How I learned to Sew

how i learned to sew vivat veritasReading the recent blog post by Rachael (House of Pinheiro) on “What do you do to become a better sewist?”, it got me thinking about the question I get asked often: “How did you learn to sew?”. When people find out that I sew wedding dresses, they often ask this question. I tell them I learn most about sewing through resources online and books. I never went to fashion school or couturier school. I have a bachelors degree in journalism which turned out to be totally useless in the line of work I do. I tell them that I learned how to install invisible zippers by googling “how to install invisible zippers” and just doing it many times. Usually, people react with disbelief…

What most people don’t realize is the amount of time I put into sewing. When first starting I sewed for hours every day. I still do. At first it took me three nights to sew a simple dress. I was confused most of the time. The thread tension was wrong, I didn’t know that you needed a special foot to install an invisible zipper. I didn’t have a serger so my seam allowances were not finished. But I kept making more pieces, each time improving little by little. Once I figured out how to make a simple dress, I moved on to making more complicated things like jackets, coats, shirts, wedding dresses and most recently jeans, just like schools would have you do in different classes.

I took piano lessons for 13 years from age 6 to 19. I think my mother wanted me to be a concert pianist. It turned out that I didn’t and I stopped playing the piano when I moved out of my parents’ home. My mother thought it was such a waste. She put in money, effort, all the driving me back and forth to piano lessons and her daughter just gave up like that. However, I do not think it was a waste at all. From all those years of lessons, I learned the importance of practice and the importance of not giving up. Although I no longer play the piano daily, the understanding that “practice makes perfect” stuck with me.

What worked for piano also works for sewing. I kept sewing and sewing, and trying my hand at other crafts (pattern drafting, draping, knitting, sketching, crocheting, embroidery etc) to better my skills and although you don’t see the immediate result, looking back you will see how much you improved! Most good things in life like marriage, child raising etc. come with practice and patience as well, right?

When I first started selling clothes online, nobody bought my clothes. It made me a bit sad, but Andy encouraged me to keep going, so I sewed more, posted new creations online, figure out how to have better photos and slowly, some people took interest. Those people who bought from me helped me learn even more by requesting custom clothes. You get to experience sewing for different shapes and what’s better, they are paying for you to learn!

“Experts have said it takes 10,000 hours of hard work to become an expert seamstress” (Quote from Ten Thousand Hours of Sewing…). Read “Outliers” from Malcom Gladwell and be encouraged to keep sewing or doing whatever you are trying to learn (I listened to the audio book). Every time I am tempted to sit on the couch and browse through Pinterest for hours, I remind myself that every little bit of effort counts. Instead of sitting in front of the TV, I sit in front of my sewing machine and keep sewing.

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  1. I am so glad I read this post! You are so right about the importance of practicing a little bit everyday. Personally, I’m not very good with doing a little bit everyday because I go through phases. Right now I’m in my crocheting phase so my sewing has been put on the back burner, but I know I will return to it again. I also browse on pinterest rather than working on my craft so it is helpful to be reminded to use that time wisely. Develop skill rather than simply dreaming and coveting.

    • Hi Tara! I know that Pinterest is so tempting! I often just go through my feed and dream about making something similar, but not actually act on it:(

  2. Hi Chie,
    I am new to the blog world and just discovered your blog a few months ago. This post is really inspirational! I love it! Actually I commute to work and I always look for something to listen to and just started listening to the audio book today by Malcom Gladwell. I started sewing a year and half ago and since then I am hooked 🙂 Hopefully, I’ll progress fast…It will be a while until I fill the 10,000 hours though…

    • Hi Medi, great to hear that you are into sewing! That’s so fun that you can create and share with people online*)

  3. You are so right- practice and persistence are the key! And even when it feels like you’re not learning quick enough, when you look back on things you made even just a short while ago, you can see how far you’ve come! Plus, developing habits of practice and persistence serve you so well in other parts of life. I’m naturally very impatient, not competitive, and tend to give up at the first obstacle, but through sewing, I’m learning to work through difficulties and take my time to do things right. That’s really helping me in my real life!