So, you hate to sew it, but why?

This week’s poll is about your sewing bête noir – the thing that you just hate doing.

I know a lot of seamstresses of various skill levels who hate doing zips, buttons, or sleeves, but those don’t fuss me.  What I really loathe, stuff-up all the time, and try to avoid, is gathering.

I did not enjoy making the skirt of this dress!

I know!  It seems so simple!  But my gathering lines are always breaking, and going wonky, and when I sew the gathered pieces together somehow I always get a big pleat caught up in the gathering.  It’s horrible and evil I tell you, evil.

That’s why I love corded gathering so much.  I was so, so excited when I discovered it.  It’s so much easier!

Wonderful, wonderful cord gathering

And my desire to avoid gathering is also why I am willing to pleat metres and metres of silk organza into tiny pin pleats by hand.  Anything is good as long as it means I don’t have to machine gather!

Itsy bitsy pin pleats

My very first garment that I learned to make was actually a gathered circle skirt with metres and metres of fabric cut into 8 quarters and gathered into the waistband.  It was so enormous!  And I had no problem with it, but ever since, I’ve loathed gathering.  I think I just overdid it the first time!

Funny isn’t it, what we don’t like doing, and find hard, and avoid?

So, what did you pick in the poll?  And why?  Have you always hated/been scared of it?  Or is it based on one particular time when the technique went horribly wrong?  Do you invent elaborate stratagems to get around doing it?  Or try to force yourself to do it in the hope you will get past the dislike?


  1. I chose chiffon, and by extension most other slippery/floaty/slidy fabrics. I LOVE how they look, but I hate working with them! The exception is if I’m hand-sewing – then they are fine. I’m not a huge fan of gathering, either – I would rather make pleats!

  2. I HATE doing hems. My new method of dealing with them is using the serger around the bottom, flip up once, and sew (often with a twin needle). They seem to come out a lot better now, but I always freak out about messing everything up at the last step.

    I know my welts and bond button holes need work, but they don’t terrify me, I love making pants, and ever since my sister gave me an invisible zipper foot, they are my favorite thing to sew in as a closure. Sleeve success usually depends on the fabric…

    Actually, my least favorite part of sewing is cutting out the pattern pieces in the tissue stage – it takes soooooo long and the pieces are so big I worry about slip ups with the scissors I use. Sometimes I will put off a project for over a week just because I don’t want to cut out the pattern.

    • I’m with you, I hate hems too and even worse, adjusting an already hemmed garment. On the other hand I don’t mind gathers but I don’t like to do them on the machine – I prefer to hand gather… less breaking of threads.

  3. I hate gathering as well! My gathers are never even, or are close to being even, and the thread breaks or the fabric doesn’t want to gather or the gathers make the fabric puff out horribly and it’s just a mess. I know I have to do it because the final effect can be lovely, but I always live in dread of messing it all up when I am sewing.

    Second place: what T. Sedai said – cutting out the actual pattern pieces kills a little bit of my soul each time. I need to put a movie on and pull out four patterns or else they will never get cut out.

  4. Tip for gathering – use a teeny stitch (I sometimes go as small as 1mm) and a very loose tension. I’ve noticed that most instructions say to use a longer than normal stitch with a loose tension, but once I’d tried it with a teeny stitch it became so much easier.

  5. Stella says

    Buttonholes. I hate ’em. They’re fiddly and I can’t always see what I’m doing when it’s under the foot.

    Fitting pants is a mission too, but I expect that to be problematic, because they’re pants and fitting pants is tricky. It’s likely to be trial and error and I know that going in, but I expect buttonholes to be easier. I mean, they’re just buttonholes! How hard could they be, right? 😛

  6. Luckily, I’ve learned to master all of those annoying problems. I’m not scared of them (though sometimes they can be quite annoying still–especially if I’m already frustrated). No, my “I hate to do this” is seam ripping something I’ve just put together. Seam ripping can be quite fun, actually. But it ceases to be exciting when I’ve just sewn the thing that needs to be taken apart. 🙁

    • Oh, just rub it in why don’t you! 😉 Surely there is something that you hate doing, or often get wrong. I wouldn’t say I was scared of gathering – just hate it, and avoid it.

  7. Caroline says

    I made a 1920s ruffle-y georgette evening dress and had never done double rolled hems before …. it was a mess!

  8. Cutting Out. I Hate It. Which is kind of hard as without it there is no garment to then sew up!

  9. I hate hate hate zippers. Now, I think 95% of this is because my machine isn’t properly equipped to do zippers and I’ve never really learned to do them properly because of this…but still. Annoying, ugly, fussy things–I’ll take snaps or buttons any day. 🙂

  10. Cutting out patterns. It’s really stupid, I know, but it just takes forever and you always have the “oh (#($@! I cut that wrong” moment.

    It’s always a disaster!

    • I could do a roaring trade in cutting out from the sound of it. I love cutting out. I’m hugely at risk of piling up a huge stack of cut-out projects with no sewing at all on them!

      • Trade you then! You can cut out all the patterns, and I’ll just sew them together! 😀

      • I also dislike cutting out, but I think it’s because I’m so tall and all the tables/counters I’ve ever used are too low, so I end up stooping for hours and finish with a killer backache.

        • I can understand that. Having the right height of cutting table is so important. Right now I don’t have a table at all – I use the floor, and when I am done my knees are killing me.

  11. The thing I’ve hated the most is seam finishing. For years, I either didn’t do it, or did it quick and dirty–and badly. Now that I’m finally hand sewing most of the reconstructed historical garments I make, I’m doing tidier, stronger seams at last.

    • ME TOO! I am finally getting over myself and forcing myself to deal with my seams properly, but it’s a challenge. It’s an impatience thing, I think–I get so frustrated spending time on something that no one can even see when I could be fiiiinishing the gaaaarment and weaaaaring it…doesn’t help that I really got into sewing (beyond grandmotherlessons) through costuming for high school and community drama, where things don’t need to last and it really IS a waste of time, especially when you’re just going to have to pull the whole thing apart to remake it next season!

  12. Lynne says

    I’m fussy about sleeves, and they are nearly always tricky, even with a very good pattern. The rotten little easing gathers seem to want to be in the wrong place. Not helped by my being a bit non-standard in the upper chest – sleeveless things used to want to gape.

    Raglan sleeves and drop sleeves are just brilliant! 🙂

  13. I’m another who hates gathering, but I discovered how to use my pintucking foot to zig-zag over a cord; works brilliantly and doesn’t do the breaking thing!

  14. Cheyene says

    I really hate cutting out the fabric with into the pattern, too. It is not unusual for me to have everything ready (Fabric ready, pattern paper cut properly, even the fabric ironed) and then I delay for weeks!
    And then I hate marking the dots and lines and whatever else with the tracing paper. I HATE IT. So much that even as a beginning seamstress, I would leave that part off and just wing it without. 😐

    I also hate having unfinished projects. It’s terrible going back to them. By the time I finally get some motivation to go back and get it over with, I’ve forgotten what I needed to do. Or lost a piece, or lost the instructions, etc…. 🙁 lol

    • I’m the same. I’ll cut out paper pattern as soon as bought. Then another day do the fabric cutting and pinning. Spreading it out is the only way I don’t get utterly put off by it all.

  15. Hayley says

    Zippers are the bane of my life. I’ve yet to try sewing chiffon…. eeek! And I like gathering – I have seen articles on ‘gathering’ feet for your machine, maybe you should hunt one of those down.

    But I love pinning and cutting out! My mother detests it and gets my father to do it instead, with the excuse that ‘it makes her knees and back ache’ to be kneeling on the carpet. Dad is accurate and methodical and doesn’t mind it, so it’s a great partnership. If he’s not around I would always do it for mum.

    • Hayley says

      Oh I have changed my mind. I HATE TRANSFERRING PATTERN MARKINGS ONTO THE FABRIC. It’s fiddly, and tailor’s chalk is the most infuriating thing, it either makes no marks, snaps, or just pulls at the fabric.

      • Hmmm…what kind of tailors chalk are you using? I never have problems with mine. You might also look into Clover’s Chako chalk liners. Super expensive, but brilliant for drawing on fabric.

  16. my machine gathers always break too and I’ve never gotten the hang of cord gathering, but still do it by machine most times (or cheat and use elastic to gather haha). I hand gather or gauge a good amount too. Also I have to sew nearly all closures by hand (buttons and button holes included) since my machine refuse to cooperate on that. But what I really hate is finishing seams, and unfortunately there’s no way around that.

  17. I chose buttons and button holes. So fiddly and annoying. Hate them.

    Handstitching! Deplore it!

    Mostly though, I hate making up patterns. I’m terrible at trying to make things from scratch. Give me a pattern and guide, I can make almost anything to a reasonable standard. Most things anyway…

    • Elise says

      True that. The first thing I started doing when I got a grown-up job is to take my cardigans to the dry cleaners and have them sew on the buttons!

  18. Some of the first projects I helped with (for dance) were gathered, tiered skirts—-we did yards and yards of gathering, basting by hand. After that, everything else is easy :). My favourite gathering method is zigzagging over a thin cord (usually dental floss)—I’ll use machine basting for short lengths, but anything more I use the zigzag. Or the ruffler foot. They can be infuriating, but so handy when you have miles and miles to go.

    My bane is any slippery, shifty fabric. Satin, chiffon, georgette… give me heavy denim any day. Oddly, I can tolerate wriggly knits relatively well. Go figure. 🙂

  19. Natalie says

    It’s a tie for me. I can’t stand cutting out, it makes me unbelievably irritated and angry.

    But I can’t stand hemming either. It is always such a disappointment because I never get it right!

  20. Evey says

    I’m so glad to discover that I am not the only person who loathes cutting and marking! Give me slippery bias cut chiffon ruffles to gather any day. I find it always takes me hours and hours to cut a pattern, cut fabric and mark everything, and the entire time I think to myself there *must* be a faster way to do this….so frustrating. I have found that, when it’s possible, I can split my cutting work into smaller pieces over a few days and I am somewhat less grumpy about it.

  21. If I hate a technique, I force myself to master it. But I’m kind of a sucker for punishment.

    Try lots and lots of pins. And re-arrange the gathering with your eyes closed. I don’t know why, but when I close my eyes and run my fingers over the gathering, it all falls into place just so…

  22. I really dislike working with netting. It combines slithery and gathers, plus a bit of twisting and grabbing. Since I have a 6.5 year old grandaughter who is highly enamored of floofy skirts, netting shows up a lot.
    Gathers on “normal” fabrics don’t bother me much; if I need teensy even ones I just use my smocking pleater. My pleater hates the netting as much as I do.

  23. Collars and cuffs. Especially men’s garments. There’s always threads showing and wonkiness.

  24. Cornelia Moore says

    lol, gathering is a breeze for me, but I do a baste hand stitc, first, pull it to the tightness that I want the gather, tie it off and then machine stitch it. zippers are the evil descendant of a snake and a mechanical device. sew strait, it twists left. pick the stiches out, sew strait, it curls under (esp plastic ones.) this even when I baste the monster in. button holes? line up needle with hole carefully, set the zig-zag up. if the fabric doesn’t bind and then break the needle, the sewing will avoid the fabric and snarl under the feed. another monster. and lining the zig-zag up with button holes? forget it, I hand sew the buttons, it’s far, far faster! lastly. I dread piping-the thin edging of blouses. I’ve got a small stack of unfinished blouses that require piping. I’ll hand sew, but it doesn’t look as good as machine, but I struggle with machining the piping, and don’t enjoy the process.

  25. Two things I dislike…
    sleeves especially where gathering is involved. I have yet to get it to work perfectly. They are never even.
    Buttonholes…although this is because I have to hand sew them which takes ages.
    I also find anything with a lot of fitting changes a pain. As I don’t have a fitting buddy so its never quite right plus my fabric has the audacity to fray.

    • cheyenekylie@hotmail.com says

      I forgot to mention fitting… my sister who is the same size as me helps, but she doesn’t enjoy it, so it’s hard to have her all the time!

      And I hand-sew buttonholes, too. Fortunately, I love embroidery and hand-sewing. But it is quite frustrating to have them look wonky when something goes wrong… 🙁

      • At home my sis and mum are the same RTW size yet completely different shapes…so that’s no help. lol! I spend a lot of time getting it roughly right and going “ah…well that will have to do”
        I like handsewing and embroidery….I just get so annoyed when the thread keeps getting knotted and the buttonholes don’t look equal.

  26. I voted for hems, mainly because they sit at the end of the process, when I want to be finished with it!
    I would also add: tracing patterns, it seems to take for ages

  27. Oversewing the edges of the cut out pieces. I’ve always hated it and secretly wishing that someone would come up with a fabric that would not need oversewing to look neat. The other thing is strechy fabrics, I never seem to manage sewing them nicely and always end up growing frustrated with them in the end.

  28. I picked chiffon – it represents all of the nasty, slippery, uncooperative fabrics that are out to get me. I always gather by hand, which I find relaxing, but I believe that machine-gathering can be really obnoxious!

  29. Well, I hate hems, although I’m pretty good at them. They’re just…. boring.

    I used to (and sort of still) have problems with sleeves, but that’s getting better. Anything where you have to ease a seemingly ridiculous distance into a tiny little space (like princess seams on strapless dresses!) makes me angry.

    On the poll I voted for buttons, though. I wish my machine would do buttonholes. I’d love it! As it is, if I absolutely must do a button I have to hand bind it or do one with a loop.

  30. Tracy Ragland says

    I hate setting in sleeves more than anything else! Either there is too much sleeve to armscye or too little. I have to clip one or the other. Or I think it fits and stitch it together only to find a nasty, horrible pleat. Hate them, Yes I DO!

  31. Kattis says

    I don’t like sewing, its boring,but a like to see the clothes take shape. Cutting out the fabric and make buttonholes is a nightmare!

  32. Laura says

    Ha, I love gathering. I find it so satisfying, because a piece goes from shapeless to rufflies in a snap. My method for avoiding breaking threads is to always use upholstery thread for the gather thread. I do this on all but the most delicate of fabrics. If there’s a serious problem with unevenness, I do a serious baste of the gathered areas before finishing by machine.

    As to what I hate, it’s sewing on closures. I get so bored and want to be off making something new. A project l

    • Laura says

      Looking done but needing another hour or two of seeing on hooks and buttons and snaps makes me crazy. I don’t particularly hate DOING zippers, but I almost never do as they offend my aesthetic sensibilities. I like an artistic inclusion of fasteners as part of the style, not a hidden zip. If I can avoid buying off the rack garments with hidden/side zips, then I do. So I guess I create more work for myself by only wanting to do more time-consuming closures which I hate.

      Also cutting out chiffon/georgette, but sewing after cutting is gone.

  33. The Mad Purple Chicken says

    Well, I haven’t sewn very much so far, I am currently working on my 6th garment EVER, so I haven’t tried a lot of those techniques/ materials. I only learned to sew last year and I’m still in high school. So far though, what I hate most is pining, especially long seams, you have to put alllllllll those pins in and then (only a minute or so later), take alllllllll the pins out. I know pinning is important but it feels pointless and unrewarding because you undo it right away, it’s the same with basting.
    Another thing I find annoying is ironing curvy seams, they always wrinkle under the iron and never fit over the pressing equipment very well. I don’t have a problem with actually sewing anything, except for the disappointment of wonky seams, but I’m sure that will fix itself with practice. That’s why I love hand sewing, it’s harder to mess up because it goes so slowly.

    • Lynne says

      One day, you’ll get your hands on a sleeve board, a tiny ironing board especially made for the curvy bits and for sleeve seams. They make such a difference.

  34. I hate: binding on curves, sewing velvet, and button holes (probably only because I just learned to do them last year, and I’ve been sewing for 15+ years….. I actually made a corset long before I learned button holes.)

  35. w,I’m not super-keen on gathering either (although I don’t think I hate it as much as you) – so that’s why I started using a ruffler foot! It makes little weeny pleats for you that can stand-in for gathers. Do you know about rufflers? I find it hard to imagine you don’t, maybe you don’t like them either? I do find it’s tricky to keep the stitching in a straight line without going reeeeaalllllly slowwwww, lol.

    But I think what I despise most is – not cutting out, but – marking. I hate, hate, hate it, it’s such a pain. I’m constantly clipping instead of marking wherever I can get away with it.

    I also really dislike setting in sleeves, and easing sleeve caps. And if the cap is to be gathered, I’ll just as often pleat it instead. And then there’s all the pin-poking I get while putting it through the machine – pins + armholes = ouch!

  36. Zippers. I just haven’t had the time to learn to do them right or the chances to practice. I’d rather do hook-and-eye or buttons. Silks and brocades are a close second though. I’ve learned to do French seams or zigzag stitch the seams to prevent that HORRIBLE raveling. But they still are a royal pain to work with, especially doing curved hems on. :-/

  37. I went with sleeves, because those are annoying me on a regular basis. (I’ve just found out that the sleeves I so carefully sewed up for my medieval workdress are too tight on me now!) But I could have gone with gathering, too, because I avoid that so much that I do not really know what my problem with it is. I THINK the problem is, my old Lucznik has a lovely gathering foot that’s a breeze to use, but does not fit on my über-modern ultra-sleek Ema Singer with her snap-on foot system. *sigh*

  38. Sophie says

    Next time you need to gather something do a small zig zag over a cord or fishing line. I use a pin tuck foot to keep the cord in the middle but you don’t need to. Then you can yank to your hearts content and no snapped threads!!! This was how i was taught to gather tulle for tutus. Or sometimes i cheat and get out my ruffler foot…naughty….

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