Introducing the Sew Skillfully project

Sew Skillfully Banner

I consider myself an intermediate sewist.  I’ve sewn a bunch of garments, most of them successful, and definitely feel that I’ve moved on from the “beginner” title.  Interestingly, I can easily see myself squatting in the intermediate category indefinitely, happily sewing a wardrobe full of garments that fit well and that I love wearing.  Advanced techniques aren’t necessarily required for sewing successful garments.  If my main goal in sewing is producing a wearable wardrobe, I think I have most of the skills I need at this point.

However, that is not my only goal.  I want to learn, push myself, explore!  🙂  One day I’d like to graduate from “intermediate sewist” to “advanced sewist”… and perhaps even “expert sewist” somewhere down the line.  (A girl can dream, right?)  Enter the Sew Skillfully project.

Sew Skillfully is:

– A fun way to challenge myself to learn more intermediate and advanced sewing techniques, without necessarily incorporating them into a specific garment project.

– A way for me to document my progress, ask questions when I get stuck, report on any interesting findings, and share tips and recommendations with you as I come across them.

– My own small contribution in advancing the sewing blogosphere beyond content focused on absolute beginners, an area which has been fully saturated, in my opinion.

I plan to work from reputable, published reference materials in an effort to learn traditional sewing and tailoring techniques.  My primary reference, at least for now, will be The New Complete Guide to Sewing by Reader’s Digest, a book absolutely jam-packed with solid technical information that I highly recommend for any sewist.  It’s more like a textbook than a craft book, which is right up my alley.  🙂

New Complete Guide to Sewing by Reader's Digest

Image from

Sew Skillfully is NOT:

– A series of detailed tutorials in which I document every step of each technique.  Tutorials take forever to put together, and that’s just not how I want to spend my limited free time!  Besides, I’ll be working from instructions published elsewhere, as opposed to coming up with my own original ideas, and I don’t want to infringe on others’ copyright.

– Advice from a professional seamstress.  I ain’t no expert, folks!  I plan to share my progress on techniques I’m trying for the first time, which will undoubtedly include stumbling blocks and mis-steps along the way.

– A hard-and-fast weekly feature of this blog.  You know how I feel about sewing-related rules and deadlines (hint: I hate them!), so I plan to add a new post whenever the mood strikes.  🙂

How did Sew Skillfully come about?

My YaYa (a Greek term for grandmother – yes, I’m part Greek!) was a professional seamstress.  She worked for years in a factory in Manhattan sewing formal gowns, mostly bridal and bridesmaids gowns from what I’ve gathered.  Rather ironically, my sweet YaYa’s memory is not what it used to be, and since I only started sewing garments a few years ago, I missed my chance to sit down with her and ask her to teach me everything she knows.

YaYa and Carolyn

Fortunately, I do have some of her knowledge, compiled neatly and methodically in one of her sewing notebooks from high school in the mid-1940s, when she was formally trained in garment sewing.  To say that I value this notebook is an understatement.  It’s a treasure!  It’s currently in storage in New York (boooo!), but I’ll have to retrieve it one day to show you some of the pages.

Now if my YaYa’s beautiful sewing samples don’t inspire me to advance my craft, I don’t know what would.  🙂  Adding in the fact that I seem to be making a career out of higher education (in science, not sewing), hitting the books and learning the fundamentals are natural next steps for me.

So what’s next?

I have a handful of techniques in mind that I’d like to start with (bound buttonholes, welt pockets, and fly-front zippers come to mind!), but it’s my hope that Sew Skillfully will push me (and you?) to explore a wide variety of more advanced techniques.  The more challenging, the better!

I’ve added a new Sew Skillfully link at the top of this blog (right above the header) and a button to my sidebar, both of which will take you to all the Sew Skillfully posts.  You know, once I write some.  🙂

If you’d like to embark on your own Sew Skillfully project, feel free to grab the banner and/or button, explore whatever techniques you’re interested in, and share them on your own blog.  No rules, just fun!  We can all learn from each other.

In addition, I’ll be using #sewskillfully on Twitter when I add a new post.

Sew Skillfully Banner

Sew Skillfully Button

Sew Skillfully Button small

I’ll be back later this week with the first installment.  Until then, some food for thought:

  • Do you consider yourself a beginner, intermediate, advanced, or expert sewist?
  • What’s #1 on your to-learn sewing techniques list?

12 thoughts on “Introducing the Sew Skillfully project

  1. Nice idea! I also consider myself an intermediate sewer. The next thing I want to tackle is fly fronts because I’ll really need one in a pair of jeans…


    • Yes, you definitely will! 🙂 I’ve been reading some tutorials on fly fronts lately, but I don’t think it’s going to make sense until I try it myself.


  2. What a great idea! I think I would consider myself intermediate and, like you said, that’s all that’s needed to sew a wardrobe. I would like to try making a winter coat or cape this fall, so bound buttonholes are definitely on my list along with anything else I might need to know for a project like that.


    • I feel like there are so many challenging things about making a winter coat, but you made that spectacular Minoru last winter, so I have a feeling you’ll be fine! 🙂 Maybe interlining with a cotton flannel for warmth?

      Bound buttonholes were the first thing on my list – post coming soon…


  3. I consider myself an “adventurous beginner.” I am new to garment sewing, but have been knitting for nearly 30 years, and would consider myself an expert knitter. My knitting background gives me a lot of help wrt garment (at least tops) construction, ease, drape, and no fear of ripping out. With sewing though, I want to learn how to top-stitch more expertly, and have the inside of my garments look as pretty as the outside. I also need to practice button-holes and different kinds of pockets. I’m looking forward to your posts!


    • Ah, an expert knitter in our midst! That’s pretty exciting. 🙂 I have some decent knitting experience but am nowhere near an expert. I can see how many of the skills would cross over though, at least conceptually.

      One of the things I love about sewing (and knitting actually) is that you never run out of new techniques to learn. Many people rave about top-stitching feet – have you tried one? I haven’t and wonder how big of a difference it would make.


  4. What a fabulous idea for a series of posts!

    I consider myself an intermediate seamstress– and definitely agree that the blogosphere is full of beginner sewers, making it harder to see advance projects that propel me to network.

    As for my techniques and goals… Well- ultimately I want to be a couture-level seamstress, so really, anything on the most old-school spectrum, the better! Right now I’m trying to focus on finishing techniques and making sure to perfect the basics!

    Looking forward to your posts!


    • Thanks, hopefully setting this goal for myself will propel me forward. 🙂 How awesome that you’re learning couture! There are some great couture sewing blogs out there, and I’m always amazed by how meticulous and durable their finishes are. I just picked up Claire Shaeffer’s “Couture Sewing Techniques” and am enjoying reading all about it myself. 🙂


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