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I want to know, do you think sewing skill involve common sense or more trial and error or both? I learned sewing as a child and have taught myself about fabrics through trial and error. There is some common sense to it but I believe it’s more about applied skill.


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    Jan 22, 2014, 04.47 PMby mlssfshn

    What are your thoughts?

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    Jan 23, 2014, 07.04 AMby mmoorerl24

    I believe so. Common sense is need even in sewing. So that you know if this pattern is appropriate in this kind of fabric. If the cut is correct.

    1 Reply
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      Jan 23, 2014, 08.04 PMby mlssfshn

      So why do they print what fabric is appropriate on sewing patterns? If it were common sense, shouldn’t you automatically know what fabric would be appropriate, even if you hadn’t sewn before?

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    Jan 23, 2014, 08.39 PMby katexxxxxx

    Everyone has to learn form somewhere. If you don’t know what the properties of different fabrics are, you have no idea how they will behave with a certain cut. Common sense will tell you that a soft draping fabric will work with pattern A, but pattern B will need a crisp one. It won’t tell you how Nun’s Veiling will behave , or silk matka. If you’ve never come across those terms, you lack the experience to make the call, and common sense alone won’t tell you.

    Similarly, common sense may tell you that when making 15 or more garments all the same, in different sizes for different people, cutting out and making all of one before starting on the next will help you control all the different garments… Experience after trial and error may well teach you that cutting them all out together and sewing one process at a time (i.e. sewing all the trim on in one session, sewing all the zips in at once) saves time, effort, constantly changing machine settings, and leads to economies of scale on fabric yardage.

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      Jan 24, 2014, 05.30 AMby mlssfshn

      Well said. I hired a student of costume design and a vinyl accessories desiger to work under me in a drapery workroom. They both had characteristics, in their sewing skills, that I was looking for, meticulous work and technical problem solving skills. After 6 months of employment, they are both tabling draperies on their own but still making minor errors and asking tons of questions. We have about 8 different ways to table draperies depending on the fabric. Which for me, is on target, but the owner of the business thinks their progress should be futher along. He keeps saying what we do is all common sense, I disagree, but haven’t fould a way to explain it to him in terms that he will understand. Sometimes, I think it’s because the business is financially strapped right now, because of some bad hiring 2 years ago, company growth and turnover. There were a couple of hires that are no longer with the company, that were very detrimental to the bottom line, example taking 6-8 hours to hand stitch a 3 yd side hem and managements lack of care. Hopefully with the replies I’ve gotten from several forums, he’ll begin to understand.

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    Jan 24, 2014, 09.21 PMby katexxxxxx

    6-8 HOURS? Jeez… Words fail! Today I drafted a basic block pattern for a bodice and sleeves, cut and made up a dress fitting shell from that, took the alterations back to the pattern, and from that drafted and cut the pattern for a version of this gown, to be made in chiffon over a habotai lining: http://onceuponascreen.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/joan-crawford-mildred-pierce.jpg?w=700

    I also helped to fit version of this gown that my business partner is making: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/42/c1/d6/42c1d6c437a90d19c682f9755ca66b7b.jpg

    We also had two coffee breaks and an hour and a half out for lunch because we needed to go to the local farm shop butcher for Sunday Dinner piggy!

    Between the two of us, between January 1 and February 14, we will have made:

    19 Majorettes uniform jackets (navy and white with ribbon and braid trim, and 14 silver buttons!)) 2 1940’s ladies’ suits (fully tailored in wool fabrics) 2 1940’s cotton frocks 2 1940’s blouses 2 1940’s ball gowns

    Hand finishing 3m of hem needs to take less than an hour. We charge £100 per day, and you cannot charge that for putting up a hem! This is where common sense kicks in!

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    Jan 25, 2014, 05.14 PMby mlssfshn

    Right, I got rid of them, when I was promoted to manager as quickly as I could. I can stitch the same length in 20-30 minutes depending on fabric. My slowest stitches now can do it in 45 minutes.

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    Jan 27, 2014, 08.51 PMby clothingengineer

    Both. I think from a beginner to intermediate level that trial and error is more important, but as you advance from beyond that common sense and critical thinking skills become more important. I am always surprised that people that have been sewing for over 30 years still need to rely on the pattern instructions and fabric recommendations for every project they do, and they get tripped up if the pattern provides less-than-perfect guidance. I also see smart and motivated beginners that get in way over their head because they just haven’t sewn enough to know whether what they want to do is realistic or not.

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    Jan 28, 2014, 04.10 PMby MrsCharisma

    Common sense does not replace skill and experience, imo but it is necessary and helpful.

    For example, common sense might tell you that you need to screw or this ‘thing’ into place. But do you have the background and knowledge to know that you need a flat vs Phillips vs hex? Do you need a button head or pan? What sort of thread should that screw have? Etc. That’s experience.

    I am a new sewer that quickly dove feet first into sewing. My mom sews too. She can drape but she cannot follow a pattern. It baffles me. I’ve quickly gotten to a point where I mostly construct based on common sense and don’t really read the pattern directions. If I get stumped I’ll look at the directions or research a technique online. But being inexperienced, I’ve chosen ‘bad’ fabrics and ended up with some unwearable garments.

    But I only sew for fun :) I can imagine in a business scenario, there would be much frustration with someone who did not possess both a healthy dose of industry knowledge along with an intuitive/common sense approach to problem solving.

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    Feb 7, 2014, 03.49 AMby mlssfshn

    After taking this back to the workroom, the person causing the problem said “sewing is sewing”. So in return I asked if she thought that a tailor could make a drapery without any training or instruction, or if she could cut and sew a couture gown in a timely manner? She just starred at me blankly. After a few moments she said factory worker learn their job in hours why are you defending our new hires after 6 months? I said sure factory workers are taught 1 piece of production sewing side seams for example you do I step repeatedly ever day you know your part of the process. We on the other hand do custome work, make draperies bottom up, top down, 10 types of pinch pleats, cafe scale, lined, unlined, blackout lined, ripple fold, cafe scale, Roman shades, Austrian shades, London shades, pillows, cushions, bedding, table cloths, and the list can go on and on. Some of these projects do have repetive steps but on different fabrics and fabrications they are not the same. They are still learning, there are going to be miskakes. If they ask a question be couteous and helpful not derogatory and disrespectful. She left for the owners office and was given her own project till we can sort this out. On a brighter note our last 4 jobs we made profit on fabrication, I’m proud of my team.

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      Feb 7, 2014, 11.50 AMby katexxxxxx

      Your team will make fabulous curtains. Some will make a decent fist of a garment. I make fabulous garments, frequently historical. I make a fair fist of plain curtains.

      I was in an advanced dress and tailoring class many years ago… One lass was very well factory trained. After her first foray into hand cut, partially draped couture finished single garment making in a quality fabric, she said ’This is a hell of a lot harder than I thought!" She could also see the advantage of the slower but far more versatile domestic sewing machine for some processes over the single use mighty industrials she was used to.

      I know folk who make tents, kites, parachutes, sails, flying wings… They get others to make their clothes and their curtains!

      Horses for courses, innit. Put her in the work room for a week. All management need shop floor experience!

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    Feb 7, 2014, 12.55 PMby mlssfshn

    She is in the workroom and she’s actually my assistant manager. She just doesn’t have people skills and her sewing skills aren’t as clean and consistent as she thinks they are. I think she’s afraid that she’s getting slower and that if the others become more fluent in our work she will be let go. She known the owner for over 20 years and this is the 3rd time she has worked for him. Her health not the greatest either. I’m trying to build a enjoyable environment conducive to learning and if she can’t get on board we needs to find an alternative route for her.

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    Feb 16, 2014, 07.19 AMby motera

    I have been sewing for 50 years and by now it all seems like second nature, and perhaps common sense, but when I talk to beginners I realize it is 50 years of accumulated skill. Not a lot of common sense at all. Once one masters basic skills, one can improvise, one is keen to learn new skills, and has the background to very quickly adopt new skills. figuring things out yourself is not common sense, it is applying already acquired knowledge. I think calling sewing skill ‘common sense’ does a disservice to beginners, who may not have grown up with a sewing machine in the household, nor studied it in home ec classes. Beginners lack skill, they lack experience. Common sense serves one in any endeavor, but an abundance of it will not make you a good sewer, nor will lack of it condemn you to not mastering sewing.

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      Feb 16, 2014, 02.30 PMby katexxxxxx

      50+ years of accumulated common sense here, too! ;)

      Common sense will stop you trying to make a corset out of chiffon as a first project. 50 years of sewing experience of the right sort may teach you how to work it out. :D

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    Feb 19, 2014, 11.48 AMby xxyyzz

    Although common sense is required, I believe skill and experience matter more :)

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