most people have no clue what it takes to make clothing.

  7. I don’t do contract work. I create through sewing because it makes ME happy to see what is in my head come to life in fabric. And I will market those items to potential buyers. Creating through sewing is my happy place (besides Maui!) and to accept a sewing job to make someone else’s choice of pattern, fabric and detailed specs and/or critiques would totally take the joy out of it and make it a chore–not to mention it would steal time from my own sewing. And, even as a stay at home mom and grandma with so much more time to myself now that at least the kids are grown, I still don’t have the time to be in my sewing studio as much as one might imagine. When people see the things I have created for myself and say "Will you make me one?!?!?!?" (Not even "Can I pay you to make one for me?") I know to quickly say "no" and maybe throw in how I sew for people I gave birth to or for special gifts and "IF" I were to make something similar to what they are asking about I tell them a very large price and then repeat that I don’t do contract work.

  8. All great points! I would add not sewing for people who do not appreciate the time it takes. I spent a lot of my first years sewing for the people I love and found a LOT of them didn’t appreciate it and I felt hurt because of it. I now save my time and energy for those who do. When sewing for business, this extends to people who are not willing to pay me what I am worth – I am not expensive but I also will not try to compete with a sweat shop. You are getting a handmade, custom piece made with care and attention to detail. I promise, either way, you get what you pay for.

  9. Kathryn Holmes says:

    Couldn’t agree more! 💗

  10. Barbara Gilbert says:

    I don’t sew with huge amounts of fabric. No more lined drapes or another king size whole-cloth quilted bedspread. My arms can’t take the weight and my head can’t take the nuisance. I’m not crazy about alterations, either. I’d rather make something from scratch than alter ready-to-wear. I don’t like bias binding, or repetitive projects, like place mats. I do pretty much pre-wash everything. I only quilt very small items and I want to do more free motion quilting on my baskets. I used to love free motion embroidery, but haven’t done any for years. There are a lot of things I may try now that I have adequate lighting from my Inspired LED lighting kit!

  11. María White says:

    I can think of a few
    -Dont be stingy with thread or neeedles, you will hate if the gorgeous item has thread that breaks or if the fabric gets holes from a dull needle.
    -Pressing can be the difference between homemade and handmade. Don’t skip it!
    -Work with fabric you like, it’ll make your sewing time more pleasureful.

  12. I always say "no" to hemming pants. That’s what alterations shops are for. I also agree that I quilt for the pleasure, not for money. If I make a quilt for someone it is a labor of love.

  13. If using all brand new, unwashed fabric for a quilt then I agree with your no prewash rule. If using a mix of prewashed scraps and new fabric then I would prewash the new fabric for consistency.

  14. There are always household tasks that can be done with the sewing machine… velcro needs to be replaced on the laundry bag, mending done on clothing, a quick alteration… My rule now is that the weekend is sacrosanct for MY sewing, and I set aside an afternoon a week to do the ‘chore’ type stuff. I don’t want to mix up the two, or ever feel like I’m not getting to feed my creative energy just because hubby’s jeans need hemming.

    My second rule is that I’m never going to sew for money again. It takes the joy out of it for me. Obviously every sewist has to make their own decision about that. But I’d rather make gifts than inventory or commissions.

  15. My rules are:
    I do not sew clothes for people that won’t even take the time to come get measured. I make the patterns myself, but I’m plus size with many adjustments, so my patterns are not usable for other sizes and can’t scale them down.
    I don’t make formal, one occasion dresses for other people. The pressure takes the joy away from me.
    And I don’, sew underwear or swimwear. It’s normally cheaper to buy.

  16. I still and will never like the words sewer and sewist much but do use them IF and only if I refer to a male who sews. For women, I still prefer seamstress… but if I were a man, I would not want to be called seamstress, so I accept the need for the new words. And, yes, Lyn, those are words, whether we like them or not.

  17. Totally agree with all comments made. Sewing was my first occupation and I have continued sewing for my family and as a hobby. I prefer using quality fabric, be it new or recycled. Yes, always pre-shrink fabric and use interfacing.

    One other thing that I would add is to iron seams as you go.

    As for bag making, I am only a beginner and have only recently discovered the importance of using appropriate interfacings.

  18. I’m not with some others on here. I don’t like using the word "seamstress" for myself because I feel like people assume that means I alter clothing, and I don’t.

    My biggest time is to say no to other people asking me to do something. I do offer to help them if they need it. But I had someone ask me once if I could help them make a baby blanket for their friend. O said I could help and next thing I know they drop off all the supplies with absolutely nothing done and tell me to have it done in a week.

    Another thing, don’t show your work that you are very proud of (especially if it’s your first time project) to someone that doesn’t see themselves. I made that mistake on my first dress I made for my 1 year old and my friend pointed out every flaw. Even though I had never seen anything handmade on her girls. The next person I showed, I consider one of the experts, she praised and said I did great.

  19. I will only sew for those who appreciate the amount of time it takes to create something unique. I also will no longer sew for money. I did this when my child was young and could use the extra cash but no longer. There are no better words than “oh my you made this for me – I feel so special”. Getter to sew and give as a gift to those who appreciate it!

  20. Marcia G. says:

    I don’t sew for money. I hate hearing "Oh, I love that! If I pay you, would you make me one?" The answer is no. Also, I don’t sew clothing for myself, except pajamas. I’m not good at it–I’m not a standard size and require a lot of alterations to a pattern, and I never like the results. It’s much less stressful to buy my clothes and make the alterations I really need to those.

  21. Great list and I agree with all – I don’t sew for $$ – because hardly anyone would want to pay what my time is worth, I can make more $ doing other jobs, and sewing is my creative, joyful, me time! It pains me every time I show friends my creations and the first words out of their mouth is “you could sell that” … I’ve yet to come up with an appropriate response, but maybe I’ll just start saying, “you can’t buy handmade with love for $”.

    I enjoy your site daily, it’s inspiring, motivating and insightful. I learn new ways to do things and enjoy your sewing companionship! Thanks for being you!

  22. I don’t sew underwear. That was my first thought when I saw the title. LOL Otherwise I love your list!

  23. Ginette Bisaillon says:

    I even wash and pre-shrink the unbleached cotton I use for muslins because I prefer the way it drapes after washing. Now that I have a serger it’s so easy to finish the cut ends so they don’t turn into a mess of tangled threads after they’ve been through the washing machine!

  24. I don’t do alterations on anything dirty or if it is too raggedy.
    I have been sewing for 55 years and you would be amazed at what people have asked me to do.
    People have tried to set my prices. I explained why my prices were that high. (I was designing patterns for cases that would fit specific objects)

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