What trips you up every single time?



I have a sewing achilles heel. What about you?

I don’t know why, but the same blind spot pops up over and over. It seems to be some sort of mental block that I just can’t overcome: I keep cutting things upside down.

See, I’m a fast cutter. It’s never been my favorite part of the sewing process, so I tend to whiz through it pretty fast. I’ll put on my headphones, get out the old rotary, and glide right through. I never pay attention to cutting layouts, since they’re usually imperfect.

It’s only after I cut that I seem to remember that some fabrics have directionality.

(In other words, some prints can’t be cut upside down or they look, well… upside down.)

The worst example I recall was this Negroni I made for Kenn in this wonderful (and expensive) Liberty print. I was taking so much care to match up the print exactly right along the front, and even on the pockets. I mean, look at those pockets:


The moment I finished cutting, I realized that I had cut the back yoke upside down. Even when I’m paying attention I cut upside down.

Luckily, I had enough fabric to fix my mistake, but it definitely wasn’t the last time I did it. Thankfully, I’ve always managed to fix my mistakes somehow.

Who knows? Maybe writing about it like this will finally get it through my skull to check for direction before I cut.

Do you have any issues that constantly trip you up when you sew? What’s your achilles heel and how do you fight it?

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 83


I tend to sew the back yokes onto the wrong sides of jeans. I know how they’re supposed to go, but I guess I get in a hurry and forget to double check. This last time, I had both back yokes sewn, serged, and double-topstitched before I noticed! That was a fun bit of seam ripping.


I have a mental/emotional block about buying interfacing. I generally get fabric on sale without having a real plan for it, so when I finally decide what I’m going to make it’s a scramble to gather the right kind of thread and notions, and the interfacing is always my least favorite/most wrecked thing. I either buy it way too heavy or way too light, or too little of it, or I cut it out with the fusing on the wrong side. It’s a completely irrational thing to get hung up on, but I would punch interfacing in the face if I could.

Rosie Sparkleneedles

I would punch interfacing in the face if I could.

Oh god, me too. BLAM!


Top stitching! No matter how hard I try, I can never get it quite right. I’ve tried slowing down and speeding up but it’s never quite perfectly straight. After spending so much time and care with cutting and construction, it’s so annoying to not be able to get that very visible detail how I want it.


Me Too!!! I have purchased every gauge known to (wo)man in order to try to keep my seams straight but no luck.

Alice Elliot

You can try your blind hem foot to keep topstitching straight and even. I have a Bernina and this foot is a dream for topstitching…better than for blind hemming!


Aside from selecting fancy, difficult-to-sew fabrics–the leftover bolt (which is always about 1/4 yd short of what I need) which probably shouldn’t be matched up with the patterns I select, I’d say learning to clean finish my facings and edges is a big problem for me.

I love your tutorials–you make sewing look so simple, logical, and clean. I struggle to have my work look flat instead of lumpy (like in areas where the facing meets the zipper) and professional.


Buttonholes! If they are slightly different or the tiniest bit off alignment with the buttons, I just want to stop and throw the project away. Also, Trouser front Zippers. Somehow there is always a tiny pucker.


Buttonholes are the things that get to me too! That and fitting issues – I keep telling myself I need to make muslins and I keep skipping that step – always to my regret

Jenn van der Schee

I hate buttonholes too. My 20 year old Husquavarna doesn’t do them well and I just need to get it adjusted professionally. For some reason, I’d rather just complain about it!


Yep, also get tripped by buttonholes! I make them a bit too small every single time. I find myself gravitating towards sewing that requires zips rather than buttons!


I do not like sewing a set-in sleeve. It is difficult not get tucks even with gathering stitches to ease it in. All set in sleeves are not created equal either. Some will be easier than others. I can get it done, carefully, but I sure don’t like it.

Frankly, sewing is often a wrestling match between you and the fabric through the machine. Patient fingers and experience make that fabric succumb to your wishes. Pins and tricks are your friends but some days everything will conspire against you. Timeouts are often in order.

Karen Gass

I have second Raphaelle – top stitching. I’ve been sewing for close to 50 years (I started really young lol) and you’d think by now I’d have top stitching in the bag. It won’t come anywhere NEAR the bag! And the worst thing is, the top stitching goes along great until I get to the center front and then it jogs or jigs or I run out of bobbin thread. sigh….

And on the topic of bobbin thread – why can’t they make a sewing machine that doesn’t use a bobbin? Can’t they make one that uses a spool of thread? If I was the least bit mechanically inclined, I’d give it a go.


You need a chain stitch machine for this step.


“It’s nowhere near the bag.” I love your comment. Thank you.


I hate bobbins too. I wish my machine would sound an alarm so I’d know I was running out. I know I can open and take it out and check, but who can tell? I also hate when I have thread left on bobbins because then I’ll have to unwind it and chuck it.

Nickey Robo

I’m not sure why, but I cannot for the life of me remember how to understitch correctly. I have to look up a tutorial EVERY time. Not remembering drives me batty, but for some reason it never quite sticks.


oh me too! Half the time it stumps me and I leave it out then have understitching regret!

Lauren Reeve-Brook

Sleeve cuffs and collar stands! No matter how slow I take it or how ever long I take I always end up having to unpick and start again.

I normally admit defeat go and grumpily watch TV then come back to it later.


Yes!!! I’m totally with you but somehow blouses are still my favorite items to sew..


I also have issues with collar stands and collars. I have to pay extra attention when sewing them.


Button holes, they get me every time. My practice buttonhole is always perfect, then the machine starts acting up and they get messy. Almost makes me want to make bound button holes on shirts.

melissa e

I can identify. Using my buttonholer brings out a bit of muttering under my breath. I have A LOT of operating error by forgetting to pull down my sensor bar.

sj kurtz

I was going to say ‘finishing details’ but really it’s
((((drumroll please))))
Which way the coat/fly/shirt should close. No matter which or what or for whom, it’s always always always backwards.


I used to always make this mistake too! Then I read that ‘Women are always right and men are left over’ and I never forget again :D


That… Is brilliant. And now I will never forget!

sj kurtz

I have a cheater illustration on my mood board, and it works fine EXCEPT for the part where I forget for my son’s shirts.

Please, don’t tell him. Oh for the love of all things, just smile at him.


I think my pet peeve is having to straighten fabric that’s not on grain…with all the technology we have today you would think manufactures would get it right.


I with you on this!

Lisa G.

I cannot seem to get the hang of the invisible zipper, no matter how many instructions I study. I was told with my previous machine that the special foot for it would make it all work out fine, but I ended up sewing into the zipper teeth. The next time I was afraid of doing that, so I didn’t get close enough. A kind woman gave me detailed directions on doing it with a regular zipper foot (as many others do), but I couldn’t get that right. How do I get around it? By sewing them on by hand. I pretend I’m a Parisian seamstress working for Givenchy or something. Of course it comes out well when I do it that way, but I had a heavier weight skirt once which made it difficult. I just can’t seem to find that happy medium where the stitching is in just the right place.


I also have difficulty with that zipper. The fabric pieces don’t ever meet properly at the top.

Amy Nicole

I get in a rush and start sewing the same pieces together (i.e. side front to side front). I just pick up the pieces all pinned together from cutting them and start sewing. So silly. I also for the life of me cannot correctly place my buttonholes. I mean I KNOW how to do it.. something just always gets miscalculated and of course I dont notice until I’ve already cut them open!

melissa e

I love to use French seams, but every time I have to think carefully about right sides together first, no wait wrong sides together first. Half the time I forget to trim the sesm allowance too.


Cutting stresses me out and is my absolute least favorite part of sewing. Because I’m so afraid of making mistakes, I cut everything out single thickness and agonize over grain. It puts a damper on my sewing because it takes me an entire day or even two to muster up the courage to cut everything out. I don’t ever make mistakes, but it takes me a horribly long time because I do double and triple check to make sure I have the right number of cuts, stuff matches, etc.


Oh, me too–it’s nerve-racking agony for me. I thought I was the only one who felt this way.


I am such a miser, trying to get all the pattern pieces on the fabric in the most economical way. I will usually have a selvage show or cut off an edge if the bottom fabric fold isn’t fully lined up…. and I usually have leftover fabric!!! I am trying to reform!


Me too. I spend hours and hours trying to fit all the pattern pieces in the smallest amount of fabric possible. Why what am I going to do with the left over fabric. It just piles up. And I spend more time playing pattern piece Tetris than I do sewing.


I just watched the Beverly Johnson ‘sewing a Bra’ course on craftsy and was so validated to watch her say something about it to!!!!


Is it a good course I was thinking of signing up?


Yes! It is brilliant, I highly recommend it.


i do the same thing! I was raised in a household that wasted nothing, so doing this with fabric is a part of my heritage. Besides, I actually enjoy hacking a simple pattern to add a contrast yoke or collar.


I echo the topstitching–particularly on tight curves (such as bag tabs); or curve stitching in general–I’m forever trying to figure out what my reference point is supposed to be in lining things up correctly!


I agree that this is hard. On my machine, there are two holes (one on each side) whose front edges are even with the needle, and that’s the place to watch. It’s so tempting to keep the seam allowance steady at the front edge of the presser foot, but it’s back there at the level of the needle that actually matters.

sj kurtz

You’ve got it. You gotta watch that point, and not get distracted by that moving needle. Same thing for blind hem stitching, or any other stitching where watching the needle insertion point is the last thing you want to do. Though the comment about using the blind hem foot for topstitching is genius, as it doesn’t do what I need for blind hemming.


Sleeves in blazer, coats, suit jackets…. it’s so frustrating D: I don’t know if I’ll learn it in this life ………


French seams- no matter how much I remind myself, when I sit down to the machine I always forget WRONG SIDES TOGETHER!


However hard I try, any hand stitching I do always looks like the stuff I did in second grade. It hasn’t progressed in forty years! And setting in sleeves is always the step most procrastinated over.


Forgetting to flip the pattern over (if I’m cutting on a single layer) and cutting two right sleeves instead of a right and a left one.


I always always always always! ALWAYS! miss the one line in a paragraph that makes all the difference in figuring the pattern out. I’ll sew the mistake, take it out, sew it again, take it out and go crazy trying to figure what’s wrong. I’ll read the paragraph and look at the photos over and over, start the wrong way again, hang back and finally read it as slowly as a first-grader and then! Voila!

Alice Elliot

When cutting plaids, I often forget to match vertical bars as well as horizontal, resulting in a bizarre look for center back seams. How many centuries of sewing will it take???


It has to be zippers!! Mainly, lap zippers. I cannot get them right to save my life. I sew and rip and sew and rip and sew and rip and they are never perfect. I have researched and tried so many ways to do it right, but for some reason my brain can’t wrap around them! With invisible zippers, I do mostly ok, the only small problem I have with them is getting the seam to lay flat when I sew it up to the zipper.


Probably half the time I sew a bias neck binding on the wrong side. And I don’t usually realize the mistake until after I’ve graded, clipped and understitched…


So funny to read this thread, and I have to say, I hate cutting and top stitching. I can never cut evenly and top stitching is never ever straight! So there! Take that, cutting and topstitching.


Or should I just say, all of the above !?

Katie Emma

Whenever I make a garment for the second time I usually sew something together wrong – right side to wrong side, left and right fronts on the wrong side, something… I think it’s because I successfully made the item once, I just plow ahead and don’t pay full attention.


I agonize over the right fabric. Searching the Internet, reading reviews. My patterns may actually go out of style befor I find just the right thing to make it from….oh, and button holes. I purposely look for patterns without buttons.

Lady ID

1. I always overestimate how much fabric I need resulting in lots of “scraps”
2. I usually cut my lining later than the regular fabric. I don’t know why.
3. Hooks and eyes!!!! Those things exist to fluster me but I will not give in!


Oh, yes – me too – to all three, Or should that be me three? :)
But I cut out the lining later on purpose. That way if I don’t like the look of whatever I’m making I won’t have wasted time and lining fabric:).

Leigh Ann

I have the same problem. I always WAY overbuy fabric quantities. I worry that I might cut something wrong and need more fabric, and I live in an rural area with miles and miles of empty, where running out of fabric mid project would not be easy or quick to fix. I don’t know if overbuying is a mistake exactly, or just a personality disorder, lol. But I end up with a lot left over, always.

Also–and this is so fundamental I’m embarrassed to mention it. But I’ll occasionally start sewing without putting the presser foot down. That works well.


As a new sewer (practicing making dresses and skirts for GD nearly 7yrs) I’m finding these comments very comforting and reassuring, sorry ladies…..

My greatest torture so far is topstitching, it can be ‘perfect’ until I reach a crucial/most obvious spot. So annoying when just sewing over some extra layers can throw it off, must remember to watch for this.


Zippers used to be one of my (many) sewing dragons. A year ago, I decided to spend one year making (and fitting) nothing but pants. I installed an invisible zipper in each one (with the first several being unzippable because I always sewed the second side backwards/upside down or something). After more than ten pairs of pants, my last zipper looked good enough for a magazine cover! And I made it on the first try. :) I went to bed smiling for several weeks on that one success.

So now I’m afraid to ever sew an invisible zipper again, because I’m sure I’ll find out that I haven’t gotten the zipper skill down like I think I have. But I do think all that practice helped.

For what it’s worth, my favorite invisible zipper installation instructions were in Threads magazine’s Sew Stylish. Their 2013 Fall Fashion Sewing Guide.

Lisa G.

Thanks, but I think I’ve tried that method, too. :)


Hems. Especially where the hem is based on turning out the facing and stitching across the bottom. Theoretically this will make the rest of the hem easier, but invariably there is a little excess hang, next to the facing, a little pooch that doesn’t belong, and detracts from what is otherwise a pretty decent make. I am holding back finishing a lovely semi sheer silk crepe jacket now for just this reason. This problem seems to show up a lot with a drapery fabric like crepe too.


That was supposed to be “drapery”


I have a habit of sewing the sleeve inside out or to the wrong armhole. The shirt is beautiful, I love how the pockets appear almost camouflaged. I’ve just bought some of the same lawn. I bought less than a metre so need to be mindful when cutting as I won’t have much to play with.


Sewing skirt waistbands / facings the right way has been my sewing nemesis since my very first project. Perhaps if I paid more attention to the pattern markings (where it usually clearly states ‘centre back seam’ etc) this may not be so much of an issue…. I think it’s just a sticking point now so much that when I’m approaching a waistband facing I automatically freeze and can’t focus properly and just always sew them on upside-down. Usually more than once…


I always manage to miss at least one notch when cutting and marking. Sometimes more than one, and then I need to go back to the pattern pieces and try to find it, and mark it – although usually my cut piece is attached to another by that point. Not difficult to fix, just annoying!


LOL, I thought I was the only one!

Piper Springs

I, too, agonize over buttonholes made by machine. I have access to three different machines with buttonholes, but somehow something always goes awry….thank goodness the buttons can cover up some of the imperfection.


Buttonholes!! I would rather sew 10 zippers, pick-stitched by hand, than wrestle with buttonholes. I can never, ever, ever get them right.


That shirt is a work of art, Sarai. Kenn is a lucky man – in many ways:)
I used to have a fear of buttonholes as with my old machine the bars always used to end up meeting at some point and so ripping the hole would mean ripping some stitches. so I avoided them like the plague. Now I have a Bernina 1008 and the buttonholes are great:) – especially since I bought 3 seam rippers to find a really sharp one, and also invested in a chisel!
My personal bugbear is having waistband seams meet side seams. I get things right at underarms, bodice with skirt side seams, etc – but I just made my third Juniper pants – god I love that pattern – have it in linen for summer, wool for winter and now cool wool for in between… Anyway, however much I pin, put pins through seams, whatever – the side seams never bloody align. Aaaargh!!!!!


I ALWAYS have trouble with “slickery” fabrics like rayon, sheers, etc. I have only used them for linings because I can’t seem to cut or sew them straight! I’d love to make beautiful dresses out of them, but I always enter into projects with these fabrics with much fear and trepidation!


My phobia is buttonholes – how do I over come them you ask? – I avoid them LOL

Linda Rees

I hate transferring notches etc and convince myself I can do well on my own without them…then like another poster I discover that the notches / marks were essential to help me put garment together and I have to dig out my carefully folded tissue pattern, try and match it up with the half sewn garment etc and it’s a complete pain. Every time I cut out a pattern I tell myself to transfer marks, but I hardly ever do. Serves me right. And have you ever grabbed your small rotary cutter off the table without looking and thought it was your tracing wheel? Yeah, well…you think I’d keep them separate by now.


I seem to have developed a habit of putting waistbands for trousers and skirts on up side down – if only i marked the notches in the first place then maybe this wouldn’t happen….


Buttonholes, but not the actual sewing of them, it’s the working out where to position them as I have never transferred the pattern markings and so them are trying to measure to get them evenly spaced, such a tedious job. I currently have a negroni shirt for my husband that has been waiting a month for buttonholes…….


There is a tool for spacing out your buttonholes. Here it is on Amazon: If that’s holding up your projects, I think it’s a tool worth getting.


I guess I’m not alone with topstitching! There’s always some stupid pucker on an armhole or it just looks unprofessional.


I don’t have just one trip-up – i have many LOL. The worst part is they are almost all techniques I seem to recall doing just fine when I first started sewing, and now, every time I sew it’s something new that I bugger up… just finished a jacket where I had to set the same sleeve FIVE TIMES before it was in there properly, and it’s STILL not perfect – sometimes it’s a zipper, sometimes a waistband, and almost always two seams not lining up somewhere – I’ve had to learn to live with imperfection or I’d have given up long ago! LOL.


Gathering gives me all sorts of problems. Sewing the sets of loose stitches and fiddling with distribution of fabric. I can never get both sides of the gathered fabric even or the gathers evenly proportioned. I purposefully avoid patterns with gathers because I hate doing it so much.


I read the blog , then I thought about the question. A lot. I have a few things I need way more practice on. The next morning as soon as I woke up…bam! I have a terrible time with sewing hems on knits. I grew up working with wood. A nice cotton blend is like nice sturdy wood. Knits just don’t seem to comply.


I always sew the lining overlapping when doing lining to a garment. I pin fabric to the zip & still do it!

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