What I Have Learned After Four Years Of Sewing Blogging

Well, I’m coming up on my four year blogiversary and today I want to share some things that I’ve learned about myself after four years of blogging.Tips from a sewing bloggerThe sewing community is a really supportive place in general.

It’s fun being a sewing blogger. I’ve made loads of friends and many I’ve met in person at organized get togethers and conferences. It’s enriched my life. I was a little isolated when I started this blog. … I hardly know anyone who is into making clothes and to find so many people from all over the world who share my passion is really cool!

Finding people who really get this part of me is priceless.. Because my husband just says, “nice!” when I show him something I made. Which is.. nice. I need more feedback, people. Oh , and people don’t leave mean comments like they do on political blogs!

Tips from a sewing blogger

I don’t like sewing for people outside of my family, unless I find it a project that is really interesting.

Making a First Communion dress for a friend’s daughter from my friend’s wedding gown, a wedding gown refashion, and creating costumes for plays that interest me are a few projects I ‘ve taken on that I haven’t regretted. But I’ve found myself dreading saying yes to projects that didn’t interest me out of guilt. People who don’t sew have no idea how laborious some projects are. I’m basically a selfish seamstress, and unless I am getting paid very well, I easily become resentful and frustrated when sewing for others.

The exception would have to be sewing for charity. So please, never ask me to do alterations or make a dress for you to wear to a party because you think I love sewing so much. I’d have to charge way more than you are most likely willing to pay, to make it entice me.

 Getting Free Stuff Isn’t Really Free

Free fabric in exchange for a blog post ! A company sends a couple of yards of fabric, I’m supposed to make something with it and blog about it. Well, what happens when I get the fabric in the mail and I don’t like it or it’s low quality? Once, I had an agreement with a fabric company to get free fabric every month and then I would make something with it. In the beginning it was fun, but it quickly became an obligation.  ” When are you going to blog about our fabric?”  I would get in my email inbox. The truth was, I made a mistake and picked out some fabric that was actually sort of …ugly.  But I was too embarrassed to tell them and was expected to make something with it even though I didn’t like it after all. My fault, I guess…. I never made the garment and lost my relationship with that fabric company.
Remember, you the blogger are doing the favor for the fabric company, not vis versa. Whether your post gets 10 visits or 10,000 those readers trust you and getting a personal recommendation from a trusted blogger is much, much, more effective than a sidebar ad that the company actually pays for.

Since I buy most of my fabric in the garment district really cheap, and have tons in my sewing room already, I don’t want any more free fabric for the time being. But if any fabric companies are willing to pay hard currency to blog about their fabric, please let me know!
Tips from a sewing blogger

Be Careful About Agreeing To Do Blog Giveaways

The first time I was asked to sponsor a giveaway I was really flattered. A dress company named after a fruit asked me to give away a dress on my blog. I wrote a post with lots of photos from their site, gushing about their dresses, included lots of links to them, and then announced the giveaway to my readers. In return I got zilch. No free dress, no payment in return for the work of creating an attractive blog post, and no links to me from their social media. Now that I look back, I realize how naive I was and I can see how companies are only too eager to take advantage of new bloggers in this way. Four years later, if a company contacted me to host a giveaway I would either charge a fee or do a  barter for free clothing or better yet, both.
Tips from a sewing blogger

 

Pattern tours and book tours can create a conflict of interest between me and my readers.

Then there are the books and Indie patterns I have been asked to review and after reading them or sewing them, I realized that maybe they weren’t that great. Even though I was not given any financial reimbursement, I felt obligated to do give a positive review  anyway. How do you review and do a giveaway for a book or pattern you think is badly written or designed? mmmmm ….

It’s awkward and there is a conflict of interest, for sure. Do you sell out your readers to recommend a crappy product because you were flattered to be included on a tour? …. Food for thought.

Bloggers are excited when they get asked to be in blog series’, pattern tours, and book tours. It feels like they are being invited to an exclusive club, and I admit I ‘ve glossed over errors in patterns when I have been on these tours because I didn’t want to cause any waves. My own Ojai wrap had a mistake that I would never have even known about, had I not received a helpful and honest but humbling e mail for someone on my tour. No one mentioned the mistake on the tour, but the truth is, they probably should have for their readers sake. But I did fix it in case you want to buy it!Tips from a sewing blogger

I need to learn to say no more to avoid burn out.

It’s important to know what my limits are. I can’t costume a play, design a craft kit, and have a pattern tour all in one month like I did in May. Just because I get asked, doesn’t mean I should say yes. It has to work with my schedule. I’ve made a decision to sew less, do fewer guest posts, and spend more time with my family. I may never be one of the “Big Blogs” but that’s OK. I’ve learned that having a “Big blog” is a full time job. Something has to give.

Contributing for other blogs also takes a lot of energy and I have to ask myself if it’s worth it? Am I getting new traffic from the blog or did I get some sort of opportunity from it?  Because when you contribute, you are basically giving your work away to someone else and helping to grow someone else’s blog. So it should be worthwhile.

I’m not the primary breadwinner so luckily for me, my family doesn’t depend on the income I make. If they did, I would have to take on more projects I don’t really want to do.Tips from a sewing blogger

Tutorials bring in lots of traffic but are lots of work to write!

It’s easy to overdo it with tutorials. Tutorials are the main traffic source for this blog, but I think having too many can be a little much. People want to get to know the person behind the blog, too. At least, I do. All work and no play makes Justine a dull girl!

 

Tips from a sewing blogger

 
The more I learn about sewing, the more I love it.
I never get bored because there is always something new to be learned and a new sewing technique to master. There are new fashions I want to create and endless inspiration on the internet. There are always better ways to make things, and more couture sewing tips to try. And better sewing machines to buy! Like the Bernina 560 I just bought.

I can see myself doing this when I am an old lady someday. I’ll be making dresses for my grand kids and probably entering slightly out of date, but quaint hand made fashions to the county fair. One never knows. Maybe I will wear loose flowing caftans to hide my wobbly parts, but I will never shop at Chico’s, because I will make clothes for myself instead.

Having a blog has made me very disciplined and improved my sewing like nothing else.

I sewed a lot in design school over twenty years ago. But when I worked in the industry I didn’t sew at all. Then I quit and stayed home and only sewed for myself occasionally. I made things for the kids once in awhile. But I was a really sloppy sewist. Since I have started my blog in 2010 I have probably made an average of one to two articles of clothing a week. That’s a lot of sewing and it has helped me to get really good, if I do say so myself. Practice makes perfect!

Getting comments is a huge motivation to sew .

Yes it’s true. I will blog for comments. I need say no more.

 I don’t want to make and sell patterns to sell.

After creating my Ojai Wrap I realized that I actually find making and creating sewing patterns for sale tedious work. I’m not very detail oriented, and while I love creating designs, the attention to detail required to create patterns and write instructions to sew them that beginners will understand is just not my cup of tea. Each time I go through one of my patterns I find a stupid mistake that I can’t believe slipped past me. Production pattern making was my least favorite thing in design school. I like to create something once and move on. I love to drape, not make flat patterns. I’m messy and disorganized!

Spending months working on the same design and wondering why it looks good on some people and awful on others sounds tiring and pattern designers earn every penny they charge. There is no such thing as a pattern that fits everyone and looks good on everyone so the pressure is intense. Designing for a size 4 model is easy compared to that. In the fashion industry, they don’t really care whether or not something looks good on a size 16.It sucks, but it’s true.

I know people are making a lot of money selling patterns, and now I can respect what they do more and realize that they work hard to earn that money.  Because while I  love making my own patterns, all the work involved in grading and digitizing and promoting those pattern is well…. lots of work !

If I could find someone to do the dirty work for me it would be perfect. I could design the sample pattern and they could do the rest.

Yeah, right.

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-McKenzie

Comments

  1. says

    Amen Sister! To thine own self be true! I’m new to blogging and it is a lot of work, but comments from people who sew and “get it” really make it worth the work. I too have sold my sewing soul for less then appreciating commissioned clients – monetary or for trade, and have vowed before the great sewing Godess never ever to do again. Period. I sew for me only. I make gifts and give them from my heart and I hem up my moms pants because after all she taught me and now she can’t see to do it any more. I am happy now and my creativity is no longer stifled. I congradulate you on your remarkable 4 years , you are a star and a big blogger. I also applaude you for finding your authenticity. Thanks for your honesty.

    • says

      Well said Maureen. Think of cooking . what if everyone asked us to cook for them because they were too lazy to learn for themselves, I say, I’ll teach you but i won’t do it for you. Unless you pay me $$$$$ haha

  2. says

    Great post!! Very enlightening:) I used feel guilty because tutorials are boring & tedious to write, I also don’t like sewing to sell, zero interest in selling patterns, too lazy to sell advertising, on and on. I just jeep a journal; online!! Thanks for the tips.

    • says

      haha you just keep on trucking Amy. Your personality shines through on your blog. You don’t need to write tutorials!

  3. says

    Great post justine! It’s so important to know who you are and what you’re willing to do. So much of it is trial and error, but it’s good that after four years you’re honing in on what you want this space to be.

  4. says

    Love this post. I have often wondered about the gushing pattern tour reviews myself – no one ever has anything critical to say and it seems a bit too good to be true.

  5. Cindy says

    Great post! I especially loved the section on pattern tours. As a blog reader, I am tired of the advertisements disguised as blog posts. At least, that’s what most of them feel like. ‘

    I’m sorry to read you don’t enjoy making patterns though, you’re good at it!

  6. says

    Great post. It’s great that you know and are living by what you’ve learned by blogging over the past 4 years. I started my blog a few years ago and fortunately (I guess), since I was a beginner and have a time consuming real life job, I was never tempted to take steps to build my readership or monetize. If my circumstances were different, I could see how I could have gotten sucked down that rabbit hole. Right now, I’m having a hard time finding the time to blog the garments I’ve made the past few months. I’ll do it though because I like contributing to the sewing community since I know I really heavily on pattern reviews. I agree about the blog tours. I love seeing the various versions of new patterns but when no one mentions any fitting issues or adjustments then I’m skeptical and I wait for non-tour posts. I was chosen to pattern test last summer and I was so excited. I made the ‘test’ garment as I needed to – one straight size. When I went to make my own garment, I never finished it because I realized it wasn’t flattering on me or my style. Why continue? I felt guilty but got over it. ;)

  7. says

    A very good post Justine. We feel blogging really does make you examine who you are and what you want to accomplish. That being said you use your platform to do what you want to do. I agree the sewing community is the most supportive I have encountered. People want to see you succeed and that is encouraging in order to move forward and meet our goals. Thanks for sharing your insights with this community.

  8. says

    I have noticed that my blogging has dropped lately because I just get so tired of taking the pictures! And I am so glad that I am not the only one who gets resentful about sewing for others…by not sewing for money means I get to create things that have significance for me (whether it is for me or for a gift that I want to give). And I don’t blog enough to be noticed by pattern or fabric companies to do any reviews :)

    • says

      I agree the photo part is sooo time consuming. 
      It’enough work sewing it but then doing photos too? And now people have gotten so good at the photos as well.its hard to keep up!

  9. says

    Thank you for this post! I am a new blogger and learning all too quickly about the challenges. I am finding that I agree with every single thing that you wrote!

  10. says

    looove this post! I agree with the sewing for other people-I have to make a lot to make it worth my time…lol! and the blogging for comments. this whole post is awesome!

  11. says

    I am glad I read this post, your honest thoughts. I would rather follow and read someone true to themselves!

  12. says

    This post is so insightful and a delight to read. Yes, I’ll follow you on Bloglovin’. Perhaps you would consider doing the same for me while I am on the journey to sewist nirvana. I am all about increasing skill as I work through a wardrobe recreation.

    Thanks for being a fierce force on the WWW.

    Cheers,

    Lyric
    http://www.sewcroandquilt.wordpress.com

  13. says

    Ha ha ha. That was pretty funny about the give away for a company named after an apple. I did the same giveaway and the company’s initial email led me to believe that I would get a free gift certificate out of it. No such thing.

    I don’t like sewing for other people either other than my family or for gifts. I don’t mind teaching people how to sew, however.

    Great post. I’m still lurking around reading the good blogs (yours an a small handful of others) and I’m going to write my final blog post (after a long hiatus) by the end of summer. Keep your eyes open.

    • says

      I’m sorry to hear you are quitting but maybe you will find something else to do that interest you. I hope you keep sewing !

  14. Olga Becker says

    What a fun post, Justine. It’s refreshing to see a person who knows exactly who they are and what they want. I love that. :) I agree about pattern making, it’s a LOT of work and the monetary rewards are not that great if you think of all the hours and stress involved. :) It has to be a labor of love. :)

  15. says

    Wonderful well-written post! Thank you for being so honest. As I went through your sections I found myself nodding my head and agreeing with all your points. Blogging is so much more work than people realize – especially those tutorials! I just hope you continue to post your beautiful inspired handmade clothing!

  16. judy says

    Justine, I really enjoyed your post.. I so agree with you, Sewing is so fun. I totally enjoy it, but sometimes blogging can take over so much time… I wonder why I even do it? ha.. But, I love all the many sewing friends , That I have met.
    Love your blog,love seeing the pretty things you make [both sewing and crafts].
    Enjoy your family.. Hugs.

  17. Sharon says

    It was refreshing to read an honest post and the work that it involves and the time. It is more like a full time job with no pay than a hobby that you enjoy. Thank you for the honesty! I too said it is harder to make something for someone else than it is for oneself.

  18. says

    I have only recently found your blog and must say this post is so impressive. I so appreciate your candidness and honesty. You write and clearly work with integrity. I wish you the best in this major life decision. It sounds like a wise one. BTW, I absolutely love the Bombshell. Keep up the great designs.

  19. says

    This is a great post! I was just thinking about why I blog and what I am going to say yes (or no) to in the future. I love to sew and I enjoy blogging to share and engage with the wonderful sewing community. Even if I don’t blog very much I still have quite a lot of sewing going on behind the scenes! And I recently agreed to a blog tour and used a pattern from a designer I’d never worked with–I wasn’t a fan of it and it took awhile to figure out how to be positive about the pattern but also a bit honest about my struggles. So I’m not going to be doing that again! Lesson learned. Looking forward to seeing more of your sewing!

  20. says

    Hello! Thanks for sharing your insight. I sporadically blog about my craft projects and other things and I find it helpful mostly for me to go back and remember my own tips to self :-D .

    I actually did discover and follow your blog just today from a skirt week post elsewhere so hopefully this is encouragement that it is working. It is weird though I’m on bloglovin and your post about this simple pillowcase skirt keeps taking me to a sailor skirt so I’m a bit confused there. The upside was that I pressed the home button and started to read other posts on the way to finding the pillowcase skirt and found this one :) .

  21. says

    well said! Blogging is hard work and trying to figure out in your business is worth your time can be tricky. Be true to your heart and do what you love…