How Do You Make Your Sewing Projects Look Less Home-Made?

Happy Monday, everyone! A while back, Lora left an interesting comment about her fear of having her sewing projects look home-made, and not the good kind of homemade. Here’s what she said, in her words:

I had a block of time (years) where I sewed very little while I worked and went to school. I am getting back into the creativity of sewing and fear my projects look home-made. After spending hours on a garment, it is the curse of death that it looks that way. Perhaps you could pose the question “What are some tips you have to make home-made look store bought and/or better?” sometime this year. I am graduating this spring, and would like to sew classic office attire that looks professional. My goal this year is to find out how to do that.

I like this comment as I think it’s something we all can relate to. When someone asks ‘Did you make that?’ how many of us worry that a mistake has given us away? After all, if it were truly a nice garment, wouldn’t someone just say ‘Love your skirt!’ instead?

So I thought and thought about how to cross that bridge from homemade to professional. I know that some of my projects are more obviously made by me, and some could pass as store-bought. (Which in Lora’s case, is the goal – store-bought quality or better.)

Here’s what I’d suggest to make sewing projects look less home-made:

Expensive-looking fabrics. See how I said expensive-looking and not necessarily expensive in price? It’s all about how the fabric looks, and drapes, and feels. You can find some nice polyester prints that aren’t expensive and have the appearance of silk or rayon. Rayon is less expensive than silk and has a lovely drape and texture.

fabric

(the printed fabrics on the left are polyester but are nice quality! wools and lace on the right are an example of matte fabrics with texture)

I find that shiny fabrics appear less expensive, are harder to press, and draw attention to any imperfections with shiny wrinkles and drag lines, so I’d say look for matte fabrics instead. (Especially for classic office wear.) I prefer natural fabrics myself, wools and cottons and rayons, but there are some very nice quality suiting blends that have the appearance of wool at a lower price point.

Texture and surface interest can make a fabric look more expensive as well. Look for tweeds or textured wovens, something with a little bit of interest without a lot of shine or sparkle. Even cotton twill, which is normally a casual wear fabric, could make a great office skirt in a simple style and conservative colour.

Attention to pressing. In my mind, careful pressing can take a well-made garment from good looking to great. Crisply-pressed hems and facings look sharp, and make the whole garment appear properly finished. If left unpressed, thick, lumpy facings or puffy hems are a sign of something home-made.

So when you’re sewing, and it says to press after each sewing step, do it! It will make a difference in the quality of the finished garment. Press as you go, press seams open when it says to, press facings and collars and press anything that you have to turn, like a collar or a cuff or strap.

When the last sewing step is complete, and the buttons are sewn, take the garment to the iron for a final press. Press everything smooth and flat, using a ham or seam roll to get into tricky areas and curves. Press the hem especially – fat hems look sloppy! (Unless it’s intentionally part of the design.)

new ironing board

(set up your ironing station close to the sewing machine to make it easier to press in between sewing steps!)

Choosing projects that suit your style. Let’s say you’re a high-end leather purse kind of girl, and your usual handbag is well-cared for with shiny gold hardware. If one day, you start carrying a colourful printed cotton tote, people will be more likely to ask you if you made it because it’s out of character. If it’s not something you would likely buy, then it may be more obvious as something you’ve made. Especially if you have mentioned your new interest in sewing!

So if you’re working sewn items into your regular wardrobe, choose things you’d like to buy at the store. Try not to get distracted by the exciting prints and bold colours at the fabric store if you’d never buy something that loud in real life. You’ll enjoy making it but may not wear it as often as you like!

five favourites - personal style

(from my Five Favourites post – five items that I feel define my style)

If you’re finding it hard to imagine what a fabric might look like in a whole garment, do a little window-shopping at your favourite store (or online store) and make notes of which prints and colours you like best. Then look for similar fabrics at the fabric store! Your projects will look more professional because they’re closer to what’s already available in ready-to-wear.

Keep it simple. I know, this is rich coming from me! But if you make a beautifully pressed, well sewn navy pencil skirt, people will notice how well you’re dressed and not necessarily notice the skirt itself. If you make a wild printed dress, with embellished trim and contrast stitching and maybe an exposed zipper, your clothing will be so noticeable (and so unique!) that people will notice the clothing first before they notice you.

If you’re sewing a new work wardrobe and the thought of all that grey and navy sounds boring, add secret colourful details like contrast linings for fun! Your clothing will still look very professional, and only you will know about the fun colours hiding underneath. Or add tone-on-tone detailing, such as black lace on the hem of the black lining of your black skirt. It’s understated, but it makes a simple skirt a little more special.

Cambie Dress in Navy, View A

(this version of the Cambie Dress is simple, perfect for work!)

Keep it simple applies to choosing patterns as well. A simple blouse pattern, like the Pendrell or Alma, is quick and easy to sew, and allows you to make the same pattern several times for work without it looking like it’s obviously the same design.

A classic skirt pattern, like the Hollyburn, is easy to make and works well for sewing multiple garments. You could make a solid navy Hollyburn skirt and select three printed top fabrics that coordinate with navy for a quick mini-wardrobe! Add a pair of Thurlow Trousers and now you have even more outfit options. If you sew with a plan, it makes it easy to build up that work wardrobe with pieces you know work well together, and even easier to get dressed for work in the morning!

Rose Print Pendrell, back view.

Being asked if something is handmade isn’t always a bad thing. If people know that you love to sew, they may be just making conversation, or admiring your outfit! It’s when you feel like it looks handmade, and wish your projects looked more professional, when it matters at all.

Ok! Your turn. What would you suggest for Lora to make her project look more professional, and less home-made?

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123 Responses to How Do You Make Your Sewing Projects Look Less Home-Made?

  1. Norma January 14, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    I would suggest to avoid really distinct quilting fabrics for apparel, while there’s a great debate over the internet whether or not quilting fabric can/should be used for clothes, i think in some cases it can work well but other times it makes clothing look homemade.

    • Caerphilly December 13, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

      This goes back to the internet debate, but I primarily sew my clothes with quilting cottons. And I primarily get comments of how people like my clothes! I think it depends on the quilting cotton that you use. There are some prints that are meant to be quilts, or pajamas, or just not every day clothes. But cotton is a great fabric for clothing (just being able to wash and dry it, and the fact that it’s natural and breathable!!). Quilting cotton is high quality cotton fabric. So, if you don’t choose a an inappropriate print, I think you can make a high quality garment with such fabric. Of course, not an evening gown, but I’d sure make a Cambie dress in a Michael Miller Ta Dot fabric!

  2. Katy Rose January 14, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    Learning and practicing! There are always new techniques that can turn your garment from hand made to looking high end! Pad stitching, grading your seams, Taking the the time to hand finish your garment and never rushing….taking the time to have a great fitting muslin, even if it means 3 or 4 fittings!

  3. Allynara January 14, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    Great post! Pressing is definatly a key in this. Also: choosing your color/print.

    If you’re sewing something for your work-wardrobe, you can go for a classier finish with an invisible hem (either for pants, skirts or tops). It’ll give your clothing a bit of an expensive look, without being it. Or you could sew a second row of stitches around the hems for the store-bought-look, sinze many of my pants/dresses/tops have 2 rowes of stitches along the hem.

  4. Merry January 14, 2013 at 6:22 am #

    I always make sure to finish all my seams and I add a cute little tag as well (example: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scarymerry/8370189972/in/pool-tira30minutes/). For me, making the garment feel “professional” is as much about the inside of the garment as it is the outside.

  5. clothingengineer January 14, 2013 at 6:22 am #

    In my experience, when a garment fits really well and is a flattering color people tend to overlook less-than-perfect construction and lesser quality fabrics. However, you should also try your best to use good construction techniques. Make sure your seams are stitched straight, you use the right kind of structure/interfacing, and the pattern style suits the chosen fabric. The Pendrell would look very homemade if you used a stiffer cotton shirting fabric instead of a soft, drapey silk or rayon.

  6. Sew Little Time January 14, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    i think seam finishing is important (for you – if you can’t see fraying seams when you put it on, the “home-madeness” is less likely to be at the top of your mind!). i think fabric choice is probably the most important thing. i have also been trying the 30 minutes a day sewing method and i think it means you take much more care and rush less, giving a better and more professional end result!

  7. Marie January 14, 2013 at 7:01 am #

    Number one is definitely fabric choice. Cutesy quilting cottons are fun, but not helpful to making something look professional. Actually cottons in general should be used with thought – they’re appropriate for certain tops and for summer dresses, but not so much for more substantial pieces.

    Number two for me is proper use of interfacing. Droopy, pulling necklines are a sure sign of homemade.

    Number three is when in doubt about a pattern, use a print. Prints hide a kinds of construction sins.

    • Maren January 14, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      Agreed on all three, especially fabric choice. There are so many eye-catching, colorful, and fun fabrics available that it’s tempting to buy every bright print you see. But it’s important to think about how you’ll use the garment you’re making. I’ve found that the more classic, solid-color pieces I’ve made get the most use: a khaki skirt, a navy wool dress, a navy pencil skirt. It’s not as much fun to buy, but when you use a quality cotton or wool fabric, it becomes a piece you’ll love and get a lot of use from. (Though I still love my floral dresses!)

      And YES on proper interfacings – this makes a HUGE difference in the shape and look of your garment, especially necklines and skirt waistbands. If you want to get fancy, you can also add stay tape at the shoulders and boning at the waistband – it helps your garment last and gives it a professional-looking structure.

  8. Sam January 14, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    I think all the points you make above are definitely the way to stop things looking homemade. The garment – or whatever – might still look handmade, but that’s completely different to homemade in my opinion.

    To me, handmade screams of quality, something made by a skilled craftsperson especially for you – think of bespoke handcrafted kitchens for example. Homemade is so often used in a negative or disparaging manner, and can have connotations of bad finishing, poor fabric choices etc.

  9. josephine January 14, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    This is such a good question! I always have this problem as well, I’m not very good at finishing my garments on the inside, so if for some reason people see the inside construction they know it’s home-made.

    I also find that things tend to look home-made if they don’t fit the current fashion trends.
    Of course nowadays there are so many trends and differend brands but it still shows is your clothes are just very you. I like a hint of vintage and have my own ideas about colors and how a garment should fit me. In a world of skinny jeans; here I am wearing a straight cut pantalon with a 40s vibe. And yes… looking very home-made.

    • anne jewell January 31, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

      josephine–if you will pink your seam allowances, that will give you a neat finish without a great deal of extra construction time. a good pair will last a lifetime and can be sharpened by the same person who does your fabric scissors.–anne

  10. Jan A January 14, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    Pay attention to detail. Do all the preliminary steps, fitting, measuring. Don’t skip, as it will show up later on the garment. Pressing is the number one priority. I made a suit for my daughter awhile back. Even though I pressed at every step, I sent it to the dry cleaners to be professionally pressed. I have been sewing since I was 8 and made all my clothes in high school. I often got comments, “Is that home made” and I would say NO, it is custom made by me. Now, some 50 years of sewing later, the comments that I do receive, are, You made that?

    • soisewedthis January 14, 2013 at 8:42 am #

      i love this – “custom made by me” =)

    • Trisha January 14, 2013 at 9:18 am #

      Ooh, I also love your response, “custom made by me.” I might steal that!

  11. Natalie Harrison January 14, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    over locking, it tidys up everything :)

  12. Sunni January 14, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    I agree with every single thing you’ve said here. I think the no. 1 thing is fabric choice – I remember when I first got back into sewing several years ago and those quilting cottons were just too fun to pass up. After making several clothing items out of some of the craziest prints, I found that people that I worked with would ask me that question all the time and they seemed to only ask about the items that well, looked kind of crazy. Unfortunately, quilting cottons really do have that effect. Its really hard to pass them up! If you absolutely are not ready to pass on the quilting cotton prints, why not make them into something like a top that goes with an understated skirt and jacket or a scarf. Instead of having the print be the center stage, have it compliment your ensemble.

    Also, and this is my own experience, I would highly recommend becoming a Threads magazine subscriber. Sounds a little weird, I know, but that magazine seriously has amazing tutorials for how to take your garments from looking homemade to upscale RTW. Doesn’t hurt to invest in the back issues either, or purchase the CD that has all of the back issues of Threads on it. Its a great and amazing investment!

    Awesome topic and fabulous strategies and ideas Tasia!

  13. Lisette January 14, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    Sew a lot of projects! You have to feel your way through this problem and each time you’ll get better. I agree with you though in keeping it simple. Avoiding prints and trims and sewing basic styles is the right way to go. Prints are the fastest way to make something look handmade, they’re very tricky. Lastly, take your time and do things right…no shortcuts!

  14. CarmencitaB January 14, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    For me, the difference between handmade and homemade lies within the garment. Good interfacing, good seam finishes, good press, good lining.
    Each fabric needs different sewing techniques so bookmark the good tutorials, keep a few reference books by your machine and practice practice practice until you are satisfied. You are your best and most harsh judge.

    • CarmencitaB January 15, 2013 at 1:51 am #

      I forgot marking, a well marked project will look well made.

  15. Erin January 14, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    When I got my serger, it definitely took my sewing up a notch. Having well-finished seams motivated me to take more care in all steps of sewing a project (sewing a straight seam, pressing, fitting, etc.). Now my general sewing skills are much better, and unserged seams don’t bother me so much. Plus, have you taken a close look at a RTW item of clothing?? It’s not usually that great. Frankly, most of the online sewing community makes clothing that is of much higher quality than what you can buy in stores (I obviously don’t shop designer).
    Everything in Tasia’s post is also right on the money–especially fabric choice and pressing.

  16. Dayl January 14, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    I know this is a bit off topic, but I just wanted to mention how much I love this version of the cabbie dress. The floral ones I have seen are lovely as well, but I have had a hard time transferring that style into my own wardrobe. Your simple but beautiful grey version is exactly what I needed to see to get inspired!!

    Thanks Tasia!

  17. Natalya January 14, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    Why try to sew something that looks store-bought? I sew exactly because clothes in stores lack any kind of ingenuity in design, freshness in approach or sophistication in construction. Barring those multi-thousand dollars items. If stores sell clothes with certain finish, it is not because it is the best finish, it is probably because it is cheapest to make.

    • Roisin January 14, 2013 at 10:37 am #

      I agree with this so much! I take the point about quilting cottons and crazy prints – they’re not to everyone’s tastes – but one of the reasons why sewing is so important to me is the ability to make clothes you just can’t buy – so I really don’t fuss if someone asks if something is ‘homemade’ even if they mean it in a disparaging way. But you know, most people don’t mean it in that way, at least not in my experience. I LIKE my handmade clothes to look handmade! Yeah, I still want them to look WELL-made, but those two things are NOT mutually exclusive.

      • Tasha @ Stale Bread into French Toast January 14, 2013 at 11:04 am #

        I agree as well! It’s not only that I strive for better quality than the RTW I can afford, it’s that I don’t want to wear the same thing the person next to me is wearing, even if we both look professional. Fortunately, we sewers all have a choice about how much hand-made-ness shows in any garment we make, so we can have unique but subtle work clothes if we want, and also pieces that really suit our style and what we want to say to the world.

      • Nikki January 15, 2013 at 12:54 am #

        Pretty much my opinion too. Also I find that the stuff on the High St is not that well made, I prefer well made home made to poorly made RTW. I love quilting cottons and crazy prints, the things I make with them are the things I get the most compliments on.

    • francesca January 16, 2013 at 7:22 am #

      Natalya, I was about to leave a comment but you’ve said it – hey, my stripes match up – even quite high-end clothes don’t do that – the only item I have where they match is a MaxMara tshirt i bought ages ago when I lived with my parents and didn’t have to pay for my own food!

      I cannot stand machine hems on clothes, for me it brings them down. I hem everything by hand invisibly.

      I do agree that there’s a difference between the connotations of hand made and home made, and i like to think my stuff looks hand made. One thing I am 100% in agreement with Tasia on is hems. There are some bloggers who make fabulous clothes with big bulky hems. It is SO important to stitch them loosely, especially at the seam areas – the seams under hems should be graded – and then they should be pressed to within an inch of their life…..

  18. Janette January 14, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    oh, how I wish I read this a year ago. I have yards and yards of printed fabric that is so pretty but I would never wear. Not sure what I’m going to do with it – a bunch of aprons as gifts? I also have tons of dress patterns because they’re so pretty but rarely wear dresses. One thing I’m struggling with is finding modern, varied patterns for knits (I’ve already made two renfrews which I love!) and, more importantly, finding good sources to buy knits. I want to make things I’ll wear which, in my casual lifestyle, is a lot of knits and jeans.

    • Merry January 14, 2013 at 8:42 am #

      Check out Cake patterns! It’s a new pattern line by an awesome sewing blogger and knits are her focus. The only pattern out right now is a dress (which I’ve made and love and plan to make many more of), but next month she has a separates pattern coming out with two more separates to follow! Also, check out GirlCharlee.com for knit fabric. They have an amazing selection of knit prints, far better than any others I’ve seen online.

    • Wendy January 14, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      I would also suggest Jalie for excellent knit patterns. Lots of great styles to look at there too.

    • Sabrina June 7, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

      If you don’t know what to do with the fabric, you coyld use it to practise sewibg techniques, make toiles, or make little dresses for poor African girls (see ‘Sewing with Nancy’).

  19. Isidore January 14, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    Don’t use those crazy buttons they sell at JoAnn’s. I know it’s tempting, but you only ever see plain, boring buttons on RTW.

    • Merry January 14, 2013 at 11:52 am #

      I disagree. If you wanted RTW clothing, you’d buy that instead of making your own. You never see the degree of stripe matching that I and many others put into our clothing when we use stripes or plaids, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it! One of the great things about making your own clothes is the opportunity to use prints or buttons or whatnot that you wouldn’t be able to wear if you were limited to what’s sold in stores.

      • Hearthrose January 14, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

        I think there’s a difference between “twee” and “special”. One of the oldest tricks in upgrading RTW is upgrading the buttons.

        So yes, buy the good buttons – metal, wood, bone, highest quality plastic. They can have a subtle interest to them, too. (I love the Victorian inspired buttons at Joanne’s). This makes your clothing look custom, or high-end shop, rather than homemade.

        Leave the plastic dinosaurs for the folks who aren’t wearing their clothes to an office.

        There’s nothing wrong with whimsy, but if you’re trying not to look homemade… well.

    • Erin January 16, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

      Well, yes, but that’s why lots of creative people who want to freshen up their wardrobe buy a good jacket, etc., take the boring buttons off, and put new fun buttons on :)

  20. Lauren January 14, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    I get a lot of flack for saying this, but I stand my ground – 99% of the time, using quilting cotton to make a garment ends up with the whole thing looking homemade. I know, quilting cottons are cheap and easy to sew and the prints are fun… but those fun prints rarely translate well into adult clothing. Of course, there is always an exception (and there are always quilting cottons that aren’t covered in cat prints or whatever :) – and sometimes, you just want to wear a dang cat print!!!), but for the most part, this is the main thing I notice.

    I also agree with your points about expensive looking fabric (super shiny does tend to look cheaper, waaah) and being really vigilant about pressing. I also think a bad fit can make something look homemade. I don’t mean really nitty gritty bad fit – because RTW can have some weird fit issues on it’s own. I just mean overall “That garment is way too big/small” tends to make something look homemade, as in the sewer did not pick the correct size to start.

    • Merry January 14, 2013 at 8:45 am #

      I find that quilting cottons work very well for 50s halter-style swing dresses, which I wear a lot because I go swing dancing a lot. I’ve yet to find another fabric that works as incredibly well for that style of dresses. Otherwise, unless the pattern is made with heavier cottons in mind (like the Sassy Librarian Blouse on Craftsy), yeah, it will look homemade.

    • Sunni January 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

      Lauren I love you! I’m totally 100% with you on the quilting cottons. They look really…..quilty. I’m totally drawn to the prints, but they start to look crazy and like you should be 5 years old if you start to wear them. Also, they are made with short staple cotton thread, they don’t wrinkle right and they feel sooooo cheap up against an apparel cotton – sometimes that even cost the same amount. And I’m totally talking about the nicer high end ones too. I stand by you Lauren!

      • Abi January 16, 2013 at 1:44 am #

        I think the quilting cotton debate is where Tasia’s point about buying fabric to suit your tastes comes in. I’m a classic vintage girly girl, so I *live* in florals, most of which are from the quilting section. This was the kind of stuff I would wear before I started sewing for myself, so for me it works. I have this one skirt which is constantly complimented whenever I wear it because everyone thinks it must be a vintage fabric, but it was from the quilting section and it’s my favourite skirt ever. I’ve also found my quilting cotton skirts have stood up to the test of time much better than the other cottons I’ve used.

        So really, it comes down to the print and your personality. I don’t tend to use the more quirky/novelty prints, pretty much just girly, vintage looking florals, which I think really work for my style (dirndle/circle skirts mostly). So I am 100% behind quilting cottons, so long as you’re choosing prints that work with your own style.

        • francesca January 16, 2013 at 7:25 am #

          With you on this. Obviously there are quilting cottons and quilting cottons – I have some really pretty summer dresses covered with huge flowers with swingy skirts and fitted bodices that totally work. And the better quality cottons iron well too.

      • Lynn June 6, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

        There are many excellent methods submitted here to help make a better looking garment. Here are some of mine:

        Adding a lining, where it will be appropriate, can add a professional touch and will make a garment hang beautifully. A pattern will often not call for a lining, but you can make one anyway. Lined clothing in RTW is always more expensive, of course. To do this is a lot more work, but worth it. You are, essentially, making 2 of the same garment.

        The best seamstresses take time and care to FIT the garment to the person who will wear it. Again, this is work. I think this is the key. Pattern instructions generally do not emphasize or instruct fitting: it is presumed. There is not enough room in the package to teach a person to fit the garment. This is a skill that must be learned, if not studied, and educating yourself in fitting is, in my view, the best investment you can make in making clothing that looks professional.

        Even when you look at the photos in pattern catalogs/books it is easy to see, on many of the finished garments, that they are “home made”. This is because the garments have generally not been fitted to the model but rather have been made before the model has been selected. The best seamstresses are hired to make this clothing, of course, so I think this underlines the issue of fitting.

        Sometimes we can be in such a hurry to have the garment to actually wear that we are willing to sacrifice the detail work that will make it look sharp. If you find yourself with a tight deadline for a garment I suggest simply buying something rather than wasting your effort and money creating something you won’t be proud of.

        In general, if you are a person of good taste who selects clothing for quality with a view to getting a lot of use of it you will select patterns and fabrics the same way. We are used to the idea that making clothing saves us money, but it’s a bad idea to not select the best quality fabrics we can afford. Sometimes the chain franchises will not offer these fabrics and we must search elsewhere to find “the good stuff”. Don’t presume, when you walk into the chain fabric store, that you will walk out with the right fabric for your project. You might, but be aware of your options for purchasing fabric.

  21. Beth (SunnyGal Studio) January 14, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    I agree with your suggestions – and Pressing is probably the number one thing that makes a difference. Another thing that may seem small but turns out to be quite important is thread tension. Any ripples or pulling shout homemade, so it pays to practice on scraps to get a nice smooth stitch.

  22. Janice January 14, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    One thing I do for both inspiration and technique ideas is to visit the expensive designer couteur sections of stores, take a few into the fitting rooms just to examine how they are made. I’ve noted how much and sewing is used on these and what a difference it can make.

    Also I noticed how simple some of the patterns actually are! Simple lines beautifully done with perhaps some slightly contrasting buttonhole twist topstiching or even hand sewn top stitching details. Of course the fabric quality is superb! Also , there seems to be little use of darts. Princess seams and similar shaping seams on skirts seems to be more used in couteur clothing.

    I will be working also on an office wardrobe as I’m going back to work after a number of years not working.

    So when I think of sewing an office wardrobe, or really anything, I’m more and more thinking of very simpe lines, expensive looking fabrics as Tasha said, -fabrics that look as close as possible to the fabrics of the beautiful designer clothes I admire.

    I will be making a simple pencil skirt, a flaired skirt in a drapey material, simple pants, and a simple jacket to go with all of my bottoms. My colors will be navy and taupe.

    I’ve competed the lined pencil skirt using techniques of finishing from everywhere-including a carefully made muslim. Now I have a pattern I can sew again and again. I love the look of this simple skirt. It fits so well and that alone makes it look ecpensive. I used a navy wool blend in a tropical weight for all year wear. I will make pants in the same fabric. I will compleent these navy and taupe basics with some colorful tops that go wth both colors.

  23. Heather January 14, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    I agree with Tasia, especially regarding quality fabric choices, and pressing a lot! I press every seam before I move on, so when I’m done it looks great. Actually I have a friend that I’ve sewn for, and she said the clothes I made her never need pressing. Interesting, especially since we’re talking a cotton wardrobe for a tropical climate here (good quality cottons though, which helps). Puffy hems drive me bonkers, I saw them recently in a published book and was surprised, I must assume that it was a design element, but it didn’t appeal to me. And when people know you sew and see you in something that fits well, they will ask if you made it. Really, it’s a compliment because RTW rarely fits well.

  24. Michelle January 14, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Agree. Agree. Agree. And, it’s worth re-emphasizing the importance of pressing. These are really wonderful tips.

  25. maddie flanigan January 14, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    I couldn’t agree more that beautiful fabrics REALLY help with preventing garments from looking homemade.

  26. lisa g January 14, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    great topic! i agree that fabric choice is most important, whether it be the quality of fabric or the loudness of it. as i pick my projects and fabrics, i’ve begun asking myself: “would i buy this skirt/dress/blouse if i saw it in a store?” if the answer is no, then i need to make changes!

    pressing is also really important. in addition to the iron, i keep a hammer handy for really clapping down those bulky seams. makes all the difference in the world!

  27. Heather January 14, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    I find that using fine thread (as opposed to all purpose thread) really makes a difference on topstitching necklines, hems, and armholes on blouses – it looks much more professional than a bulky topstitch. So many patterns call for facings, which i think can look very homemade. Try using a bias facing for armholes and necklines, which is standard on RTW.

  28. Amanda D. January 14, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Great post! The things I notice most when seeing more “homemade looking” clothes on sewing blogs and sites are unsuitable fabric choices and lack of pressing. Mind you, I’ve had my share of poor fabric selection so I’m not criticizing! I almost feel like falling for a cute quilting fabric for a project that needs more drape is a sewing rite of passage for many of us. :) I was fortunate to be taught to press after each seam stitched, and it really makes a huge difference in the final project.

    • Amanda D. January 14, 2013 at 10:37 am #

      Also, I agree with Tasia’s suggestion of taking note of prints on RTW clothes in order to get a sense of what you like and what it will look like on a finished garment. I’ve lately taken to doing this and, although I haven’t bought fabric in awhile, it has helped me avoid going for prints I normally wouldn’t buy in a store.

  29. ShanniLoves... January 14, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    This is a great post! I have been sewing for a little over a year and I can’t help but think everything I make looks sloppily homemade. After reading all your points and the readers comments I now know what I need to do, start paying more attention to fabric selection. (I’ll be darned if I just didn’t buy some shiny fabric on my lunch break, oops). I don’t mind it when someone asks me, “Did you make that?” I’m proud to own it and say yes I did, I just don’t want my garment to look sloppy or cheap. I want them to be impressed that I made it as well. :)

  30. Dee January 14, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    After I finish any type of structured garment, including skirts, I take them to my local dry cleaner for a press. Voila! The professional pressing makes a world of difference.

  31. PDX Gretchen January 14, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    I’d suggest that taking the time to match stripes and plaids at seams wherever possible helps to make a finished project seem more polished. Or less “homemade”, if you will.

  32. Janet January 14, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    This is a great questions and great response from Tasia. I want to add that I stopped sewing because of the outcomes and products I produced were often times not what I liked. If avoiding looking handmade is going to stop you from creating then….that is a mistake I made. I love, love the process and I have learned to give away (someone else never seems to notice what I notice), pitch and start something new. Even if I have 1 success out of 5 which is about my success rate now – I know it will improve. It takes practice and self-compassion. Enjoy the process and every project is a learning experience. Fabric choice I think will make the biggest difference followed by what you will actually find becoming and reach for in your closet. I have subscribed to many blogs to stay inspired and I am surprised at the number of sewers who make stuff that is just OK. I am happy with that because I am not alone. Back to my Liverpool (Amy Butler) shirt where I have just learned that interfacing doesn’t stretch well in my collar….But my full bust adjustment ROCKS!

  33. Kay January 14, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    Seam finishing is a must, along w/ matching stripes, plaids, etc. Using good quality buttons and thread makes a huge difference too!

    I am wearing my Thurlows today at work, and have had several people comment on how nice they look, and I didn’t even bring it up in convo LOL :)

  34. Wendy January 14, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    Pressing, fit, fabric choice – that covers most of what differentiates ‘homemade’ from ‘handmade’.
    I agree with most everything already said in the comments, but would just add another aspect of fabric choice is choosing a fabric that is appropriate to the pattern.
    My first Pendrell blouse I made from a beautiful (crisp) cotton lawn, which I imagined being lovely and summery – instead of the sleeves draping softly over my shoulder they stick straight out to the sides like floral sun awnings!

  35. Sula January 14, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    What about sewing the same pattern multiple times? In addition to the benefits Tasia mentioned, I’ve noticed as an intermediate(ish) sewstress that I learn so much about fit, finish, and fabric from making the same garment again and again. Not to mention the utility of a TNT pattern in wardrobe building, as Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) shows us!

  36. Chris January 14, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Lora’s comment was great. I am hoping to get a sewing machine this year, and start sewing apparel for myself. The last time I really sewed apparel was about 40 years ago. I also don’t want the clothes I make to look “homemade”. The tips people have already left in the comments section are very helpful. Also I think your tips on making your patterns are invaluable.

  37. Sue January 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    This post has brought back to me something I was taught years ago by my Aunt who was a wonderful dressmaker. Remember the three F’s she said, FABRIC, FIT and FINISH!! How right this has proved to be!

  38. didyoumakethat January 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    What a great post! Very interesting to read your thoughts re matte and shiny fabrics. I’m going to go back now and read what everyone has to say.

  39. astitchtoofew January 14, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Fantastic post! Like many others have said, I couldn’t agree more. Pressing, fabric and colour choice are huge. The last few garments I’ve sewn have been in solid colours, and more simple designs – much more akin to what I’d normally wear. I don’t think anyone has asked me if I made them. One friend who would usually ask that question just said ‘I love your skirt’ and was then surprised to hear I’d made it and the top I was wearing (a renfrew). For me, that was a massive win. So subtle prints are still allowed, but nothing too loud from here on in!

  40. Rachel January 14, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Totally agree as well. Pressing as you go is vital to a beautiful end result. Make sure you press the seams from both the wrong side and the right side to get that real crispness. The way I learnt to sew was that the inside of a garment should look almost as good at the outside. Be sure to trim all threads as you go as well and finish off seam correctly whether that be with an overlocker or fully lined. I think attention to detail is also important, things like pin-stitiching top-stitching, or twin-needle hems, or carefully selected buttons really add that professional touch.

    • Elena January 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

      “(T)he inside of a garment should look almost as good at the outside.” Yes! This was drummed into me from childhood. Careful finishing is very important. You don’t have to own a serger to finish seams or to line a garment, but the extra time and effort pay off in a much better looking and hanging garment.

  41. Annie January 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    Great topic – very thought provoking! I’ve just started to look at making my own clothes again, after a break of nearly 20 years. I LOVE the gorgeous array of quilting cottons available, but I know I couldn’t wear most of them without looking like a 6 foot clown (I’m very tall!!) From looking at lots of blogs and Flickr, I’ve noticed that the garments I really like, and would want to wear, are the ones in quiet prints or solids, in really good quality fabrics like fine corduroy, linen and voile. I also agree with everyone else that pressing well is a must! And a label in the garment really does look special. The thing I really love about making clothes is the perfect fit you can get. Look at the gorgeous pics of Tasia in her grey Cambie dress. That dress looks like made to measure couture – because it is! An off the peg RTW would never look that good!

  42. Buffy Ramm January 14, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    As someone who has taught sewing classes I thought I would throw my two ‘fashion’ cents in here.
    A really good sewing project can often look better then a store bought item. Attention to detail, fitting, and fabric choice are the key factors.
    Fabric choice is the most important. You may be tempted to buy a beautiful Amy Butler printed cotton to make a blouse, but maybe that fabric would be better as a skirt?
    Think about your favourite clothing items that are already in your closet and choose fabrics, prints and patterns that are similar.
    I have seen some really great projects sewn up that lose their greatness because of button choice or seam finishing. All the details matter. So start with simple garments with fewer details and work your way up as you start to flex your designer muscles!

  43. Hearthrose January 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    The thing that has held me back most I think is fit – I’m hard to fit, I’ve had to learn a lot of tricks to get in a good place with that. The next is stitch quality and interfacing.

    INTERFACE YOUR ZIPPER AREA. The new patterns (in the big four) don’t say to do that, when I started interfacing all my zipper areas, whether on satin or denim, my ripply zipper problems went away. The ripply zippers were a huge “homemade” tell, IMO.

    Learning a lot from this comment thread…..

    • Pamela March 18, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      I took Barbara Deckert’s “Plus-Size Fitting and Design” class on Craftsy, and her hints for fit are fantastic! For a $40 investment, my garments are coming out better than ever before. Even if you aren’t plus-sized, her fitting hints are awesome.

  44. Alli January 14, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    beautiful! everytime i make something and i tell someone i made it they go “oh yeah i could tell” embarassing!

  45. Belinda January 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    This is a wonderful topic and I second all of Tasia’s points and the comments above. Fabric choice, interfacing and pressing are key. I would also add clipping seams where required to ensure a smooth finish.

    I also sew my work wardrobe and can hopefully offer some of the tips I’ve learnt along the way!

    Focus on getting a good fit. If you need to make several toiles – do it! Once you have a great fit, you can rwesue and tweak the pattern for many iterations. This is valuable for work pants, skirts, dresses, shirts etc… that can form the basics of a work wardrobe.

    Look at how RTW clothes are finished. One example I always think of is the waist finish on pants. When I made my first pair, the pattern stated to use the same fabric for the outside and inside (facing) piece of the waistband which resulted in a thick and lumpy waistband. I’ve since seen many RTW and tailored pairs with a thin fabric as the facing piece, which solves a lot of this.

    I also find looking at people’s clothes in the office helps. If I know them well, I often ask if I can touch the fabric or inspect the seams! I try to remember this when I next look at fabric!

    If you can afford it, wool fabrics are devine! Wool crepes, superfine (my preference is 120) for pants and jackets and also wool with some stretch (e.g. 3% spandex) are also great. When I first started out however, I stuck to polyester suitings. Much cheaper and generally harder wearing. Just steer clear of shiny poly fabrics!

    As a side note, I think we are always more critical of our own sewn clothing. We will focus on little niggly bits that aren’t “perfect” but if you looked at RTW, then they are often less than perfect!

    • Belinda January 14, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      I forgot to add, I follow a blog called Corporette. It’s not targetted at people who sew but I find it inspiring for sewing work clothes. They offer great suggestions for basics, silhouettes etc…

      I am also a big fan of the Lucky Shopping Manual. Again, I use it to help build my sewn wardrobe!

  46. Nina January 14, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    Not having read all the comments, I apologize if I’m being redundant but two things that drive me absolutely crazy are:

    1) Prints not matching

    2) Poor hem finishing

    #1 is SO distracting to me. So I make sure to buy extra fabric to ensure that I can have my patterns perfectly matched at the seams. It adds a TON of time, but when I do it, THAT is when I get asked if I made it. Why? Because it looks *better* than RTW.

    #2 is huge. I use a technique taught to me by a couture designer where the hem is turned up over the lining and then hand stitched to the lining so it is invisible from the front. I also use the same technique when a garment is unlined. I simply hand hem and catch one thread of the weave in my needle so it is unnoticeable.

    • Keren January 15, 2013 at 10:01 am #

      Oh yes! Mismatched plaids and misaligned stripes! Awful!
      Stay away from those until you know what you’re doing :-)

      Totally agree about the hems – wrote that too in my comment.

  47. Irina January 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    These are essential tips to follow Tasia! Thank you for these!

    Now that you said it I find that before starting a new project I always think of what is lacking in my wardrobe. Then I go look for a pattern that fits the general idea of what I need. Once I know what I’m making I choose the fabric based on what I already have in the closet. I make sure I can wear my new piece with at least three other items I own. That way I can seamlessly work the newly-made project into the already existing clothes.

    Another suggestion that comes to mind is topstitching and similar details. I find that topstitching makes a garment look more manufactured (that goes predominantly for sportswear of course). Also small details like belt carriers, pocket flaps, etc. will make it look less home made I think.

  48. Trish January 14, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Good pressing is vital!!! I am considering buying a Laurastar pressing system. Would love some advise here. Can some lovely fellow sewers please comment please.

  49. Lorinda January 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    Great Topic. I agree with everyone. You must have great fabric – but it is ok to find it on sale. Fit is important. Especially when sewing a new pattern make a muslin copy. You can find and correct any fitting flaws before you waste any good fabric. Plus, you can also practice any new techniques before you sew the real garment. Cut carefully and Press. The iron is your friend. Finally Practice! The more you sew the better you get.

  50. sandi January 14, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Press as you go, and don’t forget those little strings. I cut them as I go also. Nothing looks homemade worse than those little rascals hanging off all your seams and hems.

  51. RACHEL YANCEY January 14, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Discovering french seams was the turning point for me. The first time I tried it was the first time I felt comfortable wearing something I had home-sewn without worrying about it unraveling or getting destroyed in a washing machine!

  52. Bri January 14, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more with you, especially about pressing making the garment!

  53. alice January 14, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    great thread!! I also find that design choices can really make or break a garment from looking like a home ec project. I like to go to shops and really analyse the cut, the fabrics used, and the contrasts. I find posts like “make that look” on sew weekly really inspiring, and I’m starting to enjoy matching patterns with my favourite rtw looks.

    I also find that getting seams to match up perfectly is also key to avoiding that ‘happy hands at home’ look. I don’t know why so many pattern companies ask you to separately construct the bodice, midriff, only to hope that the side seams all match up. when you put it together. Mine never do! I should say mine never *did*… I now sew the the entire front and entire back of a dress together, and then attach them at the side seams. much more rtw, *and* much easier to take in or let out with any fluctuations in weight. (it’s also so liberating to construct the dress without using the pattern directions!)

    one last thing that I’m working on that i think makes things less homemade looking- making sure I’m sewing correctly for my fabric – using the right stitch length, right pressing techniques, etc. I’m avoiding fabrics that don’t respond well to easing or steaming well. Poly may be cheap, but it’s so to sew and get it to look good!

  54. Sarah January 14, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Take the time to do things properly, and if called for, break out your fancy sewing skills. I took the time to line my first hollyburn skirt, and hand stitched the waistband and hem, and even my grandmother (who taught me to sew in the first place) said “you didn’t make that, did you?” rather incredulously. And just because something is store-bought doesn’t mean it is well made (twisting off-grain tshirts, anyone?), so I figure by putting even a basic amount of effort into my construction, I’m probably ahead of the game.

    • Nina January 16, 2013 at 6:22 am #

      YES! A thousand times yes.

  55. Sherri January 14, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    Lots of great comments! First of all, examine a lot of Ready to Wear to get a sense of how it is made. Look especially at wastebands. They tend to be less bulky than pattern constructed wastebands. Of course prints and plaids should always match, facings properly graded and understitched. Make sure that you cut out on straight of grain and with the nap facing the same direction to keep seams from puckering or bunching. Top-stitching threads are often heavier and stitches are longer. If you make a double row, make sure the threads are exactly parallel. I sew with a Huskvarna/Viking and though it is by far not a top-of-the-line model, it has a foot for everything. Make sure that you are using the correct presser foot. It can make all of the difference. I was a home ec education major at Mansfield State College and had the great opportunity to take a summer school class with Charles Kleibacker, fashioner designer for American Silk MIlls. Look him up in a Couture sewing book and use his techniques for stabilizing necklines so that they hug the chest and provide the best amount of coverage. One final comment would be to try on a lot of RTW to get a sense of what styles are the most flattering to you. You could even buy a well-fitting second hand garment, take it apart and use it as a pattern. Garments that fit well look far more professional. I have ripped garments apart and used the fabric in another garment. When I get compliments on my clothing I laugh about the garment being one of my $200 skirts. Did they cost that? No, but if I charged by the hour, since I spend so much time on linings, etc, I’d have to charge that much if I sold it in order to make it worth my while.

  56. Lora January 14, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    Wow! What a great response from everyone!! Tasia, thank you for putting my question out there. I can also tell you really did spend time thinking about your answer. Everyone’s responses with all the different points really make a well-rounded discussion. I’m going to copy all of it and start a notebook for future reference. Then, I’m going to write an article for “Threads.” (Just kidding. I do like the idea of subscribing to the magazine, though.) I also feel pulled into Sewaholic’s community which is a first for me. Thanks, again, Tasia and everyone else for the outstanding feedback.

    • Tasia January 14, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and the comments! It’s a really good question and I knew it would prompt an interesting discussion, plus some amazing feedback from everyone else. You’re not the only one that wonders about how to make your garments look professional so you feel good at work. (And if you feel good, then you can stop worrying and focus on your work, everyone wins! Seems basic, but it can be distracting and uncomfortable to worry about your clothing all day.)

      I subscribe to Threads and find a good assortment of techniques, examples, pattern reviews and tips. It’s always an entertaining and educational read! (And often there are articles that I might not have use for right away but know they’ll be valuable in the future.)

      Great to hear you feel included, and happy to be able to help! Good luck with sewing the work wardrobe!

  57. Sally January 14, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    I have this same exact fear!!! I think that is why I am such a slow sewer :) Just the other day a co-worker asked me if a skirt I was wearing was “home-made” and I felt slightly offended that she used that term (something about it makes me think of a seven tiered ruffle skirt made out of quilting cottons – lol), when I should have been very complimented. The reason she asked was not because of anything wrong with the skirt, but because she knows I sew and had seen it on my blog! Just remember you are going to be much more picky about it than any of your adoring fans :)

  58. Jacinta January 14, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    These tips and all the others from the comments have been so helpful. I think we all want to be proud of what we make and having people notice makes it extra special.

  59. Sandra January 15, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    This is such a great post, and I know it is always something I am thinking about. I definitely agree with all the tips you provide Tasia, and it is a combination of things that changes the outcome of a garment. The finishing touches can make the world of difference and how it is styled for a complete look. My retail therapy is actually not shopping to buy but visiting the shops paying attention to garment finishing (I should call it idea shopping!). The best comment is “that is a lovely …. where did you get that from” I love those comments.

  60. Justine January 15, 2013 at 2:37 am #

    I definitely agree with pressing. I iron every seam flat and the press the seams open, some people say you don’t need to iron the seam first but I can see a difference in my work. It can make everything take alot longer but I just see it as part of the process. My biggest compliment was at a wedding recently when someone asked if my dress was designer, I said ‘yes, it’s a one off, designed and stiched by me’ . I almost exclusively use natural fabric, for some dresses I will use a cotton sateen with a bit of stretch but mostly it’s cotton, silk or wool. I don’t sew with quilting cotton as it doesn’t feel as nice or in my experience sew or drape as nice apparel cottons. I don’t aim for my clothes to look RTW, I know they are made to a much higher standard and I want them to look individual!

  61. Keren January 15, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    What an excellent post! Off the top of my head, I would recommend:

    1. stick to solids – at least initially, don’t go for prints. Solids are a safer choice. Also, choose colors that suit you.

    2. Be critical: does it make sense to sew this flowing skirt from such a crisp fabric? Or these everyday pants from this lightweight fabric? Is this the kind of pattern that would suit me or only the model wearing it?

    3. Follow the fabric recommendations given on the pattern.

    4. Sew “reasonable” clothes – basics, with a bit of detail.

    5. Ill-fitting clothes (too tight, too loose, wonky) are the biggest eyesore. Choose easy to fit garments, such as knit tops and skirts (especially those that are fitted only at the waist). Measure well, and make a muslin first if necessary.

    6. Be aware of your sewing level – don’t make welt pockets or bound buttonholes for the first time on a wearable garment. Practice first on scraps. Choose patterns whose level you are comfortable with. Sometimes a stunning garment doesn’t require advanced sewing at all!

    7. Be meticulous. Make precise parallel top stitches (using size 3mm sitch). Adjust your thread tension appropriately. Pay special attention to hems. Crooked hems are an eyesore!

    8. Choose fabrics that are easy to work with. Medium weight cotton (twill) – not sheer or slippery fabrics. Not even slightly see-through fabrics.

    9. Use the right tools! A good sewing machine, proper scissors, good pins and the correct needle. an invisible zipper foot and an edge-stitch foot make a huge difference. Sew with matching thread.

    10. Stay away from “crafty” stuff like flowery fabrics, embellishments, beads, lace…

    11. Browse sewing projects on BurdaStyle.com, and ask yourself which ones you consider “too homemade looking”. Analyze why, and make it a rule to steer clear of similar mistakes.

    12. Use a serger: 3-thread mode for finishing wovens, 4-thread mode for stitching and finishing knits. A regular sewing machine does not compare.

    13. Use a cover stitch machine for professional hems on knits. A regular sewing machine (twin needle) does not compare.

    After you get accustomed to “sewing safe” break these rules, experiment, and grow!!!

  62. Monique January 15, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Hi Everyone
    I too, have re-entered the sewing world. I was taught by my grandmother and sewed most of my dresses and skirts until I got married, had a kid, moved around, started my MBA… now that I’ve finished my MBA, i bought a sewing machine and have started to make my work wardrobe.

    In addition to all the very good points Tasia and the other posters have, the one I would like to add is this – once you have made something you like and did well – is to make it again ( and again). I have a very simple sheath dress pattern and after the first go it turned out really nice ( much to my surprise!) I made another with a different neckline; the next time I chose 2 different fabrics and made a color block dress. I bought accessories such as belts and scarves to make the 3 ‘same’ dresses different.

    While sewing the same basic pattern, I got my sewing skills and confidence back so I feel somewhat ready to tackle more difficult garments.

    Happy Sewing Everyone!!

  63. Truly Myrtle January 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    I am right there with you on the iron. Makes SUCH a difference.
    And fit – I am learning about adjusting patterns for me… right now. Such a learning curve!!!

  64. Seraphinalina January 15, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    What a great post. I find the tone of “did you make that?” is often more in surprise than expecting they did make it. Sewing is a pretty uncommon skill so it’s usually said to me with respect and mostly from people who know I sew.

    I like the suggestion of sewing something you would buy. Our eyes are often drawn to patterns and fabrics we think would look good but won’t really fit into our wardrobe. Then when you do wear that dress from quilter’s cotton it really stands out as being different.

  65. Lisa January 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Agree with the above about inside finishing & LOTS & LOTS of pressing as you go. I’d add that if you are unsure about what fabrics to buy, you should go to a high end store, and walk through, find what you are drawn to, and make note of it so that you can choose similar types of fabrics for your projects at home. It’s VERY easy to get distracted by the quilting cotton prints when you go to the store, it’s better to be FOCUSED to the project at hand –I should know–I have a closet full of quilting cottons at home!
    This is one of my goals this year in improving my sewing is to step outside of my comfort zone of fabrics & try some new ones for better made clothing!

  66. Janine January 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Dear Tasia
    I am so excited I needed to give you a big thankyou. I have been looking at bound buttonhole tutorials. I looked at my Readers Digest and tried their method. I googled tutorials which all seemed to be a variation of the RD method. I then tried yours – Thankyou , Thankyou ! Your method is so much less fussy and it works. Even my first practice buttonhole is halfway decent.

    As for your topic now – I find ironing is huge as well as just taking your time with each step ( and practicing new techniques before applying them – as with the bound buttonholes! )
    Janine.

  67. Abi January 16, 2013 at 1:54 am #

    Pressing is my number one big rule when it comes to making something look professional! I press as I sew and it’s something I really drill into my students. Getting a good fit is another thing that helps too. I definitely agree about using high quality fabrics, but I’m in the *yay quilting cotton* camp as I use them all the time. I think your point about making sure the fabric suits your personality and personal style is 100% on the money. I use quilting cottons because they have the most gorgeous vintage inspired, girly florals and that suits my personality and style. Though I also have a very small budget so I can’t afford really high end fabrics, which is also why I gravitate towards quilting cottons (on sale!!).

    I think there’s definitely a difference between the idea of ‘homemade’ and ‘handmade’, which is really all about quality. Most people who know me know that sewing is my business and so they expect that everything I’m wearing is something I’ve made. I find myself incredibly critical of RTW clothing now because the stuff that I can afford is SO poorly made and really only made to last a couple months until the next ‘season trend’ comes out. Whereas my current (tiny) wardrobe of clothes have been worn almost every week for the last 3 years and are only just starting to look worn. So I think it’s good to aim for ‘handmade’, knowing it’s high quality and will last!

  68. Vernelle January 16, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Excellent advice. A great reminder for the home sewer who may have forgotten some of these very critical details and a wonder resource for the beginner who is still learning and didn’t know how to give their sewing projects that all important professional look.

    Thank you for sharing.

  69. Laurie January 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    I’ve always felt that facings make my garments look homemade. A few years ago I started making double of the outside bodice, one in a nice drapey lining type fabric, and use that to line the inside of the bodice. I don’t have to worry about how thin the fashion fabric is, or how the facing is showing through the fabric, or the stitching that tacks them down making obvious circles around my neck and arms or worry that the tacking will pop and inch it’s way out of the neck or armhole. Perhaps no one else has this problem but I’m much happier with the results of making an entire lining for my bodices. =)
    Laurie.

  70. Leigh January 17, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    I’m all for the pressing, and finishing. If your garment is carefully finished on the inside it will sit better, and last longer. For this reason I’m not a fan of fusible interfacing, and will chose a separate/fun facing fabric depending on the weight and drape of the shell fabric. My favourite book of finishes is The Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques (Lynda Maynard). Don’t be put off by the term couture, there are some simple techniques and the directions are easy to follow.

  71. Mollie January 20, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    This is an interesting tip about pressing lapels and tight corners I found out of frustration. I was sewing the lapel to a blazer and I could not for the life of me get the corners. So, I took the end of an eraser and pushed out the corner! I was then able to get a smooth and pointer corner (as a corner should be!).

  72. Part Time Homemaker January 21, 2013 at 6:55 am #

    Thanks Tasia! This is really helpful. I learned about pressing the hard way, I ignored the importance of pressing during my first few projects and it was painfully obvious that I did. Hahaha. I love the part about keeping it (relatively) simple, oh and interfacing is a must!

  73. Velosewer January 22, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    I keep an eye on what people are wearing and make clothes that are well fitted and suit me. So I chose either an eye catching fabric and use a simple style or make a detailed with fabric that shows my skill level.
    And ironing each stage and sometimes doing painstaking handsewing adds to a great finished look.
    When I’ve been out with my sewing friends as night, we always get admiring looks because we wear clothes that suit us and we don’t look like we’re dressing like a bunch a cougars:)

  74. Bela S January 24, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    I think all the relevant points have been made, but I’d like to add to buy pattens that actually flatter your body shape and body type. That will go a long way from the start to helping you achieve better fit. There’s a really popular blogger who sews beautifully, but some of the things she makes just hang unattractively on her body and don’t do her or the work she put in to that garment any justice at all. There are great patterns for every BODY, no matter your size or shape. I’ had to learn the hard way that shapeless sack dresses and tent silhouettes were never going to be flattering on me no matter how much tweaking I did.

    I think that adds to the bad homemade look, because if you were in a store and actually tried on an article of clothing on that didn’t suit you, you wouldn’t buy it!

    I think we feel almost obligated to wear something we spent time on, even if it doesn’t flatter. Now I know what pattern shapes flatter, it’s easier to tweak fit issues and know that I will get something wearable.

    Want to echo the chorus: embrace hand sewing tricky bits and hems. It’s relaxing, you have more control over the fabric, and it will save you seam ripping time in the end.
    I handpick most of my zippers and they are sturdy and flat and I don’t have to fight with my zipper foot.

  75. Isabel January 25, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Hi girls!!
    For Lora: Follow the tips (excelent tips!). Appreciate his work even if not look so beautiful. For me, we only learn trying and making mistakes. But, never give up.
    Beijos!!

  76. Deb January 31, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    Know what styles look good on you, and buy those style patterns. If you see a pattern in a style you’ve not worn before but decide you love the look of, and are not sure it’ll look good on you – go find something similar in a shop and try it on. I don’t know how many times I’ve been lured by a picture on a pattern, got all excited and bought expensive fabric, taken days to make something, only to look in the mirror and be shattered because I don’t look like the seven foot tall amazon in the photo.

    One thing I love to do is add a bit of detail to something plain. Say a 2 inch wide pleated panel inset into the front of a shirt; or a slightly altered shape on the bottom tails of a shirt; or a tiny lace or ruffle trim under the hem of a skirt.

    My top tips – Correct style, material quality and correct type for the project, bias bind your seams, press seams and then when finished take to a drycleaner for professional pressing, and learn how to put in an invisable zip correctly.

  77. Debbie February 11, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    My recent discovery was the concealed zip foot for the sewing machine. The resulting zip insertion made my skirt look like proper RTW and was really easy to do. I only wish I’d discovered this sooner. Great topic and responses, by the way.

  78. Melanie Jade February 13, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    I have no tips to add (because I’m a beginner), but I wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who spent time sharing their knowledge. I now have a document of all your tips, I’ve reserved the books you’ve recommended at the library, and I feel excited about my next project. Thank you so much!!!!

  79. Catherine February 21, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    When you all say “finished seams” what do you mean? I usually zigzag the edges of my seams, is that enough?
    (I do this before or after sewing the seam, depending on the fabric, with knits, the edges roll and you lose (unmeasurable) seam allowance)
    Or do you mean trimming the seam allowance and zigzagging the edges together?
    or binding the edges of the seam allowance with bias tape (yipes)
    or french-seaming or what?

    Thanks!

  80. Mary March 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    I went to Ann Taylor’s website to look at blouses and see how the fabric I was considering shaped up. I was shocked to see that most of the blouses (at least that season) were solid colors. Everything looked upscale and very classy.

    That’s when I realized most of my wadders were due to a poor marriage of fabric style and pattern. I’ve had to learn to lose the crazy prints. They either seem to be too loud and large or dainty and small with a “grandma” look (no offense to grandmothers – I’m one too – but I want to be stylish not matronly.)

    Since then, I check out several of the RTW web sites that I like and try to take my cue for fabric choices from them. I wish I was a designer but I’ve to learn that I’m not. I can freely lift color and style choices from any designer I want and I know I’m crazy to ignore all the hard work they’ve already done.

  81. Cheryl March 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    I don’t know why i ended up here, it’s been a long time since I actually sewed for real – and I was not a pro. But I’ve been thinking about it. My mom was a skilled seamstress, and could make anything – and it was the quality you would see in haute couture. ( and you do not see in RTW unless it’s high end).

    It was finished: seams pressed, sometimes stitched, the buttonholes perfect, stitching perfect, hem to hang exactly where it should, zippers absolutely smooth, and serious stuff lined. Tailored to the person who was going to wear it. On the other hand. my mom said she was usually tired of looking at a project by the end…

    It was all more than I ever had the patience to do – I want shortcuts, hate the whole fitting process, and sometimes have a difficult time as I am going along visualizing how the pieces go together. It takes time! I would add always stop before you get too frustrated or too tired ( my problem – wanting to work nonstop leads to making mistakes)

    As others have said – before you even select a pattern be certain that the style is right for you. And be willing to analyze your figure, ( ruthlessly) and figure out the adjustments needed to make a style work. Sometimes the only reason that RTW stuff might look better is that we wouldn’t buy something we looked awful in – but sometimes you can end up spending a lot of time sewing something that ends up like that. I once had a pretty dress in black and white voile – in a shift design that was then trendy, but it flared out from my large bust and made me look either pregnant or 100 lbs heavier. You learn. I used to sew a lot of pants, and had to learn that no pants ever looked like the outside of the pattern unless adjusted for straight-hipped, flat behind ladies like me – and that it wasn’t just measurements but shape. There is lot more advice out there now.

    Then – if this is not practice, don’t waste time on inferior fabrics. Work with something you LOVE- the color, the hand, the texture. There is no point on making something out of cheap looking fabric (i’m all for finding good fabric cheaply of course).

    Someone mentioned adding details to clothing to further customize them. I agree that certain details enhance projects, and after all it’s a creative process.But if you are going for sophistication and elegance, nothing says “home grown” like cutesy additions. Don’t decorate, focus on the architecture. Later you can add accessories-jewelry, scarves,

    Other real sewers have given lots of useful advice. As a lazy sewer, I would add – i learned early on that often “simple” patterns were actually MORE frustrating because they skirted basic construction techniques and just couldn’t be made to look good.. Sometimes more complex ( not massively so) is really simpler – anyway, there is good and great advice out there

  82. Nancy Nelson April 10, 2013 at 5:23 am #

    You have made some really excellent points in the blog and the comments also offer good advice. There is nothing that I saw that I can disagree with. Been sewing for over 20 years and everytime I go to a store to look at clothing I get kind of disgusted because I can often make it for way less money or construct it better than what is available. Taking your time, having confidence, practice, and continual learning of techniques and skills is a must. Thanks so much for sharing.

  83. InfoBabe April 18, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    I often shop at thrift stores for cheap fabric to use as my first try on a new pattern. That way I get all the measurements right and can reuse and readjust the fabric patterns without permanently destroying the paper one. Or, I buy a bolt of good woven on-sale 1-inch gingham in a bright color (I don’t use pales, I cannot see markings well) which bastes really well for fitting and are easy to see the grains for adjustments.

    You may find great fabric anywhere. Years ago my boyfriend was an apartment manager’s helper and cleaned out one unit that had 5 yards of olive green denim left behind which he gave to me. I sewed a two piece Vogue safari jacket skirt suit with that material and had a great outfit to wear to college and to my part-time job for years.

    Later, I boughtr a house that was furnished in an Asian style (bed on the floor) which I gave away. But I kept the beautiful beige denim cover and bedskirt to make a suit from it.
    Practrce, Press, and Persistance Pays Off.

  84. Gipsy Dharma October 10, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Hi Tasia, wonderful post! Thanks for sharing some wonderful advice. We love hand made authentic clothing :)

    Gipsy.

  85. Cheryl December 13, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    I would add, to all of the excellent advice above:
    –make it first in solid black, especially if you’re not sure about the style for your figure. You can nearly always accesorize it or camoflauge a black garment and feel flattering.
    –press seams first as they are sewn (usually right sides together), this sets the individual stitches and marries your sewing thread together with the weave of the fabric, especially if you have stitched in a bias area. Let it cool, and only then open it up for pressing open, or to the side. Letting is cool is esp important for those bias areas.
    –buttonholes, see oodles of advice here & elsewhere, but don’t neglect to do about a dozen test buttonholes AND try inserting your actual buttons into the test holes. Also, avoid stitching too-thick buttonholes; RTW buttonholes are usually stitched only once around, and with a finer thread (but coats usually have a heavy thread).
    –matching notions: many times the “homemade” look comes when there are color mismatches with zippers, buttons, lace….if your garment needs these, but your fabric can’t match the notions, consider changing to a different fabric (use that lovely periwinkle satin for another project).
    –quilting cottons: if you’re constantly fondling them, go ahead and buy some, buy some more, and more, and start quilting for heaven’s sake.
    –quilting cotton, again: if you must drape that cotton around yourself, make a housecoat or mu-mu, or gardening dress, save it for “me-time”, but don’t wear it to the office (unless its the underlined bodice of your silk suit-dress).

  86. Laura @ Beginner Sewing Club June 15, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    These are some of the same exact tips I give my sewing students. I also tell my students to pay close attention to the fit of their home sewn garments and to add notions for personal style. Lining is also another great way to make homemade clothes look professionally done.

  87. Line Finnan July 19, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    I have no tips to add as I’m a complete newbie, but just wanted to say thank you for all the great tips in the post and in the comments. I’m sure they will be invaluable as I start making my own wardrobe

  88. janette August 27, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    I am making Simplicity pattern 1874 as a bridesmaid dress for my nieces upcoming wedding.
    She has chosen the blue featured dress, so that’s the covered in back with the flowers to be added on the front. Has anyone made this pattern?

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