Taking Time to Finish

This is a little somethin’ somethin’ I’ve been sewing on the side of many other projects lately.

I’m sort of a classic finisher-type. I like having a checklist, checking off. I like the satisfaction of pulling off and crumpling sticky notes when a task is done. And this blouse, along with its counterpart skirt which I’ll share later, has been on that checklist for a year. In fact the whole outfit was cut, fused and carefully folded into a bag with all of its notions a year ago.

But here’s the funny thing. I’ll get down to the end of a sewing project and can’t be bothered to really finish-finish. I dislike hemming, for instance. I’m an accuracy nut but not at the end. I feel done once I can put it on and pretend it’s done. I didn’t finish the last baby hem on my Cambie, or hem this silk jersey dress (you’re next, buddy!). My fur coat is perfectly done except for the opening in the sleeve lining which was kept open to bag-line the coat. Yes, I wore this about ten times with a hole in the sleeve.

Perhaps I’ve been watching one too many videos of tailors hand-stitching in a calm but deft manner. And reading about folks who love to hand-stitch while watching their favorite TV program. I have a slapdash approach to button-sewing but this time I decided to take some pleasure in one of those end-tasks. I settled down into a comfy chair with a needle, thread and beeswax and an episode or two of Lie to Me. (My second time through this great but short-lived show–I love Tim Roth!) The problem is I can’t look at TV and buttons at the same time. How do you guys do that? Re-runs, where you know all the lines anyway?

Anyway, in all my 20-odd years of sewing, I’ve never really learned a proper way to sew a button that looks neat from front to back, and more importantly, stays put. So after a bunch of tutorial-hopping I decided to practice.

I got so into the hand-sewing that I almost… considered… hand-overcasting the sleeve edges before hemming them. Whoa. Personally, I like serging, and I think it looks neat and refined. Back when sergers/overlockers first became more available to home-sewers, they were expensive but a revelation after pinking edges. A neat and refined revelation, not a quick and dirty way out. But I digress. I stopped short of hand-overcasting because I’m very inexperienced at it. I was so happy with the way the blouse was turning out, and a little bit sad when the hand-sewing was done, that I needed one more thing to really finish-finish, with my hands.

I’ve had these labels for a couple of years and can you believe I’ve never used them? Probably because I’d have to hem first! Alright, so the stitches are unraveling but I’ll get more practice in…


  1. Ginger says:

    This looks beautiful! What a great color! I struggle with finishing things, too– the last few steps are always the most tedious, aren’t they?

  2. Katherine says:

    The blouse looks gorgeous. Do we get to see it on?

    My TV sewing is usually to programs where the dialogue is more important than the visuals. THe other time for hand sewing is somewhere where I have ti sit and wait for my kids. I have made a sewing kit ot keep in my purse for these times. I often think that I have done a good job sewing a button on, but then, after a few months, it falls off anyway. Now that you have had much practice, perhaps you could share your technique with us?

    Finishing is something I’m not so good at either. Especially now that I have plenty of clothes and am not desperate for something to wear. It’s more the fun of making a garment, so getting it to the try-on point is the best bit and the finishing, not so much.

    • Amy says:

      Yes, you do get to see it on! I’m just finishing the pics right now.

      I can’t say I didn’t have a ton of button-sewing practice on this blouse, but the new thing I tried was sewing an “X” into the back side before pulling it up and starting to sew on the button. I also wrapped the thread underneath the button (to make the “stand”) more times than usual (maybe 6?). I’ll see if I can find the tutorial that helped me. I really hope they don’t fall out. Why don’t buttons stay?

      I’m a lot like you–I was just telling a friend tonight that I have plenty of clothes and really just like sewing for the experience of it, and that’s exactly what happens–once I try it on and feel good about what I’ve done, I’m done. I think it might be time for me to turn my attention to sewing for others!

  3. K-Line says:

    This is totally gorgeous. What beautiful work. I’m one of those people who likes hand sewing but I watch very stupid television while I do it.

    • Amy says:

      Thanks! And right, I need to stick to something that doesn’t get my attention so much. I have some cheesy comedies in my video arsenal ;).

  4. Heather Lou says:

    This looks awesome (are we going to get to see it on)? That colour – oy, material happiness. I am trying to be more detail conscious these days but I’ll still take some shortcuts. Once I discovered how to sew buttons on with my machine there was NO going back. By the way, I just lost a few hours to browsing your back catalog and you really blow me away. Beautiful, one of a kind eye. I’ve been a little overwhelmed by my blogigations lately and trying to scale back what I’m following but you are a constant source of inspiration. Thank you Amy!

    • Amy says:

      Thank you so much, Heather. That is really kind. I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed with blogland and I hope you’ve felt okay with just being a secret reader sometimes!

    • Amy says:

      I am! It almost put me in a mood to get cracking on the couture dress class. I have about 3 more projects before that….

  5. Marty says:

    I agree with everyone: that color is wonderful. I can’t sew, either by machine or hand, anywhere near a TV. I will invariably watch TV and stop sewing, even the commercials. I just recently learned to use more hand-sewing in my work, and I love the results. Getting there is a great source of impatience and procrastination – I’m a product person. I’m also a five year old in a forty six year old’s body.

    • Amy says:

      Haha! It’s funny because I’m just like this with cooking. If I put on a show I forget what the heck I’m doing. It’s so annoying!

  6. Sallie says:

    Yes, the color is gorgeous. This looks amazing. I usually look forward to the last few sewing steps – the hand sewing is usually my favorite! But I do know that feeling of trying on the mostly done garment and just feeling like your DONE!

    • Amy says:

      Haha, thanks to sewistas like you and your awesome red jacket I want to find a way to settle into handwork more. I’m not a fast sewer, even on a machine, so why not?

  7. Evie says:

    Love the colour. Love the finish. Exquisite stitching.
    I too love doing handwork in front of the tv, but stick to things that are pretty mindless. If it’s got a detailed plot or subtitles then the most I can manage is very simple knitting!

  8. Amy, I love your button holes! I’m usually terrible at finishing things also, and have been resorting to doing some machine rolled hems on my serger. My answer to hand-stitching entertainment is listening to podcasts. Because I have an interest in screenwriting, I’ll listen to Script Notes, then move on to Radiolab or Freakonomics. Or I’ll watch a TV show that I’m not really into, but my husband is, so we can hang, I can sew, and he’s entertained:) Looking forward to seeing the skirt that goes with this blouse!:)

    • Amy says:

      I have to say, the buttonholes are all thanks to my machine. It has great buttonhole stitches–makes me look good ;).

      Now I would totally get lost in Script Notes. Screenplays totally fascinate me–I’ve never been able to write dialog. I love podcast recommendations!

  9. Sherry says:

    I’m just like you – love crossing things off the list, but can’t seem to finish-finish! I’m working on it – actually blogging helps!

    Your work looks total perfection, so nice to see!

    • Amy says:

      Thanks, Sherry! I agree about the blogging, it helps me get there. Otherwise I’d probably just cut patterns all day. I like the cutting ;).

  10. Amanda says:

    Yay! hand sewing is so satisfying 🙂 I sit at a proper table & chair to do mine so I can’t watch tv either but I like having reruns of comedies on in the background to keep me relaxed ^___^

  11. Bernice says:

    This is looking lovely. Can’t wait to see the finished product. I struggle to finish things as well. Just as I’m getting close to the end, my mind wanders to the next project.

  12. Carolyn says:

    This is absolutely lovely; I adore this colour and the style looks pretty and feminine. Beautiful! And your hand-finished buttonholes are GORGEOUS!! I especially love details like this 🙂

  13. Rosy says:

    I am unable to sew while watching TV, I prefer listening to music, it’s more enjoyable and let the imagination fly on the accessories you use with this beautiful yellow blouse while sewing the buttons …. ahhh, the satisfaction of a perfect finish ….

  14. Lavender says:

    I actually like hand sewing, but when I get to the end of a project, I just want it done. I won’t skimp on a hand-sewn hem, findings, etc. Oddly, I will breeze through a machine hem as the final step, which is not good. Maybe that’s why I started enjoying hand sewing? Stitch in the ditch on a waistband? Bound to look awful. Slipstitched by hand? I can handle that.

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.