Create Your Own Curriculum - How to Select Projects and Patterns to Grow Your Skill in 2018

Craft your own Curriculum for 2018

I learn a lot from my conversations with sewing students, and one consistent theme appeared often in 2017. I found that it’s a challenge to personally evaluate your own level of sewing skill and decide which projects to make based on skill level and ability to achieve a good final result. This makes new sewing projects with skills that appear to be advanced a little daunting. And this directly impacts your confidence, as well as your growth, if you get stuck in this area of “can I really make this?”

Determining skill level is a tough question- how are you really supposed to know if you are beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate, or advanced? And then select your sewing projects based on that perception. Because sewing is often practiced alone, it’s also hard to determine where you can grow and improve without the input of a teacher or fellow sewist who is maybe a few steps ahead of you.

In my practice as a teacher, if I meet a new student who has some degree of experience but doesn’t know how they can improve, but they do know their final result could look or function better, there are some areas of examination that I apply that can help you evaluate your skill on your own. For my self taught and diy readers (you constant learners), and growth minded, motivated sewists, I crafted this post just for you!

Do you know where to focus your sewing practice to get the next level of skill? In this post, I outline some ways to know where you are on the skill spectrum and share a process to create your own sewing practice curriculum for 2018.

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you might see that I weave personal development into my creative practice of sewing my own clothing, and development of the Fair Fit Method. In fact, self development and transformation is woven into everything that I produce, because I really believe that everything is transformable, and every action has the ability to shift and optimize our perceptions. I have consistently pursued this kind of self development, teaching myself practices to improve my technical skill and then find ways to teach share that with my students.

A little reflection

In 2015 and 2016, I was in a year of skill building and growth. Looking back at those years, I was not very confident. Sometimes people assume that if you sew professionally, well then you must know everything! That is certainly not the case, it’s possible to spend a lifetime working in the different areas and methods of sewn production and still find places to improve.

The solo nature of the sewing craft leads to constant questioning of one’s abilities. I spent 2 years sewing completely different kinds of garments, garments that I would have never sewn for myself, and garments that I would likely have never been motivated to try either from restrictions of time and materials, or because I was downright intimidated by them. However after learning how to make these intimidating garments, and being forced to do them well since I was “on the job” my confidence grew exponentially. And if I could make these garments, I had confidence that sewing for myself would be a rewarding achievement and application of what I had learned.

By having to sew projects that forced me to grow, and then from sewing my own daily wardrobe, this information has helped me to create practice plans for students. I believe in consistent practice and what consistent practice can teach us about ourselves, especially because sewing clothing is just so darn hard.

Practice Plans

From these practice plans and seeing how they work for the past few years, as well as teaching group sewing classes, I have identified some types of sewing and certain techniques that help  identify where a person’s skill level is on the spectrum from Absolute Beginner to Advanced Intermediate. Then when I can somewhat locate where they are on that spectrum, I select patterns for the student that provide valuable  sewing lessons that to grow their confidence and technique to the next level of skill.

Here are some areas to examine to determine where you are on the spectrum of skill from beginner, advanced beginner, and intermediate sewists. From there, I’ll give you a downloadable list of practice plans to help you determine your own areas of growth and set up your own self lead curriculum or practice plan.  

A Note on Advanced and Absolute Beginners

I’m not going to address advanced, because that’s just too hard to define. Advanced to me seems like excitement and very little fear.  I feel advancement happens when you approach a project from the standpoint of desire and curiosity, and don’t even consider the skill because you know how to solve your own problems. You have learned that a sewing project is a path, and when you embark on the path you trust your own navigation and ability to find resources to help you when you get stuck.

I’m also not going to address “absolute beginner” because that is pretty obvious. That means the machine is still in the box, and you haven’t touched it.


I know I am not the end all be all knower of definer of sewing skill level. You can make a valid argument for many techniques I’ve forgotten to include, or argue if a skill should be in a different level of skill and expertise. What I’ve outlined here are the most common things I’ve seen students struggle with, listed in an order of IFTTT.  If you can sew this, it will help you sew that. If you can’t do something in one of these categories, then I’d have you working on that before moving to patterns and projects that have skills in the next category.

IFTTT and Sewing Level and Skill

Here’s how as a teacher I determine if a student is a beginner.

  1. Can set up their machine, thread it, and sew a straight line by themselves.

  2. Can size and cut out a sewing pattern (note that I didn’t say fit)

  3. Can sew and finish basic seams

  4. Can sew bias tape, darts, and basic hems

  5. Have sewn up to 5 beginner projects on their own.

Advanced Beginner

  1. Can make basic refinements to patterns, like take in the sides, change the lengths of sleeves, skirts, tops, ect.

  2. Can read and understand a sewing pattern and choose a pattern they feel confident to tackle (sometimes this is subjective- the pattern instructions have to be well written, and sometimes some aren’t).

  3. Can optimize their use of the sewing machine and apply the different parts like presser feet and features like stitch selection to improve results.

  4. Has attempted basic knits with a zig zag stitch on their domestic machine.

  5. Can sew waistbands, plackets, yokes, circle hems, and simple facings and basic cuffs.

  6. Can insert a sleeve laying flat.

  7. Can insert an all purpose zipper


  1. Can use all of the operations on their domestic machine and can thread and sew on a serger.

  2. Has sewn serged knitwear projects and used the serger for ready to wear finishings.

  3. Can set a sleeve.

  4. Can match plaids

  5. Can sew an invisible zipper

  6. Has sewn a pair of pants or jeans

  7. Has sewn a shirt dress from start to finish and can sew collars, collar stands, button plackets

  8. Has attempted pattern alterations that involve a little drafting, like a full bust or sway back adjustment.

  9. Has no discomfort working a pattern from start to finish on their own, but might feel a little weary of lingerie, coats, jackets, or pants.

Advanced Intermediate

  1. You are starting to learn a little patternmaking and have sewn a few self drafted projects.

  2. Machines, their threading and their maintenance is not intimidating and you feel comfortable working with new and different kinds of machines.

  3. You have sewn some challenging projects start to finish on your own, like jackets, lingerie, and some jeans.

  4. You are totally comfortable altering your patterns and feel like you know your alterations.

  5. You still get tickles of fear from time to time.

Crafting your own Curriculum

Now here’s the fun part. The best way to learn and grow is to purposefully choose projects that you want to make but also require you to learn a new skill. I have created 3 worksheets for you to address these skill sets, depending on where you are at in this level of skill. In these worksheets, you will choose some projects for 2018 that will help you grow your sewing skill.

Choose worksheet based on the following criteria-

  1. You consider yourself in that category, but see skills under that category that you haven’t accomplished or struggle with.

  2. You have consider yourself in a category, but have mastered most of what I’ve defined in that category. If this is the case, then you should download the worksheet for the next level and use it to begin crafting the next level curriculum for yourself:

Get started here by clicking the button that best describes your current skill level. A workbook will be emailed directly to you, along with some other helpful articles not found on this blog about sewing, patterns, fit, and more.