I recently wrapped up teaching a Beginner Sewing Class at my local university and it gave me a ton of ideas on my favorite tools for beginning sewists. It’s nice to know that there are things out there that others have tried and think you should try to (because they are just better and make your sewing experience easier). So here goes – please chime in, in the comments with your tips on your favorite tools:


Glass head silk pins. My favorites are put out by Clover and red and white heads. Why are these a thing? The heads make life so much easier. You can grab them and jab them into anything without hurting your fingers (hello awful headless pins!). And I say silk pins because as a beginner you may not know that there are many many different types of pins. Silk pins or they are sometimes called sharps, basically pin into anything because they are extra sharp and fine for pinning into silk. The Clover ones aren’t too long, they don’t bend too easily, you can use them in knits (which can be hard to pin sometimes) and when you iron over them, the heads don’t melt. So worth it.


Magnetic pincushion. I’m a serious Clover crusher and my favorite is again, put out by Clover. It’s the Magnetic Pin Caddy and the magnet is nice and strong. I know it’s incredibly tempting to use a really cute old fashioned stuffed pincushion. The magnetic ones are not as cute, I’ll grant you. But what they lack in aesthetic, they more than make up for in ease of use. Get one of these and you won’t have to worry about your pins being strewn all over your workspace and pushed onto the floor where you might find one stuck in your foot later. Just sayin is all. These make sewing way, way faster.


A good pair of shears/scissors. Or a good quality rotary cutter – whichever you prefer for cutting. I use a pair of Kai shears that I love to death. But being the sewist that I am, I have several pairs of Ginghers too and both are great scissor options. Invest in a pair and when they get a little dull, go get them sharpened. A good pair of shears will last you the rest of your sewing days – as long as you don’t go and cut rocks with them! Same with a good rotary cutter. I have a Kai for that too and I haven’t needed to change the blade in 3 years – it’s seriously that awesome!


Good thread. It’s a small thing, but good thread is a must. This is what holds your garment together! You really do get what you pay for and if you buy cheap thread, chances are high that it’s crap thread too. And please – do not use your grandmother’s hand me down thread! Thread has a shelf life because it can rot. My favorite thread is Metrosene all purpose polyester thread, but Gutermann and Coats and Clark also put out great threads and these are all pretty easy to get your hands on at either Joann or Hancock. Don’t do the discount thread. It’s discounted for a reason.


Invest in a nice set of hand sewing needles. I love these self-threading Clover ones. You hold a piece of thread over the top, click the thread into place and voila! the needle is easily threaded. Seriously, these are marvelous. They come in a handy set of lengths and weights and make easy work of hand sewing. Especially if you’re prone to continually de-threading your needle while you’re sewing.


Change out your machine needle after every two or three projects, and/or change it out according to the needs of your fabric. There are different sized needles out there for your machine and it’s worth changing out often. My favorites are the microtex or sharps needles put out by Schmetz or a company called Klasse. These guys are extra sharp and work wonderfully on the majority of fabrics.


Last, but not least, get yourself a good iron. My best tip is to get a vintage steam iron. General Electric ones are grand (got mine off ebay, but etsy is a good place to look too). I work with one of these and have done so for the past 3 years. My guy has never given me fit, is hotter than you can even imagine (oh la la), always has steam for me, does not have auto-off (which is great if you’re a sewer) and is heavy. Good grief, I wish he was my boyfriend! I love my iron!

So what are your favorite tools? Was there a specific tool when you started sewing that was the best thing since sliced bread? Do share!

  • victoria - The little built in cutter on the back of the sewing machine!! Didnt know it was there for ages. Has saved me a good few minutes by this stage…. you have also inspired a doodle with your wish your bf was like your iron comment. Will post it to instagram now if ur there have a gand sure!!! Instator_ie
    Great blog
    love to read it and see the updatedReplyCancel

  • Bunny - Do you have any recommendations for years or models of vintage general electric irons? There are a ton of them on ebay, and I’m not sure what to choose. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - I’ve bought one from ebay and a couple from etsy. I would say that you need to be looking at the ones that say they are steam/dry irons – that’s if you want the steam. The steam ones have the holes in the ironing plate and you can put water in the top. Also look for ones that say they are still in working condition. Usually they will post that, but if in doubt it’s worth it to ask the seller. Sometimes the ironing plate has oxidized a little – meaning it has stuff on it that will not come off, no matter how hard you try. Usually this is fine because it won’t come off on clothing or fabric either. I had one that I gave to my mother that had that on there, and it works like a champ and has never given her any fits or left residue and stains on clothing. Hopefully this helps!ReplyCancel

  • Nina - Wow, I could go on and on. I like the wrist pincushion. You really need a good ironing board–the vintage kind that’s really a wooden board with solid tripod legs–none of those modern aluminum ironing contraptions that tip over. I’m lucky to have inherited my mother’s. Really good tailor’s ham, sleeve ham, sleeve board. And the Gingher small scissors are essential for cutting threads by the machine and all kinds of other small tasks.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - I would love to try a wooden ironing board! You are lucky! I agree about the tailor’s ham, sleeve ham and sleeve board – all are wonderful. And my favorites are the ginger nippers to cut threads! Great tips, thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Chanel Wilson - As a newbie I find it hard to sew a straight seam and since my machine is computerized I wasn’t sure if I could use the metal seam guide. I came across the plastic one made by Clover with Nancy Zieman and I’m in heaven. I too have a GE iron that is super heavy, I purchased it from Wal-mart many years ago prior to my venture into sewing and I love it. I now have to invest in some good shears I have my heart set on Kai but in the interim I’m trying to get my Jo-ann’s coupon to get me 50-60% off a pair of gingher’s.ReplyCancel

    • Emily - I have the non-professional Kai scissors, which run around $25 from amazon and are great – I don’t have ginghers, but they beat my (finland) fiskersReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - Gingher are still marvelous scissors – I still use mine and except for my Kai dressmaking shears, all of my other scissors are Gingher’s. And yes, the coupons at the big box stores really help on these types of equipment. Good scissors will last you a lifetime. Thanks for the tip on the Nancy Zieman seam gauge – I love Nancy!ReplyCancel

  • SJ Kurtz - I shop the thrift stores for irons. The older ones do need to be cleaned out, they should be stored dry, and sadly they do pass away because previous owners did not do any of that. I probably take better care of mine than I do my family. I don’t let them use it, certainly. The public iron is the cheapest one I can find, and I put Sugru on the feet to ‘widen its stance’ (stop that infernal iron toppling).ReplyCancel

  • Carol - Gotta have something to keep the foot pedal from sliding away, an old foam rubber mousepad works great for me.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - What a fabulous tip! Definitely going to try because I always have this problem!ReplyCancel

  • Cristal - The pincushion is an absolute must for me because I kept loosing my needles. With the pincushion I always know where they are. I too need a good pair of shears. I think it would help projects go a lot faster.ReplyCancel

  • Debera Massahos - There are two things I can’t imagine living without – Thread Heaven and Swedish tracing paper. Thread Heaven is a little more spendy than beeswax, but it reduces tangles and drag and doesn’t melt or stain. Swedish tracing paper stores easily, folds up nicely in pattern envelopes, can be sewn to check size issues (but I still make a muslin), can be slashed and taped back together AND its texture grabs fabric and reduces the need for tracing and pinning on many projects. NICE tip on self-threading needles. I didn’t even know there was such a thing and I’m going to buy some tomorrow. On the subject of needles, I think sewists who use overlockers often overlook the value of a good tapestry needle for anchoring thread tails inside seams quickly and neatly.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - Great tips – definitely must try Thread Heaven. When it comes to sewing on buttons this would be wonderful. My thread is always tangling and knotting up! Ugh!ReplyCancel

  • Susan Jacobsen - My favourite sewing friend is my point-turner – with tiny clamps on the end I can get the finest point without breaking through the fabric. Highly recommended xReplyCancel

  • Alice - I love the auto-off on the iron. I consider myself safety conscious but I have been known to wonder into my sewing room and shocked to see that I left my iron “on.” Were it not for auto-off, my iron would be red hot. Thank you to the engineers who thought of auto-off. And thank you to Carol for the idea of using an old mouse pad to keep the wondering foot pedal in place. Now where do I find a mouse pad?ReplyCancel

  • Mainelydad - My #1, can’t live without, would have to be a spool of #40 cotton basting thread. Guaranteed to turn anyone into a baste-oholic. Next would be a small pair of nurses’ bandage scissors. They’re perfect for trimming seams because they make it impossible to cut down through into the garment. No more “Oh S$&@” moments!ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - Definitely going to have to try the cotton basting thread! And I’ve heard you rave before on those bandage scissors. Gotta try them! I’ve had too many of those “Oh S$&@” moments!ReplyCancel

  • eimear - good advice. I think it is so important to keep tools simple – especially starting. when i did pattern drafting and factory cutting years ago, we were not allowed to use a curved ruler as it was perceived that we should learn how to do a natural hand drawn line. I still only use a set square and 12 inch steel ruler. my ‘dream’ is to find a 15inch or 50 cm steel ruler…..(yard stick too long)ReplyCancel

  • StinaP - Well I agree with you on most points. But I prefer silk pins with steal head rather than glass, and a pin-cushion for the wrist. And I’m about to make my won magnetic pinchusion. Any day now. :) (The ones in plastic are just too ugly for me. I can be such a snob!)

    And I love, love my Kai. And all the tools for pressing. SIlk thread. And the small ruler with notches on all sides to get the seam allowances and hems right. And… well, sewing really is a material sport… http://www.stinap.com/2015/01/verktyg-for-att-sy.htmlReplyCancel

  • Becky Thompson - Last week at Quilt Fest I had a superstar in the quilting world tell me, “When newbies ask me what type of machine they should get, I tell them “Get one that has an authorized repair shop near you”.” That is VERY sound advice. I recently had the power unit fail on my embroidery machine (my fault – I left it on during a storm and it wasn’t on a surge suppressor). If I hadn’t had a Brother repair shop near by, it would still be broken because I’d have to ship it. Expensive! I bought my glass head pins through your website – love them. I got my magnetic pin cushions (plural – I have 3 for three different pin types) at Walmart, Kai scissors for the show price at Quilt Festival, I use large washers from the hardware store for pattern weights, rotary cutter, etc. ad nauseum. However I think a girl’s best tool is her coupons. I highly recommend that noobs sign up for coupons for Joanns, Hancock (they accept each other’s coupons) and Hobby Lobby. Most of them can be used online too. Hobby Lobby always has a 40% off non-sale items. That’s how I bought my outrageously expensive rotary cutting mat. When sewing/quilting things are regular price, that’s when I buy the big ticket items at Hobby Lobby. Oh, and YouTube. You can learn ANYTHING on YouTube. But for personalized instruction? Craftsy.com! There’s the FABULOUS class on zippers I HIGHLY recommend! (wink!)ReplyCancel

    • Cristal - Oooh these are great tips! I never heard about Hancock. I just signed up for both. And I second that on Craftsy. I love Craftsy! It has everything you need to learn new techniques.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - That is such good advice! I see so many new students using machines that they just purchased with a coupon or on sale at a big box store. My heart sinks every time and I never have the heart to say, “Oh you should have gone to a local dealer.” I’ve heard so many stories about the machines at a big box store breaking and when you take them in to get repaired, the repair man saying that they just aren’t fixable. There went that $150 or even $300! So frustrating!ReplyCancel

  • Debbie Williams - I have been using my solid metal thread snippers since i was a girl. They were a gift from my grandmother, who used them in her job at the pants factory, where she sewed pockets for soldiers’ uniforms for WW1. They are the style where you slip your fourth finger into the ring and squeeze with thumb and index finger. Also love my bodkin for turning, and recently discovered the tool that turns sewn channels with a pipe and dowel system. My pins are in a lovely decorative dish with a heavy-duty shop magnet attached underneath (see, they CAN be pretty!). I plug everything into the same power strip – machine, serger, iron, light, and the strip sits by my machine where i can see it. When i’m done with my session, i just flip the strip off, and problem solved. I always remember to turn off my light! No more irons left on. thanks for the mouse pad tip – that’s one problem I hadn’t solved yet. Love your blog – thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - Wonderful ideas and I love the heavy duty shop magnet with a decorative dish – what a great idea!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Miller - Very good tips from post and the commenters! I’m just building my sewing inventory and see so many things here I’ll need. I purchased nice scissors, but am not happy with them….perhaps the Ginghers are necessary. And my small cutting mat just doesn’t “cut it” (sorry, couldn’t resist).ReplyCancel

  • Dee - Oh yea, GE definitely has history . I am 67 and I remember this iron from a kid. One of the best, I DIDN’t know Kai had rotary cutter! Excellent posting


  • Janet - Great list, Sunni. I’d add a decent tape measure that doesn’t stretch or break. You can measure your size, use it to alter the pattern, and most importantly, hang it round your neck so you look the part!ReplyCancel

  • Leia G - I absolutely adore my Clover Chaco Liner; it’s basically a little reservoir of chalk powder and a clicky wheel that deposits it as you draw. It doesn’t drag at the fabrics like tailor’s chalk can and is a dream to use. The other thing I like to suggest is coloured tracing paper. Stick a piece top and bottom and you only need to trace everything off once with the confidence that it is perfectly matched up.

    My best advice, rather than product, is to mark the sewing line instead of the seam allowance. It allows for much greater precision and ease of fitting; you’re not worrying about cutting the seam allowance just so, because you have the actual line to follow right there in front of you. We all use chalk or removable pen anyway, so it’s not like the line will show at the seams at the end.ReplyCancel

  • Lady ID - My rotary cutter and cutting mats. I use these ALL the time. My shears/scissors don’t get much love because of this.

    Gingher applique scissors – smooth like butter when cutting

    Black & Gold hand sewing sharps.

    Magnetic pin holder – I got the fancy susan khalje wrist cushion which I do like, and another cute on but I always go back to the magnetic holder

    Spray bottle of water to keep handy for misting things

    Chalk pencils by Chacopel

    Invisible zipper foot.ReplyCancel

  • Cutlery for Apparel Sewing » A Fashionable Stitch - […] week, when I shared some tool tips for beginners, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about the arsenal of cutlery I’ve acquired over […]ReplyCancel

  • Debera Massahos - OK, after reading your post, I rushed out and got some of those self-threading needles. YOU’VE CHANGED MY LIFE! Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I didn’t know about these. Besides being super convenient, it’s the best way to anchor the ends of threads, especially when they’re too short for conventional threading. Just stick the needle in the fabric, pull the thread in and go. No more short-thread nightmares. it doesn’t even matter if the ends are frazzled – no trimming, spitting, twisting required. I’m pretty sure I won’t be breaking and mis-shaping nearly as many needle threaders. THANK YOU.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - I’m so glad – they are my favorite too! They truly are amazing. I love them so much! Glad to have another convert to these!ReplyCancel

Good grief. It all started with the word yes. Yes to a custom sewing job for a coworker. Now, I’m not saying that I dislike this coworker (quite the contrary) or that this project wasn’t a worthy one (it was a good challenge). I’m saying it’s me, not you and I’m so rotten when it comes to doling out my time for custom sewing. Man, I’m so bad.


It’s a classic story. One that involves a mother-of-the-groom, a bride with a very specific color scheme and no getting out of a full-on peach dress. Add in the drama that not a lot of options come in this color as far as evening wear is concerned and we have a recipe for custom sewing. Ah yes. I’ve heard this story before – a lot. Especially when I owned a fabric shop. There are days when I think it would be marvelous to start a business based around this very problem – oh and the fact that older women get the shaft when it comes to clothing (apparently the media and society think we’re all dead or should be after age 40).


This coworker asked me to do this dress and I do think it turned out pretty nice. She’s petite and she can definitely pull off this cute style – looks totally her! But I was strapped for time (my own fault) and this dress was cranked out over my Halloween weekend and it would be nice if I allowed myself time off when I have time off (again, my own damn fault – no fault of anyone else’s which is even worse!). Then again, it would be nice if my mouth could utter the word “no” with such sly cleverness that it felt like I was saying “yes” to the person I was talking to. Alas, such is the plight of the girl who just can’t say “no.”


There were things that made it worse too. After I said yes, I also said yes to chiffon, which is the overlay to the skirt portion of the dress. OK, actually I mentioned that the chiffon would be nice for texture (just call me dumb). Ugh. You know what I’m talking about. You know. If you’re thinking this dress and jacket look like a one trick pony, think again – it’s all polyester, which if I do say so myself, can be a bear to press. And I’ve never actually sewn a bolero jacket, which though not hard, is making me question a few of my construction choices right now.


It reminded me that when you sew, you do a lot of work. If you’re sewing for yourself right now, you’re probably forgetting that:

  • You had to select a style, which involved getting a pattern from somewhere
  • You had to select the fabric, which involved getting the fabric from somewhere
  • You needed notions for your project – thread, zipper, buttons, interfacing, again, all those coming from somewhere
  • You probably did a muslin/test garment to see where the fitting problems were
  • Then you had to fix your pattern, do fitting adjustments
  • Somewhere in here, you probably pre-treated your fabric
  • Next was cutting – which can be a two hour ordeal depending on the project
  • Construction takes a good long time, especially when you have to figure out how your going to line this or that and all of this requires forethought, experience and sometimes pattern manipulation and making new pattern pieces
  • Remember why you bought that serger? Not just to look pretty, that’s for sure, to say nothing of the investment of both a serger and a decent sewing machine. PS ~ serger threads aren’t cheap
  • Let’s not forget pressing with a decent iron as we go
  • Oh and pressing tools. Oh my! Let’s see, tailor’s ham, seam roll, clapper, sleeve board, tailor board were all used in the making of this garment
  • Fitting as you sew – I know it’s weird but the muslin doesn’t fix everything!

Seems like an awful lot to me. I mean, when the project is for me, I LOVE it and it’s so satisfying. And even when it’s for loved ones – and I picked the pattern and fabric because well, I’m picky – then I love that too. But this was different. I’m glad this turned out well, I was paid and I’m so happy she liked it (yay!) but I have to admit, it’s hard to dole out my time for this. I think my own personal frustration is that I completely forgot how much time it takes to sew this type of project, especially when you’re keeping track of all the hours and I never do that when I sew for myself. Additionally, I have a hard time sewing items that don’t have a likelihood of being worn more than once, twice or even a dozen times. I’m kind of hard core about constructing clothes you can wear in the everyday – it’s like my daily mantra. There’s also the worry that the customer won’t end up liking the end result, even though they picked everything and you just made it up for them. Or even the fitting – I mean after the muslin I try on as I go and pin out here and there and I don’t have the luxury of doing that when it’s custom. Gosh, so much anxiety here! Just call me a ball of nerves.


I think the word no will start coming a lot easier and that part where I tell everyone I sew will start getting a lot quieter. What about you? Do you like custom sewing? How do you stomach it? How do you say no? I know there are lots of sewing enthusiasts out there who love custom. Are you one of them? Why do you like it?

Credits: Duchess Satin, Chiffon & Stretch Lining; BurdaStyle 7798 for the dress and Vogue 8957 for the jacket.

  • IndoorKitty - Charge by the hour, and demand a retainter up front. Say $500, plus materials; balance will be refunded upon completion of the dress. Charging people what things actually cost generally gets them to go away very quickly. (I learned this trick from a lawyer. It works great when people at parties ask you for free legal advice.)ReplyCancel

  • Kathi giumentaro - I do not like customer sewing. My neice thinks I’m going to make her wedding dress. She is getting engaged soon and I’ve been running over in my head how I am going to, firmly, say “NO”. She’s mentioned this to me in the past and when I’ve said no she’s laughed it off and asked “how hard could it be”? “You can do it”. I’ve never made a wedding gown nor do I want to. People think sewing is “easy”. People ask me to make the most rediciulos things for them. Nonsewers don’t understand the work that goes into making a garment.ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - I so feel your pain. I agreed to sew 2 flower girl dresses for a friend. Dummy me picked a pattern line I’d never sewn before-Burda. The pattern was not hard but I was so afraid that it wouldn’t turn out right that I procrastinated till the last minute! You’re right-saying NO comes a lot easier now.ReplyCancel

  • Renee - I applaud you. That dress is stunning and I would wear it in a heartbeat. But, I cannot with the custom sewing. It stresses me out and isn’t fun. It’s why I don’t want sewing to ever become ‘work’ for me.ReplyCancel

  • mrsmole - I sew for a living, brides and all manner of formal attire. Charging a decent price and allowing time enough for each project keeps me sane. I don’t do rush or last minute projects…ever! My clients and friends know I will say no if they have not given me enough time to do the job right. So….next time…to avoid saying yes right off the bat, estimate the time, double it, and then say no explaining that you would only want to do the best job for them and they have cut the time too short. I also say, “you would not want to pay me for my labor, I am expensive” and leave it at that. Good seamstresses make $50-60 an hour so this may be out of their budget.ReplyCancel

    • tailorchick - THANK YOU for speaking up!ReplyCancel

    • SJ Kurtz - Oh, Mrs Mole is my gold standard for professional sewing. If you have never read her blog ‘Fit for a Queen’, just stop now and go read it.
      I am hip deep in the chiffon overlay, taffeta skirt choir dresses I hem every fall. It should be a fifteen minute job per dress. Poly chiffon is demonic and never ever let it go offgrain, or the fifteen minute job turns into a two hour one. Endlessly unpicking and repinning. I love the girls in the choir, and they pay me well for this, but …..DEMONIC!ReplyCancel

    • Sylvia Long - Mrs. Mole,
      I’ve learned a ton from your generous posts! Thanks, many times over!ReplyCancel

  • Helen - To be honest I’m not often asked, but I would say no. I have offered on a couple of very simple things (hemming, sewing cushions), and then I sat on the projects for literally months. I know, that I don’t enjoy sewing for others (unless it’s for immediate family and it’s a gift), so I just avoid doing it.ReplyCancel

  • francesca - Oh, I feel your pain, Sunni. That is a lovely make – and must have been hell to make, especially for someone else! I love Indoorkitty’s way of turning people off – and mrs mole’s comment about “my labour is expensive”…… I won’t sew for anyone, unless I end up desperate for money – because I grew up watching my aunty Bi getting inundated with sewing requests – she was amazing, total couture – and she only sewed for family – and lived on her tiny inherited income and pension, because noone ever paid her. My mum and sisters were the only ones who did. She wouldn’t accept cash from us, so we made sure we got her things she needed, whereas cousins used to promise perfume or flowers and sometimes not get them. I therefore grew up swearing I would never sew for anyone except myself. I made my own wedding dress which took three months of hard work, and totally regretted it. Waste of time – my philosophy is like yours, time invested should be for something I’ll wear a lot…… I make stuff (sewn, knitted, crocheted) for the sister I live with sometimes, because a) she doesn’t ask for or expect it, and b) she properly appreciates and wears whatever it is to the death! I don’t make any more stuff for my other sister, because she’s the rich one who has more stuff than she can use, and after using something I made her for a bit, it disappears. She’s also lost things like a beautiful lacey wrap made from hand dyed silk – grrrrr…. so now, I buy her things!ReplyCancel

  • JenL - I don’t do sewing for others, but I used to work in photography & encountered similar issues. After one friend’s wedding, as a favor, it was never, never again. It was a custom job, which back then, most people do not realize how much work it is – work that they never see being done. (Supplies, prep, test prints, samples for customer, final prints, delivery). Being rather young at the time, I also made the mistake of not being very, very clear about payment. When I submitted my invoice with my expenses and my hours listed my friend only paid me for the expenses! That led to a really uncomfortable conversation. She did pay me something in the end, but realistically, it was probably about minimum wage since I marked my actual hours down only to the post-wedding work. So, for this reason I rarely ever do any professional or near-professional work for friends. In the rare times I do, I am very up front about cost. I suspect it doesn’t sound very friendly, but it’s better than having a strained relationship later.ReplyCancel

  • Magpi - I so miss the blog Selfish Seamstress*…her title and tone gave me confidence to say, “No, I really can’t sew for anyone else, it makes me hate sewing, and I can’t be motivated, and I won’t let anyone else break my joy in my hobby like that.”

    (This also helped me decide what I would offer for sale…the extra from the activity I can’t help but make too much of because I am doing it anyway.)

    Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you owe it to the world that wants it. Don’t we teach our children they don’t have to have sex with anyone who asks? And shame on anyone who tries to guilt you into it!

    (*it’s still up, though apparently not currently used)ReplyCancel

  • tailorchick - Welcome to my world Sunni. I VERY MUCH agree with MRSMOLE. They way to most effectively not have people even ask you to sew for them ( so you don’t have to say no or even face the question…) is when they understand that the beauty of your sewing hand and TIME come at a premium price. If you tell one person in the same work place, word “magically” gets around that you are “expensive” and others don’t ask you – or they are willing to pay your price. I enjoyed custom sewing in earlier years more than now as I am wanting to make more time to sew for myself and not be arrested for being naked in the street. I am transitioning my sewing time to having the means to say NO, be selective of who I sew for, and even politely “fire” clients who are attempting to making a waste of my time. That sounds rude and shocking to some. but those seasoned custom sewing folks out there reading this know what I mean. Sometimes people want to pay LARGE sums of money just to use you for whatever they want. Yep- They get fired before any fabric is cut or muslin made. They get a deposit refund. I get my time back. GOOD JOB on the peach dress. Beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - That dress is stunning, it must have taken ages! I feel your pain (a gentler version), as I recently made a dress for a pregnant friend who couldn’t find anything she liked. We talked about patterns and fabric, and I told her how much the fabric cost, but I haven’t pushed her to pay for it. I think the time is what hurt more than money – it was a simple knit dress, but it still took a good few hours, and there’s no way I could charge for labour. So in future I will definitely be saying no! I think as others have said, people who don’t sew don’t realise the time and materials that go into it, and also maybe feel like as it’s a hobby, sewing anything should be fun.ReplyCancel

  • Lynn Mally - I made a lot of clothes this summer for a woman I didn’t know very well. The clothes were simple and the fabric beautiful. Honestly, though, it was the most frustrating experience of my life and made me think that I would never do it again. There were so many frustrations…and the rewards didn’t offset them. So I will do the occasional piece for a loved one, but I am not going into the sewing business.ReplyCancel

  • Dorothy - Oh how I agree with every word! A long time ago I sewed a simple blouse for a friend for nothing but she still wanted things changed (not the fit). Since then I have been able to say quite easily that I sew only for myself or for my daughter!

    Chiffon of all things!! but finished product looks good.


  • Ramona Putnam - This post totally resonated with me. (Love the back of that bolero, by the way!) My niece, who I adore, is getting married and asked if I could make her daughter a bridesmaid dress. While thinking to myself, “Say NO! You don’t have the time.”, I said, “Of Course! What do you want?”. Then she proceeded to tell me a design I just don’t want to sew.

    That’s why I don’t like sewing for others. If I don’t like the fabrics or the design, I have absolutely no interest. Just dig in those heals and PROCRASTINATE! Wedding is next weekend and I have the muslin done and have the fabric cut and that’s it.

    So basically, I’m saying, “I feel your pain.” Hopefully mine will turn out as beautifully as yours.


  • Alethia - First of all, let me just say that you did an outstanding job on her attire!
    I do sew custom, and many times it can be a headache dealing will a lot of the issues that you mentioned. My frustration, maybe self-induced, is that I don’t feel I ever get paid what I’m really worth when I do snag a client. I still end up feeling like my pay was not enough. I don’t get the business that I would like because I do quote my price and many decline because they can’t afford me. So, a lot of my business turns to the alterations side of things.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love doing what I do, and I’ve been creating bridal and formal wear for many years. My joy comes in making every girl, from the youngest to the oldest, feel special and look pretty.ReplyCancel

  • sew little time - that’s a really lovely dress and bolero. i don’t sew for money. if i love the person and want to sew for them i would do it for free. I sometimes make things for people that help me out – so my friend who feeds our cat when we are away – and i make gifts. for everyone else i just say it’s not worth it to take money as it would in no way cover the time.ReplyCancel

  • Lillywhite & Co. Stitichery - Hence, the reason I have gone into alterations. There is an element of problem solving and I like that challenge yet I don’t have to spend hours cutting fabric. I’m still learning about garment construction and making some extra cash to satisfy the sewing habit for myself. Great looking dress but I feel your pain.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - I sew on demand for my 12 year old son, my 3 year old niece, and my 2 year old Nephew (and soon, my own 2 year old when he starts to care). That is all.

    I make a gorgeous raincoat out of the super-cute Babyville Boutique PUL line – lined with cozy flannel. (I have made about a dozen of these over the years) My nephew’s was so popular at his (high end) daycare that my brother asked me what I would charge if someone wanted one. When I told him that the supplies ALONE were into the realm of $70 and it took me 6 hours to make one he blanched. I told him my hourly rate would START at $25. So – no special orders!

    I sew for the kidlets because they appreciate it – an Elsa dress, or a special raincoat, or even a specific camouflage hoodie, or a festive dress – I know the kids don’t know the value of the work – but they pay me in joy.

    I sew for people as a surprise, sometimes, and again it’s the joy that pays me. Last year EVERYONE (female) got a Julia Cardigan (no fitting, used up my scraps and always a surprise) – so I DO sew for other people – when I get asked to do something custom my answer is:
    I only sew for a surprise – no special orders!ReplyCancel

  • Corinne - First, the dress is beautiful, the bolero detail, perfect. You did good. Now, on to your question. Custom sewing, hear me scream! In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s I had the (not so) brilliant idea to do custom sewing to supplement my income. I had two kids getting ready for University. Since I worked full time as a nurse in a high intensity intensive care unit and did some teaching on the side at a local community college, my time was precious. That said, I wish I had required a retainer. I got stiffed several times with comments like…”I didn’t think it would cost that much!” even though the cost estimate, written and signed, clearly stated what it would cost. Or, one of my favorites, could you fix this rug for me, it is a family heirloom and only needs a couple stitches. It was left on my doorstep with note attached. Filthy with pet hair and food scraps I never let it enter my home, called its owner to come get it or I would trash it and folded up my custom tent. I learned that my love of sewing had been totally diminished and even destroyed by the business. It took me years to sew for myself again. I would never, ever, do this again. I applaud you for recognizing the issues involved in custom work. For those that do it for a living, God bless you, you are a saint. And likely not paid anything near your value.ReplyCancel

  • Aura Oriano - What a beautiful ensemble! If it is your last custom job (for now or forever), it is a gorgeous one. The last time I did a favor for someone it was not nearly extensive as your custom job. Still, it was something I don’t even enjoy doing for myself (hemming pants). Prior to that I made a little girl’s kimono dress and the mother said “How long did that take you to make it? An hour?”! Nope. Now I only make *small* things and only as teacher gifts (embellishments to ready-made hand towels mainly). Every now and then I’ll be complimented on a shirt or purse I’ve made. I’ll take the person’s deets but don’t follow up on custom work. Non-sewists make incorrect judgements on a sewist’s time/energy/talents. No thanks! I’ve got my own projects to fulfill.ReplyCancel

  • Karen Helm - Excellent synopsis of all that is involved in fashion sewing! A dear friend has “told” me I am to make her a dress when she loses 20 pounds! Although I didn’t outright agree to her “request” – and I suspect the twenty pounds might make the request null and void – I already am worrying about it! Thanks for the thought-provoking realisms of sewing for someone else! All that said, the dress and bolero jacket for your friend are just beautiful – she must be thrilled!ReplyCancel

  • Leah - Don’t stop talking about your sewing, instead say it is your hobby. (which it now is again). Since sewing was your profession for a while, I can see where it was hard to say no. But just keep repeating – it’s my hobby!
    The dress is lovely, as usual, you did a great job.
    Can’t ever seeing myself sewing on commission – all the issues you mentioned make it very hard. I have a ton of respect for professional seamstresses.ReplyCancel

  • StinaP - For a couple of years, I made dresses and skirts and capes and blouses for friends and colleagues and acquaintances. They paid for fabric and all notions – of course – and also for my hours. But not nearly enough to cover my actual hours spent, although the finished garment by no means was cheap. Their clothes turned out beautiful, my customers very happy, and I was thrilled to see their happiness. However, I have a demanding regular job, and I never had time to sew for myself, so I stopped sewing on commission. It was the right choice, and I’ve never regretted it. But there are some parts I miss; especially the planning. Designing, choosing fabric and then making the first fitting. And of course, the moment when she puts on her new dress and says she’s never felt so beautiful before…

    As long as I can’t find a way to charge enough and have time enough, I won’t do custom work again. Somewhere, it’s still kind of a dream. But perhaps best kept as a dream?

    That said, the outfit is stunning. The bolero even more!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Miller - First of all….what a beautiful dress, and that bolero has the most beautiful back detail! My beautiful wedding dress in 2011 was custom made by a lovely woman who gave me (a complete stranger) a great deal and was wonderful to work with. I sewed many, many years ago and was inspired by her to begin again. And so I began again. Slowly, but slowly. And I will enjoy sewing for myself and maybe for gifting as my skills return. But as a business? No way. Except the rehearsal dinner dress my daughter has requested. (am I stressing already? Oh yes!)ReplyCancel

  • Stillsewing - Well done on such detailed made to measure garments.

    I’m afraid that over the years when asked, I have always maintained that I only sew for pleasure and that I only know my own size and am not good at making to measure for others. I got my fingers burned early on when I spent long periods of time making for friends and then realising that the finshed item was not what they wanted or had imagined. This was when none of us had any money so that was not an issue then.

    I also think that I would not be detached enough to sew a design or colour that I do not like. So well done on all fronts!ReplyCancel

  • Ola Russek - If your friend ever comes across this post, she will probably feel really bad about asking you to sew this dress :(ReplyCancel

    • Becky Thompson - Nonsense. It’s not the customer’s fault that Sunni:
      1. Didn’t say No to start with.
      2. Suggested difficult fabrics to work with.
      3. Procrastinated.
      4. Didn’t charge what she and her time are worth.

      This is a sewing blog and she’s lamenting about very real issues in our world. I appreciate that she posted about this because this post, and all the responses, help me in my sewing experiences. The customer is just a catalyst – it’s nothing personal at all because we’ve all been there.ReplyCancel

  • Debera - The dress and bolero are beautiful! Like everyone else who has persisted to develop the mysterious skill of sewing, I often get requests to sew things. Sometimes people I barely know ask me to sew them things. I’m also a lawyer, so I’ve become accustomed to people who want to impose on my time and get something for free. Over the years, I learned to politely cut the conversation short, state my hourly rate, and suggest an appointment. I also point out that I only work when I’m in my office and that backyard BBQ’s and cocktail parties aren’t proper places to think through complicated issues and offer sound advice. This approach also works well for sewing requests. I quote my hourly rate (the same rate as for practicing law, which is pretty high and which nobody has EVER agreed to pay for sewing) and explain that this doesn’t include materials. Then I refer them to the local shop where they can take sewing lessons and suggest that the cost of lessons and a sewing machine might even be cheaper than what I would charge for a single garment, bag, set of throw pillows, etc. That usually does the trick. When someone is intent on offending me by suggesting that I owe them a freebie, I don’t feel bad at all if I happen to offend back by insisting on getting paid what I’m worth. I only spent 7 years earning my law degree. I’ve spent much more time than that working on my sewing skills! My husband is the only one who gets a free pass :)ReplyCancel

    • Sylvia Long - Debra,
      Such a lucid response!
      Thank you for putting all the years of experience and practice,that sewing well takes, into clear terms. I often think that we sewists had a measurable way of certifying our years of training ‘perhaps’ people wouldn’t assume we should work for free. Your reminder that they will anyway, and I just need to put my boundery in place,is freeing, and helped me to decide to be more blunt with requests. Thanks!
      Beautiful outfit! And a timely post that reminds me to be an adult and be true to what I really want to invest my time into. :). I’ve done this way too many times, myself. I appreciate your honesty and all of the wisdom I’m gleaning from the comments!ReplyCancel

  • Marnie - I write hand-knitting and crochet patterns and I absolutely love it. I’ve written many patterns and produced many samples but I hate hate hate knitting for hire. It is so labor intensive and I am always under-selling myself. I look at other types of skilled labor that is more frequently done by men like plumbing or electrical work. I have years and years of experience and I knit and crochet very well, and efficiently, but most people would be unwilling to even pay me minimum wage for my labor, while they’ll pay a mechanic $75 an hour for their labor plus the price of materials.

    On the rare occasion I have agreed to knit a commissioned piece, I’ve hated every moment of it. It’s time I’m not spending on a project I want to make for a purpose I’m not excited for and it’s not paying me as well as even an entry-level job would. It’s satisfying when someone appreciates it but they often feel they’ve done me a favor and it usually just results in their asking for more items or recommending my services to someone else which means I’ve simply delayed having to firmly say no to something I don’t want to be doing.ReplyCancel

  • Linda Lincoln - I quickly learned 20 years ago, to use the word NO, after agreeing to sew satin jackets for a coworker’s son. He was a boxer and need jackets for himself and his assistants. It was soo stressful, I made a deal with myself to NEVER sew for anyone else again except gifts and family. I obsessed over that project so much that I decided, NEVER AGAIN. It gave me chest pain.ReplyCancel

  • Judi Short - I can totally relate, Sunni. I don’t recall ever sewing for pay, although I have done a few freebies (like ski clothes from a kit) back when I was young and naive. I don’t get enough done for myself, much less others. Frequently, I think I will make something for someone as a gift, and notice that all I do is put it off until the last minute and then hate myself for that, or never do it at all and then don’t have the birthday gift or Christmas gift. Then I feel more guilty.My brother is always asking for “his favorite pants” which are a big baggy cotton with big pockets to wear around the house in the wildest print imaginable. They are simple to make, I have probably made 10 or so pairs over the years, and for a simple project, they take forever.

    I think we get too much pleasure out of sewing for ourselves, that sewing for others doesn’t give us the same kick. This peach dress is terrific, by the way. I think wedding clothes are often pretty ugly, and seldom worn again, which isn’t my idea of a good garment either, I wear things that I love and fit perfectly until they are falling apart. So, don’t feel guilty, just say NO!ReplyCancel

  • Show and Tell Meg - I’m with you – If I’m sewing for myself or am making a gift on my own terms, I enjoy it. If I am doing mindless alterations or making something for a friend because they guilted me into it, I hate the entire process. Year ago, I was obsessed with photography (alt process film and artsy stuff), which of course lead people to ask me to take pictures for them. Eventually my husband and I started a little photography business on the side shooting weddings and families and whatnot to try and squeeze a little money out of our hobby, but I quickly burned out. I had people whining about things that they didn’t understand, wanting to pay me less and less, and after a few nightmare weddings I finally said enough is enough and stopped altogether. That was about 4 years ago, and to this day it feels like work when I pick up a camera and I just mentally block it – even when the pictures are for myself. I really learned my lesson then, and now I am much more able to separate my hobby life and real life. I use sewing (and knitting and crocheting) as my creative outlet. I make what I want, when I want, and how I want without having to answer to anyone, and it keeps me sane. I’ve tried doing a few custom orders for friends and I always hate it the entire time and I put it off til the last second or end up feeling completely taken advantage of because I did the work too cheap. *Sigh* Sorry to rant. I know some people are able to work in the sewing industry after picking it up as a hobby first, but I’ve gone down that road before and I can’t afford to not have my favorite creative outlet again. It definitely was hard to tell people no at first (I was raised as a total people pleaser), but it’s like exercising a muscle and it becomes easier the more you do it :)ReplyCancel

  • Karen - When I was 10 years old, my mother made a decision to never sew for anyone but herself and me ever again. When, at 27, I found myself angry and resentful about 2 sewing projects I had agreed to, I understood why. I understand your dilemma completely. Somehow all the joy of sewing disappears when doing it as a “job.”

    As for saying no to requests, here’s what worked for me: Until you feel more comfortable, say “Let me think about it and get back to you.” You then have time to work up the nerve and find (or make up) the “good reason” to say no later. Good luck! :)ReplyCancel

  • Molly K - I like that Heather (with the raincoats, above) had the price and time information right when she was asked. That is key, to give that information right off the bat for the person asking, that it costs me this much in materials and it takes me this many hours to make it, and I value my time too much to work for free. Sometimes we don’t know the costs yet, but we can estimate it better than our non-sewing friend can, just to give them an idea. Most people really don’t have a budget for custom sewing. It’s also what I explain to people when they compliment my work with, “You could sell these.” “Thanks! But no. I couldn’t. Here’s why it’s not worth it for me…”

    Sometimes the friend who is asking might be taking advantage, but I think most times, they just don’t know. How would they? I never would have known the work that goes into a custom sewing job before I did it myself, so I try to remember what that’s like and respond kindly. And I agree with JenL that although it might not feel like the friendly thing to do to be upfront about costs, it is kinder to be clear instead of resenting them for not understanding all on their own what your time and costs were.

    I enjoyed all the other comments. Never thought about what it would be like to have to put your name on a sewing job of a design you don’t like! And yes, all the time invested in learning this skill… How is that different from the value of other professions’ skills??ReplyCancel

  • justine - Usually when I give the a realistic price,which is a flat rate which includes a realistic estimate of my labor and includes fabric, people in my area just decide it’s too expensive. People seem to think a custom sewn wedding gown can be made for under, say, 600 bucks. Not going to happen.ReplyCancel

    • justine - And I forgot to mention the outfit is gorgeous. And it’s not easy to get that color to look good! Love the style lines on the bolero.ReplyCancel

  • Amy - When living in Fiji I was asked to make a sulu chaba (traditional dress) for a neighbour for a wedding the next day. I said yes… First mistake! She also gestured vaguely at what I was wearing and said just something like you are wearing would be nice. I was wearing a RTW dress they I didn’t know how to replicate for myself let along someone else who was a very different shape to me. I asked if she had something that fit her that I could copy. So I made a pattern from that and spent the day frantically trying to make it (while my kids where either in front of a dvd or racing round the house). It was highly stressful and the end fit wasn’t great and she didn’t end up wearing it! So it was a waste of time, except that it has helped me to be able to say no in the future so not a waste in that regard.
    The outfit you made is just beautiful, well done!ReplyCancel

  • Claire - I rarely sew for others but do take on the occasional piece. I made a custom fit dress for a lady this summer, she had already chosen pattern,fabric and notions. I just had to cut and sew and muslin and fit and make pattern styling adjustments. However I did charge for my time and skills and received a good rate. Because I gave myself plenty of time to complete it, and got a good rate I really enjoyed the task. It’s not always been like that though.ReplyCancel

  • Anita Haynes - What a gift you have. Sometimes we forget that sharing a gift is for the soul. I don’t have your gift of talent creativity and skill. I’m sure you have no idea the pleasure you gave to your friend and the mother.I hope she knows she got a lot from you for the price paid. As you may have guessed just sewing a straight seam gives me joy and so far I only dream of having your talent.ReplyCancel

  • Robyn - Beautiful work, Sunni. It is so hard sometimes to say ‘no’ to others. It sometimes seems like a huge compliment when they ask me to do custom sewing for them. But…..I also find it very nerve wrecking and I worry about the outcome and then I feel badly for charging what I know I’m worth. I have learned to say instead, “No, but, I can teach you to do it.” I am so much happier sewing for myself and sharing my love of sewing with others by helping and teaching them. (But, I am guessing you understand that too!?)ReplyCancel

  • EmSewCrazy - I concur with everyone on that beautiful dress. Love the pleated bodice and the back of the bolero.
    I have learned to give an hourly wage quote and refuse people who set off alarm bells in me. I love the thrill when they put on that handmade thing but it is much more stressful than sewing for myself. I too hate keeping track of my hours. I have a stop watch I click on and off to keep track of. I need to get better at getting a down payment. Lots of good advice here!ReplyCancel

  • Bernice - Beautiful dress!!
    Interesting discussion on custom sewing. As a few others have mentioned, I’ve gotten into the habit of explaining that sewing is my hobby and for my own pleasure, and that I don’t sew for others. When I get the occasional request to mend something, I explain my rule: you must come and visit with me while I do it. This way we can chat while I hem the pants or whatever, and they can understand what’s involved. Not many take me up on this.ReplyCancel

  • Lena - I do custom sewing, and yes, should be charging more, but, as others said, people don’t think clothes are worth spending on. Plumbers in my area charge $100 per hour plus mileage and call out fee. Try quoting this rate for a custom garment sewing lol.ReplyCancel

  • eimear - that is stunning – and its an unforgiving design if there was any slip ups – well done doing it under pressure, and the voluteering of the chiffon. and i am in a similar situation in that I am making a irish dance dress for my 12 year old niece and I volunteered not having a clue what i was really letting myself in for (my ‘how hard can it be’ attitude’ getting me into hot water again),better get back to the machine……………ReplyCancel

  • Becky Thompson - I’ve been sewing all my life and only recently have been “hard core” at it (wearing my own garments to work). And while I love compliments and get a secret thrill when I reply, “Thank you! I made it myself!” that only invites the inevitable. Just yesterday a coworker asked me for a full-on maxi out the fabric I had made my skirt from. Hard? Probably not. But I told her, “I’m sorry but I’ve only ever sewn for myself and my skillset isn’t there to sew for others.” I explained that I’d be freaked out the entire time that I’d screw it up…yada, yada. Truly, my specialty is alterations and I moonlight as the “Zipper lady” for a local laundry & cleaners. Even then I say “No” if pants aren’t clean. Dirty fly? #Nasty. And I don’t know how it happened, but this past Weds I was schnookered into creating a bathrobe for a 4 year old out of a 1X size RTW garment so that it looks like GGmas, Grammys, & mom’s for Christmas. One moment me and my besties were all sitting around a table and I was lamenting my frustration with sandwiching a quilt, and the next, Grammy is showing off her catalog bathrobe purchase and all the girls are talking about how easy it should be to alter one for the child. I never actually said, “Yes” but I’m pretty sure I’m on the hook…with a Christmas deadline. Fabulous.ReplyCancel

  • poldapop - I really enjoy custom work. I took a part-time job earlier this year so I haven’t been able to do it as much as I like. I enjoy the relationship I get to develop when making clothes for people, and the joy it gives them to have something that truly fits. I have also learned a ton from doing this and I feel like it has greatly expanded my skill set. Don’t get me wrong – it’s hard and frustrating and scary, and I don’t always get paid what I should (my own fault, I’m still learning how to estimate cost), but it’s also a wonderful challenge and enormously satisfying. One thing I’ve started doing with estimates is to figure out how many hours I think it will take, then add more hours because I always underestimate, and finally ask myself, “What amount will make me happy about working on this, so that I’m not always watching the clock or feeling resentful.” I’ve got a ton to learn but I wish I could do custom work as a full-time job.ReplyCancel

  • Sharon - I love all the comments here.
    I have a few responses depending on the requester. Sometimes, when I have the time and the project isn’t too hairy, I will say “I don’t sew for money but I will for a favor.” Last year I did a pretty simple alteration for a friend this way and I didn’t resent it at all. I also didn’t feel pressure to be too meticulous because I wasn’t charging and I’m sure she didn’t even notice.
    Usually I just say that sewing is my hobby, I have a job and a child, and I don’t have time for any additional sewing. If I charged the same as what I make at my regular job people would probably gasp, even though it probably wouldn’t be unreasonable.
    I love to give hand sewn gifts because I think they are so special. I made some baby leggings and a headband for a friend. She asked me if it saved money to sew and I said, “No way.”ReplyCancel

  • Linda Galante - OMG, I know just what you mean! No is a great word. I gave in to the request of a friend very recently and spent hours struggling with an impossible fit situation made even worse by her fabric choice. Then, after constructing it then reconstructing it to her specifications, she decided she didn’t really like the color. HELP ME! It was so much work and so horrifying to have her turn her nose up at it. NEVER AGAIN.That is one gorgeous dress though, and poly is really horrid to get to look crisp – – nice job! Im sure your coworker appreciates your efforts.ReplyCancel

  • Miss Amy - I made a bikini is foil effect dancewear fabric recently for a colleague who is a body builder. I had never used the fabric before nor made a bikini. Off my head on anxiety for a week (yeah also decided a tight deadline was a good idea) convinced I was going to let her down. Fortunately I am getting married so I have a convenient reason why I can do no adjustments or makes until after the wedding. Still feel bad saying no though. *sigh*ReplyCancel

  • Anne - Well, I don’t get asked – I think me saying I’m a beginner helps that! I wouldn’t even consider doing it though. I say – but I did agree to my daughter’s request to make her wedding dress. She’s my daughter. And she was keen for a dress made by me, even if it was very simple, rather than a fancier dress not made by me. She knows I’m a beginner, so I would have said was under no illusion but I think it was me that was! I will be getting help (I’ll be paying for some individual wedding-dress-related lessons in addition to the classes I attend). The dress (and related) will take up an enormous amount of time. She’s worth it.ReplyCancel

  • Jill - I don’t custom sew, except for little kids. Kids are amazed by what I do. They think my sewing machine is magic. They are curious and want to know more about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it and what this deelybob and that doohickey are for. They appreciate the finished product.

    Adults just assume it’s so eeeeaassy. And because it’ comes so easy for me, I should do it all for free. Or charge for a custom job the same price one would pay at, say, Walmart. That whole list of things to remember in your post is lost on adults.

    Easiest way to nicely say no: Respond sweetly with, “Sure! I charge $X per hour for my time and a job like this will probably take Y hours. Let me know for sure what you’d like to do” You’ll probably never hear from them again….but you didn’t say “no”! Someone that really respects your time and values your talent will make it worth your while.ReplyCancel

  • Lacey - I can relate! I love to think about sewing, read about sewing, and shop endlessly for sewing. But the minute I’m doing it for a job (I’m a seamstress), it is not a lot of fun. :( But, it helps pay the bills and allows me to work from home. I do think the fast-fashion industry has “trained” people to think clothing should be cheap. Lots of brides/bridesmaids get sticker shock when they find out what alterations cost. (I always give estimates before I do any work, which helps cut down unnecessary extras.) Also, I think there is a perception that sewing must be kinda easy… after all practically everyone’s grandma can sew (especially here in the Midwest.)ReplyCancel


I’ve been a Bernina lover for a long time and I still am. I own a little Bernina Activa 230 and that machine has seen me through thick and thin, literally. Honestly, I didn’t even know how much I loved that machine until I started trying others and working on machines that students would bring to classes I taught. Not trying to bag on any machine, but wow, I noticed a world of difference. Machines that wouldn’t even sew through a certain thickness of fabric (like 2 layers of wool), had crummy, crummy tension problems, made frightful buttonholes, tears started flying when the word “zipper” was mentioned – things I’ve never really dealt with coming from my experience with my Bernina.

Then I decided that I was interested in doing a collaboration with a sewing machine company. There are a lot of reasons why, but let’s just say that I was interested. I did ask Bernina and never got a response. So I looked elsewhere. I had worked on a couple of Pfaffs that students had brought into some of my classes, and I was impressed with their simplicity and ease of use and so I thought I would ask Pfaff if they were interested. And they were. We all got to talking and emailing and we made a deal and by August of this year or so, I had a shiny new Pfaff Performance 5.0 in my possession.


For what it’s worth, and since I’ve had some time to get used to my new machine I thought I would go ahead and give an honest review of my experience with it and what I think. Coming from my great experience with my Bernina, I thought this might be a helpful review if you’re in the market for something new. There’s more than one fish in the sea, it seems.


Let’s start with this. Not only do I love Berninas now, but I passionately love Pfaffs. This machine is marvelous to work with. Again, I have the Pfaff Performance 5.0. This machine has a beautiful stitch. Perfect tension. Truly, perfect. And the great part is, it is perfect even when the fabric is really really thick, or if you’ve got a nice heavy topstitch thread plugged in (something my Bernina struggled with, but still did a passable job). I ALWAYS look at this sort of thing first. A big win there. This machine is a computerized machine, but the computer system is surprisingly easy to use. I say that dreading any kind of “getting used to” computer things on anything. The learning curve here is pretty intuitive. There were very few things that I couldn’t just figure out on my own and the simple manual that comes with this machine is helpful (and simplified – did I mention it’s simple?).


There’s a crazy amount of stitches on this girl. As someone who doesn’t use that many to begin with, I was impressed and then more impressed to find that the stitches are pretty fun to use if and when you get the chance. The triple straight stitch is pretty amazing; my Bernina can’t hold a candle to it. There’s several really, really awesome buttonholes and I love the buttonhole foot that already calculates how big to make your buttonhole just by having a pre-specified size already programmed into the computer interface. I still have to measure the button and do a tester but, it’s a nice change to calculating the right size for my Bernina buttonhole (though my Bernina makes beautiful buttonholes too).

pfaff-love-7I’m loving the control I feel with this machine. The foot pedal is absolutely marvelous. You have so much control – it’s not just a race car right out of the gate. Still getting used to the knee lift (pictured above – no, that is not just some random crap shot of my dirty sewing room! ha ha!), but I’m beginning to love this more and more. It’s nice to have more free hands in various parts of the sewing process. I die over the free arm space. Feel like I could shove a quilt through that free arm. It’s that big! You can take the bed of the machine out and voila, instant sleeve bed. Love that.



IDT is pretty amazing. I love that you can use it or not. Like when I’m putting in a sleeve, don’t want IDT. But when I’m stitching on a voile, chiffon or other lightweight fabric, this is a dream! No ripples (or lots fewer ripples) and the stitch is even. (IDT is short for Integrated Dual Feed and it’s Pfaff’s built in system for the foot and the feed dogs to feed the fabric evenly – like a walking foot, but without having to change the foot out). In the photo above, the IDT thing-a-ma-jig is that blackish foot at the back of the presser foot.


My Pfaff came with a plethora of sewing machine feet. They are snap on – not my favorite, but I love the fact that they are more evenly priced and I’m loving the clear feet that I’ve got (how did I ever live without these before!). The invisible zipper foot is marvelous and so is the regular zipper foot – my favorite thus far out of all the machines I have ever used. The bobbin is topside. At first I was turned off by this, but the stitch is so marvelous I can’t complain. I love the old-school storage for feet and bobbins in the bed of the machine. Such a simple thing, but something that ticked for me.


I think that about wraps it up. This machine is a goodie and I’m thrilled to be collaborating with Pfaff for it. There’s a crew of us over at the Sewing Party that are working with some fun machine brands and contributing to this site. Lots of good stuff going on over there! Really good stuff. Definitely check it out. And hey, if you’re in the market for a new machine, come this holiday season, get yourself over to a Pfaff dealer and give these guys a test run. Worth. every. cent. Just sayin. I’m giving the Pfaff Performance 5.0 a 5-star rating.

  • francesca - Integrated dual feed – wow, I’m jealous! I can’t believe how rude Bernina were not to even reply to you. And this is coming from a Bernina user! I actually started with singers, moved on to Pfaff, and then got the Bernina 1008 as a present last year – because I truly wanted a mechanical. I love it but have spent a fortune on invisible zipper foot, bed add-on, and assorted other feet including a walking foot – which has of course made a huge difference to sewing knits etc etc. I still love my basic “Hobby” Pfaff and still use it sometimes even though it’s less sophisticated. This machine looks amazing. Thanks for the temptation :)ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - I’ve worked on those “Hobby” machines with students and was very impressed – they are marvelous. I too love my Bernina, but I like you, have spent a small fortune on the feet. I think I remember my walking foot coming in at around the $175 area, so I do like that the Pfaff feet are much more affordable, even if they are snap on.ReplyCancel

  • Angela - I read this article with intense interest! You see… much like you I have a Bernina. And, there is much to love about it, exponentialy better than the cheap machine I had before the Bernie. But, for me, there were also some issues I had with my Bernina. To be honest, I felt like a traitor after so many people just loved, loved, loved their Berninas. One of my problems was simply being able to sew and have stripes match up. And I tried everything – pinning all over the place, using the walking foot that I detested, basting first, whatever and one day I read someone raving about their Pfaff and the IDT.

    I did some research, and ended up getting exactly the model you reviewed! And, I love so much about it! Right now, that is the machine that is sitting out and being used, not the Bernina. The IDT makes sewing with stripes and flimsy materials so much easier. Honestly, while I agree that Bernina makes a good machine, far studier than some others out there…I would steer someone towards a Pfaff based on my experience. You don’t need to mortgage the house to get a machine and feet to the degree that Bernina requires, the IDT is WONDERFUL and far better (IMHO) than the walking foot, and the feet are definitely less expensive (although Bernina marks their feet with numbers much more clearly than Pfaff feet, one of my little pet peeves with Pfaff). If I could turn back the clock a few years, I would hands down leave the Bernina at the store and get the Pfaff in the first place. Oona Balloona (the bloggist) has the same feelings – tried a Bernina but ended up with a Pfaff and is head over heels in love with it, just didn’t “feel it” with the Berninas she tried.

    I’m looking forward to hearing others responses.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - The IDT is truly amazing and it’s nice to know that Pfaff has had the handle on this technology for so long – they’ve worked out all the kinks. I have to admit, I don’t know how I would feel if I walked into a shop now and tried a Pfaff up against a Bernina. They both have really really strong points and I have years of experience with my Bernina. But I’m getting swayed over into Pfaff territory, slowly but surely.ReplyCancel

  • Genevieve - What a terrific review Sunni! If I didnt already have a TOL machine, I might consider a Pfaff based soley on your review. I use a Brother VQ3000, the DreamCreator. I love it! It produces beautiful stitches as well. Keep up the great posting :)

    • Sunni

      Sunni - This is really great to hear! I love it when people are having great experiences with sewing machines. Having bad experiences is so awful and makes you want to quit! Ugh!ReplyCancel

  • Jane - This sounds like a great machine. All those stitches!! Anything that can embroider a row of hearts and elephants like that has to be good.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - I know! It’s got more stitches than I know what to do with, but really fun and as I was messing around on it the other night, the creative juices started flowing as to what I could do with some of them. So much fun!ReplyCancel

  • Laurie - I have the last all metal, all mechanical Pfaff machine made. (Tipmatic series, top of the line). It will sew through triple layer flat felled seams on hemp denim gliding over seams where there are eight thicknesses of fabric without a hiccup. It will sew through leather with the right needle. And it will not make a mess of slinky crepe de chine and other squirmy fabrics. It doesn’t have the fancy stitches, well, it has a couple, but it is my workhorse and I am spoiled by its Teutonic precision. I too wanted a Bernina and ended up with a Pfaff. So glad.ReplyCancel

    • Angela - I’d love one of the all-metal ones!!!ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - Wow. This makes my heart sing. I too would love an all metal machine! Something to keep an eye out for in the future!ReplyCancel

  • Roslyn - I really really appreciate detailed reviews and pics on sewing machines. Where I live, there are no sewing machines dealers. None! What I can access, equates to what a person in the USA would pick up from a big box store. I am drooling over this Pfaff! It looks lovely! Would you be to update on your experience though in a few more months? I’ve seen some reviews where users complained of tension and error message problems after a few months use.ReplyCancel

  • Laurie - I have Pfaffs! They are just about the only machine I’ve ever sewn on so I was surprised to read this article. I thought all machines did what Pfaffs do! I have a 1999 and a 2008 models. My mom though, has one from the 1950’s that her aunt’s sister used to be a dealer for. She could do fancy schmancy stitchery with it, something my mom doesn’t remember. How fun that you have a Pfaff!

  • Ramona Walter - Loved the review. Big question. What is the price range on this machine.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - I was told around $3000, but I know that when you go into a dealer, you can usually negotiate. Around the holidays or even after there always seems to be good sales on machines.ReplyCancel

      • Angela - Mine was about 2500.00 – but I forget the exact amount.ReplyCancel

  • Ellie - I have a Bernina 1130 that is still a joy to sew on. It was a gift many, many years ago. Is it possible to find and compare prices on Pfaff machines? I can’t ever seem to find a price online for Berninas. I had occasion to help a new sewer with a very inexpensive machine recently and it totally failed to sew over more that a couple of layers of cotton material. I can only imagine what it would be like to sew over layers of denim! Well, off to pull out that almost 30 year old Bernini and do some sewing…ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - I know exactly what you mean. I paid around $1200 for my Bernina and this Pfaff, I was told retails around $3000. I’m also wondering if Pattern Review would tell the prices of certain machines. I know they do machine reviews on there which are really helpful and I’m seeming to remember that the range of price is included with the review?ReplyCancel

  • Linda Galante - Congrats on your new collaboration! I love my Bernina but have found the tension adjustments of late to be a bit challenging as I’ve taken some different projects. It’s nice to know there are other machine options out there. I’ll look forward to seeing your new creations.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - Tension is such a hard subject! I’ve seen some machines with seriously crummy tension and it’s nice to know that it’s the machine and not you! I know that my Bernina dealer will do trade-ins, have you ever thought of that?ReplyCancel

  • Lori - congrats on your new machine and the collaboration. I appreciate your honest review. I have the TOL emb/sewing Pfaff machine and love it. I took this love of this machine and purchased an Ambition 1.0 for third daughter. She was a then 18 year old who loves to quilt. Her twin (daughter 4) started to love quilting but didn’t want that machine, so we stepped down to the Ambition Essential. This was in 2013. Well, we do not own either of these machines any longer (the Essential as of last night). I believe the lint gets under the bobbin and causes so many issues, I could fix it but it would take multiple times of removing the throat plate and the bobbin case to make it run smoothly again. As you know, nothing is more frustrating than a machine that won’t work correctly. I asked my daughters if they wanted to upgrade to a more expensive Pfaff. They said no, not at all. One owns a Janome now and last night we traded the Pfaff for a Viking. The Pfaff would not work at all this weekend for my daughter and it sealed its fate!

    The IDT on the Pfaff is the best for so many sewing needs. So Pfaff, if you are listening, take a look at this issue. I don’t believe it is a coincidence, since my daughters have had this many times and a good friend owns the Ambition 1.0 and experiences this all the time. Now, take in mind they are quilters and use precuts lots, thus more lint.

    Sorry to leave such a comment, but I thought I was a perfect opportunity for Pfaff to see.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - Thank you Lori! I think this is a great place for Pfaff to see this problem – thanks so much for posting this problem. As a former small business owner, I know that I wouldn’t usually know that something was a problem unless someone brought it up to me. Customer feedback is great in that way!ReplyCancel

  • Stillsewing - Good to see you back writing your blog. As ever an interesting topic.

    Well done on getting your hand on such a fine machine. I got my Pfaff 7550 in1995 and have used it for practically everything since. I love it! I came to it via many Singers, and one truly awful Brother and cannot believe how good this machine is. The tension is the most important feature of any machine as far as I am concerned, for puckered seams are such a no-no. The tension is the best feature of this machine as far as I am concerned. My machine like yours has more stiches than I will ever use but is so reliable. Your one has more advanced features, eg thread cut off, but I think that I live without this. As far as I am aware mine is a metal one so another reason to hold on to it!

    The only crib I have with my machine is the zip foot. In desperation I bought a Janome last year, when I had a jacket with the zip removed for repair and the Pfaff could not handle it. A fairly basic (entry line computer model) has filled the bill quite nicely. Now I have the luxury of two machines which is fantastic when working on a project that needs two different threads.

    Bottom line though the Pfaff is my prefered go to machine.ReplyCancel

  • Chris - I bought a Pfaff 2140 over ten years ago and still use it every day. Love the Idt, I’ve made everything from bridal to curtains. Even though it cost alot at the time (about 2000 euro I think),it has been well worth it.ReplyCancel

  • Diane - My dear husband bought me this exact machine for Valentines Day to replace a very old, worn out Pfaff that I had been using for years. I love this machine!! I did try out some other brands but for me, nothing sews like a Pfaff!ReplyCancel

  • Janet - I just test drove a Pfaff at the Creativ Festival in Toronto last month. I have an entry level mechanical Janome and I used to teach with Berninas. I couldn’t decide which brand of machine I would purchase because I am due for new machinery!! I fell in love with the Pfaff! Thank you for the review.ReplyCancel

  • Nancy N - GREAT POST! I too am a Bernina-hugger. Mom gave me a 730 mechanical in 1981 (used) and IT IS STILL SEWING ALL MY PROJECTS–leather doublets, wool frock coat, canvas cushions, gauzy lingerie! I inherited her 830 when she died, and it is a honey, although I like the 730 better for its buttonholes and zipper insertion. I also have her Bernina Serger 2000D, but sadly the edge of the needle plate cracked off last summer, and replacements are NOT available. SIGH. Does Pfaff have a good serger? I see ebay has Bernina servers that are similar to mine the 2000DCE, do you have experience with them? My repair guy retired and I have to drive 50 miles to get to another one.
    Thanks for the helpful review and comments,
    Nancy N in NYCReplyCancel

  • Cathi - I love my Creative Performance, but hate the zipper foot! I’d love to hear you explain why you like it so much. I know I have it on properly, but find no marking or spot by which to judge a 1/4″ seam allowance.ReplyCancel

  • Karen Mulkey - I’ve been sewing with Pfaff machines (have 3) for the last 25 years and I wouldn’t change. The IDT feature is fabulous!!!ReplyCancel

  • Heather - Thanks for your review Sunni! I have a Creative Performance and I love it, but I’ve always wondered how it compares to Bernina. You know on the part the pops up with all the stitches? On the far right there’s a little ruler where I measure my buttons to determine the length of the buttonhole – I usually just add 1mm and that works out well for me.ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn - Very nice review! I’m curious about your comment regarding snap-on feet. Most of my feet for my beloved little Bernette are also snap-on, but I’ve seen many folks comment that they prefer regular feet and will drop quite a bit of money for them on Bernina machines. What do you find to be the difference? Thanks! :)ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - Usually with Bernina feet, you receive the foot and the shaft all in one. The ease with which you change out a Bernina foot is pretty amazing and the feet themselves feel like you could run over them several times with your car and they would still be usable (ok, I might be exaggerating just a bit). They are very sturdy. The snap on feet just take some getting used to and I am getting the hang of them now. I prefer the way you change out a Bernina foot, but as for the feet themselves in contrast with the Pfaff, I really like the feet that Pfaff puts out. The functionality of the clear feet is pretty great and honestly, the IDT takes the cake and helps the feet that it works with so much. That saying “You can’t have it all” is apropos here. If I could build the machine from my head, I would use elements from both machines that I love and ditch the things I don’t love so much – but then again I don’t know anything about building sewing machines, so I can’t really talk. Anyway, I love my Pfaff. I just love it!ReplyCancel

  • Robyn - Love your review of this machine. I like it too. (athou, I do not own it) Most of the machine that Pfaff makes a wonderful. I love, love the IDT system too. So very handy to have when one needs it. The button holes are some of the best I have ever seen. Thank you for such a great review.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa-jo Powless - I have been wanting to get a new PFAFF for a while now. I have the Creative 1471, an ancestor of this machine, I believe. It was new to the computerized scene years ago when they were just getting started with that. I love it. I love IDT. I love no tension problems whatsoever. I love PFAFF!
    Thanks for the awesome review! I’ll be shopping soon!ReplyCancel

  • Janette - I too have the P5.0 machine, her name is Pfenella…… She is probably the last sewing machine I will buy, my machine of a lifetime. I moved on to her from a Husqvarna Viking. The darn thing struggled with thicker layers of fabric, didn’t like denim and sewing around the base of a bag with its multiple layers was nigh on impossible.
    But Pfenella doesn’t bat an eyelid at such things. Just powers on through. I recently made a coat using a plaid, and the pattern matching was amazing. No slippage. I also love the extra wide embroidery stitches it does. Beautiful.
    Luckily, I got her at a knock down price from a dealer – massive 40% discount from Pfaff. Thankyou Pfaff. 😀ReplyCancel

  • Debra - Really? The drop in bobbin produces a stitch with perfect tension? I always loved Pfaffs until I got the Creative Vision with drop in bobbin. I had three different machines and they could not get any to stitch right. I have wanted to have another Pfaff but have been afraid. I have a Bernina now and I like it but I still long for a Pfaff. Does your machine have a stitch creator function?ReplyCancel

  • Chris Redmon - I was a professional period designer and seamstress when I found Pfaff 31 years ago. I bought the very first computerized creative model available in the U.S. and LOVED it immediately. I put it through more sewing of very heavy wools, canvases and leathers as well as working on $450+ per yard silks and other fine fabrics. It never had a problem. I travelled with it and it was the easiest machine to take, knowing it would always perform. I finally succumbed to wanting a new machine a few years ago, after my 29 year-old Pfaff had been for annual service and I was told I should be looking for a new replacement. I didn’t feel it worth a four hour drive to the then nearest Pfaff dealer. I got a top end Husqvarna and knew it would be a big step down from a Pfaff,but I had no idea how truly big a step down it was. It couldn’t handle fine fabrics or heavy ones without lots of adjusting tensions. It had no dual feed unless you purchased a clunky special foot that still didn’t do a decent job. I used the machine limitedly for a while and finally sold it to a beginning sewer who was ecstatic about getting it. I’m still using my old Pfaff Creative of 31 years and will continue until it dies.ReplyCancel

  • Meigan - Hi Sunni, I bought a new Pfaff Expression 3.5 last fall and I really love it too. I had been using my 16 year old Singer up until then and wow, what a step up! The IDT is my favorite! Thanks for sharing your review.ReplyCancel

  • Kelley in VT - Sunni,
    I too have the Pfaff Performance 5.0 and love it. I also was a diehard Bernina girl before I got my Pfaffs. As you, I love them both.

    Thought you might like to know that the triple straight stitch is GREAT for emulating topstitching. You can use regular weight thread and get a topstitch look, which is amazing when you want to use an unusual thread color.

    I can also say that I am a big knee lift fan, but because the Pfaff Performance 5.0 has auto foot lift and the foot atomatically lowers when you start sewing I never put it on anymore. Don’t really need to. Thought you might be interested in that as well.

    I have a feeling the more you use the machine the more you will love it. My all time favorite presser foot whether I am on my Pfaff or Bernina is the narrow edge foot (Pfaff name). Know as a #10 edgestitch foot on the Bernina. Anything from topstitching, binding a quilt or stitching in the ditch, to name a few.

    So anyway, I am so glad that I am not the only one who loves both her Pfaffs and her Berninas.

    All the best,
    Kelley in VTReplyCancel

  • Arturo G. - Nice, honest review and congratulation on your new venture. Pfaff is a wonderful brand. My mother sewed on Pfaff, I never did because I always sewed on Brothers, Singers and other brands. Then I bought a Creative Vision back in 2009. Since then I have switched to the Pfaff side period. I upgrade every time a new TOL is released. I quilt and sew with pretty much every fabric out there and I always get perfect results. Love this brand and I will never stray from it hahaha..ReplyCancel

  • Joy - Thanks for this post, Sunni. And to all the readers who have commented. My Bernina Record is almost 40 years old and the bobbin winder cam has lost its gears. I have been looking at replacements for over a year and winding bobbins on my industrial Bernina. Alas, I sold the industrial Bernina a month ago after winding several extra bobbins. Now I need to get serious. Hoping for a good Christmas deal like you said. Wish me luck everyone! One question, though. Should I repair the Bernina or trade it? Thoughts? JoyReplyCancel

  • Ellen - I’ve sewn for over 50 years, and have owned many machines, from the Kenmore I took to college to my current Pffaf. Hand down the Pffaf is the best. I have a QuiltExpression 4.0, purchased used. I love it, and sewing has again become a joy., mostly due to the IDT. Stripes and plaids are no worry any longer. Love reading your posts, and have found your Craftsy zipper class very helpful. Here’s to many more projects on our Pffafs😉ReplyCancel

  • linton tweed » A Fashionable Stitch - […] took the time to do plaid matching and was very happy with the way my Pfaff stitched it together using that Integrated Dual Feed! I used the lining trick from this Threads […]ReplyCancel


It was fairly recently that I discovered that Style Arc now has an Etsy shop where you can purchase PDF versions of many of their patterns. I stalked it for awhile. I mean, I actually have several of their patterns that I’ve ordered and have the printed paper copy of (their official webstore is located here). Having only heard good things about Style Arc – especially as concerns fit – I’ve long wanted to try one. Why I couldn’t just settle for using one that I’ve already purchased I don’t know. I have that squirrel disease. “Oh look, SQUIRREL!!!!!!!” In other words, my attention span has been fairly short lately.


It only got shorter when I saw a few versions of the Kate wrap dress. If there’s one thing that I know about myself, it’s this. I love wrap dresses, but never make them. Yet, whenever I’m pattern perusing/shopping, guess what pattern I always end up purchasing? Some sort of wrap dress. Always. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many I have. Another disease, I’m certain, but I have a lot of them. Wrap dress patterns, I mean. Not diseases. So the Kate dress. This one somehow, jumped into my Etsy shopping cart and was downloaded and printed before I could even mouth the words Kate in my half-crazed-Kate-Dress-looking-up-everything-and-every-image/review-internet-vortex-stupor.


I cut out and stitched up, what was supposed to be, a wearable muslin. That didn’t turn out. I mean they never do for me because I’m such a picky thing. I think I might finally be cured of the idea that I can make a wearable muslin. Ha. Anyway, the muslin told me a few things that I needed to fix and most importantly it told me that fabric choice in this dress is key. Non of that slinky, show-every-lump-and-bump kind of rayon jersey that I used in my muslin. I needed to use something beefier. So I decided to splurge on a stash piece of wool knit. It’s a pretty nice wool knit and it was perfect for the job.


All in all, I made very few alterations to the pattern, which I found impressive (and which then prompted me to go right ahead and purchase a couple more downloadables from the Etsy shop, but hey who’s keeping tabs on that kind of thing?). I opted to use the left front for both front wrap pieces – wasn’t wild about the tucks on the right front for me (even though yes, I tried them). I lowered the waistline to where my waistline actually is which was about 1 1/2″ down from the original pattern. I chopped about 2 1/2″ off the hem (after lowering the waist). I took 1/2″ off of the neckline all the way around because, hey I’m up for a little sex appeal here and there and a little more skin was just the ticket. I got rid of the tucks in the sleeve (personal preference) and shortened it a mite. Lengthened the tie about 15 inches (wanted to be able to tie in the front) and Voila! done. These are pretty minor tweaks if you ask me – most of which are purely aesthetic. I mean usually I have to do a major forward shoulder adjustment on the bodice coupled with a broad upper back adjustment. Add in a sway back, plus a serious side seam take-in at hips and waist even though my measurements are a whole inch bigger than the size chart measurements on the back of the pattern envelope (I’m sure y’all have no idea which pattern companies these might be, right? Right???)


Some construction deets. These Style Arc patterns come with a few lines of written instruction at best. I’m totally fine with this as I usually have a better construction method than the directions offer anyway. I opted to do a turned under neckline binding and I did the binding out of cotton/lycra jersey, for comfort. I applied it just like bias tape, due to the bulk, and then shortened it so that it hugged the neck. No gaping here! I used SewKeyZ woven stay tape for the shoulders and the knit stay tape for the hem of the dress. Used my coverstitch for the sleeve hem and dress hem and well, there’s not much more to say. This dress is easy peasy. Would even recommend to a beginner.


Wearing one of my Gertie slips underneath this dress and it works out wonderfully! Works well and makes it nice and comfortable against the itch factor of the wool – though the wool isn’t that itchy, slips or linings always help, in my opinion. Plus, in the event that our Utah wind flips the wrap flaps open, I’m covered, literally!

Expect more Kate Wraps in my future. I’m on the lookout for a printy ponte as I feel the print would hide some of those lumps and bumps better (I know, we all have them, well at least I do). This thing is just the ticket for a working girl. Secret pajamas I’m telling you. Plus, once I find the right silk jersey for the job, it’s full blown DVF territory – if I haven’t hit that already. For those interested, here’s my full review of this pattern. Cheers and here’s to a happy October!

  • Martha C - Wow! That turned out great! You look fantastic!Can’t go wrong with a classic wrap dress.ReplyCancel

  • Camilla - Very chic dress. Love the colour. P.s. I want your shoes :)ReplyCancel

  • Jane - What a fabulous dress. A perfect fit. I’ve been reading a lot about Style Arc patterns recently and I did spend quite a long time on their website recently trying to make a decision about what to buy!ReplyCancel

  • Becky - It is so lovely to see you! Glad you are not going to be a stranger. This is a great dress on you! Great color, great fit, great style! I have several wrap dress patterns as well, but haven’t made any of them. What’s up with that? I will have to re-evaluate my stash. Have a great October.ReplyCancel

  • Linda Lincoln - I’ve been sewing these patterns for about a year and a half since I saw them advertised in Threads magazine. At first I ordered from AU and paid $25 in shipping so would order 4-5 patterns at a time. I love this line. They go together very nicely and although the instructions are sparse they are easy th follow.

  • Melanie - What a great dress! It looks awesome on you and the fabric looks gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Lesley - gorgeous on you Sunni. I must pull this pattern out of the box and get it made. Mine will be heavily tweaked too, I like the sexier neckline you designed. I kinda always vow to use certified muslin-ing fabric for muslin/toiles because otherwise I notice it puts me off making another because the first looks blah!ReplyCancel

  • Nakisha - You should just sew 5 more of these!


  • Abbey - Oh this is fantastic!ReplyCancel

  • Teri - This looks so great on you! I have never considered myself a wrap dress person, but now I am feeling very much like I need to make this. It is so flattering and looks so comfortable!ReplyCancel

  • Linda - The wrap dress looks fab on you! I love the dark grey wool. It’s always interesting to read what alterations other people make to patterns. I like Style Arc patterns and made the Trixi wrap dress in purple ponte for last Christmas. I know what you mean about the scant instructions!! Luckily I go to a sewing class where i can get help! I don’t think I have commented before on your blog, but have been reading it. Popping in as part of my 300 comments in 30 days challenge.ReplyCancel

  • Emery - Sunni, we all have lumps and bumps but spanx hides them all …
    Great dress!!! I, too, have a lot of Style Arcs patterns that I haven’t used and always wanting to buy more …ReplyCancel

  • Robin - Looks great! The wool knit is so luxe & you nailed the fit & construction.ReplyCancel

  • Janet - This looks great – sort of slinky but not OTT. I’m off to investigate wool jersey (why I hadn’t considered this before, I will never know…)ReplyCancel

  • Gill Troup - Great dress! Could you explain a bit more how you faced the neck, shortened the facing etc? I’d like to try this.ReplyCancel

  • Christine - This is a very stylish dress. Definitely prefer the tie in front.ReplyCancel

  • natalie aka hungryhippie - HOW have I only just found you?!!! Love this dress, I was dreaming of a wrap PDF pattern recently. So glad to have stumbled on your blog. Your alteration info is great, as I will probably have to chop a mill inches off the hemline.
    Fabulous in wool knit. 😉ReplyCancel

  • Nancy N - Absolutely lovely. You shaped it perfectly, and I love the lower neckline! You might find a nice rayon jersey too. I have a fake wrap dress I love, with an underarm zipper, in wool paisley. They are really versatile. So glad to see you are are still posting!
    Nancy NReplyCancel

  • Lisa G - Wowza! This looks fantastic. I’ve been dreaming of wrap dresses myself… Personally I’ve got my eye on the Named wrap dress pattern. Now if only I could find the right fabric!ReplyCancel

  • K-Line - When I finally figured out the SA Etsy store, it was a problem for me too! And the dress looks terrific.ReplyCancel

  • Kate - I love the dress and the color on you! A wool knit wrap dress and s now on my list!ReplyCancel

  • Thewallinna - Here, you touched a very sensitive issue: wrap dresses. Like you, I’ve been attracted to wrap dresses forever, but I’ve never bought or sewed one. I’ve pinned over 30 wrap dresses, but still can’t decided which one is the ONE! So far, I narrowed my choice down to the burgundy one from BurdaStyle, the Olivia dress by Named and any of the Style Arc (the Kate and the Lea look pretty similar with minor design differences). Your variation of the Kate dress looks very nice and cozy (wool!!!!) For you next Kate dress, would you keep the same length? Do you find the knee length comfortable?ReplyCancel

  • Sew, Jean Margaret - Beautiful! and great fabric choice.ReplyCancel

  • sallie - Love this! I love wrap dresses! I think they are so flattering! (and I see no lumps and bumps, btw!) And in a sumptuous wool jersey there is really nothing better for a cozy, professional yet sexy look. I love the changes you made to the pattern – makes it a more classic wrap dress. This is always my pet peeve with wrap dress patterns, I feel like they’re always trying to ‘snazz’ it up in some way when really all I want is the classic wrap dress!!ReplyCancel

  • Linda Galante - Great dress! I love the wrap dress style myself and have millions of patterns, but have found fit to be challenging (front gapes…too big at the waist etc.) But you’ve inspired me to try again! I agree that the weight of the knit is key and yours looks perfect! Great length too….ReplyCancel

  • kelli - i had no idea that style arc had pdfs! also, this dress looks so beautiful on you. perfect fit and color.ReplyCancel

  • Wendy - LOVE this dress! Love the color, love the subtlety, love the fit and your changes. You look great.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - Oh it looks great. Just in case you needed another wrap dress pattern I’m very pleased with the Named Olivia wrap dress…. Just in case!ReplyCancel

  • Sherry - Hi Sunni, this looks lovely on you – make more! The olive wool jersey you chose looks great. I know exactly what you mean about rayon jersey, although printed ones can be more forgiving!ReplyCancel

  • Wednesday Weekly #10 | Helen's ClosetHelen's Closet - […] Sunni’s wool wrap dress is a nice twist on a wrap dress.  The more structured fabric gives the dress a whole new feel. […]ReplyCancel

  • sewing princess - I love Kate Dress. I made it 4 times and it’s now become my favorite wrap dress and knit pattern hack! Could I ask you how you lowered the waistline? I need to do that too on the front.ReplyCancel

  • Sonja - This is so beautiful! Wool jersey is a perfect choice- it looks so luxe!ReplyCancel

  • Justine - Gorgeous color on you! Great fit, too.ReplyCancel

  • Gail - Welcome back! Great dress and congratulations on getting the neckline in exactly the right place. Personally I can’t standing the cami under the wrap dress look.ReplyCancel

  • Beth – Sew DIY - It’s lovely!!! I’ve never tried StyleArc but they have some great designs. Good to know you can buy the pdfs on etsy.ReplyCancel

  • Margo - gorgeous! This color and style is so lovely on you.ReplyCancel

  • Sharyn - Looks like you got a real hit on this dress! You look wonderful>ReplyCancel

  • Becky Thompson - That dress looks great on you. I’m hearing lots of chatter on the blogs about Style Arc now that they have an Etsy shop. I think beginners could use a book like Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time to use as detailed sewing instructions and then figure out the rest. Lauren from Lladybird.com made the Stacie jacket and there’s no way I’d even attempt that.

    So the shoulder adjustment isn’t me??? Interesting. I spent 10 of my formative years in dance so my shoulders are always back and my spine is straight. That causes extra fabric across the back neckline and the shoulder seams ride to the front. I’ve taken to leaving an extra 2″ on the top of each shoulder pattern piece to customize the seam so it fits correctly. However, I hardly ever have that problem in RTW. I wonder why?ReplyCancel

  • Hedda Juul Andersen - My mom lives in this type of dresses! This would be a perfect christmas gift for her :) <3 xxReplyCancel


There comes a time in every woman’s life (I might be prone to exaggerate just a tad) that she has to face the need for new underpinnings. I don’t know about you, but for me this is such a needle in a haystack. I can look forever and ever for just the right bra or just the right underwear or as the case may be, just the right slip. And correct me if I’m wrong, but especially in the slip department, there are some serious, serious deficits. Even if you can find something, it’s usually an arm and a leg, or it’s just….grose.

Well, I couldn’t even find anything. Nothing. Not a thing. I’ve looked. I’ve scoured. I’ve even tried to find vintage slips at the thrift and right now, there seems to be a serious slip MIA because I finally decided to stop wasting my time and energy and just make something! Personally, I have nothing against making underpinnings of any kind, I just usually always opt to make something else first. But when the need arises, I’ll rise to the occasion.


I had purchased Gertie’s Butterick 6031 awhile back. I was out with my mom and we were getting a few patterns from the local JoAnn. I couldn’t resist this particular pattern because the slips just look so pretty on the model and with some things I make, I do like to wear a slip. I waited several weeks before I even picked up the pattern again and decided that it needed to be made. I just finished up a wool knit wrap dress and was in desperate need of a nice slip to wear underneath.


I pulled out my fabric and found a few micro jerseys to choose from (where I find all this fabric, I have no idea, sometimes it feels like it just magically appears). This is the fabric that Gertie recommends as per her sewalong and I had picked up the nude from Emma One Sock and the grey/blue and lavender from a local fabric shop (Designer’s Resource, if you live here in SLC). There are a few other fabrics that I think would work wonderfully in this pattern, namely swimsuit fabric and/or lining. I’ve seen some of those at the local JoAnn and do think they would do a marvelous job, but if you’re looking for these micro jerseys be on the lookout from something that falls away from the skin, feels cool to the touch and is usually a polyester and spandex blend. Usually something like 92% polyester and 8% spandex. They stretch in both directions but recover immediately.



Anyway, once the fabric was set, all that was left was finding all the notions that one needs for this project. I can see why Gertie did kits for this because there are several things that you need. I happened to have leftover stretch lace from my shop – a blessing since this calls for quite a bit. I actually forgot that I had picot edge elastic and instead used some swimsuit elastic for my first slip and just folded over the elastic and did that fancy straight stitch zig-zag. I had to send off for the strap elastic and rings and sliders (bramakerssupply.com) but I was pleasantly surprised with the quick shipping. For my first rendition I used the strap elastic for the whole of the strap as I didn’t have any of the right width of stretch lace and then for my second and third rendition, I got on a comfort soapbox and tried something else. For those, I opted to make a strap from swimsuit elastic that was encased in the matching micro jersey. First I attached to one edge with a zig-zag and then then folded over twice and did the fancy straight stitch zig-zag. Uber, uber comfy and doesn’t cut into my shoulder (I am so picky about comfort, it’s almost ridiculous!). Stole the idea from a bra I love.


And then I just made silly little bows from the outrageous amount of ribbon I have and voila! Done! I made the third – the nude version – in about 3 hours time, cut to finish. Addicting for sure and a project that I highly recommend. While I don’t look like the model in the finished slips (yup, I have a tummy!!!) I still feel pretty, they do the job and they are so comfortable. All wins in my book!

If you’re interested, here’s my full review. And now, off to make another wrap dress before I put it all together.

  • Sherine - This is so nice. I need to find the time to make one. The challenge is the supplies as for some reason the shops don’t seem to stock these stuff anymore. Please post the wrap dress when you make it. I have the fabric already :)ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - I know – the supplies are not easy to get your hands on. Even online I found that they are fairly expensive and most times you can’t even get it all in the same place anyway. If you hop over to Kollabora and read my review, it might give you some ideas for how to save. I used swimsuit elastic (which can be found at Joann and Hancock) in a couple of places.
      I’m definitely planning on posting my wrap dress(es!)! They are marvelous to wear!ReplyCancel

  • Meg White - I love reading your blog! These slips are lovely.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa G - These are beautiful! Been meaning to make a slip for a long time… need to gather supplies and do it already!ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - I’m sure yours will be fabulous! I love everything you make!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Shaw - Wow! I love how beautiful your slips turned out. Curiously enough, I need to make a slip for a dress that I did not make. Thank you for inspiring me to get going with my project!ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - They are so easy and so satisfying – definitely worth the extra effort, time and energy. You’ll probably end up making more than just one. Seems to be a catching thing!ReplyCancel

  • Holly - as an absolute “detester of polyester” I have made two of these slips in silk jersey (94% silk, 6%lycra) and have a 3rd planned. I also made a version in 100% silk jersey that doesn’t have the recovery needed but I wear it as PJ’s and it’s comfortable for that.

    I’ve also made a gazillion pairs of underwear from the underwear pattern and a modified thong pattern I made from it.

    Best and most used pattern I own!ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - I agree – I do not love polyester, but these were surprising finds. I would love to make one from silk jersey though! But it’s so hard to find the stuff. Where did you find yours? Do share!
      I will say that I do love these micro jerseys. They are incredibly comfortable and seem to hold up quite well to lots of wear and tear even though they are semi sheer. Doesn’t snag easily either.ReplyCancel

  • Becky Thompson - Living in super-hot south Texas, I’ve never really worn a slip. But now that I’m over 50, I’m kind of…well, lumpy. There. I said it. Anyway, a slip smooths out all those lumps under clingy clothing. My slips as a girl were made out of tricot and you simply can’t find any that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg – there isn’t any at local fabric sources in San Antonio, and online is crazy expensive! I’m not a fan of the new microfiber anything because it doesn’t breath like I need in this humid heat and it’s kind of clingy too. Maybe I’ll see if I can find some in the mix you posted about. Now that my shape is changing and I have the skills, I’ll start making my own “smalls” myself.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni

      Sunni - And I have to say, I don’t even know if I’ve ever felt or seen a good tricot either! Kind of a hard thing to find. Finding the right fabric for this project can be kind of hard. I would definitely recommend trying one of the swimsuit fabrics or linings from Joann and see what you think. Would love to know how it worked out too!ReplyCancel

    • Marnie - Have you taken a look at Bra Makers Supply for tricot? Her product, FT-31 is a nylon/spandex blend in 13 colors. I can’t speak to the feel, but I’m sure if you emailed her she’d give you an idea of what to expect.ReplyCancel

  • Linda Galante - I could use a few new ‘underpinnings’ myself. Yours are lovely, and quite inspirational.ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - These slips are so pretty! I’m glad you got around to making them. I have been wanting to make up this pattern, as well as other underpinnings patterns, for some time now. I always think of it when I am in need of a slip and only have a terrible alternative. You motivate me to just go ahead and make it already! Really nice job :)ReplyCancel

  • Nancy Nichols - I’d suggest .Sunni, given your terrific sewing skills, that you try this in a silk charmeuse and cut it on the bias. I have a wonderful 1930s vintage slip that is all bias diamonds. Fits like a dream and a knit dress just glides over the bumpy bits. I am in awe of your ability to use a machine to do those zig zag finishing stitches! My machine usually decides to go out for a smoke, or something, when I need that level of detail!
    Nancy NReplyCancel

  • Sonja - These are so pretty and delicate! I have to confess that I have a beautiful, but translucent, silk dress that I’ve never worn once- I cheaped out on buying the matching slip because I thought, “oh, I could make one myself”… but then I never did. Oops!ReplyCancel