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Editor’s Note: I want to start this post by saying what a pleasure it has been having Peter on board with us here at BurdaStyle. He has brought a unique and personal approach to both sewing and fashion and we will miss his weekly doses of witty commentary and technical prowess. Thanks again, Peter!

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If you read magazines, you know that people love a good list. And lists are just as much fun to write as they are to read. Well, almost.

Anyway, I thought compiling a dos and don’ts of sewing list might be a good challenge, and I hope you’ll let me know what you think. Of course, this list reflects my experience; you are welcome to disagree!

Peter’s SEWING DOs

1. DO sew only projects you’re excited about.


2. DO start an important project with a fresh sewing needle.

3. DO clean your sewing area and the bed of your sewing machine thoroughly (I use rubbing alcohol) before sewing with light-colored or white fabric.

4. DO give yourself a break between projects.

5. DO keep your sewing area clean — or cleanish.

6. DO consider sewing with a vintage sewing machine, if only for the experience (you might prefer it).

7. DO keep a spare sewing machine (you’ll stumble on a cheap one at a thrift store eventually).

8. DO pre-shrink your fabric if your fabric is apt to shrink in the wash.

9. DO press as you go.

10. DO learn how to maintain your sewing machine.

11. DO organize your sewing notions so you know where to find them next time you need them.

12. DO invest some time figuring out thread tension for your sewing machine. (It’s basically just two disks and a spring.)


13. DO create a dedicated sewing space.

14. DO learn from your mistakes.

15. DO share your sewing knowledge with others.


16. DO talk up sewing when you can — young people need to know it exists.


1. DON’T sew when you’re feeling exhausted.

2. DON’T rush. Another day won’t make a difference and you’ll be wearing your project (hopefully) a long time.

3. DON’T sew for others unless the idea brings you joy.

4. DON’T buy the cheapest new sewing machine you can find at Walmart, Kmart, etc.

5. DON’T use cheap interfacing.

6. DON’T fall for every bell and whistle available on a new sewing machine; you’ll never use most of them.

7. DON’T iron with a dirty faceplate.

8. DON’T beat yourself up is your garment doesn’t come out the way you’d hoped.


9. DON’T sew under poor light.

10. DON’T put water in your iron if you’re ironing a fabric that’s water-stainable (ask me how I know!).

11. DON’T keep every last fabric scrap for the fantastic quilt you will (never) make someday.

12. DON’T forget to clean out the fuzz beneath your throat plate periodically.


13. DON’T overlook refurbished machines; they’re just as good as new imo.

14. DON’T set unreasonable standards for yourself.

15. DON’T force yourself to finish a project you’ve lost passion for.


16. DON’T hoard sewing notions!

So what do you think? Is there anything you’d include on your do and don’t list I’ve missed here?

Feel free to add some of your own below!

Readers, this will be my last blog post for right now. It has been great fun contributing to BurdaStyle and a privilege to interact with so many talented and eloquent sewers from all over the world! Thank you all for reading, and for your wonderful comments.

I’d like to offer a special thank you to Lindsey at BurdaStyle, who has provided excellent technical support these last six months.

Don’t forget to come visit me at my blog, Male Pattern Boldness!


When native New Yorker Peter Lappin bought his first sewing machine two years ago to hem a pair of thrift store jeans, little did he know he was initiating a journey that would bring him fame and fortune. While awaiting his fortune he stays busy writing “the world’s most popular men’s sewing blog,” Male Pattern Boldness, and now contributing to BurdaStyle.

“For more than twenty years I’d lived on the edge of the Garment District without even knowing what a seam ripper was. Now I rip daily!”


  • Missing

    Nov 26, 2011, 03.52 PMby Dorene Starocci

    Please hoard some notions – my grandmother and my mother both sewed extensively, I inherited their fabric collection and a small chest of drawers packed with thread on wood spools and old notions- they have become heirlooms and memories of these two ladies

    Sarah C

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    Aug 22, 2011, 05.15 AMby jenss-1

    “3. DON’T sew for others unless the idea brings you joy.” Thank you! I learned how to say no many years ago, much to the confusion of my free-alteration seeking friend. They need to learn how to do it themselves or pay a tailor to do it. (Yes, the friend was still a friend after I firmly said “no” twice – along with the explanation that I hate doing alterations).

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    Aug 19, 2011, 02.20 AMby reliablechef

    Do teach your children to sew, mend and reattach buttons! Do wind 2 bobbins when starting a project for a easy switch when you run out!

    So is hording machines ok?! I have 4 and they are all handy for different things. I must say my favorite is my oldest singer.

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    Aug 18, 2011, 01.49 PMby carlachan

    LOL!!! : 11. DON’T keep every last fabric scrap for the fantastic quilt you will (never) make someday. OMG.. now I realize I have to get rid of my scraps :))

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    Aug 18, 2011, 01.47 AMby safiab123

    Do include a pattern from your projects, because if it’s pretty someone ( a beginner) would love to make it --

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    Aug 17, 2011, 09.35 PMby smartalex999

    Fantastic list! Thank you so much!

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    Aug 16, 2011, 06.27 PMby pfaffshirl

    I want to emphasize buying a quality machine! Buy a good quality used machine i.e. Pfaff or Bernina as opposed to a cheap new machine. Sewers often trade in weel loved and maintained machines when new models come out.

    Also only buy from a good dealer who provides lessons and service on your machine!

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    Aug 16, 2011, 03.20 PMby miasu

    Unfortunately, I enjoy hoarding notions even more than I like sewing. Very counterproductive!

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    Aug 16, 2011, 11.11 AMby coffeeaddict

    An excellent list! I’ve learned most of the do’s and don’t you mentioned the hard way: through experience. Most sewers starting on their first projects will ignore the advice in this post. I know I did ;-) Now I find myself in the same position, giving advice to stubborn beginners. Apart form what you wrote, I’d like to add: 1. Do have fun but be aware sewing can be hard work. 2. Do think long and hard before using a pattern if it will actually work with your body shape. 3. Do embrace basting. Sometimes it’s essential, like slippery satin and jersey.

    and the don’ts:

    4. Do not think a sewing machine can replace hand sewing entirely. Some things need to be sewn on by hand. 5. You do not need a serger to work with knits! A ball point sewing needle and a zig zag stitch are an excellent replacement.

  • Missing

    Aug 15, 2011, 11.39 PMby annettemackay

    As a seamstress friends are constantly asking me to do alterations and small projects for them so much so that if I took them all on I’d never have time for the fun stuff and the reason I sew.

    DO say “Yes, of course I can do that for you, I charge $40 an hour”.

    This is how I learned to make the asker have to say no, and not me.

    Happy sewing everyone. Do what you love.

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    Aug 15, 2011, 04.10 PMby auschick

    I would add DO invest in a really good iron – one that irons fast, and doesn’t leak. I put up with my husband’s college iron for a few years and it was so horrible! I eventually upgraded to a ~$60 Rowlenta and it has saved me so much time! And my crumpled fabric actually ends up flat and not still partially crumpled :)

    1 Reply
    • Missing

      Aug 15, 2011, 11.43 PMby annettemackay

      Or go on e-bay and find a good older iron. I use an old GE. It is solid, heavy and doesn’t leak. I only paid about $20 for it. Every new iron I have bought in the last 20 years has failed within 6 months. I’ve paid upwards of $80 for an iron.

      Sometimes the old stuff is way better.

  • Missing

    Aug 15, 2011, 12.28 PMby Jenni Morgan

    I am looking to buy another machine but I also want to use it for quilting and embroidery…any advice? One machine, two or three? I already have a GOOD machine (not for quilting or emb.) but may give it to my daughter who is just starting out.

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    Aug 15, 2011, 11.00 AMby woman

    what a great list! :D

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    Aug 14, 2011, 06.44 PMby sigrid

    I agree with you about EVERYTHING, especially the need to have multiple vintage machines. You did say that right? But what was that about hoarding notions ? How can you complete at 10 pm on a Sunday night if you don’t have an extensive stash?

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    Aug 14, 2011, 05.44 PMby Kasiorist

    do you not feel guilty about leaving projects you put aside because you lost your heart for them? I do and hope I’ll get back to them!

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    Aug 14, 2011, 04.38 PMby aleah

    I agree with “Don’t rush.” Right now I have three projects planned, and I’ve already purchased the fabrics for all of them… right now I just want to get them all done, but I know I will regret that later!

    I’d like to add this one: “Do research.” When not sure about something, try to ask for help online, or look up videos and tutorials on how to do something. Maybe it takes some extra time, but it is a lot better than just “trying something out” to see how it works out.

    And this one: “Do challenge yourself.” Never be stuck doing the same thing over and over again, experience with techniques and try something that seems to be out of your league.

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    Aug 14, 2011, 01.05 PMby FashionSewingBlog

    It has been interesting to read and comment on your posts. Its great for you, and a nice change, to tell and show women, how passionate fashion sewing can be from a mans prospective.

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    Aug 14, 2011, 11.07 AMby nenasew

    Love all your do’s and dont’s. I’d like to add two more. Do talk to your machine. Do not get angry at your machine.

    1 Reply
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      Aug 15, 2011, 10.56 AMby ruthw

      Definitely, and when it’s sulking buy it a new foot or two!

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    Aug 14, 2011, 06.27 AMby woodviolet

    Thank you, Peter!!!!

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    Aug 14, 2011, 01.04 AMby missycas17

    I love the " DON’T force yourself to finish a project you have lost your excitement for" that’s me all the way!

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    Aug 14, 2011, 01.03 AMby missycas17

    I love the " DON’T force yourself to finish a project you have lost your excitement for" that’s me all the way!

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    Aug 14, 2011, 01.03 AMby urbandon

    Agree with it all. I DO think you should invest in beautiful scissors- they make to tedious task of cutting a joyous event (almost)

    We are all going to miss you around here!

    1 Reply
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      Aug 17, 2011, 03.15 AMby tailorstack

      Yes good cutting scissors are a MUST

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    Aug 13, 2011, 10.08 PMby tanyaphoto

    Oh and DO invest in good scissors. :)

    1 Reply
    • This is a question
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