Sewing Mise en Place: The Practice of Each Thing in Its Place

Image of a paper paper piece on top of a piece of black fabric. There are tape weights on top of the paper, pins to keep the pattern from shifting, and a rotary cutter.

Remember when The Food Network still had cooking shows, the kind in which someone teaches you how to cook? I do. I love cooking shows. I love the cooking part, but what really makes me mesmerized are all the ingredients perfectly prepped and portioned into cups, bowls, and dishes. It almost feels like a crime to mix them up—there they are, all so prettily diced, sliced, julienned, and cubed. 

I learned this is called mise en place—which translates to “putting in place.” In order for cooking to flow and for you to be the most successful at it, you must be prepared. No chopping that onion while the butter is burning on a frying pan or measuring your flour right before it gets in the mixer. Put everything in its place, be prepared, and you will succeed.

I know that when I don’t feel prepared, things do not go well—in the kitchen, in life, and especially in sewing. I cannot tell you how many times I thought I had the zipper or thread required for a project just to realize I didn’t—and had to stop the whole project until I could get it. Or—even worse—when something in my garment does not seem quite right because it isn’t; I missed a step or did things in the wrong order because I didn’t read the steps correctly.

In order to avoid a lot of drama, unpicked stitches, and tears, today I make sure to follow my own sewing mise en place. While it adds some time to the beginning of a project, it saves me a lot of frustration.

Before Starting a Sewing Project

Getting Everything Together 

Image of a pattern envelop for a ruffle top, black fabric, black thread, needle pack, pins on a red tin dish, scissors, thread clipper, rotary cutter, seam ripper, and fabric weights.
Getting my “ingredients” together
  1. Read the back of the pattern envelope to find out what materials you will need
  2. Check your fabric stash for potential fabrics for the project
    1. Measure any fabric you plan on using to make sure you have enough for the garment
  3. Wash your fabric if you have not done so already
  4. Press your fabric
  5. Gather ALL other materials you will need: new needle, thread, zipper, buttons, etc
  6. Have everything laid out where you can do a visual check

Taking Your Measurements

  1. Take your measurements if your weight tends to fluctuate
  2. Write them down
  3. Check your measurements against the ones on the pattern envelope
    1. It’s always better to go by the finished garment measurements
    2. Check this blog post HERE for help with measuring yourself

Reading Your Instructions from Beginning to End

Image of a computer on a green cutting table. On the screen, one can see sewing pattern instructions. The paper pattern is on the laptop keyboard.
Read the instructions carefully
  1. Read all pattern instructions 
  2. Look up any terminology or technique that you are not familiar with
  3. Make sure you understand the order in which pattern pieces go together
  4. Note any changes you might have to make in needle or stitch type

While Working on Your Project

  1.  Keep the tools that you will need close to you
  2. Try (to the best of your ability) to keep your space uncluttered 
  3. Clip thread tails and press seams as you go
  4. Write down any changes you have made as you make them

Once Your Project Is Finished

Image of someone ironing a garment
Iron your garment before wearing it
  1. Iron your finished garment
  2. Write down any observations, suggestions, or ideas for a future version
  3. Enjoy your new garment!

Why Mise en Place Matters

Image of someone sewing the waistband on a black garment
Let the sewing flow

One of the most anxiety-driven feelings for me is that of being unprepared. I can face almost any situation if I have done my research and prepared for what’s to come. While being prepared will not account for every possible scenario, it will help you as you can focus your attention and energy on the unexpected. 

I can’t lie: I still find hanging threads in my finished garments. Creating a system that I follow every time I start a new project, however, has made a big difference in how much more enjoyable sewing has become. Having a system has also freed up more time since I am not interrupting my sewing flow to find this or that item. 

If you find yourself running around like a cat chasing its tail, try your own version of a sewing mise en place. 

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