5 min read

Finished blush Blackwood cardigan & sewing advice for beginners

I know I talked a lot about "slow making" in my previous post, and then I went and made 3 garments in 3 days, and you may wonder at the seemingly contrary nature of it all.

However, I don't intend for the term "slow" to apply to the rate at which I finish things, although it certainly could, especially with knitting. I've noticed a few patterns about my creative production, so to speak, the key one being that I enjoy new skills best during a creative burst. Remember that time when I sewed a bunch of zippered pouches (here, and here)? Or when I knit tons of tiny stuffed hearts? Or I made multiple new flannel pillow covers?  In one of these "bursts," I get repetition of new skills and satisfaction is seeing improvement in my skills in real time. Plus, I tend to retain new skills (and confidence!) better when I've tried something a few times.

All that said, I finished a third sewn garment this past weekend. I took my time on this one, because it felt like a big undertaking, even though it truly wasn't. It involved the same skills as the Lou Box top, just with larger pieces. What I will say, is this fabric was much more stretchy, and that did make it more difficult to cut out and pin. The seaming was relatively uneventful, though, and putting it together felt a little like magic.

When all was said and done, I had a completed Blackwood cardigan! It's another pattern that I envision sewing multiple times, since it's so versatile. I sewed it in a blush pink stretchy rayon blend I got at JoAnn's recently. It's very light, drapey, and stretchy, as the pattern calls for light- to medium-weight fabric with a lot of stretch. I sewed it entirely on my regular machine (a Husqvarna Viking Emerald 116) with a small zig-zag stitch. My measurements called for a size small so I made View A in a small and I love how it fits. If the pattern looks interesting to you, I'd recommend it to beginners, but maybe not as a very first project. I'll definitely make other Blackwood Cardigans in the future. I've already worn this one around home for lounging and out, over a skirt and tank. I love the longer, almost-duster length, but View B is a shorter option that's also cute.

Apart from that, I've been mulling over the whole fear/creativity conundrum some more and I thought I'd share some recommendations, if you're someone who wants to revisit sewing, try it for the first time, or try some new types of sewing projects that maybe scare you. Because, my goodness, I've been there (and really, I'm still there, learning so much at the start).

My sewing advice for beginners:

  • Know your measurements. For women: bust, waist, and hips. And read the details of a pattern about how loose fitting it's designed to be (i.e. "ease"). Last time I visited my parents, I had my mom remeasure me, since I found that more accurate.
  • Get your sewing machine out. It's not scary, I promise. I barely used mine for a few months after Nicholas gave it to me, and I remember feeling worried that maybe he had spent a fair amount of money on something I wouldn't use. But then I just started, and I won't look back now.
  • Choose materials you like and want to wear, and think about durability. I try to find mostly cotton fabrics, and try to find things with minimal polyester, soft to the touch and hard-wearing.
  • Buy fabric in person, not online, at least not until you've established what you like. I'm a tactile person anyway, but I find it so helpful to touch fabrics, see how they drape or what they look like with my coloring, etc.
  • Pick a well-written beginner pattern. So far, I've only sewn garments from Indie designers, mostly because I could look up people's feedback on the pattern (with sizing, etc) and because many of them have extremely thorough instructions. The Blackwood cardigan pattern in particular gives tons of empowering tips about sewing with knits on a regular machine, which helped me when my confidence waned. Growing up, me and my mom sewed a lot from the Big 4 patterns (McCalls, Butterick, etc.) and even with her years of sewing experience, I remember her saying at times, "They could have said that in a better way." She always found a way to make things work, but as a new sewist, I wanted to take out some of the guesswork. That isn't to say that those patterns are bad, but for my first go, I was looking for foolproof, wanting the highest chance at making something I liked. Plus, I really, really love the patterns I chose. Also of note: there are tons of free tutorials out there, and while I love a good tutorial, I find it worth the money to pay for a pattern that's been tested. And I love that patterns have pattern pieces, rather than the typical tutorial stating, "Cut out two rectangles, two inches wider than the width of your hips and...etc." There's something far more comforting (for a newbie sewer) about having the dimensions already decided on.
  • Work with your inspiration and creative bursts. Start when you're feeling brave. For me, this is usually shortly after I get supplies for a project. I prewash fabrics immediately, so that on my next free day the easy, but somewhat time-consuming stuff (like washing and ironing) is out of the way and I have the headspace to learn something new (cutting and sewing up a pattern).
  • Practice on fabric scraps, leftover from when you cut out your pattern. I test out different stitches and check my tension on a fabric before I start sewing any seams.

And then, when it all comes down to it, realize that it's a sewing project, not something of eternal significance. So if it works out, wonderful! If it doesn't, that's okay, we can all try again.

P.S.— Only related because it's the same color, but I wanted to mention it. I picked up some blush pink invisibobble hair binders on a whim the other day, since I often wear my hair up and often get headaches. I love them. I wouldn't wear them for exercising, but found them to be a comfortable way to wear my hair up at work and at home. I haven't used a regular elastic hair binder since I bought these. And they don't leave creases!

P.P.S.— I love this verse. Going to memorize it this week.


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