Thanks for reading the Colette blog!  This site is no longer being updated so head over to Seamwork to get all the latest patterns, tutorials, video classes, and more.


How to Prevent DIY Anxiety


Hey there & thank you for reading the Colette blog!

This site is no longer being updated so head over to Seamwork to get all the latest patterns, tutorials, video classes, and more.

Go to Seamwork


Whether you are a seasoned sewist or still learning, you may experience something I call DIY Anxiety from time to time.

Symptoms of DIY Anxiety include, but are not limited to: cold sweats, yelling at inanimate objects, reverting to childhood behaviors, and fabric-related nightmares. Loved ones may become concerned when you are found crying on a pile of what was supposed to be a pencil skirt.

Today, we have a guest post from Annaliese Fidgeon, a sewist who lives in Seattle and blogs at a devoted novice. Annaliese had some great advice for those who feel like they’re losing steam with their sewing, and I wanted to share it with you today. -Sarai

Fortunately, DIY Anxiety can be prevented with self-awareness and discipline. Here are some suggestions for keeping DIY Anxiety at bay.

Not enjoying yourself? STOP.

Think I was joking about the crying bit above? I was not.

I suspect most crafters cry at some point during a project. When you put in the extra effort to DIY, you are inevitably going to have some feeling of affection towards your project.

On top of that, we’re inundated with images of flawless homes, crafts, and meals from lifestyle blogs, the Food Network, and Pinterest. It’s so easy for expectations to fly off the charts before reality throws you back down to Earth.

When you start getting tired, you’re going to make more dumb mistakes. Breaks are key.

That’s not to say that you should give up at the first signs of frustration. Sewing is hard work, period. You’ll spend countless hours ripping out stitches only to make the same mistake again. And sometimes things just don’t work for whatever reason (that reason might be that you only meant to clip off a loose thread, but also trimmed a good chunk off the sleeve).

You will be upset. Then, you might scrap it and make something else that ends up great because you learned from your mistakes. Failing is learning. Regardless, if whatever you’re doing starts to feel less like a puzzle and more like misery, just sleep on it. It will be there tomorrow.


Learn with your hands.

If you want to learn to sew or advance your skills, don’t start by trying to understand it all now, just sew.

You might make some spectacularly ugly things and that is great. I used to be ashamed of what I made as a teenager. For example, my prom dress was green camo with pink tulle peeking out the hem (it was the early 2000’s). Even though I still cringe when I look at those photos, I did learn to work with a lot of different fabrics during that time. My naiveté was a boon because I didn’t know what fabrics were harder to work with and I didn’t care. I was a self-absorbed teenager and I was going to make whatever I wanted.

Now, with my adult “wisdom,” I’ll sometimes buy a few yards of a great fabric and actually be afraid to use it. What if I cut it out wrong? Will I be able to rip out a seam without fraying the entire edge? What if I just don’t like it? Worrying is more wasteful than trying. Whether or not a project is a success, you are going to be training your sewing muscles, so jump in.

Don’t judge and don’t compare.

I hate when people scoff at using quilting fabric for apparel. Sure, it’s not always ideal, but the whole point of sewing is to use your creativity to make something unique.

I’ve made plenty of great and not-so-great garments using fabric a pattern wasn’t meant for. Sewing experience is the best way to learn. Not to mention, it’s very easy to sit on your high horse if you have access to apparel fabric stores (or actually know what pique is so you can buy it online). Judgment will always come back to bite you because you’ll start becoming hard on yourself since you’re the one who sees all your mistakes.

Relatedly, comparing your projects to all the other ones online won’t keep you motivated to continue learning. It is absolutely ok to want to become better at sewing and drooling over beautiful sewing blogs for inspiration, that’s half the fun. But remember, many many many bloggers are professionals. Even if their blog started out as Average Joe Sews, once advertisers, partnerships, and professional photography equipment get involved, the outcomes are going to be decidedly less average and much more exceptional.

If professionals make you feel inadequate but you still want to see what a sewing pattern looks like finished, try doing a Google Image search for the pattern you are considering and looking for “average” photos—dark images, wrinkles in the garment, a refrigerator in the background, and other indications the sewist has a day job, too.

P.S. Tilly and the Buttons has some good advice for working with quilting cottons.

Don’t use sewing as another way you don’t add up.

Most people don’t sew. You already have a skill (or are learning a skill) most other people don’t have. Think about how much freedom that gives you to add pockets to a skirt, embellish a thrift shop find, get a discount on a damaged shirt and go home and fix the split seam yourself (I have done this plenty of times), or make a knockoff dress you saw in a magazine. These are all things you can do now that many people only wish they could do. Try reminding yourself of this when something goes epically wrong.

Think about what you want from sewing

Once you tell people you sew, the requests will roll in: Will you hem my jeans? Can I pay you $20 to make me a dress? Where do you sell your clothes? When are you going to try out for Project Runway?

Personally, I prefer not to capitalize on my hobbies and that is hard for some people to understand. I do have a tendency to say yes too often, and I feel like a jerk if I say no to a friend or co-worker’s alteration requests. But, if I say yes when I want to say no, I only end up resentful.

On the other hand, if you do want to end up the next Etsy success story, you have to treat it like the business it is. Ask anyone who runs a small business how many hours they put in each week and how long it took to turn a profit. Even if it’s a business you run in your spare time, it is hard, hard work.

And remember, just because someone else thinks you could make a Spring Collection doesn’t mean you would get satisfaction from it, so listen to that little voice in your heart. Have an idea of what you want to get out of your hobby and it will be much easier to choose the opportunities you take advantage of. That way, you don’t spend a bunch of money and time making a collection of shorts only to then realize you don’t ever wear shorts (not that I know anything about that).

Similar to the common cold, DIY Anxiety is not something that can be cured. You will face it from time to time no matter what precautions you take. When you notice symptoms, a remedy of rest, clear fluids (vodka counts), and a dose of reality will get you back into that sewing chair like a bad ass.

Which of these causes of DIY Anxiety do you experience most?

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 88


The most helpful advice I have ever read on DIY-projects is this one, that i read a few years ago on a blog (and I’m totally stealing this right now):
Every DIY-project has a “crappy-stage”.
This was a revelation for me, because it’s so true!! Every project I worked on, came to a point where I was so ready to throw it away, give up on it, got angry, because it just didn’t look right…And nowadays I just know, we’re in the crappy-stage again, and this, too, shall pass. ;)


The writer Steven Pressfield calls this Resistance, and says that it’s a natural stage of creation. It seems to show up particularly when a project (be it a sewing project or a piece of writing) is near completion. Resistance is something I think every writer struggles with, and every creative person!


Just realised I am in this stage right now. I have a shirt which is fully made except for buttons and button holes… I have been putting it off for about 6 months…

Glenna Blomquist

I totally agree. I had many “crappy” stages while learning to tatting (a most unforgiving hobby). Now I’m going through this stage with my breadmaker. I’m learning to take breaks and give myself a break! So sad to be a perfectionist!


What a wonderful post! So honestly written about the dark side of creative pastimes and/or careers; I can relate to each and every point on this list. I especially like the quote “training your sewing muscles” – true in so many ways. When you train muscles in such a repetitive, creative way (I’m thinking mostly about dance) you risk injury, frustration and pain in order to reach your goal. The fear of this can almost cripple budding sewists – and knitters and crocheters too – and posts like this are a fantastic welcome reminder that we’re all human. Thank you! ☺


“Worrying is more wasteful than trying.” This rings so true for me. I’ve only been sewing for a couple of years now, and already I envy the reckless abandon I used to have when choosing projects and fabric. When I take stock of the past 10 or so projects I’ve made, it’s mainly wardrobe staples. Granted, I’ve learned a lot about technique making “simple” stuff, but I feel like I need to take a break and make a really fantastic dress every now and then. Thanks for the down-to-earth post!


I really enjoy having a rhythm of making 1-2 quick and useful projects, followed by a more challenging one. Each one offers a kind of break and motivation of its own.


Omg yes!! It’s funny bc I had no issue at all putting in a zipper in my first pencil skirt which was made from metallic brocade. Bc I just didn’t even know…I swear I always have issues with machine installation now that I know zippers are “supposed to be hard”. I think there is something to be said for just diving into things. I tend to be a thinker in general and take my time gathering info but I am really working on the concept of just DOING this year. Because life is bloody short and why just look at your stuff instead of using it for something? Not every project will be perfect. Or wearable (cue rub-off sleep tank I french seamed without figuring in the extra seam allowance. Oops!). But it is fun or learning or just a funny story at least.

SJ Kurtz

I just want to stand here and yell at all of you: MAKE MORE MISTAKES! Give yourself room/space/the gift of reckless experimentation!

The rice paper wedding dress almost worked! (and it made a nifty guest book).

Did anyone lose a limb? If not, it’s all good (if someone did, THAT’s tragedy)

My new science experiments come from thrift store rejects. I can afford to fail for a dollar and a couple of evenings.

The photo for this does worry me: please kids, don’t drink and operate a rotary cutter.


This is a great round up. It’s easy to get caught up in a project and get really stressed when it’s going badly. It’s important to remember that sewing is a hobby and is supposed to be enjoyable, and there are no rules about how you should ‘develop’. If your goal is to sew party dresses or to make t-shirts, don’t feel like you should be making couture garments. With so many amazing blogs, it’s easy to feel that you should be always doing more than you are.

Nancy K

I have absolutely experienced DIY anxiety from time to time and my family can attest to it! My worst swearing and yelling was probably from using my serger. Viking replaced it and most of my yelling ceased. Amazing how a well functioning machine can be a total destresser. I don’t sew for others except my dd and she is absolutely thrilled to get anything I make her since it’s always better quality than she can afford to buy. Nice to be appreciated. I just say no to others. I certainly wouldn’t mind teaching someone to sew, but they’d rather have it done for them. For free or cheap.
If it’s not going well in the sewing room I just leave, even if it’s only for a coffee break it helps to just walk away. It’s always better when I go back.


Oh my goodness, a crappy machine is one of the most stressful things EVER. When my last machine starting giving up the ghost, I was so so frustrated with it.

Britney Waite

This was exactly what I needed to here right now! I have been feeling very discouraged and feeling like I lost my sew-jo because I refashioned a blouse and HATED the way it turned out. I have been so down in the dumps about it because I feel like I’m being so wasteful!! But I can refashion it into something else or donate it…never have to see it again lol
And I totally feel the same about doing things for others…I feel bad and end up saying yes reluctantly and then kick myself in the butt the whole time I’m doing it!!


Great posts! Sometimes I have to step back if I’m feeling stressed or “behind” on a project and remind myself that I’m the only one who cares :) This is a hobby, so I have to remind myself ” If it stops being fun, stop doing it”


Sewing IS ‘hard work’ for a semi-literate 14yo Bangladeshi village girl who is supporting half-a-dozen little brothers and sisters and a widowed or abandoned mother by her work in an unregulated factory/sweatshop.
Sewing is NOT ‘hard work’ for the typical reader of this blog – it is a hobby, a spare-time, recreational pursuit.
Everyone is done a disservice when blanket statements like this are made on a hobyists site. Google ‘Rana Plaza’ if you don’t believe me.


I’m thankful for your reminder of this, so thank you!
I do wanna say, that sewing clothes ourselves is one (! not the only…) of the most powerful steps of action I have personally discovered over the last few years.
I’m a student, so I live on little money and buying clothes did bring up some conflicts: I need clothing, I can’t afford to spend to much on it, fair trade clothing is so much more expensive, I want this, because it’s pretty…
But I don’t want anyone to suffer because of the choices I make, especially if it is driven by a mentality of “I-want-this”.
Sewing has helped me in so many ways:
1. I buy fabric, not clothes. There might still be work involved that is harmful to the people that do it, but it’s less because no sewing has to be done
2. I got a better eye for quality and I value quality more. It seems more attractive to me to buy something well made, fair trade, good quality, made in germany (as that is my home country)
3. Whenever I sew and I come to a point, where I think: “Wow, this is HARD work!” or even just “this is annoying to do and repetitive and I really don’t want to do it”, it gives me a better understanding of the terrible things that happen to people, because I want cheap clothes. I’ve come to a point, where I constantly remind myself, that if I don’t do the hard work, maybe some 12year old has to do it for me, with little reward. This has really opened my heart and mind for these issues. So as a consequence,
4. I’ve become more outspoken about this and talk about those issue, trying to encourage others to support locals, sew for themselves and find creative solutions, protest etc.

So in conclusion: You’re right, us sewist complaining about hard work is something different than for them! It’s a luxury and a great hobby. Still, every craft takes time to master, whether it’s a sport or sewing and there’s a right to be frustrated and find something hard. And most important, realizing this and reflecting on it (as you seem to do!) can actually help beautiful things to happen!

I’d love to further talk to you about this, so I hope you see this comment. :)


I could not have said it better myself. I wrote this post for the readers of this blog, who (presumably) have a different set of problems than those working in difficult and dangerous environments. Sewing has made me so much more political about the clothes I buy. There isn’t a finite amount of problems in the world and acknowledging what I find hard does not take away from another’s difficulties. I can only use the knowledge I have to know there are costs I don’t pay for a $10 dress.


Great advice! The only thing I would have to disagree with is this:  
“Even if their blog started out as Average Joe Sews, once advertisers, partnerships, and professional photography equipment get involved, the outcomes are going to be decidedly less average and much more exceptional.”
While those things may make for a more professional blog, only years of experience sewing, whether or not one has a blog, can make someone into a professional seamstress.


That’s true, except I think that photography definitely does make a difference in how things are perceived, and in the ways people compare themselves to others.


I agree. In my opinion, the success and popularity of a sewing blog is highly dependent on the quality of the photography. If you know what to look for and look closely, you can spot less-than-exquisite sewing on even the most popular blogs.

Nancy K

Good photography makes a big difference in how your work is perceived.

Sew Ducky

Taking the time to learn fabrics isn’t being on a high horse, though. Knowing what pique, or any other fabric for that matter is is part of sewing. I live in the land of fleece and more fleece and haven’t been in a proper apparel fabric store since I was a kid. Over the years the comments I have had on my fabric choices (some of which certainly failed) I always took it that they were trying to share what they, as more experienced with fabric then I was, knew.

It may be something you learn early on or something you learn later in your sewing, but investing in the time (or a swatch service) isn’t being judgmental. It’s a place we all have been when we started sewing. Being one that frequently takes the fabric suggestions and ignores them, learning fabric types was an extension of that. Fabric understanding is another facet of sewing skill.

The fabric thing was awfully judgey in reverse. I think those of us that sew often forget that we are at different levels of sewing and then we bash those with skill sets we don’t have ourselves. I spent a lot of time (and money!) to learn fabrics and I find textiles in general interesting and while I wouldn’t give someone a hard time for using a quilting cotton I also don’t expect to be shamed that I know what other fabrics are either.


I didn’t read it as shaming anyone, but referring to those who “scoff.” I think that’s different from imparting advice or ideas.


Yes, thanks Sarai. I’m only judging those who judge. I’m so impressed with people who have a high knowledge of fabrics and sewing techniques. I’m certainly not slamming those with skills. But I am slamming those who use that knowledge to put down those who either aren’t at that level yet or just choose not to be (other responsibilities, someone who doesn’t sew often, etc.). And I’m only writing from experience (I have had another sewist tell me “I like the print of your dress, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in quilting cotton.” That sucks!!).


I’m going to second Sew Ducky’s thoughts here regarding high horses. The main thrust of the original post is great but one paragraph sits odd with me. It’s ok to be confident in your knowledge. I know what works for me within the frame of knowledge I have built, I make loads of mistakes still, like everyone and there’s lots more I can learn. In the spirit of contributing something positive here, I am one of this people who lives near fabric stores but you don’t need to go in and handle bolts of fabric to learn about fabric, swatches help and the labels in your clothes will give you help too.
It’s also important to keep things in perspective, if sewing is making me cry, I’m probably using it as an excuse to cry about something else,


As the sort of person prone to being “hangry,” DIY anxiety is definitely something I deal with. I’ve gotten better over the years by sort of applying general maxims of self-care I’ve learned over the years.

My general way of dealing with this is, if you’re feeling bad while crafting, stop and do one or all of the following:
– take a walk outside of your crafting space
– take a nap
– eat something (always carry snacks in my purse to combat hanger!)

These things usually help and re-energize me.

Other things I’ve done that are more specific to common sewing stress problems I have:
– I have always found cutting my non-muslin fabric the most stressful part of a project, so I plan it as a discrete activity separate from any sewing. Ideally I like to cut out my fabric on one day and have a night’s sleep between cutting and sewing. Of course, that’s not always possible, so sometimes I just plan a meal or walk in between.
– If I’m having a hard time sewing something on the machine, sometimes I turn it off and hand baste it or permanently handsew it. Sometimes the machine just complicates things.


Great post, thanks!

I fall victim to the fear of failure. I have projects ready to start–fabric washed and pressed, notions, pattern traced onto sewable tracing paper and I struggle to start any of them.

Yet, my Dahlia dress is so pretty, and when I wore it to work, I was complimented by people who did not know I’d made it. I’m the only one who knew that the zipper took four tries, that I sewed the sleeves backward twice, and that I shortened it so much that the kick pleat was 2″ long (should have looked at that “lengthen/shorten” line.) My next Dahlia will be even better!


YES to all of this! Breaks are key in sewing. It’s so easy to get burnt out, especially on a weekday when you only have a small window of time to start sewing. I get up from my machine if I start to get tired or frustrated. Thanks for this post!


Thanks so much for sharing this! The reminder that sewing is not something that everyone can do is hugely resonant to me right now. I recently started teaching an acquaintance how to sew, and the whole process has brought up these deeply ingrained notions I had that sewing was something anyone can do, or else a skill with very little worth. I had no idea that I denigrated my own knowledge and ability so much until my student had to talk me into accepting payment for the lessons I gave.

It’s been a really interesting journey coming to terms with the fact that sewing *is* a unique and valuable skill, and a skill that I possess.


I’m a newish garment sew-er(ist?) and I’ve been a bit concerned that near our small town there are only quilt shops and upholstery-fabric stores. I’m definitely going to hit those quilt shops soon and not feel funny about shopping for wearable fabrics!! Thanks for the encouragement! :)


Go for it, Nikki! This is the author of the post and often my sewing advice thinking of the teenager I was when I learned to sew– and I only had access to one small chain-fabric store. My options were quilting cottons and taffeta. And only one of those had the cute prints I wanted. But, some of my most memorable pieces from that time were made with quilting cottons (a sushi-print skirt? Yes please). You do you and just have a sense of humor about it. Good luck!!


This is a lovely and great post with A LOT of truth in it. Brilliant, don’t want to say more. :)


I was in the middle of making a shirt, and after many failed attempts putting on the collar I left it on the table in a heap, and I cried! It’s still there, same place after 2 weeks…. but I will pick it up again with fresh eyes and a fresh attitude. Thank you for this article!


Thanks,Colette your encouragement always comes just when I really need it!!

Jet Set Sewing

I find it really helps to take time and do your prep. Measure your pattern. Make a muslin. Spend time fitting. Give yourself large seam allowances to have room for a last minute fitting. And if you’re sewing something “big” on a deadline, give yourself twice as much time, and have a backup garment in your closet to take the pressure off. If you take time to do something right, you’ll enjoy it for a long time.


So true, Julie, all of it!

Jet Set Sewing

Though I forgot to mention that sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and see how it turns out!


I constantly struggle with fear of failure. I have to remind myself that making mistakes are the only way I can get better at sewing. Thank you for this post. It’s nice to see that other people also go through self imposed crafting anxiety.


This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear before the weekend. I have been in the ‘tears’ stage. I do this to relax, not find something else to criticize myself for! Thank you so much!!!


I’ve stopped my sewing frustration by changing focus. I used to get soooo impatient because I was so focussed on the End Product – a dress or skirt that I could wear and liked. I realised it was stopping me from enjoying sewing, and put me off starting anything new (god it will take so long, I’ll make so many mistakes, I may as well just buy a stupid shop skirt, blah blah..)
Now I focus on sewing as a puzzle, learning how to do different steps, trying things different ways. It’s so much more enjoyable! I’m totally absorbed and not at all fussed about when I’ll finish it. Because the Doing is the fun bit! And I end up with fewer but better made and more wearable clothes than before. Yay. Happy sewing..


Catherine – yes, I agree! Sewing is a puzzle, it’s about learning and working things out. I buy my fabric and pattern and look on the cost as paying for some hours of fun and experience – if I get a wearable garment at the end, that’s a bonus! I find that takes the pressure off :)


I’ve overcome all those points mentioned and as it has turned out, it’s the main reason my blog has readers. People enjoy seeing my sewing mistakes and misfortunes just as much as they enjoy seeing my successes. Not because of Schadenfreude, but because it makes my creations more human and encourages them to try, even if they don’t succeed the first time.


I couldn’t agree more. We should be sharing our sewing knowledge with each other, mistakes included. It’s great to see “perfect” projects, but even better to acknowledge the road bumps getting there.


Excellent. ‘Don’t start by trying to understand it all now. Just sew.’ Yes! Allowing myself to learn with my hands and make mistakes is a tough one for me. Procrastinating perfectionism is keeping me from enjoying or advancing in this much desired pasttime. Thanks for this!


Wonderful advice, thanks! I will try and do just that, “just sew”


This is great advice! I totally fall into the trap of comparing my work to others. It’s such a black hole of bad! I’ve gotten into the habit of making myself stop whenever I get to the point of making a gigantic mistake as well. There was a jacket that I set the sleeves into no less than 5 times for various (stupid) reasons, and every time I put a pot of tea on to get away from the stress of it all. It’s amazing how much more clearly you think when you distance yourself from the mistake, and often, you come back to the project with a solution!


‘worrying is like praying for something you don’t want’


I just spit out some of my coffee laughing at this. SO TRUE.


Exactly! Trying to remember that whenever I start to worry and it does help!


gosh this is soooo true! Also one not mentioned is the blogging to be oh so professional too! It has taken taime to accept many of these points, thanks for the read.


This article is great–right on target. I have a terrible habit of picking way-over-my-mediocre-skill lever patterns (no less often trying to change some feature on them) and using the most difficult fabrics that were never intended for the particular design. Fierce determination makes it get finished even if I don’t always relish the results.

Carolyn Flemming

I feel much more adequate after reading the article. Just finished a quilt for my daughter and it has lots of flaws, and made of her clothes from babyhood through to age 20 so I’m proud of it and feel so much better. Thanks. It is my first and likely only quilt.

Nancy K

I have to add one more comment. I have been sewing for a lot of years but there are things that I just don’t do and when I have to they cause frustration and lots of walking away! One of those was inserting invisible zippers. I can put a fly front in perfectly in under 10 minutes, but the amount of time I spent ripping stitches on a recent invisible zipper was ridiculous! I decided it was time to learn how to do this right and I found your tutorial which was a major help. Two things really helped, always have the zipper face down and two I didn’t have to line up the rest of the stitching, that a small amount off to the side is fine. I just finished a skirt for my dd in a faux leather that I obviously did not wish to rip. I did one practice sample and then put in a perfect zipper. Thanks for a great tutorial that turned out to be a great tension reliever.


I’m so glad this post was written. I’m sure anyone who makes stuff, myself included, can relate. It’s so easy to get down on one’s self when something doesn’t work. I’ve definitely cussed at my sewing machine a few times. I also do alterations and sew garments for a living and there are times when I accidentally take a job that is way beyond my skill level. I end up undercharging the client, taking hours to do something, but I learn a lot with those jobs. It’s only taking stuff like that on that I can re-evaluate my prices, plus I learn a new skill to add to my repertoire. I definitely appreciate the anxiety for what it is, and have learned to accept it.


I liked the idea of using sewing muscles. And I think ‘sewing muscles’ mean body muscles and brain muscles!!


I just found some wonderful rainwear fabric on sale for $4.25/yard. Now I am experiencing my usual “fear of welt pockets.” This fabric will be totally unforgiving if I make a mistake. I’ve decided to take a scrap and actually make a welt pocket in it that I’ll never use….all that work. But it’ll help me know if I should go ahead with them on the coat, or just skip these difficult pockets altogether and put on nice patch pockets with a flap.
Even with as much experience as I have, over 60 years of sewing (good grief!) I still have projects that I feel like trashing at some point…and sometimes do.


That is so good to hear from someone with as much sewing experience as you have. Some things just don’t work, so it’s always good to have a Plan B but still trust yourself to at least try Plan A.


I’m thankful for this reminder Sarai as I have been in a sewing slump because of fear to venture out. I’m an advanced beginner and maybe I have my sights set way to high, as far as, what I can do/understand. I have a tendency to try and keep up with gals that are more experienced then myself and consequently I get very disheartened because I don’t understand the process.
I find myself buying a lot of fabric and just looking at it and being reluctant to actually make something out of it.
I think one of my problems is wanting to be an experienced sewist over night. I love the process of sewing and gratification of seeing it all come together. I know that everything takes time to learn and get experience under my belt, so in closing this post was very encouraging to hear of other gals that feel frustrated and discouraged at times too even the more experienced ones, it gives me hope and a push to carry on.
I wish you all a blessed and creative experience in your sewing rooms.


It’s so true. There is an unending amount of comparison out there, which makes it much harder to think “I am doing fine” instead of “Everyone else is so much better why can’t I be that good?” I was so ashamed of my DIY Anxiety for a long time because I felt like such a First World Problem and childish for getting so emotional about my creations. But why wouldn’t we get emotional over something we make with our own hands and our own creativity? It’s comforting to talk about it with others and see others feel the same (and obviously from these comments, have their own advice on how do deal).


This post was just spot on, thanks Annaliese and Sarai!
I’m struggling a lot with self confidence and it’s comforting to read other people with the same problems! The advices given are really helpful, I’m looking forward to try them.
I think on of the best advice I heard was: “Done is better than perfect”. I’m now trying to live by that rule. Not easy every day but at least I feel I’m not only dreaming my life but actually doing something.


Hey everyone! This is the author of the post. Thank you so much for your comments. I am so comforted to hear I am not alone in my DIY Anxiety. The main point of the post is just to have empathy for other sewists, yourself included. It’s an incredibly satisfying hobby and comes with many learning opportunities but also requires a lot of satisficing (satisfactory + sacrifice= satisfice). Don’t be hard on yourself, don’t be hard on others and appreciate any progress you make in the journey of sewing. Kumbaya :-)


Often I get stuck on how to fix a particular problem. You know, i’ve redone it four times and it’s still wrong–contacted the person who made it and still no fix…. or I make the same mistake 4 times in a row….or i read the directions, pick what i think are the right sizes and it still doesn’t fit….. when i’m super frustrated i move on to something else because I tend to be a work at it until you fix it type of person but at this point i’ve sewed a lot of things but finished none of them. This is pretty good advice. everyone needs to be reminded that we are all at our own level and nothing is perfect… :-)


I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few days, and at first, I couldn’t help but think, “Oh, this can’t possibly be a thing.” Then I thought about it. A lot of people ask me to teach them how to sew, which I find interesting for two reasons. The first is that looking at my garments, I wouldn’t want me to teach me how to sew. All I see is wonky topstitching, and machine-stitched hems that could have been hand-stitched, and who knows what else. But what they say is, “You made *that dress*?! I could have sworn it was store-bought.” And for them, store-bought is a compliment. Second, is that none of them want to make tote bags or A-line skirts, at which point I direct them towards a Craftsy class or the Internet, because I do not have the patience to handhold a novice through a bias-cut silk charmeuse dress, since I would essentially either have to sew the whole thing, or hold my breath through some shaky moments. Or would I? Maybe they’d be brilliant. I have about eight years of crafting bias that says no, though.

I think that DIY anxiety is more a disease of knowledge than it is inherent in the art and craft of DIY. The Internet has created an awareness of a “better” than may not even be objectively better for anyone but [insert couture expert here], and that just makes everything seem harder than it is. With that said, I do fret over just this all the time. I just wrote a blog post where I referenced the “Art and Fear” anecdote about the pottery class where one group throws for volume and the other for perfection, and the former group throws the better work. All of my readers replied with the same chorus, “Just sew.” Which is what I’ve been doing since then. I think getting rid of the baggage is harder than the sewing itself.

Anne Wright

I always lay out pattern pieces on my fabric then make a cup of tea and stand and drink it while I look at the layout. This way I am not rushing into cutting the fabric and I have lost count of the number of times I have spotted a mistake.
I think taking it slowly is key – work methodically and enjoy the sewing process – it’s not a race.
However, I do agree that fabric can be intimidating. I have some delicious silk fabric in my sewing room right now that I am scared to use in case I ruin it!


When I said it out loud, being held back from sewing at all because I really need new long sleeve Ts, and I have the fabric but also a fear of making a poor quality knit top neck binding does seem kind of ridiculous in the scheme of things.

Tomorrow morning, I will resume – quietly, patiently, calmly.

Thank you!


I’m an experienced sewer, began learning at my mothers knee more then 40 years ago! I majored in textiles and design in high and went on to tafe to do a design course…marrying very young, insecure and shy, I was persuaded to quit by my husband who had the idea I should be a supported wify…aka housemaid etc…and then I had children…four of them…so no more study…
I never stopped sewing but there were gaps in my knowledge that I worked out for myself or picked up from following more complicated paper patterns. Having two daughters I sewed for them and myself and then supported the expense of my younger daughters dance classes by sewing hundreds of costumes for the dance school. Now my daughters are adults and living in another state & I still sew for them…in fact their wardrobes are full of my creations and I have sold clothing to women who have ordered a dress for themselves because of one they saw a daughter in and made costumes for a Victoria College of Arts production my daughter was in when they couldnt find any one willing to make the design for their dance work!…(4 days cutting, sewing with 6 hours sleep!)
The point of this is I AM STILL LEARNING!
My eldest daughter is a size F (!) bra cup but only a 14 everywhere else(Australian sizing) my attempts to make things to accommodate her very hourglass curvy shape when she is not here to fit have been hilarious. I am an Australian 8/10 pear shape…my dancing daughter fits a commercial pattern 8 (4 in american I think) pretty much perfectly…ie I had never needed to do an FBA before! At first I thought making a dress using my daughters bust measurement as the size guide was the answer..(those of you in the know will be laughing already) and as you can imagin I ended up with a size 22 dress which had us literally rolling on the floor laughing when she tried it on…(a visiting niece has since unpicked the whole garment, zipper, lining and all for me while I whipped her up a top…she has only had one school term of sewing and said she was very good at unpicking as that was what she did most of, lol)
After that debacle I went on the fabulous internet to hunt for guidence & further my education…what a wonder the internet is for people like me! Blogs galore! and dvd’s (love the Palmer Pletch dvd on FBA’s) soooooo many creative and imaginative people, its a veritable smorgasboard of inspiration and knowledge!
Yes, over the years I have shed frustrated tears but the key I find is to laugh! My sewing room is my Happy Place where I can learn, explore, dream and create. When something doesnt turn out as fabulous as I imagined I mark it down on the pattern as to why it didnt turn out…(wrong fabric choice, pattern printing faults…whatever) and put it in the opshop basket or the pull apart basket to use as fabric scrap for some other project…fortunately this dosnt happen too often…but that is where the size 22 scraps are!
Sometimes I still dither over cutting into my lovely silks and linens…afraid to make the wrong design choice for such beautiful fabric…but in the end I have to choose to let it forever rest in the stash in which case it is a waste, or getting creative & making some wearable or useable self-expression with it. For that is what sewing should be…a joyful expression of our inner selves, no matter what we are making be it clothing, quilting, bags or accessories. The mis-takes are part of the fun!… my advise?…have a good laugh and get on with it!


Love love love this comment!


What a wonderful post, I’ve been working on a project that has me so stressed out because of my fear of ruining it but I’m learning so much as I progress. I am just frozen sometimes and avoid it, it think this is the Resistance you talk about in one of the posts.


I find that my problem is not with burnout, it is with unrealistically high expectations of my soul as a sewist. I used a sewing machine for the first time in my life 18 months ago, and sewed my first ever garment for myself just three months ago, but I don’t give myself allowances for being new at this. I have to stop and remind myself that “close enough” is good enough for the moment, and that I will improve.
Of course, it makes it easier to accept a less-than-perfect seam when you’ve already unpicked and restitched it three times so far


Todavía no me considero una costurera experimentada, aunque por el momento disfruto del proceso creativo, dejando de lado el perfeccionismo. Me pasa que cuanto más coso, más habilidades voy incorporando. Reconozco que hay muchos detalles que podrían mejorarse, pero soy indulgente conmigo misma, ya que ninguna de mis amigas cose, pienso que es una elección, un camino que he comenzado y que nadie me obliga a hacerlo. Hoy puedo decir que no podría coser para otros y que me paguen por eso, me pondría en un lugar de exigencia en el que no quiero estar.


I think it won’t be good enough, never looks like I want it to…think I have chosen the wrong fabric – or style for my shape……….everyone elses always looks better….
In fact, my work is pretty darn good! but I still have too many unfinished projects…


Awww, this is great, since I just FREAKED OUT about what purchases I could make with my recently gifted birthday money. It wasn’t much, but we don’t have much usually, so when I get a wee lump sum, it goes towards sewing or knitting supplies. And then I FREAK OUT. Because what do I get? Do I get a new pattern and only make one skirt? Or do I make a skirt from a pattern I already have and make new tank tops? WHAT ABOUT MAKING A BRA?!?! OMG. The planning is where I get the most anxiety. I have no base wardrobe to speak of, and I am creating it as I go. But I am doing so with a very limited budget. I have no summer clothes, whatsoever, and choosing between a skirt to wear outside or yoga pants in a nice bamboo jersey to wear inside just breaks me.

(I walked away and came back calmer and decided on older skirt pattern, and several new bamboo t-shirts. Plus my husband surprised me by getting me a bra kit.)


This is very good advice.

I took a job as a professional embroiderer for a company that made embroidery kits. I am a pretty good embroiderer, but the word “professional” seems excessive. In any case, I cannot tell you how many times we pulled out work – it was a daily exercise. The worst was when you came in in the morning, and found your work either gone or cut to smithereens because the boss didn’t like how it was going. I realized after a while that it was not necessarily a criticism on my work itself, but rather a criticism on the stitched interpretation of the artwork–which was not embroidered at all, but paintings, sketches, etc.

Some things just don’t work, no matter how good the idea seemed in the beginning. Some things just need some additional tweaking, and are much better, usually, because of the extra work. Of course, there will also be plain old mistakes. The thing I learned is that even the “professionals” (those much more deserving of the title than I) rework, change, correct, restart, reimagine, redo, often many times, before they get the product you and I see. It is part of the process, and involves learning, practicing, imagination and patience to reach the best it can be. And if this process ended–we’d probably move on to something that was challenging.

And who is harder on us than ourselves? I have never worked for someone as difficult to please than I am on myself.


Just read this and it’s made me smile. I started making a jumpsuit on Friday. Saturday morning when I came to install the invisible zip it just wasn’t happening! Having now tried 4 times, it’s taken the enjoyment out of the finished item. I’m going to make sure I put it on tomorrow and take some photos as I know it’s a nice bit of sewing, I’m just going to use velcro from now on!!!

Laura Lee

There seems to be a common thread with all of us beginner/intermediate/potentially professional seamstresses. We truly love to sew but secretly wish every single project turns out perfectly and when it bombs in the middle of the project or after seven months of hand stitching the necklines sags, it truly is heartbreaking. I set up a small clothes rack of my real stinkers and I just label the outside with a clothespin, “Vogue 8766-wrong choice of fabric&went too fast” OR “should have done a muslin, this could not fit any human.” I have about twelve items on this rack but there are actually more finished pieces in my closet upstairs that I actually do wear. Every time I want to cut a corner or impose an impossible deadline I look up and see some shining examples of what happens when I do. Doesn’t mean I won’t add to that rack periodically…but it keeps me a bit centered and appreciative of the successes and the stinkers.


I guess we all can’t have a mom teach us how to sew at a young age. I’d get frustrated when I had to rip out a seam my mom would say, “give it here, I’ll rip it out.” She helped me over the bumps and encouraged me by buying fabric and patterns generously but not buying me clothes generously. She made me learn that sewing was a worthy endeavor.

Sandy Davis n

Don’t give up! If one set of instructions doesn’t work for YOU, go find another source. Talk to other sewers, find a library book, check the Internet, take a class. The WAY some instructions are presented may just “click” for you. Even after finding the “perfect” set of instructions, you’ll still have some work ahead of you, but you’ll be more confident about it, because you’ll feel that the person who wrote the instruction has already been through what you have and came out all right!


I remember using a new pattern to make a two piece outfit. The top had intricate piecing and the fabric was a real problem to work with. After several hours I literally took the whole thing, fabric and pattern and chucked it into the garbage!


You know, this post is excellent life advice. I just don’t have a lot of words to add to it, besides this was some of the best advice with practical applications I have had in quite awhile!


I can pinpoint when and where I learned to cuss- a malfunctioning tensioner on my mother’s sewing machine. Sometimes you have to just walk away. Sometimes for a very long time.


This resonates with me as a sewing novice, having just used my granny’s Liberty fabric stored for over 20 years. I have now remade the same Lisette Traveller dress three times and it is a wadder. However, looking on the bright side, I have (1) done my first FBA with dart reposition (2) made a placket, although I still don’t understand the construction (3) machined buttonholes correctly spaced
I think I may salvage the fabric for a wash bag and toile of another project.


fantastic post and wonderful advice – great to see a very honest account of what we go through. I feel like this most of the time, especially the not adding up part! Great reminder everyone is in same boat :)


Great post. I guess we all get a case of the DIY jitters. It goes with the territory. I’ve made a few changes in my sewing habits that have helped me get over it and move on. For a long time I’d hold on to a garment that hadn’t worked out for whatever reason…ill fitting, bad fabric choice, poor technique, you name it. In spite of the fact that I knew I’d never wear it, I’d hold on to it, and it would sit there reproaching me, reminding me of my mistakes, scolding me for “wasting” fabric, on & on. It held me back. Who wants to be scolded by a heap of fabric? Now when I make a wadder, I decide right away whether it can be re-purposed, if it’s a “wearable muslin” for around the house, or whether it really is unsalvageable and belongs in the bin. Then I act on it. It clears the decks for me to move on. I’ve also stopped making myself feel guilty for wasting fabric. I make a test garment if I’m planning something with expensive fabric & do the best I can to work out the kinks before I cut into the good stuff. But I’m working my way through the stash I’ve built up of fabrics I was afraid of messing up. And it’s very liberating. I consider that the cost of fabric is part of my “tuition” in the school of sewing.

We’re sorry, comments for this post have been closed.