5 Tips On How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project

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Now I KNOW that this week's topic is something that every seamstress (ahem, modiste) has struggled with at some point: How to finish a difficult sewing project. Having just finished up with an incredibly difficult project myself, I really wanted to delve into this topic. Why?

Because I think it's a reminder that we all could use, every once in a while. A reminder that YES, even though most sewing projects go smoothly and turn out beautifully.. There are those difficult projects that do not go smoothly, and do not turn out exactly how we had envisioned. (Or even remotely close to it.)

Which can be incredibly frustrating. Because when it comes to difficult sewing projects, so. much. time. is put into them. And to have them turn out less than perfect incites the urge to throw your sewing machine out the window. On to the street. To then get run over by a car. (Or maybe that's just me? But I don't think so.)

The difficult sewing project that I just finished up with & am referring to is the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress.

AKA the sewing project from my own personal hell.

This dress was definitely a challenge for me, and tested my resolve in so many ways. Not only were my sewing & pattern drafting skills tested.. But my patience, mindset, & emotions were also put to the limit.

And keep in mind: I am not the seamstress with the magic hands where everything I touch turns to gold and is fantastically beautiful & perfectly sewn. I have had to work incredibly hard to get to where I am in my sewing education.

And I still struggle with sewing, to this very day. But sewing is a struggle that I love. I love learning how to put a garment together, how to work out that puzzle.

(Ready to challenge yourself with a difficult sewing project? First, you will need to build yourself a sewing kit! Grab our complete guide below, and you'll be sewing up those challenging projects in no time.)How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project: Start With A Sewing Kit! How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project 5 Tips

But sometimes.. Sometimes the puzzle and the struggle are both so real that I get incredibly emotional & frustrated. Which then results in mistakes. And mistakes turn into projects taking longer than expected. Which then turns into MORE frustration.

And then I get even more emotional, resulting in mini freak outs. It's an emotional, frustrating cycle that I'm really not a fan of. And it came out FULL FORCE with this last sewing project.

So, with this week's post, I really wanted to go into how to PREVENT that sewing meltdown from happening.

To go into how to finish a difficult sewing project without losing your mind, patience, or a ton of time. My 5 tips on how to finish a difficult sewing project are:

  1. Allocate only a certain amount of time for a project each day. (And stick to it!)
  2. Use the Pomodoro Technique to force time blocking & breaks.
  3. Have a detailed to do list, and cross off steps as each one is completed. #fulfilling
  4. Clean up your sewing space at the end of each day.
  5. Do not be too proud to look up sewing tutorials when stuck on something.

I wish I had had these 5 tips printed out and taped to a wall in my sewing space when I was working on the Michele. I feel like I KNEW them in the back of my head, but I would get so wrapped up in the project, I would just forget about them. (Or completely ignore them, TBH.)

It's like you get in this mindset.. "I just need to finish sewing in this zipper, and then I will be done for the day." Or, "Just one more hour, I'm so close to finishing!" And then another 3 hours pass, and the frustration/emotions/mistakes have set in.

But let's say NO MORE to the emotional frustration that comes with trying to figure out how to finish a difficult sewing project. Are you with me?

(Ready to challenge yourself with a difficult sewing project? First, you will need to build yourself a sewing kit! Grab our complete guide below, and you'll be sewing up those challenging projects in no time.) How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project: Start With A Sewing Kit!

How to finish a difficult sewing project tip #1: Stick to a schedule

How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project Tip #1

Alright guys, this is a big one. And I'm going to be really real here: I struggle INTENSELY with time management. For some reason, I always (without fail) underestimate how long any given task is going to take me.

And while this might not be THAT big of a deal for someone working on another person's dime.. When trying to earn a living working as a solopreneur, this is a pretty massive issue.

I also like to over schedule myself. So combine that with a time management issue, and the fact that I seem to thrive only under pressure.. It's a bit of a struggle.

So I HAVE to stick to a schedule when it comes to sewing projects.

I have tight timelines, and don't have time to waste. (Which is part of what made the Michele sewing project so frustrating--It took 3 times longer than planned.) An incredibly helpful tool that I have been using this year is the Productivity Planner. The Productivity Planner allows for FIVE tasks a day. No more, no less. And for spending 2 1/2 hours on each task, maximum.

If a task takes longer than 2 1/2 hours, it needs to be split up into 2 tasks. And if said task takes longer than 2 1/2 hours but you don't have any more time allotted for said task, it needs to be moved to the next day. NO EXCEPTIONS.

I have learned (the extremely hard way) that feeling guilty about taking too long on a project is not the way to go. Set a time limit on how long to work on a project in a single day. If you finish during that allotted amount of time, great. If not, then stop, work on the other tasks that you need to get done, and continue tomorrow.

(Ready to challenge yourself with a difficult sewing project? First, you will need to build yourself a sewing kit! Grab our complete guide below, and you'll be sewing up those challenging projects in no time.) How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project: Start With A Sewing Kit!

How to finish a difficult sewing project tip #2: Use the Pomodoro Technique

How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project Tip #2

I'm sure you have heard of the Pomodoro Technique, am I right? As with tip #1, this section is all about TIME MANAGEMENT. (You see, I have a problem.) The Pomodoro Technique is essentially just a way to time block effectively throughout the day.

The classic way to use the technique is that when sitting down to work, set a 25 minute timer. Focus on nothing but the task at hand for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. And simply repeat!

I feel SO. MUCH. BETTER. when I force myself to use this technique throughout the work day. Like, the effect on my mood is incredible. I feel more productive, but I also feel more refreshed, because I am forcing myself to take breaks.

Which is SOOOO incredibly important.

And I think the main reason on why I feel more productive when using this technique is literally BECAUSE I am forcing myself to take breaks. As I mentioned above, it is so easy to fall into the trap of "Just one more hour, I'm so close to finishing!"

Which then turns into three hours. And now it's dark and there's no time for a run and the tears are welling up because you feel like you have wasted an entire day. Just sayin.

I do have one slight alteration to the Pomodoro Technique. Rather than working in 25/5 minute blocks, I prefer to work in 1 hour/15 minute blocks. (Work for 1 hour, take a 15 minute break.) I feel like it's kind of difficult to get any REAL sewing done in just 25 minutes, but an hour is a decent block of time. And since I'm working for longer, I take a slightly longer break than the traditional 5 minutes.

The time block timing choice is totally yours though. If you think that you will work better with the traditional 25/5 minute block, then go for it. As Amy Poehler says: "Works for you, not for me."

(Ready to challenge yourself with a difficult sewing project? First, you will need to build yourself a sewing kit! Grab our complete guide below, and you'll be sewing up those challenging projects in no time.) How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project: Start With A Sewing Kit!

How to finish a difficult sewing project tip #3: Have a detailed to do list

How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project Tip #3

Oh to do lists. I think my life would literally fall apart without them. They are one of my very favorite things in the whole world. (BTW. The one tool I cannot live without is my to do list app, TeuxDeux. Seriously life changing. Check it out if you are as obsessed with lists as I am and need some serious help with organizing the chaos that is life.)

Not only do I find to do lists effective when it comes to overall scheduling, but I love using them when it comes to sewing. When it comes to both pattern drafting & sewing, I always start with writing out every single thing that I need to draft/sew to finish the project.

Not only does this force you to really think through everything that is involved in a project, but it also gives a visual representation of how much work is ACTUALLY involved in a project. Which then plays into the first two tips on time management. If you have an idea of how much is actually involved in a sewing project..

Then you are more likely to effectively time block the project out.

And not only does creating a to do list for a sewing project help with time management, but there is just something SO SATISFYING about crossing off something on a to do list. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.

And I have found that feeling accomplished when working through a difficult sewing project is an incredibly effective tool. It can make all the difference in the world between being able to say "Looking at my to do list, I actually did quite a lot today. I am going to stop here and continue tomorrow." Versus "I feel like I didn't get anything done today, I have to keep going."

There is something to be said about having tangible proof in front of you, about seeing what has been accomplished so far. When feeling emotional about a sewing project, it's easy to ignore what HAS been completed, and what HAS been accomplished. But a to do list doesn't lie!

(Ready to challenge yourself with a difficult sewing project? First, you will need to build yourself a sewing kit! Grab our complete guide below, and you'll be sewing up those challenging projects in no time.) How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project: Start With A Sewing Kit!

How to finish a difficult sewing project tip #4: Clean up your sewing space

How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project Tip #4

Another thing that you guys are going to learn about me today: I am a neat freak. I literally clean my house EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I am currently working from home and cannot function in a messy space. And while my home is always bordering on the edge of cozy versus cluttered, it is CLEAN. And it is organized. If you were to ask me where a single book in our house is, I would be able to find it for you. (And we have a whole lot of books in this tiny, cozy, colorful house of ours. I'm talking in the hundreds.)

So, if you are at all like me, then when things get messy.. You might start to feel flustered & overwhelmed. And these are NOT good emotions to be feeling when working out how to finish a difficult sewing project.

The key to not getting overwhelmed, frustrated, & emotional when it comes to difficult sewing projects is keeping things organized & contained.

And that includes your sewing space.

It is so tempting to just leave the sewing machine, fabric scraps, ironing board, iron, sewing pattern, etc. etc. etc. out after a long day of sewing. I am 100% guilty of this myself. And of not just leaving everything out for a single day, but leaving them out for DAYS at a time. Which, I can tell you with 100% certainty & experience, is NOT the way to go.

Having a messy space just adds to the frustration of a difficult project. And it is SUCH an easy thing to avoid. I know, I know. It's so easy to say "Well I'm going to finish the project tomorrow, so I'm just going to leave everything out." Again, I am guilty of this exact thought process.

Which is why I KNOW that putting all of your sewing supplies away and cleaning up will make you feel so much better. In my experience, when working on a difficult sewing project, it starts to consume you. And keeping all of that frustration in plain sight.. It just seeps into every aspect of your day, even the tasks that are not related to the project. So put it away!

(Ready to challenge yourself with a difficult sewing project? First, you will need to build yourself a sewing kit! Grab our complete guide below, and you'll be sewing up those challenging projects in no time.) How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project: Start With A Sewing Kit!

How to finish a difficult sewing project tip #5: Do not be too proud

How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project Tip #5

Oh, how I struggled with this when working on the Michele. Most of the time, I am able to work through how to sew something I have never done before. That's part of what I love so much about sewing: Figuring out the puzzle, doing something I have never done before.

In the case of this sewing project, the puzzle that I struggled with the most was how to sew a center back invisible zipper without a center back seam to insert it into.

After spending MULTIPLE days trying to figure it out, I finally looked it up online. I found a video sewing tutorial on it, and realized that I had done it completely wrong, from beginning to end.

And what I had done was pretty much irreparable.

COOL. And keep in mind--This was AFTER I had spent 10+ hours already pleating the dress. And another 2-3 hours sewing it up. The zipper was one of the final details that I needed to do, and I had cut it & sewn it completely wrong. But if I had just looked up the damn tutorial a week earlier when I first started sewing the dress together, then I would have saved myself a ton of time and frustration.

Seriously guys. Don't be too proud to look up how to do something.. That's what we are here for. To help you work through something that we already know how to do. And there is NOTHING to be ashamed of in not knowing how to do something.

There are so many things I don't know how to do.. So why should it be any different when it comes to sewing? Answer: It isn't. It's okay to ask for help. And after looking something up, if you were right in assuming how you were going to do it.. Then HELLO confidence boost.

(Ready to challenge yourself with a difficult sewing project? First, you will need to build yourself a sewing kit! Grab our complete guide below, and you'll be sewing up those challenging projects in no time.) How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project: Start With A Sewing Kit!

How to finish a difficult sewing project: You can do it!

How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project "You Can Do It!"

So. I feel like all of the advice above really just points to how much of a mental game it is when it comes to figuring out how to finish a difficult sewing project. It really has nothing to do with skill level, or how magical those hands are when it comes to sewing.

It's all about staying positive, managing time & space effectively, and being kind to yourself.

If you are reading this blog post, then you might be at that breaking point that I was at a few weeks ago with the Michele. Tears might be streaming down your face, you might be feeling like a failure. I promise you that you are not.

If you are looking for help here, that is not failing.

That is being kind to yourself, that is respecting yourself. There is no benefit in berating yourself over a difficult sewing project. What's the point? And I can say this, because I was just doing that a few weeks ago.

I felt like a failure and like I had no business running this blog. Which, as my husband so kindly & gently reminded me, is not the case.

(Ready to challenge yourself with a difficult sewing project? First, you will need to build yourself a sewing kit! Grab our complete guide below, and you'll be sewing up those challenging projects in no time.) How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project: Start With A Sewing Kit! How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project Dany Sheath DIY Kit

Just because one project is difficult doesn't mean that you are a failure. I feel like as humans we don't really respond well to not being good at something, and so we have to try to just take control of what we can. And the things that we can control when it comes to figuring out how to finish a difficult sewing project are:

  1. Sticking to a schedule put in place beforehand.
  2. Managing time effectively using the Pomodoro Technique.
  3. Creating organization with a beautiful to do list.
  4. Maintaining a clean space.
  5. Admitting when help is needed.

So. As with most things in life, when it comes to a difficult sewing project, it's really just a mental game.

(That in itself is kind of frustrating to hear, I know. But so true, am I right?) Any other tips on how to finish a difficult sewing project? Let me know below, I would love to hear them!

(Ready to challenge yourself with a difficult sewing project? First, you will need to build yourself a sewing kit! Grab our complete guide below, and you'll be sewing up those challenging projects in no time.) How To Finish A Difficult Sewing Project: Start With A Sewing Kit!

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