How Do You Stay Motivated In The Beginning?

Sewing is Different

Sewing feels different than knitting, which I learned to do two years ago.

This pic is from my first knitting lesson (with paintbrushes for needles) at the Brooklyn Brainery.

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This pic is my version of the Pebble Tank from Purl Soho.


I love the feel of knitted items, but knitting is incredibly slow and limited to certain types of garments — nobody is knitting an entire wardrobe. People are sewing their entire wardrobes.  (Some people have even committed to “fast” from buying ready-to-wear clothing for an entire year.)

Wardrobe Dreams are Distant Dreams

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This is a picture of my closet

While I am inspired by people who are killing it at sewing their own wardrobes, for now, my wardrobe is branded and ready-to-wear and doesn’t fit that well. It wasn’t made for me. I didn’t think much about this until I decided to start sewing.

Here are some pics from my ready-to-wear wardrobe — 2 jumpsuits.

Sewing — if I learn to sew — has the potential to significantly change my wardrobe.  That could happen, but it won’t happen soon.

Still, I have been looking at my clothes differently since I started sewing. Part of me wants to get rid of everything I have and have everything be custom-made instead. Another (more rational) part of me wants to keep the things I have and use them for the rest of their useful lives.  (Yet another part of me is used to branding and clothes shopping and has mixed feelings — topics I’ll save for future posts.)

Abandoning my wardrobe would be nuts, and I’m not really considering throwing everything out, but I feel critical of my clothes as I become aware of possibilities for custom-sewn clothes.  I am developing an awareness of what might be possible (superb fit, original design, personalized style), but I haven’t mastered enough techniques to really incorporate these ideas into actual sewing projects.

Anyway, my handmade wardrobe is just a fantasy at this point. In reality, my sewing projects are largely unwearable. I do not have the skills to make a whole wardrobe. I’ll be lucky if I make anything that really becomes part of my public wardrobe. My sewing skills are at a level far below my taste and vision of what I’d like to wear.


Keeping it Real

I think I need to expect to learn gradually. I don’t know what’s realistic but want to be realistic, grounded, sensible, although I’m not sure if that’s in my nature. I may get ambitious and impulsive and try to make more real clothes like jumpsuits and dresses.  I may get in over my head.  I may not realize something will be difficult, like the City Gym Shorts pattern, which has details I just couldn’t get right.  If I keep sewing, future failures are inevitable.


Waste is the Worst

Perhaps the biggest motivation killer is that I feel bad about waste when something doesn’t turn out. I don’t know how to stay motivated to learn when learning feels wasteful. Especially when projects fail and materials are destroyed, my motivation waivers. I question whether I should stay motivated. Waste really is the worst.


Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

One obvious step toward maintaining motivation would be to reduce the waste involved in learning.  This could include trying to make more things that are wearable — to focus on projects that are suited to my skill level (assuming I can figure out what’s suited to my skill level). My goal is to make more garments and less trash.

Also, it feels less bad to fail, less wasteful, if I use inexpensive and ideally not new materials (but good enough materials to want to wear if the project is a success).  I will be more likely to take risks if the materials are not too precious.

I learned this lesson after impulsively shopping in an inspired-but-irrational mood at Mood Fabrics. I don’t want to look at another bag of just-purchased wacky fabrics in my apartment and think — “what was I thinking!?” (It might end up happening again, but I don’t want it to happen.)

Salvageable scraps should be salvaged. I’ve salvaged this zipper a couple of times. That was a no-brainer.



Bodice Fitting Blues

One thing I’ve learned already is that simple is better and fitting is hard.

These pics show a muslin (in the fabric actually called muslin) of a bodice for an Orla dress from French Navy Now that I’m working on now.   The bodice doesn’t fit — even though it’s my THIRD attempt at making this bodice.  It has several visible draglines, which is a drag. I think I should set it aside and work on things that are easier.

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Taking it Easy — Basic Britches

Perhaps I should focus on simple projects like these wacko-print shorts.

img_2638-1These may be lowly pajama shorts, but they are my best-executed garment so far (assuming amoeba-print house shorts count as a “garment”).


The pattern is from Lotta Jansdotter’s book, Everyday Style, from 2015, which I borrowed from the New York Public Library. The shorts are called “Owyn Shorts.”  The book has an envelope with traceable patterns. I traced the pattern onto parchment paper, which is slippery but did the job.

It feels good to have a success even though these shorts are super-super basic, not representative of my personal style, and not going out in public.  They are a thousand times better than my first attempt at shorts, which fell short.  I’m happy to have a wearable project.  Style and design can come later.  This project doesn’t feel wasteful.  This project reminds me that I can figure out some aspects of sewing, even though I am a beginner.

I’ll worry about pattern matching another day.img_2443

Mantras to Maintain Motivation

The mostly lackluster results of my sewing projects and the waste associated with learning have been testing my motivation. So, I’m trying to waste less. I’m trying to have more successes — to concentrate on do-able projects.  To waste less money, I’m using less expensive materials. To waste less materials, especially new materials, I’m reusing when possible and trying to use less that’s new.  To waste less in general and set myself up to have more successful projects, I’m trying to make things I think I will wear and am capable of making. I’m trying to be less impulsive.  Trying to keep it basic.

How Do You Stay Motivated in the Beginning?

7 thoughts on “How Do You Stay Motivated In The Beginning?

  1. I feel your pain! I’d say it took me a good 2 years until I had a collection of sewn garments I could wear in public on the regular. Stay simple for now-if you can tolerate some elastic waist band skirts and semi-fitted shirts, that’s where I recommend starting. its easier to learn how to fit something once you’ve made it a couple of times and know how it’s construction goes. Your shorts are a testament to what you can do! If you enjoy sewing, enjoy the process, then you will get there in time!

    1. Thanks for your kind words and advice. I really appreciate the encouragement! It seems like a good idea to try to stick to simple patterns for now — not ready for too much fitting at this point.

  2. Good post! I’m learning to sew b/c ready to wear clothes is either too expensive or bad quality in terms of fabric (I really dislike polyester and thin fabric that wears out fast). I feel it’s more frugal and fun to make than paying for the quality I want.

    1. Thanks for your comment! It’s so nice to hear from someone who also feels dissatisfied with ready-to-wear and is trying to learn to make high-quality clothing. Also, if you’re so inclined, please feel free to share any Youtube tutorial recommendations. Good luck! ✂️

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