Do you ever feel like you’ve been working on a sewing project for days, but you’re getting nowhere? I know I sometimes feel that frustration, especially on the more complicated or involved outfits. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just prevent sewing overwhelm in the first place?
I’ve personally found the best way to combat that feeling is by taking a few minutes to write out each individual step of the process that I’ve completed so far. Just seeing that list of steps makes my progress so much more visible for me.
It also really helps when I write out each step yet to be done. By thinking through the process piece by piece, I often see steps I had been forgetting would need to be done, or I see that I need to adjust the order of my process to accommodate a specific feature of the outfit.
When I’m working on the ready-made line of Renaissance clothing for my shop, it has become even more important to write down all of the steps for each garment. Taking this extra step enables me to group similar steps together to save time. For example, I arrange my sewing now so that I do all of the sewing that requires a zipper foot on the sewing machine at once, rather than changing the foot on the machine repeatedly. This not only saves me from repeating a less-than-productive activity, but it reduces the wear and tear on my tools. But even more importantly – and more applicable for most of you – I can better estimate the time I will need by writing out all of the steps. This makes planning my day and meeting my deadlines much less stressful.
Want to follow along?
Grab the Stellar Progress Tracker, fill in your steps and get a gold star as you fill in the bubbles!
As an example, here are the steps for making my most basic lady’s shirt, a simple cotton lawn shirt with a little lace ruffle on the collar and cuffs. This shirt is made in a modern cut, rather than the period rectangular construction. Although a little less accurate, it makes a beautiful, comfortable shirt for beginners.
- Pull out the fabrics and notions. For this project: Cotton lawn, Cotton cluny lace, and 1/8″ Cotton twill tape.
- Wash/preshrink the cotton lawn and cluny lace.
- Iron all fabrics and trims (because wrinkled fabric = distorted pattern pieces).
- Cut out all of the pattern pieces from all fabrics.
- Roll 4 1/2″ along each side of sleeve seam, rolling once 1/4″ toward wrong side, beginning at cuff edge, and tack
- Sew sleeve seam from sleevehead toward cuff, stopping 4″ from cuff (finish this as a French seam).
- Roll the ends 4″ another 1/4″ and stitch.
- Sew main seams. (In this case, I make French seams. It does take twice as long, but the seams are stronger – which can sometimes be a problem with finely woven fabrics – and the fabric won’t fray).
- Shoulder seams
- Side seams
- Attach 1 pair of ties (12-15″ long) on right side of the fronts, 12 5/8″ down from center top of neckline, so that end of tie is flush with front edge (this will capture the ends inside the hem, next)
- Hem front edges: 1/4″ rolled hem
- Turn the ties out over the hem and tack over the hem stitching again, 3-4 times
- Hem bottom edge: 1/2″ rolled hem
- Pin each sleeve into the armhole, right sides together, starting at the bottom and working toward the shoulder seam. Make 1-2 small pleats as needed to fit any excess sleeve fabric into the armhole. Stitch.
- Pin double-fold bias tape around seam allowance with the ends toward the back. Stitch 1/8″ from open edge of tape.
- Make gathering stitches along each sleeve cuff edge
- Make gathering stitches along each collar edge
- Attach the appropriate garment tags to the collar lining at the center back, 7/8″ from the bottom.
- Iron fusible interfacing to the outside collar piece and both outside cuff pieces, leaving the seam allowances uncovered.
- Pin lace to right side of collar so that the gathering is just inside the seam allowance of the collar. Repeat on cuffs.
- Pin the lining of the collar on top of the lace, so that the tag is turned toward the lace. Repeat on cuffs.
- Insert 1 tie (12″ long) into the open edge of the collar so that it sits 1/8″ above the bottom seam allowance. Pin it in place and then pin the rest of the tie edge closed. Repeat so that the collar and cuffs each have 1 pair of ties.
- Stitch each cuff and collar together along the edges with the ties and the top edges, stopping 5/8″ from the bottom of the collar. Turn to right side and iron, being careful not to crush the lace.
- Turn the collar inside out again and pin the seam allowance of the lining back so it won’t be caught when stitching the collar on. Then pin the collar to the neckline, right sides together. Make sure to first line up the center backs and front edges, and line up the shoulder seams at 1/2″ toward back from the quarter points on the collar, and then gather the neckline fabric as needed. (This is because no one has a neck that sides perfectly centered on their shoulders, but it instead leans a little forward. By moving the sides of the collar in this manner, you create more collar at the front of the body than the back.) Stitch, making sure not to catch the ties in any of the seam allowance.
- Turn the cuffs inside out and pin the seam allowance of the lining back so it won’t be caught. Pin each cuff to the cuff edge, right sides together. Begin pinning at the ends and center points, and then at halfway points as desired until the remaining sleeve comfortably gathers into the cuff evenly. Stitch, making sure not to catch the ties in any of the seam allowance.
- Turn the collar right side out and iron so that the front collar and body seam allowances are turned up into the collar. Repeat with the cuffs.
- Turn the bottom edge of the lining of the collar to the inside, making sure the bottom edge sits about 1/8″ below the previous stitches. Pin in place. Stitch-in-the-ditch from the outside of the collar to finish.
- Iron the entire shirt a final time.
That completes my shirt construction. As you can see, I have reordered attaching the collar and cuffs so that I perform similar steps together. Now, I enter this into my Stellar Progress Tracker and fill in the bubbles as I go!