Monday, November 2, 2015

Read any good books, lately?

courtesy essentialhealth.com


I'm no expert. I've never claimed to be. But I read a lot, particularly a lot of sewing books. By this stage of my life I have made more sewing mistakes than you can imagine. Sleeves installed backward? I've done it more times than I can count.Cut and sewed two of something when I only need one?  Many times. Nasty zipper installations? Well, if there were an Olympic competition for that one, I'd have the gold. I could go on and on. But back to my second sentence. I DO read a lot. I actually  "study" sewing. I know many of you do as well. I have all but a handful of the first few issues of Threads and have read every one of them numerous times. They say reading before sleep helps you learn. I don't know but that is generally when I read my Threads or any of the other sewing books I enjoy. I reread those too.

Through books I've learned there are many ways to execute technique but the basics are pretty much shared by all the greats equally. I'm talking my heroes, Nancy Zieman. Claire Shaeffer, Roberta Carr, Susan Khalje, Kenneth King and others. I have read all of their books over and over. Did you know I have, or had, a photographic memory? I did until I hit about forty. That was when I declined in my reading of books ( work, kids ) and I really think that change in the use of my memory muscle did it in. I rarely studied in college or any other school. I would look at the book once and could go into a final knowing exactly the line, the page, and words I was looking for. That did not help my study skills and any subject that required reasoning, like math, I avoided like the plague. I guess I let that little tidbit about myself  out just to make the point that what I read I hold on to. (FWIW, I still have perfect color memory. Weird how that stuck.) My visual memory is still quite good but not the letter by letter perfection I used to consider normal.

Why am I boring you with all of this? Part of me doesn't really know. I feel like I am talking to friends when I write my posts. Another part of me wants to make the point that there is really solid, good, easy to understand knowledge out there. It's not all on you tube or blogs. Actually, a lot of misinformation can be attributed to either of those sources, but some good too. It is so easy to just click and skim. A book is heavy, doggone it, and you have to actually read the thing, too. It is not instant gratification. But I love that I can take a book and find an answer to my sewing query. I can take it in at my own pace. It can sit right next to me at the machine, if need be. (I know, my tablet can too and sometimes it does.) I love being able to "study" in my comfy chair or propped up on my pillow in bed or in the shade and coolness of our new deck. Yes, I can do this with my tablet but there is just something "hard" about a tablet and "warm" about a book, at least for me.   I certainly use the internet and  various devices to search and learn, but it's not the same type of "studying" that I enjoy with books. I love on the internet that I can instantly get various opinions and techniques on the same subject. Books for me  require a different sort of effort. The experience is enhanced by a good cup of tea, a comfy place to sit and QUIET. I  love the quiet part. It's a pleasure.

This post was prompted by finding someone giving erroneous information to others out on the internet in regards to a technique of sewing, While I feel bad for those who took the information as correct when it clearly wasn't it made me just start wondering about how we receive our sewing information. Moms and Grandmoms who sew as well as Home Ec classes are long gone as reliable sources of basic sewing technique. I am talking about today and how we learn. I have so many questions.

What part of your sewing education has the internet played? All of it? Some of it? Very little of it? Do you blindly trust youtube and bloggers with sewing information or maybe just some of them? Would you trust a classic sewing book, or a  new one for that matter, as much, more of, or less than internet advice?  What about your own experience? By that I mean the College of Hard Knocks and Wadders. Is that your primary teacher? Is your knowledge a combo of internet and books? Where did you get your "foundation"? Do you consider yourself to have a strong  foundation in the basics of sewing? If so. how did you come by it?  And how much does the marketing of a blogger influence your trust in information? If someone has many followers, does that mean they must know what they are doing?  There are no right or wrong answers here.

I am currently reading a very interesting  book called "Reclaiming conversation" by Sherry Turkle. One of the big seductions of texting and blogging and such is that we can "get it right", Turkle's words. We can take thirty pictures to get just the right one on a post. I've surely done that. We can edit our words before we hit publish whereas in real life, once our mouth opens, its pretty much a done deal. We can present a persona out on the web that in real life has warts, misbehavior and is not always that pleasant.  And we can use this power of getting it right to maybe exaggerate our knowledge, skill and experience. We can edit to put a face to the world that presents us as pretty doggone perfect if we want to, unlike real life, which goes unscripted and has blatant consequences of our actions. We can even delete or not allow publication of comments that point up our faults and misinformation. Are you more likely to believe in someone's abilities if they are well marketed? Pretty provocative stuff. How do you like  blogs who show their wadders and poor fitting as opposed to those that are examples of marketing genius? Which do you trust more for sewing knowledge? Let's be honest here.

I would love to know your opinions.


62 comments:

  1. I get my sewing Ito from a range of sources. Books and Internet. As a child I was taught to embroider at school and my mum taught me the basics of following a pattern. I know that I take short cuts in my sewing, but if I'm looking at the Internet to find a technique, or a book for that matter. I will often try the technique on scrap fabric or a toile. I don't think it's important how many followers a blog has. I read a few great blogs that only have a few followers. In my experience those with more followers often have way too many sponsored posts.

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    1. I definitely follow some blogs that are inspiring with very few followers, awesome sewists!

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  2. I think this is why the reasoning aspect of learning is so important. As it allows you to assess the quality of a resource.i am sure mothers/grandmothers/home ec teachers didnt always do something the correct or best way and bloggers dont always get it wrong! I have only been sewing for a few years and have been asked to write tutorials a couple of times which i dont feel i am in any way qualified to do. However i can understand the temptation if you have done something different that worked for you!

    I wondered if you commented to the blogger that the tutorial was wrong? As for me that's the interesting thing - can you give people feedback that is constructive and taken on board or does that make you a bad person ( as seems to be the thinking of some in the community)?

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    1. I did and she was very appreciative. However, I know that can backfire even when the best intentions are had and it is done with total kindness.

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  3. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, indeed. I've not been much of a reader, I am more of an experimenter. I did do Home Ec, or Manual as we called it, when we made samples of flat felled and french seams at age 12. Can you imagine!!! I swear I was the only girl in my class to get a kick out of that! But when you have a great foundation, online research is so much safer because the rubbish is so much easier to filter out. Goodness knows how someone who doesn't know what they don't know deals with it.

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    1. Sounds like yours is "the college of hard knocks and wadders"! That's taught me a lot too!

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  4. Some of the online sources make me a little crazy because it's clear they don't know what they're doing, and they're sending other people down unnecessary rabbit holes. I do use Internet searches to compare how others handle techniques [staring warily at you, bound buttonholes and bagged linings], and I have several books but often find it quicker or simply more habitual to look online. I've just signed up for some (paid) online classes to learn couture techniques, and am excited to see what that adds to my sewing arsenal.

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    1. There are some wonderful classes on Craftsy with some of the best teachers. I think it is a wonderful resource.

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  5. It has taken me some to time to work out there are several sets of skills someone new to sewing needs to develop. For example there are the machine sewing skills, the hand sewing skills, the specifics of setting in a sleeve, putting in a zipper etc etc. But equally important is the ability to truly look and to carefully see. I know it has taken me a long time (and I would definitely say it is still a work in progress) to be able to look at a garment and critically analyse its fit and the skills of the maker. I think this is a more difficult skill to acquire than the actual process of sewing. When I first started out it was the fun fabrics, the cute patterns and the modern aesthetic of independent designers and bloggers that appealed to me most. It was the sense of community and the just have a go attitude that was so inspiring. And that was really important... It was what got me sewing clothes for my children and then as I got braver clothes for myself. I have to admit that I was a contributor of some pretty awful tutorials when I was blogging. It wasn't until I carefully looked at my own sewing that I realised things like my self-drafted collar wasn't sitting flat and that was because I made up a drafting technique that really didn't work particularly well. It was the ability to look at my own (self taught) sewing and understand that it just didn't look right that encouraged me to seek out people who seemed to know what they were talking about - stuff like: I wasn't happy with the fit of my muslin (and they showed me a picture of their muslin) so I did x, y and z and I could see the changes and join the dots to improve my own sewing. Reading books along the way have helped too.
    I think there is room for all sorts of sewing blogs. It's a shame that we can't label them in some way. There could be the "Come and have a look at the fun stuff I made, it may not be perfect but it makes me happy and I'd like to share it with you" blog badge. There could also be a "I am really careful with my sewing technique and fit is really important to me. I'd love to share my knowledge" badge.
    Unfortunately there is a badge that we really need but no one would be willing to put on their blog: "Please beware, I speak with authority (because I am trying to sell a not so fantastic pattern I drafted or I hear that you need to do tutorials/release patterns if you want a REAL sewing blog) but really I don't really have a good depth of sewing knowledge so I am sort of making this up as I go along."
    Learning to sew is a journey. And for each of us that journey is different. I have made and will continue to make lots of mistakes, most of them because of my lack of knowledge, but sometimes because I have chosen to take advice from a blog or pattern that I probably shouldn't have. Yes it is frustrating that I have spent money and time to make something that was doomed from the start. But I am pretty sure I have learnt important lessons from every one of those failures.

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    1. Wow, beautifully expressed! Thank you for your insight.

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  6. I'm a book learner for sewing, although now days I also like Craftsy classes that feature professionals who have written the books in my sewing library or have good track records as teachers in the sewing community. So far there is only one class I did not like outright since the new to me instructor applied fusible interfacing by laying down cut pieces on her ironing board and then laying the fusible, in just a sheet of the fusible on top of it and pressing it.... I watched that twice to be sure I wasn't hallucinating. It was lucky the fusible didn't stick to the board, but a horrible habit to pass along to beginners.
    The bloggers I read most often are those who explain things, and/or have a similar figure to my own, and yes...show mistakes/style mismatches. I learn more from them vs. constant perfection on youthful figures. I've tried a pattern or two I wouldn't have considered because a plus size blogger made it work.

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    1. Personally, I love "real" blogs where you see the wadders and frustrations, particularly the size challenges. Then as Maryannes says, there are those that just inspire and that's good too.

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  7. Good morning Bunny,
    First of all, thank you for yet another thought provoking post.
    Well, I was so influenced by my Mother and learnt from her, and of course realize I could have learned so much more! The next huge influence after Mum was my beloved sewing teachers, and in particular a lady called Virginia Adam, who had such an eye for detail and enjoyed teaching the girl that was really interested and keen to emulate her....................of course I did get the Teachers Pet label, but my classmates were never cruel and enjoyed my help with hand stitching on their garments. Such fond memories.
    Of course at the time the way of learning was from my Mother, Teachers and books. Like you, I can still be found either reading a sewing or cook book at night, which some find rather strange, but its natural to me.
    I had a huge break in my sewing journey after leaving teacher training college ( studying needlework and tailoring) and actually following a totally different career path. Working hard and raising the girls meant a gap of too many years, returning to sewing in my 40's. My, what a change, the world opened up because of that miraculous www and I have benefitted from that explosion. I agree with others comments. Those of us that feel we had a firm foundation can usually spot the postings or videos that misguide us, but revel in the people with more expertise and knowledge and we can learn from them and elevate our own skills, which is so fabulous and exciting too. The biggest find for me, was whilst living abroad and making connections with sewers from the U.S.A, Canada, France, Australia etc. Having always wanting to learn to smock, I finally did and that opened up a whole new world to me, of new sewing skills and an added bonus of so many new sewing friends. From the internet I also heard of Susan Khalje ( fabulous craftsy course) Kenneth D King and that lady, La Sewista!! Oh and my tentative journey into the mysterious world of tailoring comes along with the undeniably talented Jeffery Diduch.................those buttonholes; be still my beating heart!!

    So the journey continues. I follow various blogs, but realize I follow a few far more closely than others. I don't believe that bloggers with the most followers are the best. Indeed, the comment has already been made, I actually am being turned off lately by bloggers who only post when they appear to want something from their readership, or their blog is absolutely covered in adverts. A reflection of life in todays world, or am I just showing my age?!

    The internet is a fantastic resource, but needs to be used wisely and caution and I don't always get that right either. I am a visual learner I believe, so for me a combination of watching videos with the backup of my growing resources of hopefully carefully chosen books, with the greatest back up of all, which was the foundation my Mother and Teachers gave me.

    Sorry for rambling on...................

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    1. Forgot about those cookbooks. How about pattern envelopes in bed? It is a sickness, I think sometimes (lol). Yes, Jeffery Diduch's work is certainly awe inspiring. thanks for your input, Marysia.

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  8. What a great post Bunny - I'm looking forward to reading all the different answers. I learned to sew when I was 12 - taking a 3 hr. class every Sat. for 4 months. By the end of the classes, I made myself a fake leather, double breasted, lined coat - something I was very proud of. That was a good, solid foundation of learning. I read and followed patterns since I had nobody else I knew that could sew and help with the problems I might encounter. I made a significant amount of my own clothes from that point until the birth of our first child - then my focus changed and I made children's clothing, which is still my main focus today. I do hope to sew more for myself again.

    I did take home ec in high school as well as a pattern drafting course in college. Those text books have been invaluable. However, the experience from actually sewing many things has also been a great learning tool. Like you, I've done all the mistakes! LOL!

    Because I'm a visual learner, I have continued to take classes over the years - everything from sewing lingerie and sewing with knits (when they were new! - yep, I'm that old. Remember the Stretch and Sew fabric stores?) to advanced heirloom sewing techniques as well as industry sewing techniques. I love anything sewing and have enjoyed nearly every class that I have taken.

    I have quite a library of good books written by many of those that you've mentioned as well as many in the heirloom sewing world. I refer to these books often and have purchased more books in the last 6 - 7 years in order to expand my sewing knowledge.

    The internet has appeal because of the benefit of the visual learning available on u-Tube as well as online classes. Reading blogs is also great because of the many pictures provided to demonstrate a particular technique - patterns don't do that. Having a solid sewing foundation allows me to quickly weed out the errant techniques and crappy tutorials that are everywhere online. I have great sympathy for someone new to sewing that does not yet have the ability to do that. I only follow blogs that are written by someone that clearly has sewing knowledge. I find that the insanely popular blogs aren't necessarily the best source for accurate technique and/or indy patterns.

    I'm thankful for the good blogs written by seasoned seamstresses like yourself, the witty Mrs. Mole and the many others I follow that share their fitting challenges and beautiful garments that they make. The variety of sewing and the fitting advice on many of them is wonderful. Now that I have a mature figure, the fitting advice/challenge has been so valuable. I think that most of my newer book purchases have come because of recommendations from good bloggers (did I mention that I just purchased the book you last blogged about?).

    Thank you for another insightful post. I look forward to reading all the different answers. I have already read so much that I agree with and can relate to. Maryanne - I appreciate your honesty regarding the poorly written tutorials that you did in the past and the fact that you have pursued excellence and are now interested in better fit and technique. I hope that many more of the newer seamstresses that blog will follow your example!

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  9. As usual, an interesting topic. I've enjoyed reading the responses!

    I learned the very basic elements of sewing when I was a kid, but received far superior training in knitting, embroidery and traditional rug hooking from my grandmother and mom (who hated garment sewing, and so was unwilling to teach me). When I was in my early twenties, more than twenty years ago, I went crazy for sewing and tried to teach myself by buying tons of Vogue designer patterns. I had a lot of fun and the "diving right in" served me in some ways, but I never learned to fit properly and so now, having taken sewing up again a couple of years ago, I'm in the process of dissecting everything and learning the elements bit by bit.

    I'm a generally skeptical and critical thinker in life (essential in my work, too), so I am unlikely to follow the tutorials and pattern advice on popular blogs. I love the blogging community though for exactly that: community. I follow the blogs of people who are capable seamstresses, but also people who are interesting, thoughtful and generous as people. I enjoy their personal crafting journeys more than what I can obtain from them, although I do absorb lots of useful tips and ideas from my favourite blogging friends. I tend to shy away from most of the most popular blogs, largely because the styles and the slick marketing and model poses and I could go on...don't appeal to me. And even though I would not label myself a skilled seamstress, I think I can spot a wonky tutorial, weak drafting, etc. from a mile away at this point. I don't expect to be perfect, so I am happy to patiently learn with books, experiments and hopefully some courses with skilled teachers soon, too. Stumbling along the way is OK, too. I will certainly never be attempting to pull others down the garden path with of my novice techniques though! Stephanie

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    1. The "diving right in" is a wonderful way to start. No one should curb a newbie's enthusiasm. You seem to have taken a very thoughtful journey.

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  10. I am one of the fortunate few my age (mid 30s) who learned to sew watching my mother and grandmother. My grandmother sewed in factories most of her life, and taught me some valuable things about work process. Factory sewing makes you do naughty things, though, like never pressing! My mother was mostly self-taught and not a very patient teacher if I was doing the sewing, but she always let me sit in a chair next to her and watch and ask questions. They mostly sewed children's clothing, though my mom did make wedding gowns for me and my two sisters.

    When I started trying to sew for myself (which I still don't do much of, because I have four kids under 10), I found your blog and a few others that showed me the importance of good fit and how to achieve it. There is no point in working so hard on crafting a garment by hand if it will fit me just as badly as RTW. Thankfully, though, I had a good technique foundation and was not sucked in to the world of bad tutorials and beginner sites with pretty fabric and terrible technique.

    I think I'm the only 30something left who prefers a printed book to e-anything, whether it be for cooking or sewing. Perhaps it's because we have only one iPad mini for six people (yes, even the two year old demands her turn) and no smartphones, so there is no guarantee I can look something up even if I need to! I just like having clear pictures sitting right next to the machine to help me through some trickier spots. I usually get your book recommendations out of the library and then decide if there is enough original content (that I don't already have somewhere else) to warrant putting the book on my Amazon list for Christmas. Keep the great book recommendations coming! - Kathryn

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    1. Turkle's book, "reclaiming conversation" is right up your alley. Hope you give it a try.

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  11. My mother taught me the very basics of sewing and she is not and has never been a reader due to dyslexia but she was a very creative problem solver. So as a teacher she provided a real "make it work" approach not the " only one way to do it properly" In College at FIDM they taught us basic industrial methods, they were after all training designers not stitchers, but I feel I received my first real sewing lessons from a woman I worked for who had been a sample maker for JH Collectibles. She taught me the value of precision, and I am grateful to her every day. Over most of my career though my knowledge has come from books and Claire's patterns, all the ones you have mentioned and a few more which I refer to weekly. I too read them over again and I love Craftsy classes, watch those while I am sewing on client work all the time. I do occasionally do a google/Pinterest search and have found some very useful techniques doing so, but it helps to know enough about sewing to know what is complete rubbish and whats a brilliant solution.

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    1. A filter is definitely needed on those Pinterest searches. It is filled with many bad tutes because the writer is trying to drive traffic to their monetized blog and not much else. Great hearing from you, Lynne.

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  12. Of course, erroneous information is not limited to the internet. The Encyclopedia Brittanica edition which came out in the 1970s, I think, has an entry about Helen Keller which say she was born blind and deaf.

    I absolutely love my iPad and read almost everything on it. I am a librarian and didn't think I could make the conversion. I even love the smell of books. But I did switch to the point that it is difficult for me to read a real book; they are not backlit! The one thing I have not learned to do is read a magazine on the iPad. I know Threads would love me to switch. And honestly, if the Post Office doesn't quit shredding the covers, I'm going to spit. I like the large spread of the page when I am trying to learn a technique. And often, if this information is on the net, I will print it up, much to the chagrin of my S/O who doesn't understand.

    Keep up your blog. It is one of my favorites. So many more "mature" bloggers are falling by the wayside. And thanks for this thoughtful post.

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    1. Funny, magazines are what I do read on the net.

      No "wayside" for me, at least not yet!

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    2. I read all my magazines on my iPad EXCEPT Threads. I tried for awhile and had to switch back to the paper subscription because the Threads magazine app crashes all. the. time. And after it crashes it puts me back on the cover page. And swiping too quickly through pages is one of the things that seems to make it crash... Sometimes I get stuck in an infinite impatience loop that makes me want to hurl my iPad into a wall!

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  13. Another thought provoking post. I couldn't live without my fiber related resource library. I wish I had room for back issue Threads, but I finally found a reasonable alternative. Outdated Threads compilation CDs are available via Amazon for as little as 99 cents. I was overjoyed to receive all of the back issues through 2009 for almost nothing. Although this doesn't include recent issues, it's plenty of great browsing/research fodder for me.

    Besides the books and the Threads CDs, I've found that Craftsy classes have become a very valuable part of my resource library. Of course, this comes with a caveat: shop carefully. Craftsy has some gems: Susan Khalje's lone course, Kenneth King classes and others.

    One of Craftsy's free courses, Mastering Zipper Techniques, I highly recommend as a useful, effective quick review for zipper insertion. My favorite highlighted technique is the machine insertion of an invisible zipper in a lined, faced skirt. It's very difficult to find that technique anywhere (I think Clotilde has an entry in Sew Smart about inserting a zipper in a faced skirt, but the Craftsy lesson is easier to follow.).

    There are some blogs I consider "gateway" blogs. I check them daily and access the links to visit other, informative sewing blogs. I also love to see wadders as well as successes. I almost always pass over the "fashion parade" sewing blogs. I also avoid the blogs that don't showcase the hits and the misses b/c keepers and wadders are the reality for every sewist.

    There is an accomplished sewist and blogger whose blog has undergone a renovation. It now looks like a marketing vehicle and everything is slick and perfect. Only completed, perfected garments are showcased. That's great, but I seek to experience more, learn more through my blog diving. To see someone get into a pickle and find a solution (or not), is edifying and encouraging.

    Happy to see this post, since last night I was dipping into Roberta Carr and Sandra Betzina before bed so I could let their wisdom roll around in the marination chamber during the night.

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    1. Love that term, "gateway blogs". I have a couple of those too. I dwell on them and click through their blog rolls to some pretty wonderful sites. Thanks for your comments.

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  14. Great questions Bunny! I love blogs, books, video, patterns, IRL teachers. My personal impression from using all theses resources is that they can all be equally laced with error. That is why I seek multiple resources, to compare and contrast. The same goes for any field of study. I study math and my math textbooks are laced with errors as well as lecture notes taken in class as well as you tube tutorials. The you tube tutorials are actually the only ones to have the errors corrected which makes them very helpful. That is one great advantage to math, that there is only one correct answer.

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    1. I know. Sewing can be so nebulous.

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  15. What a great topic! I grew up watching my mom sew (she is awesome, and very "by the book"), and I absorbed so much sewing knowledge from her, but didn't actually start stitching myself until I left home. So I'm largely self-taught, learning by doing and making so many mistakes along the way.

    When it comes to getting info and techniques, if the pattern instructions don't have clear enough instructions, I tend to go to the internet, because I love having video or multiple photos to really walk me through steps. Even though I'm a book lover, I've never latched onto sewing books, not sure why. To be honest, my first resource is often my mom. ("I screwed something up, Mom, how do I fix it?")

    That said, I'm pretty skeptical (and cynical) regarding blogger tutorials. There are a few folks I trust, but most tutorials I take with a grain of salt. If I'm looking for a technique. Usually, the context of the post or article offers enough info to determine whether it will be effective. (Are there a lot of handholding tutorials on super basic things that assume no knowledge of sewing basics? Probably not the resource I'm looking for.)

    That said, I'm trying to learn more about fitting and alterations, and I think this might be the thing that makes me turn to books by the pros. After all, there's no faking fitting knowledge!

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  16. I loved this post, Bunny, and the timing is great. I had just finished reading a link from Leisa Stanton's blog where the creative director of Lanvin talks about this same issue - the importance of capturing the perfect image is overtaking the subject itself. Thanks for the book recommendation - sounds like a very thought provoking read.

    http://origin.anothermag.com/fashion-beauty/7889/alber-elbaz-the-lanvin-manifesto

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  17. I have only been sewing for 5 years. I decided, rather late in the game, that I would take up sewing. I had been knitting for 30 years and had always wanted to know how to sew - not to actually LEARN mind you! But finally a class at a local fabric shop turned up and my sister sent me an email and said, here, you've always wanted to know how to sew, why not learn! I'm very shy so I talked two friends into joining me. We all loved it from the first class! Sewing machines have changed from those impossible to thread monstrosities from high school Home Ec classes! I progressed from making bags, to pyjamas and then to skirts. And then it came to a complete halt. Fitting. I couldn't get my skirt to fit, even with their help. I took a second skirt class, with a different teacher. Still no. Then a wonderful woman, Louise, in one of my knitting groups took pity on us (all 3 of us had problems!) She had taken couture sewing classes and was a professional teacher (not of sewing) but she had the skills to put together the most amazing course for us! It involved teaching us to hand prick a zipper in place, hand stitch hems, doing waistbands or facings, underlining, lining, etc. Since then, I've taken sporadic courses with continued problems with fitting. I've read everything I could in books and online, and have gone to a sewing retreat, but nobody has figured out all of the pieces of the puzzle for me. I have another sewing retreat planned in a couple weeks time with the reputable Sarah Veblen at the helm, so I'm hopeful to come away with something that fits AND can be replicated. The thing I don't like about online tutorials is that it seems like just about everyone thinks they're an expert! I now look at the finished product to see if it looks correct to me before investing my time into anything. I'm tired of tutorials that think "good enough" is okay. And a book I bought, sight unseen, from an Indie pattern company had such horrible finishes on their garments I thought there was no way I could follow their patterns or advice. So I only follow online tutorials (like yours!) where I feel I can trust the source. I want my garments to look impeccable inside and out and "good enough" just isn't. I can BUY "good enough"!!

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  18. As an advanced sewist I can spot shoddy fitting, workmanship, and skills but would never suggest to that blogger how to make it better because they haven't asked and my comment would sound negative. Many of them want their garment to look like RTW, I sure don't!
    I learned my good base techniques through TV, Angelina di Bello and Shirley Adams are my heroes and the Vogue Sewing Book, later Threads magazine was inspirational.
    My problem now is lack of fabric stores. We have 2 close by, one old fashioned stuff and Fabricland with their seconds. Online shopping has been hit and miss, more miss than I would like.
    Love your blog Bunny, thought provoking, excellent sewing skills and garments, good production posts, as well as consistent posting.

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    1. Thank you. I deplore our loss of quality fabric stores too. As a matter of fact I just told a friend how I ordered this fabric but I really don't have a clue what it will be like. We';; see what shows up at the door.

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  19. Fabulous post, Bunny, and fun reading the responses. I was blessed to learn sewing from my grandma starting at age 9 and haven't stopped sewing and learning to my present 67 years. Other than under her guidance and a tailoring class in high school my learning tool is books by sewists you mentioned and a few select sewing bloggers - definitely including you. I'm not a utube user. I get so excited to receive the latest issue of Threads and set aside time to read it cover to cover. As I have every issue published I'm going to re-visit some of the early ones. I've found the articles in Vogue Patterns magazine to be quite informative lately. I'm also guilty of taking pattern envelopes to bed - thought I was the only one who did that! Thanks for this post. Karen

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  20. I am a visual learner so "seeing" it done teaches me more than reading; although, now that I have a better understanding of more techniques, the reading is much easier. I am of the hard knocks school of learning too. It may take me multiple tries, but I feel the lack of success teaches me as much as the success. I have no problem sharing my goofs in hopes that someone else can learn from my mistakes. I started my blog to help remember (because I don't have a photographic memory) what I've made for whom every year for Christmas. Now I like to share techniques I've learned or help someone who may be struggling with something I once struggled with. I have no problem with constructive criticism either as long as it's respectful. I don't, however, feel qualified to correct anyone else unless specifically asked. Great post!

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  21. I am an avid reader, period and devour almost all things sewing currently. *Almost* because I admire and respect couture work but I am totally NOT there with my sewing so I read that info more with a passing glance sort of thing.

    Most of my learning has come by way of blogs, pattern reviews and getting my hands dirty. I wonder if I could count the many yards of fabric I've ruined :) But for me, I learn best by doing. I have to do it, see that it's 'wonky' and then I can improve!

    It's so funny, one day on PR a newbie asked about how often you use a seam ripper. Another person and I both had the comment that as a newbie?? NOT HARDLY! "Eh, that's good enough!" or it was bad but you didn't know that it was bad! I know that I am improving when say, the other day when I attached my collar to my knit dress and turned it over and saw that the underside of things was off by 1/8-1/4". The fabric had shifted. And without missing a beat I grabbed my seam ripper and ripped out the stitches over the uneven area.

    I would have never done this in the beginning :)

    People newer than me are often asking me to do tutorials and I laugh...The problem isn't in my ability to execute task ABC...it's the danger of not knowing what I don't know!!! And I think this is the downfall of my newbies who are trying to teach.

    I'm rambling...

    I read. A lot. I need more sewing books, for sure. And otherwise, I just keep practicing and sometimes I get really nice garments out of it!

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    1. Wait! I'm not done! Hahaha!

      As to the last part of your post; I follow different blogs for different reasons.

      Some are teaching blogs, some are purely documentation of their projects, some are newbies who are just having fun starting out. Some I follow simply because we have the same aesthetic. Others because we have the same body type...

      I do think there is a place for everyone, but I am leery of who I take advice/skills based information from.

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  22. This is such a great post. I thought it was just me noticing mistakes in blog directions . I've been sewing a very long time but love learning new techniques , ideas & styles. I wish I could remember the blog I used to follow . She came out with patterns she had designed . Then after a few months did a post on how she had just learned to put a zipper in. Gosh I thought that was a basic ?
    My niece wants to learn to sew to make cute baby clothes & I try to be very careful of the blogs I send her too.
    Lots of great ideas on this post- thx

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  23. I love reading the responses to this post.
    I remember sewing a skirt with my mom when I was around 8 or 9 years old. But I didn't really start sewing until just 2.5 years ago and I wanted to make my own clothes. I think it was finding a sewing blog that must have sparked it. My first garments did not fit. I still wore them because I was so proud but have since stopped wearing them. Anyway, it wasn't until I found your blog and started following you that I realized that I couldn't trust every sewing blog/new designer/tutorial. But it was such a "duh!" moment. So I started looking for the books you recommended from the library and different fitting books. I haven't had time to execute..but I love to read..and read..and research. It's enjoyable for me. I appreciate your tutorials and Next Level Sewing posts...even though I rarely comment. I am 29 and like to see what others are sewing. I like to see people building their wardrobes themselves. But I don't like the "rush" sewing of "this new pattern is out and here it is!"
    Lately I am trying to focus on the slow fashion mindset and it just seems like there's always a new pattern on the online sewing world and I get tired of it. It makes me just want to hone my skills more to have select patterns and then alter or play around with as I see fit or as I see a new style come out.
    I'd love to hear your point of view (maybe in a private message) on certain indie designers. ;)

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    1. Oh..and I've learned practically all I know from online, books, and then just doing it. Sewing with my mom that first time I didn't really learn much..except I wasn't bashful about getting behind a sewing machine or threading it. I'm thankful for that.

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    2. Thanks for the lovely thoughts and appreciation. The slow sewing mindset is a great way to improve and learn. I am always amazed at those who say "I made this in two hours" and all their garments are like that. They pretty much look like they were made in two hours. But you have to start somewhere and if speed is what inspires I guess that's OK. If they truly love sewing in time those two hour dresses will be replaced with better efforts as some previous posters have alluded to already. Thanks for your comments.

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  24. I'm self taught. My mom sews, but I didn't really ask for instruction from her. She tried to teach me when I was younger, but I wasn't into it. And now, our ways just clash and there's also a language barrier as I'm forgetting my native tongue as I age.

    I did recently get into scouring Google Books for the out of copyright tailoring/sewing/home ec books that talk about style, tailoring, sewing, etc. It's amazing! It's so simple, and yet so different. I've learned through blogs, through videos, through books (vintage and new), some classes, journals, and magazines. I've learned how to put in an invisible zipper from Burda Style, with the help of a youtube video. I also attend sewing Meetups that range from how-to to random meetings (like a lace meetup, or an upcoming wool meetup). I've also recently been using the Hong Kong seam finish, which few books cover unfortunately, and I learned that a few years ago on a blog. So, I think it's important to reference multiple sources, trial and error them, and then pick something that works best for you.

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    1. You would love the books by Adele Margolis. She is a rock star, IMO, when it comes to teaching sewing. Her books are vintage but totally relevant and great fun to read. I hope you get to try one or two out.

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  25. I LOVE your questions and discussions! So interesting!

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  26. I had sewing in high school and the teacher was horrible! My mother was an excellent sewist and made all of our clothes. We weren't allowed to take anything home because the teacher had to make sure we were the ones doing the sewing. I later asked my mother to teach me to make a skirt. We went to House of Fabrics and bought the fabric and pattern (which was easy since I had been doing that for years). At home we washed the fabric then she handed me everything I needed and walked away! I was on my own! I tried to muddle through but had to ask for help numerous times. The skirt worked out ok but the main thing I learned was that my mother is not a teacher! I got a little more clever the next time by asking her to make me a pair of shorts and then I read the instructions as she sewed and watched everything she did as I looked over her shoulder. After I was married and pregnant I used that little bit of gleaned knowledge to make my maternity clothes since we couldn't afford store bought. I figured they were just tents that needed no fitting so I could handle that. It actually worked out pretty well. I moved on to kids clothes after I had two little girls and that was great practice. When they were real little it didn't matter to anyone of there were flaws and I learned a lot by making numerous pants, dresses and tops. I started making my clothes and luckily I was pretty close to the patterns in fit so I didn't have to alter much. That was all about 40 years ago. Now I have many sewing books I consult, Threads, blogs and Youtube. I have found helpful information everywhere. I don't take anything as gospel but I am willing to try out a new-to-me technique and compare it to how I do something. I was tickled pink using Youtube for information on how to sew chiffon. I got more help there than in the books I own. I enjoy seeing what others make and how it looks on them. I get inspired to try patterns I would never choose. I have found that I really need to change my look because in my head I am still 30 but my body is 59 and I am a grandmother of 6. I can make those cute, fitted dresses fit me but I sure don't look like the model on the envelope! I really enjoy your blog. Thank you for taking the time to share with us all.

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  27. What a great thought provoking post. I'm not an expert by any stretch. But I cringe every time a blogger who has been sewing for 20 minutes publishes a book masquerading as an expert. I've checked out a few from my library and was horrified at the errors and the Amazon reviews agree.

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  28. Thank you for your interesting reflections Bunny, and I personally enjoy posts that explain what went wrong much more than the "here I am in my dress" followed by "Awesome" and similar comments. I am also fascinated by your photographic memory. For myself I learn by doing, again and again. I also learn best from other humans rather than books. I like good videos as it is often easier to understand from being shown it, but of course the quality varies far more than books. But overall being shown by an expert is best for me.

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  29. I never gave my memory much thought. I thought everyone thought that way but once in high school I realized my friends didn't. You can see why I like learning from books. The sad thing is is that my memory is nothing like it was. That decline happened when I hit my forties which I truly believe is because of lack of use. I still have it a slight bit but nowhere near how it used to be. I do still have my color memory which sort of fascinates me as again I thought everyone had these skills. I can look at a fabric, or paint chip and go to another store or a paint store and match it perfectly. Our brains are such interesting amazing things, aren't they and we all learn so uniquely!

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  30. Great post, I love blogs that do commentary!

    I learned to sew from my Godmother, she was a stickler about me learning the fundamentals. Only after having them sounded down was I allowed to 'improvise/MacGyver' what I sewed.

    Outside of her my greatest teachers would be books like 'Readers Digest Guide to Sewing (my sewing bible)' Sarah Velden Photo Guide to a Perfect Fit' and my own COLOSAIAL mistakes. Oh Pattern Review had a nice book of helpful hints and tricks.

    I do have various blogs I follow but for the most part is for communial reasons, seeing others sew inspires me to continue in my jounery. Some I agree are more style then substance (the perfect picture), however I dont really get into blogs that are heavy on instruction either. Often times I find myself saying 'thats not how I would do it.....' or 'why didnt they just'. For that reason I really dont look to blogs for learning, I mean thats what my Godmother and Threads Magizine is for, right ;-)

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  31. Thank you, Bunny, for another interesting discussion! When I began sewing, I had no instruction from any source. I inherited my grandmother’s machine. A coworker showed me how to thread it, and I just jumped in. I didn’t even consider the concept of seam allowances! I guess that would qualify as the School of Hard Knocks. I would say that since then, I’ve learned the most from well-designed indie patterns. Specifically Genniewren and Oliver + S. I almost always learn something new in the process of sewing their patterns. It’s happy providence that I discovered those designers before some of the less competent indies. Because I don’t know what I don’t know. More recently, I’ve attended some in-person sewing classes, mostly heirloom. I’ve picked up invaluable gems of wisdom there, too, such as one should always press side seams toward the back.

    I used to follow TONS of sewing blogs, but now I read very few. I use Pinterest for inspiration. Most of those “slick” bloggers’ garments end up on Pinterest, and it was the pictures that were inspiring, anyway. I totally agree with the commenter who regretted the “fast” sewing that those gals tend to do. I like to mull something over for quite awhile before I ever get to the sewing part. I do look on the internet for specific techniques, like how to make a thread loop or sew a narrow hem. I also love books and reading, but somehow that hasn’t translated with sewing. When you did that blog series, I got a video from the library by Claire Schaeffer, and I bought a book by Susan Khalje, but Claire’s was beyond where I am now (the pad stitch), and I honestly don’t remember Susan’s (Linen and Cotton). Additionally I got a book by Palmer and Pletsch when I was trying to do an FBA that’s very F. Their method didn’t work, and it frustrated me. Currently, it’s my prevailing opinion that when one is stuck, it’s real people that will have the solution. Maybe I just haven’t gotten the right books. Or maybe I should pull those resources back out and see if I’ve grown into them.

    I think we learn WAY more by mistakes, both our own and others’. (Do we learn anything when we do something well?) I wish that there was more room for constructive criticism, like one receives from the cursive-writing-textile-judges at the state fair. I read a blog post recently in which the author was eliciting very technical construction feedback regarding a child’s coat to be manufactured. It was unemotional and no-nonsense. And interesting and informative because commenters gave REAL opinions of substance. Maybe, with the mommy bloggers, sewing is more art form, and that’s why it’s so personal. I, for one, would love to hear (gentle and supportive) constructive criticism when I post something I’ve made. I want to grow and improve. And I want to know compliments are genuine. But I also remember that when I attended my first SAGA meeting, I took my first smocked garment for show-and-tell, all the ladies gushed over it, and that was very encouraging to me. These days I’m flat-out ashamed of that garment because I can see all the many flaws. But I might have never gone again if those ladies had pointed them out. I suppose, like anything, there is a time to criticize and a time to be silent.

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    1. Well said, JennyJo. Mistakes ARE the the most demanding teacher but they teach us forever. I like to savor my sewing as well. I don't get the "make it in an hour" mentality. But the comments here got me thinking. I can remember when I was a young mom and about the most I had to play with about one hour. So, I can see how this might be relevant to a very busy mom.

      So many of you, like Jenny Jo, have mentioned learning the hard way in the School of Hard Knocks. It seems we all have that in common and it has been quite an effective teacher.

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  32. I have read from beginning to end, as if I were reading a novel, sewing books by established teachers such as Roberta Carr, Susan Khalje, Kenneth D. King, Claire Schaeffer and the fitting books by Palmer Pletsch. I always look forward to receiving my Vogue Patterns magazine and Threads magazine and keep them by my bedside to read before going to sleep.
    My mother initially sparked my interest in sewing when I was about 13 or so. She showed me how to use the sewing machine and I took off from there. She passed 3 years ago and I feel that my sewing is my connection to her in some way. I have many fond memories of going to a local fabric store to shop for fabric and notions. Oh I miss those days... I later on decided to take my sewing to a higher level by taking classes at FIT in NYC.
    As for blogs, I enjoy reading various types of blogs. There are blogs written by sewists who are quite knowledgeable and experienced from whom I can learn a new technique. There are blogs that are very polished and high fashion and I derive much inspiration from those types of blogs. There are blogs where the poster is quite funny and entertaining. I am grateful to know enough about sewing to be able to differentiate between someone who knows what she/he is talking about and one who does not.

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  33. Your post, and the comments, really got me thinking.
    Like many others, I learned to sew from my mother. I always enjoyed watching her when I was little, and begged her to let me start sewing clothes when I was about 14. I had switched from parochial grade school (where I wore a school uniform) to public high school with no uniform. I certainly made my share of mistakes, but I really loved those outfits - short dresses with hot pants underneath (remember those?) and bell bottoms. My mom also signed me up for a class at the local Singer store. I also had sewing in Home Ec class. But after that...nothing. There weren't any classes that could take you to the next level. I did learn some more from my mother-in-law, who was a very accomplished seamstress, and could give some pretty good advice about fitting.
    It's only in the past few years since I discovered all the sewing blogs and online resources that I really began to improve. I've taken some excellent Craftsy classes, and then had the opportunity to take some classes with Susan Khalje. It's been wonderful. And my wardrobe is slowly but surely improving. I do enjoy reading a variety of blogs, but I am discerning about the directions I follow. As others have mentioned, I do appreciate reading about the failures along with the successes.
    I enjoy your blog very much. Thank you!

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  34. I have learned much from a variety of sources. When I firsts started I took lessons from a woman in my town who had classes in her home. You made what you wanted, worked at your own pace and she made us desserts every week! This is probably why I like classes and workshops so much. It started out as a very social activity. Then I discovered Nancy Zieman and learned from her. Then a friend for me into Sew Beautiful and I learned from that and watching Martha's show. Threads expanded my techniques as I worked to make things look better. The Internet has added new areas for learning but I agree that not all sites are created equal. I love tutorials-yours, Southern Matriarch especially. Pattern Review has been a great resource. Blogs are not all created equal though and beginners may not have the experience needed to sort the wheat from the chaff. Some are great and some yield results that (as my first sewing teacher would say) just screech homemade. Not the look I am going for. But the advantage of the Internet is groups on social media to bounce ideas and problems off of other people who also love what we love. I have learned so much from hearing others success stories and wadder tales of woe. So there is good and bad and we just have to learn to sort the two apart,

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  35. Thank you, everyone, for your engaging, thoughtful comments. Each one is valued. This has been a great conversation because of all of you.

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  36. An excellent post. I'm a bit behind with my blog post reading hence this late contribution. I've enjoyed reading all the replies. I didn't learn to sew as child or young adult and took up after retirement. I use books (I'm a bookaholic) and have many sewing books, I use live classes, online classes and occasionally the Internet - yes, I'm not sure of the validity of some of the info. My tutor showed us the most awful zip insertion being shown as a tutorial on You Tube and it's made me wary. I'm behind with my blog post reading. I read this and a few others which I appreciate and realise that that there are those that I am marking as read without reading - three of these because they have become very different blogs to what they were. I enjoy the conversations on blogs and on PR. I use my own blog as a learning log for myself and appreciate criticism. However, as you hinted at earlier, I've also come to see it as a way just to express something, not necessarily directly about sewing. Thank you

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  37. Most of my sewing (as well as other) knowledge has come from "hold-in-the-hand books/magazines. I have quite an array of sewing books, magazines, etc. But...I will admit that when I want to find out how to do a specific technique and can't remember which book it was in, I will turn to a search on the internet (usually after a futile search through my physical books). I guess that your blog is the only sewing blog that I follow regularly (a high praise!). I once in a while look at a how-to video on the internet...but I prefer to sit and study text and pictures in a book...and, of course, on your blog!!!! Bunny, thanks for sharing so much of your sewing knowledge! (I am a bit behind in responding to this sewing conversation because I have been at a sewing retreat!!! Fun to be with ladies who also love to sew and share their knowledge!)

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  38. A late response as well.... I learned sewing in home ec in junior high and high school in the 70's. I still remember making my little booklet of seams - flat felled, french, etc. And then I had a tailoring class in college in the 90's from an incredible nun. It was the last year my small Catholic college offered sewing and I needed an elective. What a treasure she was and my bound buttonholes and welted pockets improved by leaps and bounds. I enjoy blogs and independent designers, but I'm frustrated sometimes about cost vs. quality - in my mind a $15 pattern that has been vetted by sample sewers should be darn near perfect. Sometimes I think people fear telling the designer there are mistakes. And I read again and again - "done is better than unfinished", "it's good enough", "I'm not tearing it out again". I don't know - my sewing goal is not to just be finished. That's my goal in emptying the dishwasher. My goal is to have something that is really well done. Sometimes I feel like that is considered elitist. I am happy to report, though, that I learned to foundation paper piece this fall through a combination of blog/video/book/magazine. It always seemed too complicated, but I found I adore the orderliness of it. Always something new to learn......... Keeps us young, right?

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    1. Let me add to your list: "and I made that in less than an hour." Really? Is that the goal? I see that over and over with the newest sewists. Sadly, the garment looks like it was made in less than an hour, your own personal fast fashion. Fast fashion isn't good for retail and it isn't good for sewing either.

      Having a quality garment is not elitist, IMO, any more than working and wanting to play football like Tom Brady is. It takes work and practice to get things looking good. Thanks for your viewpoint.

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  39. I guess I am really out of the loop! What, please, is a "wadder"?

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  40. Just found this website and I'm hooked. Like many of the others, I learned to sew in Home Ec and through my mom and grandmother. Unfortunately for me, my mother was very limited in her sewing expertise and my grandmother got old before she could teach me much. I have always made clothes but in the last few years I've really gotten into it. I bought myself a really good machine and my skills have improved from actually sewing, reading blogs and yes books and I have accumulated many! I do love reading Threads mag as well but my books are right there, waiting if I get stuck right beside my machine. If I could only use one resource, it would be my sewing books.

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Engaging commentary: