You. Can. Sew.

There is an awesomely thought-provoking post over at Stitched in Color today.  Rachel always astounds me with how a simple idea can be so elegant when approached thoughtfully, and she has proved it once again by asking the question, “What is it that you don’t say out loud?”

This weekend has been an especially introspective one for us.  Our house, which has been on the market for the better part of four years, finally got its very first offer.  It’s a low offer, but it sure is nice to be asked to dance, y’know?  We’re counter-offering, but since the asking price was already for less than what we paid, my husband and I had to do a great deal of logical reasoning and soul searching in order to determine the best course of action.  It’s hard to ever really know, even when you think you know.  Y’know?

At the same time, I’ve been doing a lot of rewinding, most of it brought on by preparing my taxes.  That’s right: my taxes.  More specifically, compiling a chart of my mileage.  I have a famously meticulous paper calendar that I keep.  Scoff if you like–I know lots of folks like their calendars on their phones or computers, and I can see the appeal, but I can’t get my brain to work in any way other than on paper, seeing the Big Picture laid out (or at least, as much of the Big Picture as I’m allowed to see).  Going through my calendar and seeing where I was driving, and when, and how often for ALL of 2010 was a big wake-up call.  Some days–many days–I was driving back-and-forth to the shop twice a day.  Lots of weekends.  Lots of meetings.  Lots of driving.  It made me flash back over all that I’ve done and all I have hoped for the past year.

And I turned to my husband and I said, “Really, honey, can we ever truly plan?  A year ago, we didn’t think we’d be doing what we’re doing now.  Neither of us did.  So can we ever really know what’s up the road for us?  I think we just have to make the best decisions we can and pray it will all work out.”

So coming across Rachel’s post was so timely for me.  Not because of all the honesty that’s there–and it’s there, for real; if you’ve never read all the way through all the comments on someone’s blog before, this post is an excellent place to start.  I think it was timely for me to read all those comments because it’s such a reminder of how many voices are out there, and that most of us are interested in one thing above all others: connecting with one another and being heard.  We don’t have to be the best or the fastest or the most celebrated, we just want to find one another and be known.  That’s harder than it sounds.

So the comments on Rachel’s post that struck me the hardest and made me hurt the most were the folks who felt intimidated or belittled by sewing blogs and the online community because they are new to sewing.  As in: “When I see a post on a sewing blog, it makes me think I’ll never measure up.”  And if I take nothing else away from reading all those comments, I take my utter certainty that NO ONE should feel that way.

When I first started teaching sewing, it was because no one else wanted to do it–that’s the honest truth.  It was 2007, the economy was still strong, and I was part of a design co-op.  The other designers didn’t want to take time out of building their companies to teach, but since I’d taught school for nearly ten years, I figured it would be easy–I’d mail it in, make some pocket money, no worries!  I had no idea that I would love it so much, or that seeing adults learn to love sewing would be so wordlessly rewarding for me.  The friendships I have made through teaching are some of the deepest in my life, and the ways it has transformed who I am and what I think about the world cannot be counted.  So to hear that anyone, any single person, fears sewing or feels driven away from learning to sew because they encounter a gated-community feeling in the world of sewing blogs makes me teary-eyed.

YOU CAN SEW.  Anyone can sew, but especially you.  Don’t let anyone tell you any different.  Lots of sewing bloggers, including me, fall very easily into the trap of showing off our most recent project and failing to explain how we got there–warts and all.  Others get sucked into creating one tutorial after another and burn out from generating constant free content with no reward for their hard work (see a really interesting discussion of this over at CraftyPod).  Still others do near-constant giveaways that attract all of us to read their blogs, but fail to really provide much meat.  And looking through the eyes of those who commented on Rachel’s post, I can easily see how all that can add up to a perception that the world is full of amazing sewing, that everyone who has a craft blog is supersupersuper talented and skilled, and you’ll neverevereverever measure up, no matter how hard you try, so really why even bother trying, huh?


YOU CAN SEW.  It’s easy.  And there are some really spectacular blogs and books and writers and teachers out there who will help you do it.  I’d love to be one of them, but more importantly, I want you to feel secure enough to put needle to fabric and see what happens.  I think there is a place in our lives for perfection–but I think it is always the goal and so rarely the destination.  In my own sewing, I want to do the best work I am able within reason.  But the question for me is always, “Does it bother me enough?”  Do I care enough about this crooked seam or that odd little cut or this off-center bit to rip it out and change it?  Sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes it’s yes.  But that thought process doesn’t get revealed very often when we show off the final product (and I don’t always think it should be–we’re all so very, very hard on ourselves, and it’s important to learn to accept compliments and praise without always apologizing for miniature flaws).

There is, I am quite sure, a balance between the two, between striving for perfection and graciously accepting praise for our final, imperfect results.  And if the tension between those two is where we STOP and feel intimidated, then I want to ease that tension and get you in the sewing saddle, so to speak.  I don’t really know what that looks like yet, but I’d love to hear from you:

When do sewing blogs make you feel empowered to sew, instead of intimidated?

I phrased it as I have here very specifically–I’m not really asking, I don’t think, what bloggers can do or create or produce to make you want to sew.  I think there are a lot of tutorials and patterns and ideas out there that inspire and make us WANT to sew, and in all honesty, I’m not sure how useful it is to make a list of more tutorials to create.  What I do think is hugely useful–and sorely lacking–is understanding what attracts you to sewing blogs in the first place, what helps you make the leap from watching to doing, from lurking to sewing, from dreaming to creating.  I don’t think that gets asked enough, and I imagine it’s such a fruitful topic to pin down and identify.

I think Rachel is asking a similar question, and I’m glad of that–I think the more voices we hear, the more each of us is part of an actual conversation, talking with one another.  I wrote to Rachel and thanked her for her post, and told her, “I don’t want to be that kid who runs with the popular kids trying to be popular, only to learn 20 years later that the popular kids didn’t know what they were doing, either.”  Teaching and writing, genuinely, are why I think I was put on this planet–they are a deep and abiding love, and they give me the chance to open my heart more than I am willing to do in so many other areas of my life.  Sewing gives me a safe place to ask myself hard questions, and to learn that I’m not the only one who asks them.  Learning from you how to make that feeling bigger and more inclusive helps me to feel that connectedness that I think so many of us are seeking, and connecting with others in a way that helps me to remain true to what I believe and create the meaning that I hope my work will have is so slippery–I don’t want it to get away from me.

Thanks in advance for adding your thoughts–I really am holding my breath to see what you have to say.

Feed readers: comment here.

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  • Eliza
    April 25, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Deborah – I think, especially in the Sewing for Kids class, you did a GREAT job of helping me overcome my intimidation and my thoughts about how my work is not good enough (Good enough for what?!)

    You accomplished this by being yourself – being funny and approachable (and the sound effects). I think that’s half of what is so “scary”. It’s the inability to compare with the Stepford-wife, Martha-esque sewing blogbots. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t measure up to that. The beauty of it is that I don’t have to because on my Speed Racer kids no one’s going to notice that a hemline’s not perfect.

    For that same reason, I will never undertake something so delicate as French hand sewing. I need to work on projects with some room for error, some room to fudge the lines if need be.

    Thanks for this post! Keep up the good work!

  • Amy at CreativeSpace
    April 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I’m teaching myself to sew and often turn to the internet for inspiration. I’ve discovered through trial and error that I have to balance accomplished sewing blogs with tutorials with time-outs from anything sewing to keep from being overwhelmed. My standby favorite is The Sew Weekly, not only for the weekly challenge but that every seamstress has replied to my comment or question. That communication back and forth is what keeps me sewing. Reading about the sewing ups and downs of a project inspire me to keep working at my own. If the seamstress is advanced and/or specialized (vintage sewing for example) but willing to answer my question (usually an obviously beginner question) I bookmark that blog and return. They took the time to respond which sometimes is just the encouragement I need to sit back down at my machine and continue.

  • Rachel at Stitched in Color
    April 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Thank-you, Deborah, for picking up one very important thread of conversation – how blogs make us feel. I’m glad you focused in on this in a positive way by asking “what bloggers do that make us feel empowered” and I can’t wait to see what people say.

    My answer – I guess tutorials make me feel empowered, especially ones with lots of pictures!

    Also, and this might seem a bit of a strange answer – when bloggers comment on my blog, they empower me. That’s probably the biggest one. When we encourage others in what they’re already doing, it makes it so much easier to try that next thing. I try to visit new blogs that I come across in Flickr or through Stitched in Color and encourage them!

    Oh, I am also empowered by learning in person. Getting together for a craft night, going to a workshop, going to the Sewing Summit – these real-life experiences make learning so approachable.

  • Jeni
    April 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    A very thought provoking post! I think that sometimes I personally feel intimidated by certain blogs when there is.. an air of perfection! Everyone, even the most skilled sewists make mistakes. Sewing and absolute perfection simply do not go together. But I think that because we choose what to say and share about our projects in the online community, it may sometimes seem as though we are “perfect sewers”. I know when I take photos of my projects or quilts I make sure to avoid close-ups of erhm.. mistakes! Haha. It’s only natural to want to put your best foot forward, but I think if there is no admission to mistakes, people may perceive us the wrong way.

    In short I think it’s all about being real and being open! It makes everyone involved more comfortable. Anyways, that’s my best guess! Thank you (and Rachel!) for opening up this discussion! 🙂

  • LJ Owen
    April 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    I like tutorials that are truly step by step. One that helped me a lot was on bias tape – can’t remember if you posted it or Dana @Made did. I’m such a novice when it comes to what I call “real” sewing. I’ve done some very simple qult sewing that I passed off to someone else to do the actual quilting part. 2 months ago, I sewed by a pattern for the first time. I’ve had a lot of trials and errors as I’ve played with the pattern – it’s for a 1950’s inspired apron that was my mom’s. I’m finally happy with it and I’m even selling aprons to raise funds for a mission trip.

    The “sewing thing” that intimidates me the most is sewing clothing. Part of it was because of getting over my fear of a pattern. The other part is that I am a larger than average woman and the patterns don’t always go quite right. This blog – – has helped me get over part of that. I’ve emailed Caroline and she’s responded with some great advice. I’m still hoping to line my schedule up with some time to come in and take some classes from you, too!

  • Ms. Fine
    April 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Hmmm. Empowered to sew. For me–it’s inspiration. Sure, I have a bunch of blogs that I *like* to see their pretty finished pieces, but anything that gives me a flavor for process is empowering. Seeing someone show me the fabrics they bought because they could see it as a certain type of project. Seeing that project move forward. Seeing the failures as well as the successes. Seeing things get finished that have languished in someone else’s sewing room. All of those things make me walk into my sewing room unafraid, and ready to create. Process oriented is more empowering because process oriented posts tend to feel more genuine and you tend to see that the sewist doesn’t know everything either and is just trying things out.

    I liked Rachel’s courage to start that type of dialog. I had hoped that it wouldn’t devolve into a taking sides or “with or against” me type of response. I have to say that the more I think about the “dumbing down of quilting” posts a little while ago, the more I’m irritated with the original posts. It’s not empowering, or helpful, or inspiring, or useful critique to be told that something a newbie might be struggling with is in fact “intermediate” and not “beginner”. I have found the modern movement to be freeing, dare I say it, empowering?!? I have fabric that I love, that I’ve had for 5 years (maybe a little mroe) because I can’t find the “right” pattern for it that will showcase the large scale prints and tonalities. I was just thinking this weekend that a strip quilt would probably be just the thing–and it’s easy and it’s sooner gratification–and I can likely get more than one quilt out of it. How is that a lose simply because it’s “easy?”

    I think

  • Jennifer
    April 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Seeing the process really makes me feel empowered to sew. If I can see exactly how you made something, I can probably do it too. If I can see where you made mistakes, I don’t feel bad and want to give up when I make them. It’s nice to know that before a blogger ended up with a perfect quilt, they had to rip out seams just like me.

  • Ms. Fine
    April 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Oh–I also wanted to say that I have a perfection complex in many areas of my life–any blog that accepts and encourages “good enough” is empowering.

  • this is carrie
    April 25, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    As someone who sews a lot and features a lot of my projects on my blog, I hope people come and feel inspired and not intimidated. But, I also hope people realize there are some reasons why I might be a tad better than the average home sewer ie:I learned to sew when I was a small child then graduated from college with a degree in fashion design and went on to work in design for seven years working with and continuing to learn from sewers and patternmakers who were experts in their field. I’ve also put in thousands of hours behind the sewing machine.

    Do you have to do all that to be a sewer? Of course not. You can find a lot of success and satisfaction in being a new sewer, and an intermediate sewer. Just be careful who you compare yourself with. There’s no need to be frustrated because you can’t do things like “(enter name here)”. It’s not because you aren’t talented or aren’t meant to sew. It’s probably just because you need more time and experience behind the machine.

    Honestly, I didn’t love to sew until about 5 years ago. And at that time, I’d been sewing for over 15 years. Before that, I felt like I was unstitching everything at least once. I don’t make as many mistakes anymore because at this point, there are many left for me to make. Been there, done that.

    So to make a long post short. You. Can. Sew. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but just know everyone learned at some point in their life and made the very same mistakes.

  • Barbara
    April 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    I just stumbled upon your blog from Stitched in Color…and I’m so glad I did! I’m brand new to blogging and fairly new to sewing. I love all of the gorgeous projects and inspiration out there but sometimes I get very intimidated by all of the talent that I just feel I don’t yet have.

    I agree with Rachel, comments on my blog are empowering, especially for a beginner. Posts like these are also encouraging because I realize that I am not the only one who feels this way. Honestly, I also appreciate posts about “failed” projects because they help me feel like I am not the only one who has messed up. I would say that posts that feature projects that look difficult but also have a little “tip” or “trick” in them make it seem more accessible.

    I really appreciate this post! Thank you for the encouragement to all of us to just get out there and do it without fear stopping us!

  • Andria
    April 25, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    This is so wonderful. I love seeing the process, the mistakes and problems- saying “I really screwed this up but it’s OKAY. This is how I fixed it.” I also like seeing a blogger that responds to comments. When I see 842 comments but none from the blogger they just become faceless, all for the sake of a give-away and acquiring more followers (don’t get me wrong- I love free stuff as much as the next person- but all the hoops can be a bit much). If they seem like an actual real life person it makes me excited to try what they are posting, feel like I can ask them questions, and inspires me to leave a comment on their work. I guess just coming across as human- like me- inspires me.

  • DianeY
    April 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Very thought provoking post! I, too, read through most all the replies to Rachel’s post & I was flabbergasted that people were intimidated by blogs. I’ve been sewing for more years than I care to fess up to, but I’m still learning and I keep finding new ideas to explore. I had never quilted much because I only knew how to tie quilts and in the last 2 years, with the help of blogs & videos, I learned I could free motion quilt on my little Bernina and while there is plenty of room for improvement, I can do a decent job on a full sized quilt. I hope everyone will take your advice & enjoy it as a learning experience.

  • DeAnna T.
    April 25, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Wow, great post. So funny you bring up that topic. How many times have clicked away from blogs feeling heavy hearted because I just knew that I would never ever be able to create something like that I had just read about. On the other hand, I would never have learned how to knit, or make my first quilt, or paint my furniture or try something different in my house for decorating without reading the blogs and being inpired to make something. As I think back to which blogs inspired me AND helped me create, it was the blogs with tutorials. Or the blogs that responded to my questions. Chris at Just a Girl answered many of my questions regarding repainting a dresser, and gave me the confidence to paint it despite it being my grandmothers! Diary of a quilter’s tutorial on binding has saved me many times to bind the 2 quilts I have finished. And and their videos on how to’s helped me create many bibs, scarves and blankets for people.

    I think that is also why Ree Drummond has become such a great success. She showed step by step instructions on how to cook. Yes we had cooking shows and so forth but she was/is making comfort food. Food that the average American eats and then she took pictures of it along the way so we knew were doing it the right way.

    Yes, there are the blogs that when I leave them I leave with that feeling of no way can I do that! But there are blogs that I also can leave knowing that I CAN make something beautiful and that makes me happy.

    Now if I can only get out of my own head and create then all will be good.

  • Kate
    April 25, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Hmm… well, i’m new to sewing and have started following blogs and reading materials online to teach myself.

    The things that make me feel empowered are when people explain the basics. I’ll read your tutorial about how to make a bag or a skirt, but if you don’t stop and explain what sewing words mean (like cut on the bias, free motion, fusable interfacing etc etc etc) I get intimidated. The photos and step by step tutorials are really helpful, but sometimes people forget that some of their audience are beginners.

    I’ve recently started following your blog and love your step-by-step instructions (I plan on making your nesting bags soon!). I feel empowered when I see the basic photos, and have links to how to view other projects that explain those tricky sewing words.

    I’m also the kind of person that isn’t a perfectionist, so I’m not scared to just TRY it… I may screw it up, but that’s what the step-by-step posts are for!

    So, thank you for holding my hand through these little sewing projects, it’s always helpful for me to watch and learn from someone else.

  • Welmoed
    April 25, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Great post, and the comments are also very thoughtful. I sew, and do read a lot of sewing (and other) blogs. Mostly I’m inspired, but often I’ll look at all these people who post multiple times a week and have sponsors and give-aways and zillions of followers and feel a little jealous. But then again, I’m not blogging to make money; I sew for my imperfect body and want to show other women that you do NOT need to be reed-slender to make pretty clothes for yourself. Every year I make a gown for a black-tie event at the Smithsonian, and I document that process. And I HAVE made duds. There’s one dress that was so hideous I threw it in the trash the minute we got home and I cringe every time I see pictures of it. But I wrote about it nonetheless, because it IS important for beginning sewers to see that EVERYONE makes mistakes.

  • ImperaMagna
    April 25, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Like DianeY, I’ve been sewing for more years than I care to remember. I’m sad that neither of my children were interested in learning… altho my son wanted to learn how to sew on buttons… and so far, none of the grandchildren have expressed a desire to learn. I would love to help someone learn to sew…. it’s such a huge part of my life that I don’t know what I’d do without being able to sew.

    While I’ve been sewing forever, I’m new to quilting and have availed myself of the internet to learn how. I also love the smaller quilt-y type projects and got seriously hooked on mug rugs… which are a great way to practice quilting-type skills.

    I am not perfect and have plenty of cut-off points and seams that don’t match up to prove it. However, in the scheme of life, things like that just don’t matter. If the quilt keeps someone warm, then it’s good enough!

    I love blogs that inspire me to try something new, play with a new technique, and do something I would never have thought about…. like Rachel’s Bottled Rainbows QAL.

    I hope that my blog isn’t intimidating and will work to make it so… and I’d appreciate comments both positive and negative!

  • Kelly
    April 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I will say comments inspire and make me feel good about sewing. To know that there are people out there that like what you do makes my day.
    The blogs that make a quilt a day (well almost) turn me off. We are not machines and part of what I like about quilting is that is hand made and not perfect. It is wonderful self expression!
    Nice thought provoking post!

  • Krista
    April 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    You’re right, I can sew! Here’s the thing for me. Blog reading is what did inspire me to go to Target, buy a cheap sewing machine and make my first handmade item. I felt much more empowered to take those steps than I did intimidated. So what if my end product wasn’t perfect? They still usually aren’t, and it has been more than a year now. But to see what is possible awakens something in me. To see step-by-step instructions that break something that seems so complex down into a path I can attempt to follow is so inspirational. Sewing blogs got me hooked. Now I have one of my own. And why? Because I want to be a part of the community and conversation. That’s all.

    I honestly don’t let the more talented out there bring me down. I soak up the beauty and expertise they offer and hope one day I can get to where they are. And in the meantime, I’m having a whole lotta fun going through the process of learning.

  • Natalie
    April 25, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I just learned to sew in the last couple of years, and I was completely self taught– which is to say that I relied heavily on books and blogs for information! I found I kept coming back to those that posted tutorials that were clear and basic and, above all, encouraging! I loved reading “a beginner can handle this” because it gave me confidence to give it a go, and to build my skills. And I think it’s true (as some others have commented) that we tend to try to put our best foot forward, but I really love the blogs that allow their flaws to show– and, more importantly, describe how they learned from them. I love reading blogs because I learn so so much, and I’m amazed at how generous people are with their knowledge. It’s the blogs that share that knowledge (rather than just showing off lots of fancy, finished products) that keep me coming back and feeling inspired.

  • Sew sew
    April 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    I don’t get intimidated by the blogs themselves, but I do find myself getting frustrated that as a ” new” sewer with both munchkins and a FT job, I simply do not have the time to pump out sewing perfection several times a week like my fav bloggers do. I love it when I find “quick wins” for practical life so that I don’t feel like giving up the whole thing just bc I can’t do everything my sewing idols 🙂 are posting. But without the blogs, I might not be inspired at all! Would love to see posts about how people fit sewing into their lives, how they like to break up projects, etc. Kind of like your sewing spaces series. Love your blog and classes Deborah!

  • Emma
    April 25, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    For me its all about relating to the blogger. I know it sounds wierd, but if I hear tales about their kids and see odd bits of their homes in the corners of pictures that I like the look of, etc., it makes me think ‘well she’s just like me’. Then the project seems less intimidating. If the blogger is posting from some terribly posh sewing studio, where they make hundreds of gigantic quilts, with no mention about their life, well then they’re not like me and the project becomes less do-able in my eyes. Does that make me wierd?!

  • Cindy
    April 25, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    My main passion is quilting and inspiration is usually all I need from a blog! Pretty pictures that I “ooooo and ahhh” over. I have been quilting for many years and don’t need instructions (like the tutorials) anymore. A picture is all I need!

    However….I am new to garment and craft sewing. When I see a cute project on a blog, its the tutorial I’m looking for. I scroll through it to see if its written in language I can understand (regular sewing terms are a foreign language to me) and if the pictures match up to the words (I get super confused when they don’t…and I’ve had it happen before the first time I tried to make a bag).

    I also very much appreciate honesty in posts. If someone had trouble with a pattern, I want to know! Mostly if there were errors or size issues, etc. Some times I feel like bloggers are being less than truthful about new books and patterns….perhaps because they are friends?….dunno. But I think tact can be used at the same time as honesty. I’ve bought patterns and/or books being used only to find errors or that they were poorly written. So frustrating.

    Good post. I’m enjoying this conversation.

  • Courtney
    April 25, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I started quilting a few years ago when I signed up for a course through the adult education program. I always wanted to learn and thought it would be great. I learned the basics and came away dependent on yellowbrick road quilt pattern and fat quarters. Eventually I added Turning Twenty to the mix.

    Then I became bored. I didn’t think I could venture out of fat quarters and squares. I don’t live near a quilt shop, so classes weren’t really an option.

    When I got your newsletter about how you were listening to readers and created an online quilt class, I felt a rush of inspiration. I don’t remember how I got on your mailing list but I went to your blog and saw some projects. Then I learned about other blogs. I found Stitched in Color for the rainbow quilt…and I realized there was an entire community out there online..just waiting to guide and provide tutorials.

    For me, I’ve been reinvigorated by the blogs that have tutorials with pictures and are encouraging.

    After reading the Stitched comments, I also started to feel a little down on myself. I’m not perfect. I hoard fabric because I LOVE it. I’ve only straight quilted quilts, never meandered or tried designs. But then I saw your post which said “You. Can. Sew.” It’s as if you knew and you were there.

    It’s those blogs that are like anchors for all quilters of all levels with no judgement that really make this community special.

  • Jennifer at Ellison Lane Quilts
    April 25, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    First of all, I was in ATL last weekend and made my first trip to Whipstitch and LOVED it. What a wonderful, inspiring place.

    Secondly, thanks for doing such a great post. I hopped over here from Rachel’s blog and am enjoying these posts.

    I am a self taught sewer and just learned to quilt 9 months ago. I taught myself through blogs and online tutorials and if it weren’t for the wonderful wealth of information out there, I would never have believed I could make a quilt.

    I feel empowered to sew when I find a great tutorial with step by step details. I don’t know how many times I read the binding tutorial on Crazy Mom Quilts before I felt confident enough to do it on my own. So thank goodness for such great info out there!

    I love reading quilting blogs and feel so inspired by the sewing community that I started my own blog. I wanted to be part of the conversation and part of the quilting community. I’ve decided not to get intimidated by blogs and sewers that seem to be able to do it all- rather I am inspired by their abilities and hope that one day I will be able to conquer a difficult project like theirs.

    These great comments have reminded me that when I am writing a tutorial, I need to keep it real- not perfect- but real. 🙂 A friend commented on my post about imperfect blocks and she said it inspired her to go finish a quilt she has started even though it wasn’t perfect. I think that was a huge compliment and to me, that is what it is all about.

  • Elisabeth
    April 25, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    The more information I have, the more empowered I feel to try something new. Therefore, I particularly like blogs that are incredibly detailed when they post tutorials, both with words and pictures (if they mention the mistakes they made when first developing the project, even better). I also like blogs that make an effort to educate people about basic concepts such as the best uses for different types of fabrics, how to execute different seam finishes, etc. Finally, I really, really like it when bloggers share their own learning experiences and, most importantly, their screw-ups (particularly when they frankly acknowledge they made a rookie mistake because they weren’t paying attention or thought they could take a shortcut or what-have-you). I have yet to find a sewing blog that does the last item well, my best example of such a blog is a knitting blog called the Yarn Harlot. She’s a fairly big celebrity in the knitting world and makes some of the most incredibly knitwear which she shares, but she also blogs all about her mistakes, even the incredibly ridiculous ones. It makes me feel a million times better about my own mistakes.

    This isn’t exactly part of your question, but the thing that makes me want to curl up into a ball and never sew again happens with “learn to sew” books that come with patterns. I am somewhat overweight and I have yet to find a sewing book with patterns in my size. Part of the reason I want to sew in the first place is to make clothes that fit me and to see all of these books with the largest pattern being too small for me (and no information on how to size them up) is just about as empowering as trying on swimsuits in front of a crowd.

    • Deborah
      April 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm


      Honestly, I loved hearing this about sizing. I really struggled to know what sizes to include in Stitch by Stitch, and since it’s a beginning sewing book, I avoided discussing how to scale them because I didn’t want to scare anyone off! I’m working on a new project now, and hoping that the sizes will be more inclusive–on both ends, because I hear from petites, too, that it’s tough to find things that fit them properly, and that nearly no one wears off-the-rack sizes well, which begs the question: why do they keep making them? I’m so glad you stopped in to add this to the discussion–I’ll do my best!

  • Eliza
    April 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Amen @Elisabeth!

  • Allie
    April 25, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Great post. I read almost everyone’s comments, too. I did the same thing with Stitched in Color’s post, too. I’ve really enjoyed hearing what everyone has had to say.

    Blogs inspired me to think I might even want to sew. I’d never pictured myself doing it until a few years ago. I watched my grandmother sew all through childhood, and even though I did a little hand sewing with her, I never became very interested in it. After seeing all the beautiful things across blogland and stalking and lurking (I love the way you put that-because that’s exactly what people do) I finally decided that I should just try it.

    I am still a very novice sewer and make millions of mistakes, but I love it and am so grateful to those beautiful projects all those bloggers put out there that inspired me. Tutorials full of pictures definitely make me feel empowered. I also love when people talk about their mistake they made and how they fixed them. I do find myself saving ideas that look “like something I could realistically do” and simply staring in awe at those professional ones, but I still think, “One day, Allie, one day.” I’ve definitely felt intimidated in the past, but the more things I try, the more confident I get.

  • Heather
    April 25, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I wanted to start sewing 2 years ago, but only did a few pillows. I am on the net all day and have seen tons of beautiful things and tutorials, but I’m not down with the lingo and most of my comments and emails go into a black hole. I never attempted more because I didn’t have anyone that would explain or reply “THIS is what an ease stitch is. THIS is important, THIS not so much…” I didn’t have money or time to painstakingly figure every bit out on my own.
    Then I found your blog with a post “Sewing Kids Clothes” and I thought – *YES! This is what I want to do. This is where I wanted to get to.* But I was terribly unsure if I’d be able to complete one project, never mind all of them. But I signed up because I figured if I put the time in and paid attention, it would pay off (just like my 6 year old self learning how to add up coins…you have to start somewhere).
    I sewed the skirt and the hem was all wrong and I wasn’t sure what to do. So I took it out and did it again. And then again. The world didn’t end, I just wasted a little thread and it came out just fine. Then I had a newbie question, and someone answered…disaster averted. Then…I really screwed up a buttonhole and it was the first one I ever did and I didn’t know how to fix it. I knew every time I looked at the dress, it would mock me. So I spent an hour taking it out and re-did it the next day. And it looks great.
    Two months ago, I couldn’t do anything but now I have something to show for my efforts. Bringing people together to accomplish a common goal is the reason my little girls have clothes mama made for them. They make more thread and more fabric, so all I have to lose is my patience 🙂 I’ve posted photos on the Flickr group of what I’ve made, not afraid if they aren’t “good enough” or “up to par”. I’m usually a perfectionist and wouldn’t put up something that the rest of the world doesn’t think is perfect. But I think sewing is a craft in which everyone continues to learn new things and I’ve impressed the hell out myself by just finishing what I’ve started. And I owe it all to a nice little community of people here and a few great sites “out there” who are willing to say – you can do it and maybe my help will keep you from making mistakes that will deter you and help keep you inspired! I might ask silly questions, but I don’t care. I’m committed to really learning and being a competent and confident sewer. I love your class so much, I signed up for the knits class. I figured – might as well soak it all in while I’m in the groove so I can stay motivated.
    I will admit I don’t know what a “sherbert pip” or an “innocent crush” or a “single girl quilt” is, so blissful is my newbie ignorance. I buy stuff from and if I really like it, I look on the selvedge edge to see who makes it and then go off to see if they make anything else I like. Hunting and pecking my way to fashion greatness…

  • Kim
    April 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Empowerment comes from your (Deborah’s) philosophy of freedom to fail. In your classes and blogs, you’ve always emphasized the joy of the process rather than the perfection of the finished object (although your finished objects always look awesome!). By showing us how to, in easy step by step, and laughing at mistakes, telling us how to fix them –or let them go (that’s HUGE) — you take away the intimidation factor and just make it fun. Starting to sew 2 years ago was the first time in 44 years I had just dived into something without a care, without anxiety over how I’m doing it, and just plain old had fun, no matter what the outcome. That’s your doing!

  • Clover@farrbetterlife
    April 25, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I taught myself to sew about a year ago. I used youtube and blog tutorials. I started and still mainly like sewing kids clothes cause they are small and less intimidating. I really only follow blogs that do good tutorials and that truly teach or inspire. I think the number one blog out there is Dana from Made. Her style is so simple and her tutorials are the best. I learned a lot from using her blog. I then took a sewing class and bought a book. Each thing has taught me a little bit more. I try not to worry about mistakes. Picking out stitches gives you time to think about what you did wrong.

    I know most of the women who have successful sewing blogs have been sewing most of their lives so I really try not to compare myself.

    I get jealous that my little girl is too big for some of the really cute things I see but I know some day I will have nieces and/or granddaughter or a friend will have a little girl.

    I would just say that I think there is a tremendous amount of inspiration from blogs. Pictures, tutorials, shared stories of successes and failures.
    As newbies just jump in and try who cares if you mess up. One yard of nice fabric is only around $9. Thats only 2 starbucks drinks!
    Go for it!

  • Sherrie
    April 25, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    I frequently feel too intimidated to sew “new” things for me though I am not a novice, and I frequently sell custom made pieces (that are easy for me). I really feel empowered, more than inspired, when I see a sew or quilt a-long based on something on my to-do list. The bloggers style is crucially important to me deciding if I am going to participate. Does she show and make fun of her mistakes? (This gives me confidence.) Does she tackle it in do-able chunks? Are the steps and pictures clear and easily understood?

    Great post!

  • Tiffany
    April 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Wow… I sighed a big sigh of total relief when i read this post, and immediately jumped over to read the ‘inspirational’ post at Stitched in Color (although I admit, I didn’t quiiiite make it through all 273 comments). You really nailed it. I am very new to sewing, but oh-my-goodness-I-absolutely-LOVE it. I learned last year by taking a very basic class at Hobby Lobby (on a machine I bought 10+ years ago and never touched), and have been teaching myself through trial & error and blog-stalking ever since. Yours is one of my favorites, hands down, and one of the reasons I love it so much is the way it makes me feel… I always feel inspired and empowered when I read your posts, like I really CAN sew! For me, the best blogs are those that feel like a real person is there on the other side, encouraging and understanding, guiding and explaining, proudly displaying and at times, admitting defeat. So thanks for that… and for asking in the first place.

  • Sarah Craig
    April 25, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    First of all, a couple of comments on your comments – Andria, I always comment back to the commenters on my blog, but not in the comments to the post – I do it via e-mail so that we can carry on a conversation, unless it’s the answer to a question everyone will be interested in the answer to. And I do tend to show 2 or 3 quilts finished each week on my blog – but those quilts are for our quilt ministry and unfortunately, that’s how fast our needs arise. They are usually group effort quilts, but I’m the only quilter in our group with a blog, so we use it to keep a record what we do in our ministry. I am NOT trying to look like an over-achiever!

    I agree that the more personal a blog is, the easier it is to relate and find enjoyment with it. I look to blogs for inspiration and as a source for designs that we can work up quickly for our quilt ministry. I love blogs that seem “inclusive” and tend to avoid blogs that have a lot of “don’ts” – don’t shop at Joann’s, don’t do simple quilts, etc. I love blogs that generously share knowledge – how to do bindings, quilting tips, beautiful tutorials – and I hope I do the same when I can!

    I teach ladies to sew at my church, and am amazed at how many of them tell me that they tried to learn to sew before, but that the teacher told them that they were incapable of learning to sew! All of them are sewing wonderfully, making things they swore to me they’d not be able to make. They’re not perfect sewers yet, but they will be good sewers – and they’ll be teaching others someday too!

  • Bec Johnson
    April 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Thank you for your thought provoking Discussion… I have just added to it on my blog.. I think its so sad that there are a few discussions going on at the moment in regards to dumbing down quilting..Traditional vs modern. Why cant we just band together as women..And do something that we love and share it with others. I have found so much joy and happiness in sewing/quilting. It has helped me get through grieving the death of my son… I like you, want to give back to this online community and im teaching a FREE ONLINE QUILTING class from my blog. It teaches everything from start to finish on sewing a quilt. i hope some of these newbie sewers can follow along and get the courage to tackle their first quilt.
    We each have things we can learn from each other.. No one way of quilting is better than another. Traditional or modern….Just whatever makes us happy…and helps us get through the day.
    xxx Thank you for this discussion… xxx Bec xx

  • Jeni
    April 25, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    I tend to be empowered/inspired quite easily, but the issues arise when I jump into a project, “mess” something up and then think, “but hers was PERFECT!” Sadly, I usually don’t know if hers really was perfect or not because bloggers only put their absolute best photo out there.

    I started making clothing for my daughter and love to read the forums on the Oliver & S website because people post “Help! I’ve totally messed up the _____” and helpful responses and encouragement are always on the way. I like blogs that offer that same sense of community and….reality. There aren’t many of them.

    I love bloggers who speak candidly about their creative process. It doesn’t have to be a LOT of words, but just a few peeks into HOW they made the choices they did, how long it took, what they improvised, etc.

    I would find more blogs inspiring (and keep following them!) if the writers simply included a few lines about a mistake they made, a choice they wish they had/hadn’t made, or simply said “I hired a babysitter so I could get this dang quilt finished!”

    And I know you were trying to stay positive but what I find least inspiring is a picture of fabric or a stack of fabric. Every now and then, if you’re excited about a new print, I get it. But it seems that people post these pictures because they have nothing else to say. Lame! 🙂

  • Jennifer
    April 26, 2011 at 1:48 am

    I don’t often feel intimidated by blogs, because when I’m honest with myself it is my own insecurities and inexperience that is intimidating me. If I am intimidated by a project, it is because those insecurities are causing me to react that way.

    I am encouraged by blogs where I can find basic information (how to use a rotary cutter! how to use interfacing, how to use patterns, what the difference is between a walking foot and a regular foot and any other kind of feet), whether through a post or a FAQ page or a link to someone else. I feel so stupid some days when I’m sitting at my desk and trying to cut my stupid fabric straight and in specific sized pieces and none of them are turning out right. I am encouraged by blogs where the person is trying new things, even if it’s just a new pattern or a new machine or a new way of quilting, because I am trying new things and it makes me feel left alone.

    And to be honest, I was incredibly encouraged by the comments in Rachel’s post. The blogs you find tend to be the ones with the most followers and best pictures (because there are more links to those blogs than other blogs) and it was awesome to see people who are like me– who completed so few projects, who want to do more but are afraid, who can’t take good pictures, who can’t afford the super amazing fabric and have to shop in clearance bins and with coupons, who have crappy cheap sewing machines and sew in corners of their homes and keep their fabric piled in a rubbermaid storage tub in the laundry room (that last part might just be me). I have a renewed desire to sit down with mat and scissors and fabric and cut my quilt pieces. So I guess I’d say I’m encouraged when bloggers interact with their readers and encourage conversation and transparency. There were some negative comments on that post, but overall I feel like everyone felt good to be able to say things about the popular topics and have people who can relate to them. I even got an email from a really wonderful lady about one of the personal confessions I put in my comment.

  • angela
    April 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Blogs inspire me. I quit quilting for years while raising my family and now I am back at it again, full tilt. And that’s because of all the beautiful, wonderful projects I see at various blogs I follow. And I am grateful!

  • Kelley
    April 26, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I think what I find most intimidating from the “popular” quilting kids is the sheer amount of beautiful quilts accomplished – and not just simple quilts, either. I know many of them do it full time and I can’t compare myself to that measuring stick but that doesn’t stop me from noticing that others who have non-quilting jobs are producing lots, too. I love getting inspiration from all kinds of quilting and sewing blogs, though, so I try to squash down my intimidation and enjoy.

  • If You Sew, You ARE An Artist | Whipstitch
    April 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    […] is so (almost alarmingly) apropos of the discussion we’ve been having that I wanted to share it with y’all.  Here’s to making art […]

  • Amanda
    April 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I do receive lots and lots of inspiration from many blogs, and of course I’m drawn to blogs that have beautiful pictures and post often. But I find the most inspiration from blogs that are candid, and personal and post not just about the final project, but about the process. That’s where I really feel my “I CAN do it” spirit.
    It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable with my level of sewing. Over the weekend, I was a bit down… talking with… ok, balling to my husband, I told him “I’ve only been sewing for less than a year.” He very firmly reminded me that I’ve been sewing much much longer. But in my mind, I had only been sewing up to the expectation of what I held for less than a year. To be honest- I started my first sewing project when I was around 6 years old. I wanted to sew a patchwork quilt. I managed to sew about 3-4 patches together, and was told (by my grandma!!) that it wasn’t very good at all, so I stopped. When I was about 10, I ended up dropping out of a sewing class because I was so discouraged.
    I know this theme is echoed in your book (I haven’t read all the way through yet, but I’m working on it!!). But, if it weren’t for blogs, I’m not sure I would’ve picked sewing back up. I have definitely found so much inspiration, togetherness and positive attitude from the blogging/sewing/quilting community that I feel so blessed to be a part of it! As a mother, I’m trying to foster the positive attitude in my children that was not given to me, and I can see how they are really fearlessly learning and I love it!

    Thank you and all the other bloggers out there who keep it real!!

  • Cheryl Arkison
    April 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Great post. Still need to read all the comments, but I wanted to chime in while it was fresh.

    A year ago I started talking about this, and similar topics with a few other bloggers. Rossie Hutchison then launched the Process Pledge through her blog. Our goal was to get people to share more of the thought/creative process on their blogs – not just the finished quilts. I think this is important whether you are an expert or beginner.

    Quite frankly, as an experienced quilter I get tired of seeing plain patchwork made from charm packs on blog after blog. But do I think people should stop blogging that? Not at all. For one, maybe someone adds their own twist and it does become interesting. And secondly, it is often those most basic of quilts that moves someone from the computer to the sewing machine. That is always a good thing!

    As for the intimidation versus inspiration coming from blogs, I would argue that has more to do with the reader’s point of view than the writer’s. Yes, there may be snobby writers, but a beginner who is checking out the blog of someone who does very advanced work will be intimidated more based on their own response and self confidence than on the content of the blog.

    • Deborah
      April 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm


      I think that’s a really insightful observation, and has certainly come across through the comments: that often, it’s not the tone or intent of one blogger that makes the work intimidating, but rather it’s the attitude each of us brings to the table. In my classes, I constantly am confronted by women (not the men, really) of our generation who are so indescribably hard on ourselves that we freeze up and don’t even get started because we fear that our initial results won’t be flawless. I can’t say often enough that if your first try were perfect, the men in white coats would come and take you away, because you’d have learned all you need to learn on this planet. Knowing there is room to grow is what gets me going in the morning, knowing that I can be a better person today in some way, any way, than I was yesterday. THAT’S empowering.

      I love seeing the Process Pledge button on people’s blogs. It’s such a great reminder that the journey is a big part of how you view the destination. Thanks for adding that to the mix here!

  • Belinda
    April 26, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    15 years ago, I just stopped sewing for many reasons but a big one was my fear of not being able to create something original, wonderful & perfect. I was no longer enjoying sewing. About a year & a half ago, my 21 yr old daughter expressed a desire to learn to sew, and, City Craft opened in Dallas. In and effort to refresh my sewing skills so I could teach my daughter and inspired by City Craft, I began sewing again. This time, though, my attitude is “what have I got to lose?” I have given myself permission to try & fail as long as I’m enjoying the process. It’s no longer about how much I produce or how fast I can produce it. I allow myself the time to pin, baste, & unsew, because that’s often what it takes for a project to be “good enough” to meet MY standards. That’s how I choose to do it. My constant refrain to my daughter is “do it however it works best for you to get the outcome you desire.” I love that I learn something with every single project I undertake. I love being able to share my knowledge with my daughter & anyone else who asks. I love sharing my projects on flickr (no blog). It makes me so happy when something I’ve made, inspires someone else to try or makes them want to learn a new skill.

    Mostly blogs inspire me. I always appreciate the writer’s talent & creativity even when their project is something I would likely not choose to attempt. I love blogs the most when they also teach me something. I’ve learned so many helpful tips & tricks over the past year from blogs. It’s so great to have the internet as a resource!

    I love the energy & vibrancy the new generation of sewers bring to the table – so refreshing!

    What made me the most upset about the original “dumbing down of quilting” post was the “should” attitude expressed. For me the only “should” in sewing is that you “should” enjoy it – well at least most of it – there are parts of projects that I just get through 🙂 It just doesn’t matter how simple or complex the project is. Often it’s the simplest project made with a beautiful fabric that is most inspirational.

    Deborah, your blog is one of my favorites because of the way you teach & your “you can do it too” attitude. I loved the story of your imperfect party dress – and you showed pictures of the imperfections!

    My eldest daughter, a non sewer is trying to teach a 9 yr old with a passion to learn how to sew. I pointed them to your “Sewing with kids” series because of the way you have written it to incorporate more than just sewing skills. My daughter LOVES it!

    I don’t know if I’ve really answered your question, but it was fun reading all the commentary & commenting myself 🙂

  • Mimi
    April 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    I try to balance reading blogs that are by really accomplished sewers with ones that are written by people more like me who are sewing but still learning lots!

    I confess to not noticing a feeling of intimidation by what someone else has done but think, ‘I’d like to do that someday’ which I suppose really I should be thinking ‘I need to have a go at that now’. Although I recently hit a brick wall with a project and I wrote about it, I made light of it but it was hard to admit that I’d been beaten by a supposedly simple project. I got very frustrated with myself for getting something so wrong that so many people got right on the sew a long.

    I’ve set it to one side so that I can finish something and get the sense of achievement rather than wallowing in something that I can’t fix right now. It really helped all the lovely comments I had from readers telling me to chin up and keep going. I think we have to remember we’re all in a community and need to help each other out with a kind word now and again.

    Thanks for such a thought provoking post.

  • Anna
    April 26, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. I also have a place where I teaching sewing and quilting and I find it so inspiring to teach others what I love so much, especially the youngsters (7,8 and 9 years old AND those in their 20s and 30s) I find inspiration from blogs around blogland and also from flickr and yes, sometimes it’s intimidating to me too. When I heard there was some discussion about dumbing down quilting (maybe that’s another discussion?) I thought, gee, is that what I’m doing? And then I said, oh, well, I don’t care because people are learning to love to sew and create and that’s all that really matters. Well, that’s my two cents on the matter. Thanks for chiming in yours!

  • Meg
    April 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I love this post! I blogged a little about my thoughts on learning how to sew!

  • Laurel
    April 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Deborah, I really enjoyed and appreciate this post. I’m empowered by TONS of sewing blogs to sew. But when I first learned to sew, I became almost addicted to reading blogs, and never had or rather “made” time for myself to create. I felt a bit inferior or intimidated by how quickly and efficiently people put stuff together. At the beginning of the year, I decided to reorganize my blogs and pick 10 or so to check in on everyday. I periodically change out those 10 and add newer or different blogs I come across that are inspiring to me at that point in time. Anyway , what I quickly learned was that a) I had a LOT more time to create and sew (duh), b) I often found inspiration in my own projects or really my own life and that I didn’t always need to depend on blogs so much, and c) that sort of inferior feeling that people described (and I once had) sort of went away because I was doing my own thing at my own pace and enjoying it. Also, just recently in the past month I finally posted some pictures to flickr groups and have been overwhelmed by the positive response. It took me soooo long to get up the nerve to do that, but it felt so good even to get one small comment. So, based on my personal experiences, I can’t help but wonder if this sense of intimidation is something we as readers bring on ourselves??

    Also, slightly unrelated but your post brought to mind a documentary that I saw earlier this year. It’s called “A Man Named Pearl” and it’s about a topiary artist from a small town in SC. Among many other lessons, his story teaches that “we all have a gift” and that we just have to get out there and find/do what we love and just work hard at it. It is an unbelievable story and so empowering…I highly recommend it! : )

  • Susanne
    April 26, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    This is exactly how I feel about it!!

    I think the biggest mistake people make is to take any of these “conversations” personally. Someone stating their opinion doesn’t make their words universal truth, unless we allow them to be.

    I also think we can’t all be “winners” We can’t all be the best, brightest most creative bloggers. Not ALL of us : D, but it doesn’t mean we can’t completely LOVE what we do.


  • selina
    April 26, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    I don’t generally read comments to blogs but followed a few links and ended up here. I have been reading blogs for several months now several regularly and many by following links. I enjoy it all. If I don’t like what someone has to say after reading several of their posts I just don’t go back but mostly I like what I see. I don’t follow designers or lines but I do appreciate the end results if only as looking at art. No one intimidates me. I believe all work should contain errors. I am no way near perfect and neither is my quilting. I started quilting in my guild by doing Charity quilts. A child never cares about matching points. i have improved over the years but there are things I avoid because it would slow me down to do it right. I know I will never do a Mariners Compass but I will always do Charity quilts and they will always have a few point issues. I like blogs and the people who put themselves outthere (mostly).

  • Dawnmarie Oyler
    April 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    When I’m reading blogs I’m looking for inspiration to try something new – whether it’s a new color combo, a new project, a new technique/skill. The main thing is that it looks doable. I’m a new quilter (about 1 year) and there’s so much I don’t know. I really don’t even know what I don’t know. One thing I like that came out of the dumbing down conversation is several bloggers doing skill building/quilting 101 type posts as an attempt to keep the conversation positive and share their knowledge. I don’t always need a full tutorial, but I need some indication of what went into the project so that I get the impression that I can do it.

    Also, for me, it’s so hard sometimes, to know where you can ask a question and get a proper answer. Luckily my LQS is wonderful for that, but they’re a good 1/2 hour a way so it’s hard to get their often enough.

    Thanks for sharing. I’m glad I stumbled across your blog today.

  • Amy Menges
    April 26, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    What an interesting discussion, thank you! I just love reading and seeing how sewing has again become something to aspire to, so just knowing there is community out here for sewers is inspiring to me. I think you put it correctly, “just put needle to fabric and see what happens.” And blog posts that let someone in on the process, both success and failure, is helpful. I have been sewing all my life, yet when I see blogs spilling over with completed successes, I get overwhelmed and feel my own efforts are too meager to be meaningful. I am struggling to find my own “blog voice” right now, but I think it should be real – “after struggling with this zipper for two hours, I finally whipped it into shape. If you’re struggling too, maybe this would help…” – that kind of reality. If all we sewers ever say is “this is so easy anyone can do it,” I think it can be demeaning for other people on their own creative journey, even when we say it to encourage them.

    Thanks again for this discussion. It’s really made me think, and I’m again feeling motivated to work on my own blog as a way to inspire people. What I really want to do is pass along is an excitement to join in the sewing circle and create!

  • Amber R
    April 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Thanks for starting such a positive discussion. It’s great to hear a discussion without an “I don’t like…” I agree comments are empowering and I also appreciate when bloggers email me back after I comment. (don’t feel obligated to comment back to me). I wish everyone would comment on a “regular” bloggers site with something nice & encouraging. And not just comment for giveaways. How about everyone out there tries it once and pay it forward.

  • Stephanie
    April 26, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    This is truly a wonderful post. It encompasses everything I have been feeling since I first started to faithfully follow blogs. When I first started reading sewing blogs I was blown away, and truly inspired by what people can create. Many of these women had blogs that were beautifully developed, hundreds (sometimes thousands) of followers, and sponsored by crafting companies and successful shops. Following along with some of the tutorials helped me to look at my crafting in a different way. Maybe I don’t need to throw out that old shirt, I can re-fit it; maybe I don’t need to spend $20 on a shirt that looks so simple to make.
    But as I began to follow more and more blogs and how immensely talented people were, and how impeccable their work looked, made me look at my work in a negative light and began to question my ability and creativity. I think what I failed to realize is the process that is involved in creating anything. The pictures you see on the blog are the best of the best used to show the final product and that is something I still need to recognize.
    My entire life I have always wanted to make things and have people enjoy them. When I got my first sewing machine four years ago, I felt I had finally found something I was good at and that I could make profitable if I just put my mind to it. Reading this blog post and all of the wonderful comments makes me feel not so alone in my emotions about crafting and sewing and renews my want to be the best crafter I know to be. Thank you.

  • Penny Schofield
    April 26, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    I am inspired by blogs that are about real life most. Show me the bib you made for you baby! ( I also appreciate if you shoe me how you made it!) I love tutorials that detail the whole process, the good the bad and the ugly! I don’t like the author any less if they made a mistake and gave me the heads up on how NOT to mess this up! I think that is great. Most often I immediately think….oh I so would have done that too! It forms a connection, which I think we are all looking for. I also value comments and replies to them. Not just the “oh pick me” giveaway kind, but a real sentence that you may actually say if you were face to face. I like blogs that talk as though I am in your living room or sewing room as the case may be! I have been sewing for a really long time but I still like to learn a new trick, and sometimes I think I may even have an old trick that I could share. Thanks for the chat!

  • Shelley
    April 27, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with such grace. I have really enjoyed discovering sewing, especially quilting, through online blogs and websites. I can go online, read a post & get charged up to make something but when I sit down I often feel a divide between me and this hobby I have fallen in love with. For a long time I didn’t feel empowered and so I would sew small, simple things (think drawer satchels) and just dream about trying a quilt someday. Now, a little over a year later, I always have a few quilts going. None of them are perfect & I am, for the most part, ok with that. What empowered me was accepting that (for today) my talent isn’t perfectly lined squares or detailed piecing. My talent is that I adore quilting. My talent is also for color and design but most importantly is my love for sewing. When I feel like I can’t show anyone my quilts because of their faults I have to laugh. It is ridiculous that I am so afraid of not being approved of that I would hide one of my best friends – sewing.

  • wendy
    April 27, 2011 at 5:52 am

    I’m a novice sewer. When I first discovered blog land, I was looking for knitting and embroidery patterns and I stumbled into a world of sewing. I wanted a go, so I tried. I’m pretty rubbish at it but my daily tour of blogland is inspiring. I too love to see process posts, where the blogger shows you why and how they did something – not necessarily tutorials (though they are good!) but just some more information than “I made this!”.

    I’ve started posting my failures and mistakes on my blog. I’ve found that my commenters are really great for making me feel better about it. I always get some advice on how to fix it and people telling me they’ve done the same thing, it makes me feel less stupid!

    Comments are definitely inspiring, as are responses when I’ve left a comment. So many times I leave comments with questions or suchlike (I mean, not just a “love it”) comment, and get no response. It does tend to make you feel that the blogger just doesn’t care. I know everyone’s busy, but when I’ve left 4 or 5 comments on a blog and had no response, I stop commenting there.

    Oh, I’ve gone off on a tangent!

  • Emily
    April 27, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Blogs inspire me to sew when they gently take me by the shoulders and state very firmly, “YOU CAN SEW.” I like that kind of plain talking. Sometimes blog readers (like myself) just need to be told to stop (day)dreaming and START SEWING. I like being called on my BS that “I have no time to sew,” yet I find hours and hours to watch tv and read sewing blogs. JUST SEW SOMETHING! So, thank you, Deborah, for being that kind, encouraging, no-nonsense yet funny voice in blog-land. 🙂

  • Missie
    April 27, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Thank you, Deborah. This is a great post. I read all of the comments on your post and on Rachel’s, and I have to say that I am inspired. Not just by the bloggers that I read, but by the commenters, the real-life people who do the same thing I do. We all read blogs for inspiration, but I am so curious to know why people started sewing in the first place. Whether you’re new to sewing or are a sewing veteran, what originally inspired you to get started?
    I also like to see the true life blog posts, ie. the mistakes, the laundry pile in the background, the kids’ broken arms, the stuff that makes us realize that the people who do inspire us are not just sew-bots. It has inspired me to start posting my life more on my own blog, not just the sewing, but the background, the mistakes, the reasons for why and why not.
    Thank you again for putting even more inspiration out there than you already do.

  • Sarah @ PingsAndNeedles
    April 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    What was I going to say? I got all involved in all the comments …

    oh yes … great post … I’m liking this debate in a kind of lurky way … but have de-lurked because I think you’ve really summed it all up beautifully.

    I blog because I love to make and I love to write and I love being nerdy.

    I also think we only ever learn from our mistakes, so I’m quite comfortable showing mine!

  • tracy_a
    April 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    I feel empowered when someone explains the why – why you cut on the bias, what happens if you are at 38 degrees rather than 45 degrees, or why they chose large prints on one are of a quilt and small prints in another. Sort of like, I never flossed my teeth when the dentist said I should, or when he said my teeth will fall out if I don’t floss them, but when a hygenist explained some of the details of gum recession and how it affects jaw structure and such – you better believe I felt a lot more interested in flossing!

    Obviously you can’t add the why in every step (change to the zipper foot – why do you use a zipper foot to sew in a zipper?) – but, seriously – those are the bloggers and books I LOVE to read.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Emily
    April 27, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Haha, okay, I have to admit, I like certain blogs because of the pretty. I’m all for showing mistakes, but i like it to be well-photographed! No piles of dirty laundry, please, I see enough of my own. lol

  • Becky
    April 27, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    I found your blog through bijou lovely blog post. I can already tell by my perusing that I am going to enjoy this blog!
    Anyway, back to your rhetorical question that I will also try to answer anyway- I have been sewing now for about 18 months. I got into sewing because my mom wanted someone to go with her to a F2F beginners sewing class. I was hooked. Our instructor told us to make another of the “beginner quilts” so we would start off strong, so of course, I started searching around the Internet to find something more. Challenging 🙂
    I found blogland; and I was hooked again. So many ideas and inspiration that it is unbelievable. But trying to think of what makes me ACTUALLY DO is different from what inspires me to WANT to quilt if that makes sense. And I think it comes down to participation posts. Tutorials help me know how, but I actually choose to do because I see others doing. Not just the one awesome Quilter that I only hope to be able to half as good as, but posts that are… Hey, here’s a tutorial, let’s see your interpretations and link them up here (or post here on flickr). Almost as though, with your invitation to replicate, you are telling me, even YOU can do this – and it will be good enough to show us.
    And like others said, comments. I know on monster blogs you loose the individuality of being able to read everything, but someone, blogger or follower commenting gives me the confidence I am trying to build to keep trying new things!

  • bridgette
    April 28, 2011 at 10:17 am

    to be good at anything we have to be willing to be bad at it first.
    with sewing, this can be particularly frustrating because there are so many projects on these blogs that we just dont want to wait to tackle! we want to dive in and be as good as these bloggers, and it’s hard to admit to yourself that youre not good enough. what we need to remember is thatwith each project we are perfecting our craft. maybe youre not good enough to sew clothes for yourself YET, but you will get there sooner than you think if youre just willing to try!
    keep trying ladies! even the most talented sewist you know was a beginner too at some point 🙂

  • What You Bring To The Table | Whipstitch
    April 29, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    […] we’re understood.  I felt that way reading comment after comment responding to my question, “When do sewing blogs make you feel empowered?” Now, in fairness, I only got to read the folks who actually commented, and not the ones who […]

  • Kristyne
    April 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Thank you so much for being a positive voice in the midst of all this weirdness lately. I love how you affirm that anyone can sew. I, too, am a teacher and I share your love of watching adult students think & learn & grow & feel good about themselves, no matter the results.

  • Emma
    April 30, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    There have been a lot of great comments already,so I’ll keep it short and sweet. Sewing blogs make me feel empowered when:

    – there is talk of the process, not just the finished project
    – the writer’s tone is friendly and approachable
    – there are lots of pictures (i.e. I’m new to quilting, and the first time I read the words “stitch in the ditch” I didn’t quite get it.. until I scrolled down and saw the accompanying image)
    – to err is human; I don’t need to know about all of a projects “mistakes” but discussion on fudging is great because it teaches me, and it also demonstrates that even experienced quilters need to fudge sometimes

  • Maureen
    May 3, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Wow! I stumbled upon this post and I am so glad that I did. I learned to sew as a child – both my grandmothers and then my Mum. I really started doing more when I was a young mother with three young children, no money and a desire for them to look good and keep warm. I used any type of sewing and crafting that I could to reach that goal. Now, I make costumes for community musical theatre (all volunteer), teach sewing and alterations (all volunteer), make uniforms for a local girl’s choir (mostly volunteer) and occasionally make clothing for myself. I still use any type of sewing and crafting that I can.
    I am always intimidated by the amazingly creative, unique and beautifully made items I see posted on various blogs. But they inspire me too.
    I love the blogs that take me step by step through basic items and then give lots of suggestions for making it unique and special. I especially love the ones that show me something that almost went disasterously wrong – but somehow was able to be fixed. It gives me hope and lots and lots of ideas.
    I fell into teaching sewing – I still don’t consider myself an expert – I think I just know a little bit more than the next person. I guess I’m inspired by blogs that are a bit like that.

  • Mel
    May 11, 2011 at 9:03 am

    I have just discovered your blog via a friend and thought I would chime in on the feeling of being intimidated – for me it isn’t about “wow~ look at what they made” or “I could never do that.” I know that I’ve got some knack for sewing, I can look around at projects from the past and see a little evidence of it now and then: a pillow from 20 years ago, a window shade from the previous decade, a revived quilt from 2006. What strikes me as intimidating as I look at blogs, is the thought that someone had the TIME to make something like that. I know, the time will only be there if I make the time. Try as I might it seems like something else always creeps in and takes away that little square I had placed on the calender and named “crafty.” I love the talent I see displayed on the blogs, but I am way more envious of the time that someone has to explore that talent. Is there anyway we could add an extra day to the week, just for making things?

  • Maeve
    June 21, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    I too am most interested in the entire process thing. I don’t like looking at blogs where all there is might be a giveaway where you have to jump through a dozen hoops to have a chance. Don’t get me wrong, I love a freebie. But I’d much rather a quality blog with lots of reality, showing how a project is done start to finish (like even showing how one comes up with the fabric selection, what thread was used, etc.), with tips for the little things that often seem difficult to many of us. Even those of us who have been sewing for years can learn something new. Thus, I agree with what you and Rachel are saying and I’m happy you put it out there for all of us to talk about.

  • hazelruth1
    June 11, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Oh my….just stumbled onto this entry and your blog. I am a bit teary. The encouragement in this one entry is more than I have had in years to start sewing. I begged and got a sewing machine two years ago for Christmas. It’s still in it’s box because I’m so scared to fail or find out I am inept and stupid. Years ago – 35 yrs ago, I was a young wife and mother in a new house with no money. I had an old sewing machine (I wish i still had) and for some reason thought I could do it and went out and bought EIGHTY yards of 54″ drapery fabric – it was about a $1 a yard. I wasn’t scared – I don’ tknow why I wasn’t! I took it home and did alot of measuring and made 2 pairs of lined drapes, a king size bedspread, a dust ruffle, pillow shams, and throw pillows. I am still shocked that I did this. none of it was perfect for sure, and no seam was straight but I was really proud. I thought my confidence would come back and I bought 20 yards of fabric to make drapesbut the material is still standing there waiting for me. And until today my fears were winning and I have been totally intimidated. Your encouragement will help me get the box open and I’ll let you know how this works out. 🙂 Thank you and know you have a regular follower1

  • Kimberli
    July 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Thank you. I’m a 20 year fashion industry professional who was downsized out of the business and is told weekly that I’m over qualified and have too much knowledge and experience in this job market.

    I started a lifestyle blog, including a craft (honing your craft) section and pulled out the knitting needles and sewing machines now that I had time. I wanted to inspire creativity.

    Being that my background is sewing and pattern making, I took a part time job as a sewing teacher at a school in NYC. I’ve taught before and knew I loved it, but this time it’s different. It’s the main source of income (albeit woefully little). I smile each day that I board the train from NJ to NYC. My students don’t want to leave class when all is done. All too many of them are so fearful of failure when they come in and I’m happy to say they’re excited to continue sewing after the 1, 4 or 8 week session.

    I try to instill in them that they are capable to just DO IT! Pick it up and TRY! That they should NEVER put themselves or their work down (there are plenty of folks who will do that for us sadly) and that this knowledge is a gift they will have forever. Between classes they email for additional urgent help… I’ve even had one Skype from her home in Israel.

    I’m not sure who has gotten more out of this – me or them! I do hope that I’m inspiring creativity whether it’s through my blog ( or through sewing lessons. I’d be so sad to think I ever put a damper on anyones creativity or drive!