Ask the readers: What intimidates you?



After reviewing what I learned in 2012, I decided to start a new series on the blog: Ask the Readers. Since discussion and ideas from you guys are so central to what makes this blog great, it seems appropriate to have a space dedicated to weekly discussions.

So here is our first topic. My question to you is:

What part of the sewing process intimidates you?

Everyone seems to have something that makes them hesitant or nervous, whether it’s zippers and buttons or just choosing the right fabric. What about you?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 266

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After 16 years of sewing, including two years at high school with a sewing teacher, I’m still really quite bad with zippers, especially blind zippers which I just plain avoid at all costs.


I used to HATE invisible zippers, and then it was brought to my attention that they required a special sewing machine foot. I’m fairly certain it was Colette that alerted me to that. :) No wonder I was haven’t so much trouble! It made a world of difference – now I’m a fan!

Faye Lewis

Jess, have you tried the Colette invisible zipper tutorial. IT IS FABULOUS! I use this tutorial EVERY TIME I insert one. It works beautifully!


Yes, indeed, I have! I believe I followed it for both of my Truffles. :)


Invisible zips are ALL ABOUT THE FOOT. Seriously, I love putting those li’l suckers in now that I have a fancy foot made just for my machine. Look into it; you won’t regret it. Sometimes I put them in just for fun.

Lady ID

I LOVE invisible zippers especially because I have the special zipper foot. I never buy regular zippers anymore. I do want to try more lapped zippers so that will change.

I make my own patterns and sleeves challenge me. This year I will be attacking that head on. I also made my first trouser sloper and it was pretty easy. It’s had to find trousers for my shape ( small waist, full hips) so I will be working on perfecting trousers as well.

Silks, jerseys, knits can be very scary.

Lady ID

Two months later I see my typo. It’s hard* not had.


I just sat down this week and analyzed my most made patterns and I came up with the following list of things that turn me off about a pattern/project: required lining, 3 or more yards of fabric, more than 5-7 pieces to cut, buttons. It’s not that I’m not willing to spend time on fine details, but only on say blazers, coats, etc. I’ve made my peace with the fact that I enjoy sewing and wearing simple garments. I really want to love the Cambie dress, but I’ve been avoiding the lining for a week – I feel like I should be done by now! I think, too, it has taken a year to find 6 great fitting patterns, I just don’t have the energy. Maybe soon though!


I completely agree! I avoid lining, and I didn’t even realize I was avoiding buttons until you pointed it out! I love how you summarized that you enjoy sewing and wearing things that are simple. :)


This will change eventually, but for me it is sleeves. I only have stiff cotton fabric (african wax) that I work with, and they don’t really allow a lot of movement. I also have flabby arms so I’m always afraid that sleeve won’t fit me and I’m not at the point where I can draft my own. Then, if I do actually decide to do sleeves, sometimes they don’t look the same on both sides. Either the left has a bit more poof or the right a bit less, it isn’t noticeable to others but the asymmetry bothers me. Thankfully right now I’m living in a place that is hot all year round so I just omit them most of the time! But I will confront my fears of sleeves once I am back in a colder climate.

Lady ID

Lol Cathy, I often avoid sleeves as well and I use mostly Ankara (African Wax). I wonder if that’s the issue – Maybe I’ll try some fabric with more give and see what happens.


Adjusting patterns for fit scares me. I’m a beginner and I keep avoiding most patterns because it just seems daunting to do more than very minor adjustments.


Yeah, Fitting is a problem as I think is not worth taking the effort of sewing for something that fits as badly as ready made but proper fitting takes so long and I hate making muslins.
Finding good quality and not too expensive fabric is another problem.


Fit and (good) fabric for me as well. I haven’t sewn enough to be able to order a variety of fabrics online and know what I’ll end up with. Joann certainly isn’t cutting it.


It’s fitting for me too…and zippers…and buttonholes…


Fitting for me too! I usually just don’t even know where to start, or how to tell if something is not fitting perfectly…so frustrating and yet too intimidating to dive in properly!


Me too. I find it particularly daunting because I seem to be really bad at taking my own measurements! As in, I will take the same measurement 3 times and get as much as 3 inches difference between the biggest and smallest. It makes me worry that I’m not even sewing the right size – let alone having the skill to make small adjustments…


Helen find a sewing buddy and have her help you measure you in a slip to get the right measurements. and write them down with high bust, and low bust, waist, and hips and don’t forget to get the waist to hip measurement. that was always my problem always forgot the waist to hip.


zippers. most definitely zippers. and for some reason sewing a hemline that is straight and even.


Hemming and set in sleeves (woven). I can avoid set in sleeves by making sleeveless items (or raglan).

But, it’s hard to avoid hemming a garment! Especially if it’s an item that is slippery, or a garment whose bottom edge has a curve. I’m terrible about getting the hem smooth and even.




Although I’ve been sewing for a year and a half now, I still consider myself a beginner…but I don’t think I would feel put off by anything on a pattern, if I happen to love this pattern enough. After all, this is how you learn – making mistakes because you’ve tackled something a wee bit above your skills. But this doesn’t mean I have no sewing Nemesis.
I just recently overcame my fear of trousers, but there are still several things that I slightly dread : knit fabrics, zippers (okay, I basically know how to insert a zipper, but don’t look at them too closely, it would make your eyes hurt) and sleeves (but I’m working on that one). Oh, and I don’t like having to match a curved seam and a straight seam, either.


I recently started sewing with knits (as in, 3 days ago) when I got my new overlocker and I don’t know why I didn’t start earlier!!! They are amazing – I made up two t-shirts in 1 hour each – and while they didn’t quite fit (first was a muslin for my partner, the second… well, I made myself a shirt out of the same pattern but scaled down which OBVIOUSLY wont work with my curves). If you have a ball-point needle you could do knits easy.

And a tip I learnt a month or so ago regarding easing a curved seam in to a straight one; have the curved seam underneath, against the feed dogs because they will push through the bottom fabric faster than the top. This was one of those OMG moments, where easing suddenly, magically, started to work.


Choosing a fabric, getting everything laid out, and then cutting it. I always need a few extra breaths before I start cutting :-)


Cutting really expensive fabric!! I recently had to ask my husband to physically tell me it was okay to cut out the pattern from a more-than-$50/yard duchess silk because I had been hovering over it with scissors for about five minutes!


Using a clothing pattern properly. I realize that may be a bit of a taboo comment on this blog, but I’m 6’1″, short-waisted, and a size larger than most patterns are available in. Patterns stress me out in general, but I know they lead to pieces that don’t look homemade and should theoretically fit you perfectly. However, a lot of patterns/styles don’t work for somebody my size and/or require adjusting that stresses me out. You have some darling designs in my size, but I still feel intimidated by the process somehow. I think I just need to take the plunge!


Try a Colette pattern! I think you will find it requires fewer adjustments than patterns from the big commercial companies.


Cutting fabric for a pattern. It’s the one major part of sewing that can’t be fixed if the fabric shifts or is too small. This intimidation is mainly with knits since they stretch.


I second this one. No matter how long I spend truing up the fabric, when it’s cut out it’s always shifted slightly. I hate when my seams won’t hang straight on RTW so I fret, and it makes cutting out the least satisfying part of sewing and also the most time-consuming.


fit issues really bother me.
I am new to sewing and I am just getting down some of the basic technique (which is not really subjective. It tells you what to do and you do it) then I try on the muslin and see that it doesn’t even close to fit, I don’t know where I am suppose to fix (are the shoulders too far out, the darts not going to the right place, etc) I just know that it isn’t right.
That is the reason that I haven’t tried pants/shorts at all yet. The bum and crotch are a sensitive area in fit, you sure do not want to get that part wrong, but trying to figure out what is wrong with it (is it smiling or frowning, etc) seems like more than I can handle at this point.
But I had better get okay with it soon because I really need some clovers for spring/summer


I did a brilliant pattern cutting course last year which showed you how make a block and then properly adjust for fit. I don’t know where you are but it was at the London College of Fashion. It cost about £500 but it was worth every penny. Check out their website, or I’m sure there’s a Us equivalent.


Cutting always intimidates me. Once I make that first cut I am good but sometimes it takes me a long time to make that first cut.

Sew Little Time

fitting. just when i think i am getting to grips with what i need to do to make things fit me well (normally plenty of lengthening and often a bit of related dart lowering but i am coming to realise i need a broad shoulder adjustment and probably a swayback adjustment – god, makes you feel like you must be a really weird shape!) i try something different like trousers and i have no idea what i am doing!


Fitting especially in pants. The crotch is wrong or the hips are wrong and I just have trouble.


Zippers and fitting adjustments. My zippers make the garment look unprofessional, I’ve looked at tutorials on the net but just can’t get them to look better. I’m considering just sewing them in by hand.

gabriel ratchet

yep. hand-picked zippers, or invisible. only way to go.


Totally. I hand-pick my zippers every time. There’s a good article in Threads from a few years back, by Susan Khalje, if you’re looking for tips.


Combining patterns and fabric to make wearable garments that suit me and my personal style. I haven’t had much luck in this department yet and have several garments that are off either in pattern or fabric or both. So that is what I’m working on, trying to develop my personal style and have my garments reflect that.


I agree with everyone that are intimidated by getting the correct pairing of pattern and fabric. With RTW I can try on a dozen garments and walk away if I don’t think any of them suit me. But with sewing I have to make a commitment and then toss the garment when it does not suit. Wasting time and money.

I stopped sewing altogether for about 10 years after a series of disasters and am now back sewing again tempted by all the wonderful independent patterns available. I have lots of ‘Sunday’ wear but not much I will wear to work yet, but I am tasting the fear and trying to move beyond it.


Just the sheer amount of time it takes to do everything right:
* fit properly (always an unknown quantity)
* cut
* sew, press

And if you really want to do it well… well then it might take even longer.


Zipper is my biggest fear. and fitting issue for my own clothing is also another headache.


Fitting. Always fitting. Especially my broad back, swayback, large bust, big arms and thighs…oh and I’m 4’11″….

Just about got over the zip thing….

Buttonholes. My machine is somewhat temperamental.

The fact the clothes which look like they should suit me, don’t. I’ve had massive success with a handful of patterns, but some others that I think would look great are frumptastic :(

Diane @ Vintage Zest

Three things for me, one of which is common, and the others not so much.

1) Fit of course
2) Marking the pattern: I always seem to be off with marking darts & pleats, which need to be placed correctly! However, I did get a new marking implement which hopefully will make the next set of garments I cut much easier. I can’t wait!
3) Picking out the right buttons. I love, love, love buttons and I have a fear of not having them match my item. In fact, the yellow fleece coat I blogged about yesterday is missing the buttons only because I hadn’t figured out which to use yet! Otherwise, it would cease to be a UFO…


Make your own out of the fabric you made the coat of .

Anna in Atlanta

Linings (I need to replace the one in my winter coat and I keep putting it off), sleeves, and the whole concept of making sewn garments look hand-tailored, instead of “homemade.”


I’m fairly new to sewing so transferring patterns to the fabric scares me! i can’t figure out the most logical way to do it and everything that I read is different from the one before. What is the best way to transfer the pattern and all of the markings???


There’ll always be heaps of ways of doing these things, so you just really need to experiment with different suggestions till you find what works best for you. Personally, I find that cutting with a good quality rotary cutter and a cutting mat (reserving scissors for curves or corners that are too small to do comfortably with rotary cutter) and using either pins, weights, or both, is easiest and gives the most accurate cut, especially with trickier fabrics like georgette.
In terms of transferring darts, dots etc., while I vary the method depending on the project, where possible I find the quickest & easiest method is carbon paper and a tracing wheel. I fold the paper, carbon facing out, or place two sheets back to back, slide them in between the still-pinned fabric layers (you might have to move some pins to get the paper in), and then trace the pattern markings with the wheel. I make little crosses with the wheel for dots etc, (or use one of these, and trace the whole dart shape with the wheel. I also put a little horizontal line across the bottom of the dart point so that I know *exactly* where it ends. Because you’re marking both sides at once, it comes out perfectly symmetrical. Unlike chalk, pen or thread markings it doesn’t rub off, dry/disappear or fall out. BUT you need to make sure that neither the tracing wheel nor the carbon paper will damage or permanently mark your fabric, in which case use a different method! The other downside is that there’s a bit of outlay buying rotary cutters, mats, tracing wheel & paper, but I think it’s worth building up these supplies over time if you can.


Oh, and I use the clover chacopy paper, choosing the lightest/or most unobtrusive colour that will show up on the fabric.


I cut and mark my pattern pieces this way, too! Works like a charm. I’m currently using Saral transfer paper.

Lisa G.

Invisible zippers! Although my most recent one inserted in cotton velvet came out quite well.


Zippers, turning corners to get an even square, size grading, sewing anything other than cotton…


Fitting seems like a mystery to me. Button holes make me really nervous too.


I have made several dresses that I had to throw away they looked so bad on me. I guess you would say finding the right patterns for my body type.


I agree totally about finding patterns that actually look good on you, but I have that problem with store bought clothes too.


I’d choose to put in dozens of zippers or buttonholes if someone would come over and sew in a collar stand when I need one. Mine just never look nice…bunched up, crooked, and just plain ugly. And I love collared shirts, the ones with stands, of course.


Fitting, especially pants. Beautiful buttonholes. Tailoring. Pairing a pattern to the right fabric.


What intimidates me the most is the fitting process!Maybe because I don’t have such an extensive knowledge of the subject,but I always get anxious when it comes to fitting a garment!That’s why I’m hesitant to sew garments for other people!


My biggest fear is zippers.

There are lots of things I seem to be bad at, most notable selecting the correct pattern size (apparently I can’t measure myself properly!) but zippers terrify me. I avoid otherwise wonderful looking patterns to stay away from zippers. Is it too late for a New Year’s Resolution?


On top of my list, two dreaded words: Bound. Buttonholes. So pretty, but so hard!
Oh, and how stupid this may sound: sewing on buttons. Yes, I sew a perfect invisible zipper, but when I dare to sew a button, I guarantee you: it falls off within a day, it’s too tight, or it’s a mess on the wrong side of the fabric. So Sarai, teach me how to sew on a button that’ll stay, look nice and is just tight enough. Pretty please? :-)
Third, matching stripes. Argh, I’m planning on a striped peony but I’ve been postponing it, just because I now I’ll loose my patience and mess it up.


I agree! I have never tried a bound buttonhole! I’ve been sewing for almost 16 years, so almost nothing fazes me except that.


Oh, and for sewing a flat button, I generally sew an “x” 6 times. For a button with a loop, I sew it 10 times. I have never had a button fall off, except after a few years.

Nicole Morgenthau

I’m scared of this sheer overlay that I chose for an easter dress for my daughter…. how to finish the seams that will be visible in between the lining and the sheer overlay…. aaaahhhh


I’d recommend french seams! :)


French seams for sure! I use them all the time, so elegant and satisfying.

Liz Warner

Finding the right fabric for a pattern. I only have big-box stores to shop at locally, and can rarely find good garment fabrics. Even when I do find good fabric, matching it with a pattern is hard. Sewing takes so much time, and I am not willing to waste that time on a cheap-looking fabric or dress that won’t drape the way it should. Sometimes I wish pattern envelopes came with fabric listings for where to find what was used, as well as generic suggestions.


Vogue Fabrics used to list the patterns from the Vogue Pattern magazine and show the fabrics that were used (and were for sale there). Gorgeous Fabrics usually has a couple of good pattern suggestions in the description of the fabric. I buy all of my fabric on line…no good fabric stores locally and I’m not going to waste my time using quilting cotton…


Fitting/adjustments, absolutely. That’s the big one. And second is probably cutting out: I’m never convinced that I’ve got my fabric absolutely straight and flat, and it’s so final! I made a 50s-style dress in a really stable home dec cotton once, and it made life so easy because it didn’t stretch or twist or shift at all. Bliss!


Trousers are scary… specially fitting and inserting the fly zipper. I bought the Juniper pattern months ago, but I still didn’t have the courage to start it…

Mary B

I am sad to say it is zippers, zippers, zippers. I can sew the dang thing in but finishing around the zipper especially when there is a lining always causes great anxiety.


There’s only three things that intimidate me about sewing: zippers, zippers, and zippers. I don’t know why but they just make me nervous when I go to put them in. I’ve even thought about taking projects to someone else and having them put in the zipper!


Symmetry! How to make both legs the same length, or both arms the same length, or how to get the shoulders between the neck and sleeves the same length, or how to get a skirt hem to fall evenly. I have driven myself crazy trying to do this and, simple, don’t get it.

I did recently sew myself a pair of slippers (from the spring 2013 Stitch magazine), and I am shocked at home symmetrical they turned out in the end. But they are still a little off!

This is also an issue for me with RTW clothes. I always check (especially the shoulders and the width of tank top straps) because I have been burned more than once!


I’ve been sewing for over half of my life, and have a degree in clothing design, but I’m still intimidated by fitting. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and am fairly confident now (most of the time – fitted jackets and pants are still a bit scary!) but I think it will take a lifetime to perfect, especially since our bodies change over time.


I still have trouble with binding. The ‘lightbulb’ has not went off. I get it sewn on one side ok, but cannot do the other with a decent outcome. I end up hand sewing the other side and my skills in that area are lacking!


For me it’s silk or other slippery fabrics. I have only been sewing a year but I CANNOT seems to get it right. I can’t get the grain to sit properly and when I cut it out it ends up all warped. I LOVE silk and want to make silk blouses and skirts but can’t seem to get it to work.

For those who have trouble with zippers, I did too until I started handpicking all my zippers. It’s SO much easier and really doesn’t take long at all.



Have you seen the tutorial for cutting silk on Grainline? It’s a great technique, with a very good explanation, you should take a look at it!


Zips intimidate me, also fitting of tops/top half of dresses as I am large busted I know a FBA is needed and I haven’t dared try it out yet!

Miss M

Choosing fabrics, and specifically, choosing colours. I know what suits me, I know what I like, but for some bizarre reason I always default to navy.


Choosing the right fabric and pattern combination is what I struggle with the most. I find that the way I envisage a garment will be isn’t always how it will turn out. Whether it be because of colour, scale of print, weight or drape of the fabric, or that the pattern just isn’t the right style for me. There are just so many factors that come into play.

And making fitting adjustments is the other one for me.


Light fabrics scare me. I can do knits and woven. But silk, viole etc scare me.


My problem is shirt making, I’m rubbish at getting collars to look and lay right and cuffs never seem to look anything other than ‘homemade’. I usually blame the interfacing on the cuffs but the collars, well I give up, plain round necks for me !


Fitting is still my biggest nightmare…it’s such a challenge. I need a system.


Cutting out. I spend what seems like hours making sure everything is on grain and really obsessing in a less than confident way. Alas, this has been my big bug bear for years. Fitting too but since I came to understand that you could change the fit of a pattern I have sorted out my waist dart positioning and bust dart too. I’m still not sure about small bust adjustment. When you always have had RTW it is hard to know what exactly the perfect fit looks like and that can get a bit obsessive too.


Fitting is the worst part of my sewing process. Because if it doesn’t fit right I won’t wear it, then I have wasted so many precious hours.


Loads of things: choosing the right fabric, setting in sleeves (nicely), tailoring, trousers… but I have to say my biggest one is FITTING. I’ve been sewing for a couple of years now but have steadfastly avoided the issue of fitting. Luckily most patterns I’ve made more or less fit (certainly no worse than RTW) but it’s something I do need to learn. And I just don’t get it! I think half of it is knowing what good fit actually is, being so used to compromise with RTW. The second half is knowing what to do about it. It’s just so scary, and full of intimidating terminology and maths!

Funnily enough, compared to a lot of posts above, I actually enjoy putting in zips! I find it quite straightforward and satisfying! Same with buttonholes (machine stitched!).


This may sound really weird , but I get hung up on finishing. I get inspired, do muslins, buy fabrics, cut fabrics, maybe make about half of a project, and then, for seemingly no reason at all, I hesitate on finishing for a while. Maybe it’s prolonging the magic, or maybe I’ve got that little voice in my head that makes me think I might not be as pleased as I had hoped with the finished result. Either way, I wait about a week longer than I should to finish a lot of things. Most of the time, I wonder afterwards “What took me so long?!? I look fabulous!”.


Fitting. Definately fitting.
Playing into the discussion you had last year about body image and body type and sewing for your body, I think that fitting means facing your body in a very real, honest way, which is not always something I am terribly keen on doing.

Adding the finishing touches seems to be the most lingering task for me though… hems, sewing on buttons, and all of the detail things at the end that you have to get right always seem to sit. For weeks. Months, even. Until I am guilted into a day of whirlwind finishing everything all at once.


Buttons and fitting. I’m getting better at fitting – just figured out how to adjust a sleeve head and I’ve figured out how to curve around my hips but my waist and bust and short torso are still issues. Grr.


Buttonholes and making bias strips and bias tape.


Finishing up is my problem…I start a ton of things and then lose interest if it takes too long. I find that my sewing problems are all in my head – when I get to collars, zippers or buttonholes, I breeze through them. It is getting the garment finished that is the problem.

Gorgeous Things

At this point, there’s very little that intimidates me (bias cut chiffon is the only thing on my list). What really bugs me, though, is a pattern whose armscye is so low that it restricts movement, causes weird pulling at the bust, and looks like something out of a bad 1980s movie. I recently worked with a pattern (from another company) where I had to raise the armscye up 1 3/4 inches. I did it, but I’ve been sewing since the Pleistocene. I can see that it would be terribly disheartening to someone who’s new to work so hard on a garment and end up with something unwearable.

Ernie K

Oh lord, I did a hemming job this fall that was ALL bias chiffon. I am amazed I still have hair.

For me, it’s buttonholes. My machine is possessed by demons, no matter how tuned up it is. It is easier for me to do bound ones by hand than machine ones.

Fitting is hard, but it’s a matter of finding a ‘system’ that works with your brain and what you have at hand (help, a mirror, a dress form). Sarah Veblen’s Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting works for me. As for pants, take apart a pair from the resale shop and see what works on you. And get ready to have to repeat this process every few years.

Clare S

The worst part for me is always cutting. I find it hardest to motivate myself to do this and it’s intimidating because it’s that point of no return, especially if you’re using a special fabric.


Fitting is my biggest sewing ‘issue’. I get really excited about all aspects of a project and then my confidence will plummet as soon as I start thinking fitting it to my body!


button holes and fly zippers


Fitting! Especially if it involved moving darts. I have narrow shoulders, a large bust and hips and am at the top of your sizing chart. I also have a problem area I never even know how to describe. I am short from the top of my shoulder to my bust? Only way to describe is imagine a sundress I have to take almost two inches of the straps to make it fit properly. Now imagine that problem on a blouse…


I Have a very different body–5’1″ hourglass shape but I have the same issue in terms of a short upper torso. I only figured this out when I took some things to a seamstress. The Palmer & Pletsch book has a brief description of how to resolve. Essentially it’s shortening there rather on the typical shorten/lengthen lines. It’s easy to do with straps but challenging with other tops, jackets etc.


I have a similar issue – narrow shoulders and a small bustline-to-shoulder distance. BUT since my bust is substantial and takes up any slack available in front, it only really affects the back bodice. So I’m in this situation where i need to take out a chunk of fabric horizontal across the top of my back, but not at the front. But removing an inch or so there means the armscye is also affected, and so I have to remove from the sleeve cap too, which then makes me feel that the front bodice should also be adjusted to fit the re-drafted sleeve. Also leaves me confused about the grainline and markings on the sleeve, so I just cut, ease and attach it by feel and guesswork. I’ve searched high and low, but my fitting issues are not ones that I see covered in fitting books. I can usually get things to turn out looking right, but I don’t really know what I’m doing – just fudging it! And I always have a sneaking suspicion that I should really buying a tiny pattern that fits my shoulders/ribcage, then doing an FBA and letting it out at the hips and a little at the waist too. But that seems like a lot of bother!


Glad I’m not alone at least! I’ll take a look at the book. The times I have been succeful I’ve just been fudging it as well. Put in some pins to hold it where it looks right then sew along that line. Then everything else is off and I have to keep fudging my way thought it.

gabriel ratchet

button holes. cutting silky or slippery fabric. sewing velvet.


I’m a mess with a full gathered skirt. It usually takes me multiple attempts before I’m able to get things to work properly.


I have been sewing since the 70’s and my biggest sewing issues are: 1. Fitting and 2. Finding great, reasonably priced sewing notions like silk basting thread, silk organza, hair canvas, wide waxed tracing paper. These are items suggested in books to use but impossible to find in most stores!!!!!


For me it’s not the actual technical aspects of sewing (i.e. buttonholes, zippers, etc.) because a good tutorial always helps save the day. My issue comes in conquering the elusive perfect fit. I have a hard time “reading” muslins and figuring out what/how to change my flat pattern to get things to fit properly. That is the big sewing mystery in my books!


Bound buttonholes and welt pockets are uncharted territory for me!


With large hips, large bust, narrow shoulders, a short waist, and sized between regular and plus sizes, I have a lot of alterations to make to any garment. The amount of alterations intimidates me and often, now that I understand how things should fit, keeps me from trying out new patterns. :(

(Doesn’t stop me from buying them, though!)


Sounds,like we could be twins!


Setting in sleeves. I’m working on the Anise jacket and I cannot get those annoying puckers to go away!


And one more thing. Muslins are a pain. The adjustments and fittings never seem to help when I get to the actual garment. So I must be doing something wrong.


I agree. But I usually don’t do muslins anyway, because I know my body so well, I can do most of the adjusting when cutting the pattern out.


putting in those dreaded set-in sleeves, peter pan collars, patterns that have way too many steps (are tedious & too time consuming), making patterns from scratch…


A full bust adjustment. That s my biggest issue with fit. I’ve tried 3 times on 3 separate garments using several techniques and tutorials, but nothing has worked! I just can’t get it.

Also, I’m very intimidated by slippery fabrics like silk, chiffon, slippy rayon, etc. I usually choose RTW tops in these fabrics, but haven’t even attempted to try to sew a garment in these fabrics. Cutting, sewing without slipping, hemming – I need a class in just this alone!!!


Fitting and, moreso, linings. Linings make a garment so much better, it seems, but attaching them and sewing in the right places, or getting everything lined up while still avoiding bulk… it’s daunting. Any suggestions on easily found references books?


Thanks for asking the question Sarai and getting me think about this. I’ve been ‘sewing’ since I was a kid and 30 odd years later I have only really started learning some better skills in the last 3 years or so, with help, instruction, and inspiration from sites like yours! In doing so, I have now finally done a couple of full bust adjustments, and made a few (partial) muslins. It has really been worth it to overcome these stumbling blocks and get better fitting results, so thanks for your role in that developing process. Proper fitting still scares me, but less so than before. Another big one that remains for me is using up the ‘special’ fabrics in the stash that I have had sitting there for years! Logic tells me they are no use sitting in the cupboard in one piece, but they still have such potential to be something beautiful while they remain untouched. They also tend to be shorter lengths of fabric that make it harder to find the right match for a pattern. The number of shorter ‘special’ fabrics I have that I got thinking ‘that would make a great feature’ is simply ridiculous – they never get to feature anywhere!!!


Probably the cutting part.


Oh, fitting for sure.
I have only been sewing for a couple of years, but I feel confident tackling zippers, buttonholes, sleeves, cuffs, facings, etc. Hemming is sometimes still a bit of a challenge (to do nicely), but it is anticipating and fixing fit issues that seems to wear me down. All of my “failed” projects have been related to being unable to fix the fit.


Knits. Definitely knits. I said I was going to get over my fear of sewing them last year, but other projects got in the way (I did, however, get over my fear of dyeing). This year, however? I have two projects that require a knit top, so I’m going to be figuring it out. Thankfully, I have plenty of time, and plenty of extra fabric for when I inevitably screw it up.


Lining. I’ve never even tried to line anything I’m so afraid of it. That, to me, is crazy. I have several patterns requiring lining and I’ve not attempted them for that very reason. Looney, I know.


The sewing isn’t the tricky part for me – it’s the fitting. Sure, a pattern may be labled as “easy,” since it doesn’t involve a whole lot of sewing mastery, but getting that sucker to fit sure is challenging. I’ve bought books on how to get the fit right on patterns but a lot of what I’ve tried is trial and error – I feel like I’m pretty much stumbling around in the dark. Thank goodness for the internet, otherwise I would never have discovered what a SBA is!


Apart from not starting on a project for fear of another failure it certainly is the fitting. I have figured out five changes I have to make to every pattern before sewing the first muslin. In some cases that means basically constructing the pattern anew on the basis of the given pattern and that can take the fun out of a project, especially with sewing time at a premium.


Fit intimidates me. Choosing the right fabric for the project is intimidating. My inherent bad taste showing through is a big fear. I have trouble figuring out how to make neck and armhole bindings fit without flaring, particularly with knits. The list could go on forever, but I’ll limit myself to these and put my neurosis back in the dark for awhile.

Carrie Ann

Fitting! I’m pretty petite and almost every pattern doesn’t include my small size!


Fit! The technical stuff doesn’t bother me so much – there are so many great tutorials out there and with a bit of application I know I can do it – but fitting, especially tops, is still total trial and error. A lot of error! Even with a good book on adjustments, it’s the combination of several issues to fix and how they interact that totally flummoxes me. FBA, narrow back, armhole gape (as I’m usually between sizes), fairly short-waisted and I suspect swayback as well – I have never managed to adjust a pattern for all these successfully. I usually just concentrate on the bust as it’s the most visible, but it’s so frustrating as bad fit in shops is what inspired me to get sewing again in the first place!


That’s exactly it – it’s the interaction between multiple adjustments that gets tricky, especially on a pattern with any kind of interesting cut/shape


I am a fairly new sewer, just over a year, but I have made almost 100 garments. I even made my husband a trench coat. For me, definitely welt pockets and kick pleats!


Pants! I am always intimidated by fitting. I have ordered the clover pattern and purchased some red tag fabric for a mock up. One day soon I will try them out.


Fitting,,definitely fitting.


I am new to sewing and very excited. But now I find out i have to worry about ease and finished sizes when it comes to sewing using a pattern. – I just dont get it!!


The idea of working with delicate, flow-y, lightweight, slippery material scares the bejeezus out of me.

First time commenting BTW. Many thanks for all the inspo/intruction.


My SewCD kicks in when squaring up fabric. So I either spend ages pulling a thread or just close my eyes and whack it. Also zippers and fit!

PDX Gretchen

Fit. Or more specifically, getting a pattern to fit when your measurements fall into several sizes.


Stand collars !!!! They just terrify me. Welt pockets and gussets have no fear for me, but when I think of the precision needed to correctly sew a stand collar I break out in a sweat. To date I won’t purchase a pattern with a stand collar and this probably severely limits my choices.
I am sure this is whistling in the dark but I keep asking myself, why do we even need the “stand” part of the collar anyway??

gabriel ratchet

“Shirtmaking” by David Page Coffin.


I think the thing I find most intimidating is matching a fabric and pattern. I have a tendency to buy fabric because I like it, but then I run into a bit of a roadblock when trying to match it with an appropriate pattern. The converse of that is true as well – I buy patterns I love and then have trouble finding the right fabric for them. For me this is the most difficult part of sewing, and is probably something that will get easier with practice. The problem is I have a hard time “practising” with fabric that I love and so I end up hoarding fabric out of fear that I’ll make something unwearable and therefore “waste” that beautiful fabric. I find that other sewing challenges, like learning how to put in a zipper or set in a sleeve, are things I can learn how to do relatively easily if I take the time to look up a few tutorials and practice on something I don’t care about. But this fabric-pattern matching business is really holding me up!


For me, Fitting is by far the most intimidating part of the whole process. It happens right up front and even with a muslin subtle differences in fabric can have a large impact in how the final garment wears. On my worst days, I feel like fabric manufacturers are just as culpable for poor fit as I am; why are there so many RTW garments with 1% stretch but seemingly zero apparel fabrics with that blend? Woven fabric with a hint of stretch, just a tiny 1% of spandex or such, seems to be the universal RTW trick to make a garment flatter the biggest variety of bodies. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but either apparel fabric is straight up a knit or the lowest stretch in a woven is 2% spandex, which just slouches instead of gives.


Fitting is the most challenging. But I’m learning more and more and it’s getting easier. Craftsy has a great class on fitting which I just took. Wish I had a sewing buddy so I didn’t have to fit myself!


It doesn’t exactly intimidate me, but I really hate transferring markings. I’m fine with notches and such, but having to transfer a lot of lines and dots and darts from the pattern to the fabric drives me crazy. :) I’m thrilled when I start working with a pattern and realize it has almost no markings. I guess it’s because I haven’t found the best tool. Chalk is messy, pencils don’t mark strong enough, disappearing/water soluable markers spread or disappear, and I’m too lazy to use thread. I just want an easy, accurate way, and I haven’t found that yet.

Diane @ Vintage Zest

Definitely me too! I hate the idea of marking with disappearing ink, especially on light fabrics. Chalk always pulls at the fabric, especially badly on the delicate ones. So, I actually bought a chalk wheel thingy just recently. I can’t wait to mark up my pattern!


Everything! Haha! I’m trying to cultivate a more relaxed attitude and not worry so much in advance about each step before I get to it. Deep breaths, have fun, etc.


Fitting shirts. I’ve never been able to wear them when bought. Making them has proved just as difficult as one alteration affects another part of it!

Jeri Sullivan

GRADING PATTERNS is by far the most difficult for me. I have an amped up hourglass (ie 42in waist and 54in high hip) so I have to grade every pattern I buy. That wouldn’t be such a problem except my hips are soooo much bigger than my waist and there is only a 5in drop between my waist and the biggest part of my waist.

If there was an easy way to figure out how to do this, I would love to learn it!


I hate putting in zippers, invisible or otherwise. It seems that no matter how much I practice I always have to rip it out at least once because it looks so bad. I finally just started doing hand picked zippers. Time consuming but I only have to put the zipper in once.
Also, I hate hemming circle skirts. I can never get it to look good. The hem always twists and I can’t seem to get the excess eased in.
After 15 years of sewing I still dread these two things.

Anna Hallquist

Fitting. I’m a little larger than standard. Taller too, yet I’m short waisted. I’ve been sewing since 1967, and I’ve never sewn a lining!
A few years ago I was given an old treadle, a White Family Rotary. Once Honey got it operable I had the challenge to learn how to use it. Now I use it exclusively. It doesn’t zigzag, and it has no reverse. So I’ve become an ace at binding seams or making French or flat felled seams. I’ve learned to make my own bias tape, I bind buttonholes by hand, and only recently found a zipper foot that fits.
I even went so far as to learn to use a couple of the attachments, like the ruffled and the tucker, although, these remain intimidating. They seem to work best with old style fabrics, like linen or quilting cotton.


I learned to sew on my mom’s treadle (it belonged to her grandmother) and I agree it’s fabulous, the control you get with those machines is a cut above modern ones for sure. And the beautiful little stitches!


I am most intimidated by (in no particular order):

1. fitting patterns
2. sewing with slippery and light fabrics (silks and chiffon) (also the cutting, marking, and pressing of these fabrics)
3. adding lininings when they are not included on the pattern
4. sleeves
5. pants and shorts
6. finishing the top of my invisible zipper- I can never seem to get it finished enough for my taste

I am a new sewer so I guess there are a lot of things out there I’ve yet to try. I love all the tutorials and hints you post- more on any of these subjects would be appreciated.


I’ve conquered some fears as of late. The Juniper pattern has be obsessed with pants where a year ago I declared I wouldn’t. Same with jackets. My next fear to conquer is working with denim and wool.

My biggest work stopper is adjusting fit and transferring changes to patterns. I’m working on not over fitting the joy out of sewing! Also catch stitching stops me cold.


I’ve been sewing for 10+ years, on and off. Having said that, I have three things that still phase me.

Zippers – I do find that invisible zippers are easier, as are exposed metal zippers – but I still feel like I’m holding my breath and going on a wing and a prayer. Hand basting and the right feet have helped.

Setting armholes properly. Again, hand basting helps.

Cutting and sewing with chiffon. I have no mastery with that at all.

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