Becoming a Discerning Tutorial Seeker, NLS #12
Over the past year one topic reappears in various forms on the sewing social media network. However, it is more of a characteristic of all social media. How do you know who you are talking to, reading, following, believing, admiring, and learning from? Just who is at the other end of your keyboard? In the sewing network it can take the form of highly experienced sewists and totally inexperienced sewists all eagerly and passionately sharing their love of this craft and that will keep it alive and thriving for a long time. Over and over, however, I keep getting asked the same question. How do I know that someone whose blog I follow and enjoy knows what they are doing if I don't know much myself? Should I consider this person an authority? How do I know if their technique is good technique?
I, like many, have thrown my hands in the air with the answer, "you don't know". With the internet, anyone can claim to be an expert. Anyone can do a tutorial on sewing technique. Anyone can be "certified" and anyone can "certify" someones patterns and skills, (big eye roll on that one!). It's just the nature of this incredible internet. Sure, you can dig a bit and just maybe find their credentials, if there are any. You can do some age discrimination and assume the older the sewist the more they know and vice versa, which is so so wrong and not necessarily true. . It's a real conundrum for the new sewist looking for quality information and guidance. This has bothered me for a long time as I really want our newer sewists to have the best information and guidance possible., Many new sewists are at a time in life when budget constraints prevent them from taking classes. Then I had to make the zippered pockets on my bag. ....Huh?
I have been sewing a long time but love that I can go on the web and research how to do something. I needed to put zippered pockets in the bag I am currently working on. Sure, I've done it many times but I am always up for a new technique. So I googled and pinterested and started reading loads of zipper pocket tutes before starting on my own. Never hurts to be well informed and I love to try new techniques. As I wandered this landscape of thread and zips I found, as one often does on the web, good and bad info. But many years of sewing have made me able to tell the difference. My bench is deep. But newbies are sitting on the edge of that bench and trusting that the coach , unlike Pete Carol, will give them the best play to get the job done.
Eureka moment! From all this researching I started to see a pattern developing that could actually help anyone, newbies in particular, to know if their teacher/ tutorial maker knows what they are doing. Certain attributes kept reappearing, enough to see a pattern on the tutorials. It was enough of a reappearing trend to pull some points that will let someone know every time if they are dealing with a teacher who has the skills to teach and provide solid quality sewing information. It's really a simple checklist and one to keep handy as you seek out technique on the web. Here we go.
1. Check the pressing.
In the tutorial instructions is the teacher/blogger telling you to press your seams, your garment, your edges as you sew, when you finish? There are tutes on the web for sewing details that lack any instruction to press the garment edges, seams and finished product. The results show pressing or lack thereof to an experienced sewist but to an inexperienced one you just wouldn't know and would expect that the finished product is supposed to look the way it does. If there are no pressing references in the tute anywhere, this person does not know how to sew, sorry, but true. Move on to another tutorial for the technique you are researching. All sewing details, collars, pockets, hems, and all seams have specific pressing as part of technique to make them look professional. Sewing is Pressing. Look for pressing instructions as part of the tutorial.
2. Use interfacing
In my zipper pocket research, very few tutes showed the use of interfacing.The best looking pockets did. Interfacing is used in collars, cuffs, buttonholes, zippers, pretty much someplace, somewhere on each garment. If the tutor consistently does not use interfacing in constructing various types of garments, they don't know how to sew well enough to be teaching. Interfacing isn't necessarily fusibles and hair canvas. Self fabric and silk organzas are just two other fine options, but, it is there and referred to. No interfacing references, find another tute. Knits are excluded here. Knits have different rules but nearly any non knit garment has some type of interfacing somewhere. It's a rare destructured garment that doesn't. Look for interfacing used in construction of wovens. This applies to children's wear as well as adult garments.
courtesy of craftsy.comt
3. Look for wonky
Another glaring bit of evidence of skill that warrants your lack of trust in the ability of the teacher is Wonkiness. What's Wonkiness? Asymmetry is the big girl word but the ones we all understand are "just sloppy sewing." Back to my zipper research - there were tutes that had zippers messily on the diagonal across the pockets instead of lining up evenly and straight across the zipper "hole" with just a little more effort. There was uneven topstitching with one side being a quarter inch wide, another an eighth of an inch wide. There were pockets that on one side had the pocket bag sticking nearly a quarter of an inch out in spots and on the other it was neatly hidden as it should have been all around. Look for pockets that are not set equidistant on the garment, are different sizes, collars that don't match in the front and are different sizes, buttons set way off center, etc. This button thing is a biggy. I've seen garments where not bothering to fit is simply overcome by moving the buttons over three inches and the buttonholes stay where they are. Seriously, did you just feel one side off the bodice shrink? Buttons are not a fitting tool unless it is a small bit, not three inches. Really look closely at the garment in the tutorial and others the teacher has made. Are things "even"? Do they match as the above pockets do so well? Are they mirror images across the garment if they need to be ie, pockets at the same level and size? Is the installation of the detail neat and symmetrical if need be? Is there an effort to match prints and plaids? If not, this is not the tutorial or teacher for you. The sloppiest, and it was really awful, zipper pocket I saw was from a BIG handbag designer. She is great at design, not so good at construction and a newbie would easily assume that someone of her stature would know how to do a required technique for her product or hire someone who does. It seems not necessarily. We are all blessed with different skills, hers is in design, which brings up another thought. If you are looking to be inspired, look for great design and use of fabric and don't worry about technique. We all love inspirational blogs. If you are looking to learn technique dig deep into the blog's bowels and check out how the details are handled. If it looks wonky or sloppy, find another tutor. There are many ways to do the various tasks of sewing, none of which include sloppiness and unevenness. If the tutorial shows the finished product as uneven and not mirror imaged, they are not skilled enough to be teaching you. Move on. Again, this blogger may have other admirable skills but you are checking them out to see if they know enough about technique to teach you.
4. Completed photos
photo courtey of Craftsy.com
I was amazed in my zipper tute search at the amount of tutes that DID NOT show a photo of the completed result. Funny coincidence, these were the same tutorials that showed sloppy construction with no pressing. Did the blogger know that the completed product was sub par and therefore did not show a picture of it? Pretty dishonest, IMO. Did they do this tute just to fill up blog space and maintain Adsense affiliate obligations at the expense of your knowledge? You have to wonder. Personally, I would at least rather see a finished picture of a bad execution than nothing. Really, these tutes are out there. If you are proud of your construction, you want it out there and will gladly put up pics. You have to wonder about someone's skills when they don't photograph the completed task. Look for a photo of the tutorial's completed project. You would be amazed at how many are missing. That's very telling, IMO.
In summary, if you are trying to judge if a teacher or tutorial has the chops and can teach you good technique, look for:
-Pressing instructed throughout the construction
process, well pressed completed garment
- Symmetry of detail and construction, details are equidistant and mirror image when needed, no sloppiness. Prints and plaids match or at least
-Interfacing, even if self fabric or other, used in construction with woven fabric .
-Pictures of the completed task
It is easy to cast broad strokes here, I must admit, but this is based on what I have found in internet searches for various sewing techniques. But I do have a caveat of kindness here: like our bag designer, every sewist has different strengths. Appreciate those strengths. Understand that as you visit your sites. Some are great at sewing with knits, others at tailoring and others at heirloom sewing. The examples go on an on. No sewist is going to be great at everything. But keep in mind these suggestions as you search.
Even if they are not your usual type of blog you enjoy reading, find one or two who do employ the above rules and follow their blogs. Read along as they make their projects. You will start getting a more educated eye and pick up skill, if only by osmosis and that's fine. While you may not be at their skill level or even find their blogs interesting, you will learn what to strive for in your own efforts. They can be your go to for good info when needed. Look for a search engine on their blog, an email address and or a tutorial tab. Comment and ask questions. Most skilled sewists are more than happy to help you on the side through email when you need it. These blog relationships are priceless to all of us but even more critical to the newer sewists among us. I hope these tips help you as you continue on the wonderful journey of sewing. Develop those cyber relationships for a solid resource as you gain your skills.