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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!”


  • Dscn0826_large

    Aug 13, 2011, 10.06 PMby ruthw

    Another useful DO:

    If you DON’T take Peter’s advice and you DO buy the cheapest new machine you can find (like I did, oh woe is me!), it will make a horrible mess and chew up the bobbin case every time you try the stretch stitches UNTIL you

    DO buy an even-feed foot, when all your problems will melt away. ( This DO saved me about $1500 that I was going to spend on a replacement and better machine. Now I am very happy with my ultra-cheapo plastic one.)

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    Aug 13, 2011, 01.29 PMby Rebecca Alleyne

    3. DON’T sew for others unless the idea brings you joy. Everyone is constantly asking me to sew for them and when I say no they all think I’m selfish. I’m going to post this up on my wall so whenever someone comes in and sees me sewing before they even finish asking, I’ll just point to it

  • Missing

    Aug 13, 2011, 11.54 AMby Ruth Brown

    Peter is leaving?!!! Geez!!!!!! I love the dos & don’ts. Even if you “already know all these” it’s nice to have a reminder. I might just print out the list and post it on my bulletin board. But Peter is leaving?!!!!!!!! Geez!!!!!!!

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    Aug 13, 2011, 11.30 AMby milkyway

    Who didnt know all of that?

    1 Reply
    • Missing

      Aug 15, 2011, 02.42 PMby Chrissy Minor

      You’d be surprised how many people waste their time and money on cheap machines.

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    Aug 12, 2011, 09.44 PMby ttnora

    Agree, agree, agree.

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    Aug 12, 2011, 08.31 PMby caseyleefierce

    I don’t agree with the last one!

    1 Reply
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    Aug 12, 2011, 08.19 PMby ruthw

    I don’t like hoarding or some of those humongous stashes you see on people’s blogs. They make me feel quite queasy, but I do buy four or five pieces of fabric at a time – I tend to ‘sew with a plan in other words’. But I make sure I finish all those fabrics (except, say, one….) before I buy the next set. So my “stash is tiny. If it gets big I get nervous – like it’s nagging me. I would say, DON”T buy more fabric than you are going to sew up this month.

    A good DO is to strip any clothes you are chucking of notions – buckles, zips, and buttons, especially. You often get much nicer buttons on RTW than you can get in sewing shops. And I really use my button jar. Doesn’t every house have a button jar? So, yes, I have a small stash of buttons, bias binding, thread and elastic. I use it. Only today I picked out some grey buttons to put on something I am making and they are perfect for it.

    1 Reply
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      Aug 19, 2011, 02.12 AMby reliablechef

      I love recycling my buttons and lace but never thought to save the zips! Thanks for the idea!

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    Aug 12, 2011, 06.34 PMby nellyvdb

    Peter, I will miss you greatly on Burdastyle… shhhh, keep this a secret, but… yours are the only blogposts I automatically read on BS, I have loved them all. I am going to have to bookmark your blog and add it to my list of things to read instead of focusing on my job… ;) Now about the list… I am thoroughly mad that I have heard the DOn’t buy the cheapest machine at Walmart… several times AFTER I actually did just that, but had Nooooo explanation why, until the first jamming up of thread happened to me… so please tell me that even machines in the $400 – $$$$$ price range jam up from time to time. In my defense, I went for a tried and tested brand, the one I remember my grandma always using.

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    Aug 12, 2011, 05.55 PMby assets

    Great List Peter, I have been trying put my scrap fabric in the recycling bin. I notice you don’t mention hoarding larger pieces of fabric….. I have a large collection and avoiding my weekly trip to market the temptation is too great. Thank you again I’m going to check out your blog. I love number 1 Do If my hearts not in it it dose not get finished.

    Thank You Peter

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    Aug 12, 2011, 05.11 PMby cyndi-de-crafti

    Thank you Peter for another awesome post! I definitely see myself in some of the DOs and DON’Ts. Come back soon! :)

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    Aug 12, 2011, 04.46 PMby bodicegoddess589

    My “do” would definitely be “STOP FOR BREAKS.” I have a tendency to start sewing and then just go and go and go and go and before you know it, my whole arm is doing the shaky low-blood-sugar thing, and it’s three in the morning. Three in the morning is totally acceptable. But so is taking a break at nine and midnight for a snack and a little lay-down on the couch.

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    Aug 12, 2011, 04.42 PMby astridklomp

    What sewing machine do you suggest? I am looking for one at the moment. I have my mom’s old husqvarna that I love, but is not quite working so great all the time. I’ve looked at Bernina and Pfaff. Don’t have a huge budget but would love one that will last a while and help me make more pretty dresses.

    2 Replies
    • 2011-01-31_14-59-40_683_large

      Aug 12, 2011, 08.04 PMby laha5822

      Try to get that old machine repaired! I got my mom’s old Kennmore repaired and had a long talk with the service man about how newer machines just aren’t made as well as they used to be. It was very inexpensive to have the Kennmore serviced… $125 US! Much cheaper than a new, quality machine!

    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Aug 13, 2011, 12.43 PMby Peter Lappin

      Look on Craigslist or Ebay for an old black Singer straight stitch machine, say a 99 or a 15-91 or a 201. Even refurbished those are cheaper than most anything new. And extra feet are easy to find — they’re always for sale on Etsy and eBay (they came in green cardboard boxes). These machines also make excellent buttonholes (with a Singer buttonholer attachment).

      Iif you want a zigzagger, try a Kenmore with 158 in the model number (i.e., 158.1212) — those were excellent machines. I have an old 70’s era Viking that’s great too.

      SO many old machines are out there — at one time almost everyone owned one, kind of like manual typewriters. Thrift stores are a great place to look too.

      A lot depends on where you live, however. My experience is solely in the USA.

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    Aug 12, 2011, 04.17 PMby hanolalaith

    Haha, I have a project that involved two of these at once: Do learn about your machine tension, and Don’t sew when you’re tired. That project is now called the “Battle Bag” because it was such a fight!

  • Marzi90_large

    Aug 12, 2011, 04.13 PMby MadeByMarzipan

    Fun list! But I have to disagree with DON’T HOARD SEWING NOTIONS. I think you can hoard whatever you like as long as it’s ultra-organized and it brings you JOY instead of making you feel OVERWHELMED. I love collecting vintage notions and I’ve come up with unique ways to display them in my sewing room, so I know where to find them when (if?) I decide to use them… until then, they make great decor and they make me happy!

    2 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Aug 12, 2011, 04.29 PMby Peter Lappin

      That sounds more like collecting to me. Hoarding is when you literally have to step over it to get out the door!

    • Marzi90_large

      Aug 15, 2011, 04.29 PMby MadeByMarzipan

      Ha, good call, Peter :)

  • Missing

    Aug 12, 2011, 04.13 PMby teresacoates

    A hearty amen, especially about the vintage sewing machine bit (I sew on a ’54 Pfaff and LOVE it).

    But I can’t promise I’ll stop hoarding notions. I will try to use them more.

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    Aug 12, 2011, 02.46 PMby tinybows

    great list! i definitely agree, it’s better to save up and buy a quality machine because in the end it saves so much hassle. three years ago i bought a cheap $99 machine, which worked great for two months and then jammed up every three seconds after. quality goes a long way!

    also…hoarding sewing notions? SO GUILTY.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Aug 12, 2011, 04.29 PMby Peter Lappin

      It seems hoarding sewing notions is a biggie for a lot of people! ;)

  • Missing

    Aug 12, 2011, 02.36 PMby gralo

    Great do/don"t list- I’m sure I’ll refer back to it when I feel like I need reminding. I do hoard notions since I find them on the cheap at yard sales- I have probably one hundred zippers, BUT I’m willing to share with friends and I love hitting the stash instead of the store when I start a project. Honestly, they don’t take up a lot of space. Sounds like I’m justifying hmmmmm…

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Aug 12, 2011, 04.30 PMby Peter Lappin

      Where does one even keep 100 zippers!?

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    Aug 12, 2011, 01.41 PMby Anne Wagenhauser

    Very good, and funny to boot! I agree with “Don’t sew when you are tired”, it’s really not worth it. A must “do” is: Do read all instructions and go over the pattern pieces before pinning a single thing!

    2 Replies
    • Marzi90_large

      Aug 12, 2011, 04.15 PMby MadeByMarzipan

      Oh, you’re so right about going over the instructions and pattern before you do anything! Great reminder!

    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Aug 12, 2011, 04.31 PMby Peter Lappin

      This is a GREAT “do,” Anne!

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    Aug 12, 2011, 01.32 PMby zsyzu

    Awesome article as usual!

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    Aug 12, 2011, 12.57 PMby merbecky

    I’ll miss your posts, I really enjoy reading them! I have learned many of the “don’ts” the hard way!

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Aug 12, 2011, 04.32 PMby Peter Lappin

      I am always just a click away !

    • This is a question
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