Wednesday 24 September 2014

Write Great Sewing Tutorials...

Tips to help you write great sewing tutorials ~ Threading My Way

Today I thought I'd show you my process for writing a sewing tutorial. Are they great tutorials? Ha, ha... you can be the judge of that, but they are designed to be comprehensive and step by step, with beginning sewists in mind.

Take notes while you sew. Yes, it slows down the process incredibly, but it allows you to include details you may otherwise forget. I literally scribble in a notebook. These are the notes for my Simple Gathered Skirt tutorial. There's not many notes because it's so easy and there's not many steps. There are enough points in the rough notes, however, that I could elaborate on in the tutorial.

Normally, I write anywhere from 2 - 4 pages. The more familiar I am with the process, the less notes I'll write.

Take photos as you sew. Take lots of photos!!! Again, slows down the sewing, but it's worth it when you have good, clear photos to choose from. I've most certainly been guilty of having to use a blurry photo, because it was the only one that illustrated a particular step.

Ideally sew the item twice, the second time checking and sewing from your notes. Note I said, ideally. I don't often do this, but if you have the time, you may be surprised at how many steps you have left out in your notes.

You have your sewn project, together with notes and photos. Now you are ready to write your tutorial.

Choose a meaningful heading:
Make the heading for the tutorial meaningful. This is the first thing people will see in their blog reader. If the heading is vague, it may create curiosity, or it may do the opposite.

I have to be honest and say that I usually don't click through to a blog, unless I am attracted by the heading and the graphic. I want the heading to tell me the topic of the post.
  • How to make a Simple Gathered Skirt
  • Easy Gathered Skirt Tutorial
  • DIY Simple Girls' Skirt
  • Make your own Simple Gathered Skirt
  • Simple Gathered Skirt - an easy first sewing project

Create a heading graphic:
You don't need a graphic, but assuming you're going to all the time and trouble to write a tutorial, you'll want people to read it. Seems most people are visual and one way to get them to click through to your blog, is via that photo or graphic.

Taking photos and editing them is something I am learning to do. It's not a strong point, so I'm most definitely not going to tell you how to do it. However, I try to use a clear photo that shows off the project to the best advantage. As you can see the photo above was taken in low light, so not a great photo, but it does show the skirt well.

Using Photoshop Elements, I resize and add text. There's lots of free options online. If you add text, make sure the subject is still the focus and easy to see. Don't forget to add your blog name to the heading graphic. This is the only photo where I don't watermark my blog name. It's still in small text, but clearly visible.

Edit your photos:
Watermark each photo. Sure, your watermarks can be edited out if someone knows what they're doing, but it is a deterrent. It's up to you as to what size your watermarks are. I choose to make mine quite small and not really noticeable, but many big blogs use watermarks that stand out.

Crop your photos if necessary to clearly show the point you are talking about. If it helps in the explanation, put text on the photo. At this point, I also resize my photos. You can just let your blogging platform resize the photos for you, but I prefer to have the photos a specific size.

Adding photos to the blog post:
Add photos to the blog post in the order in which you will write the tutorial, most probably the order in which you sewed the project. As I give my photos descriptive file names, I edit one photo at a time, then add it to the post before editing the next photo. If I were to add all the photos at once,  I'd get lost.

Add dummy (placeholder) text between the photos. This is not necessary, but it allows me to check the layout before I add lots of text. 

Add headings:
Text broken into sections with headings is easier to read than text that's all the same. Headings make it easier for those who chose to skim and just need certain sections of the tutorial.

Add text:
Make your instructions clear and concise. Short sentences or point form work better than paragraphs. Bulleted or numbered lists work well with both short sentences or points. Again, it's easier to read than a block of text.

Having said that, I add explanations in the form paragraphs. These can easily be skipped over if not needed.

Refer back to your rough notes and double check that no steps have been left out. Even if you forgot to take a photo of a particular step, include written instructions.

What else to include:
At the beginning, list:
  • preparation
  • materials
  • general instructions such as seam allowance

Measurement system:
Include measurements for both imperial and metric, if at all possible. Your readers will come from all over the world. Some won't care if the measurements are in a form they're not used to, but others will. There's lots of online measurement converters that will work it out for you.

Decide on your intended audience:
Write for your audience. My tutorials are written with those who are new to sewing in mind. For this reason, I include every step of the process.

Check, check and recheck:
Read your post several times to make sure it makes sense, to not only you, but to others as well. It's hard to pick up mistakes in text you've written, as you brain reads what you meant to say, not necessarily what you actually typed.

I always like to leave a few hours in between writing a tutorial and publishing it. It's amazing how many mistakes and omissions I pick up when reading a post after a break.

I enjoy writing tutorials. I suppose it's my teaching background. However, they're not quick to write - well not for me anyway. I usually find the tutorial takes much longer than the actual project.

  • Do you write tutorials? 
  • If so, do you enjoy the process? 
  • What do you like to see included in tutorials?

This is the latest post in the Blogging Tips series, and will be added to the ongoing Blog Tips link party, here on Threading My Way

... Pam

Edited to add: Thanks to Janarama for the following suggestion - Include measurements of the finished project ... height, width and depth.

I have to admit that I have been guilty of leaving out the finished measurements in some of my tutorials. Note to self to always include them in future.


  1. What a fantastic tip filled post! I do like your tutorials. Most of the time I don't even realize that I've written a tutorial until someone thanks me for writing one!

  2. A great low down on the process of producing a tutorial. It is very time consuming to take the photos and notes while sewing, but so worthwhile. I go back and use my own tutorials countless times as I've forgotten bits here and there! After writing so many tutorials, it's sometimes a pleasure to just sew something and not take any pictures at all!!

  3. Great tips. I'm terrible when it comes to taking photos.

  4. PAT! Great post. while read it i smiled at some parts, nodded my head in agreement about some , and wonderd why i did not think of some of those things . I must admit that i kept Better Knitting' crochet and weaving Journals. in which i even wrote at times that the Threads does not `behave` as expected` and other facts. My sewing journals are much less detailed. also in former times i [like others] drew my sewing details and did not take so many photos. I made those journals for my own use. never thought about turning them into tutorials. But the Knitting crochet and weaving journals helped me to help others . All work journals helped me to become a better Fiber Artist and Craft person , i do advice other people to keep such journals.

  5. I use a very similiar method to write my tutorials too. I love your idea of putting dummy print between pictures as it is hard to respace the pictures sometimes. It makes sense to me. Usually I write my text in a word document and review it there first. Then I copy and paste into my blog post. And then I add pictures and any extra text needed to go with the pictures. I find the word document finds lots of little grammer errors that I would not always catch. It seems that the spelling checker for work and blogger work in different ways. Hope this helps too.

    1. Thanks for mentioning the point about writing your posts in a Word document first to pick up grammatical errors, Cherie. That's a clever way to do it.

  6. great advice, especially sewing it twice, I've not done that but it makes perfect sense for if you don't understand your own instructions then nobody else will either, thanks for taking the time to share such great tips!


  7. so great!!! I need to do a few of these better!! Thanks for putting it all together Pam!!

  8. Great post! I think you have wonderful tutorials. This is great for the new blogger. I would have loved this when I was starting out. :) I actually do like writing tutorials, even though it is time consuming. I love the feeling that I'm helping someone out b/c I'm often on the other end!

  9. Great idea to write a tutorial on how to write sewing tutorials, Pam! Plus, it was interesting to read about your process and compare it to my own. Lots of similarities!

  10. This is a great checklist, I really struggle with remembering to take photos - tutorial or just an intended post. Many things didn't make it due to lack of photos *sigh*

    1. Thanks so much, Stella. It's easy to forget to take photos, Stella, especially if you become engrossed in the sewing.

  11. I want to know the measurements of the finished project ... height, width and depth. So many pattern makers/tutorial writers, etc. omit this important information.

  12. Great tips Pam! My pictures are always lacking. Its a goal of mine to get better at them. Most times I have a lighting issue and I need to figure that out.

  13. Fabulous tips, Pam! I need to get in the habit of taking notes while I'm doing a project that could be a potential tutorial. So often, I play around at the sewing machine and try something new. When it turns out to be something I'd like to make again, I find it so hard to duplicate because I didn't take notes or pictures of the process.

  14. All sewing, bloggers need this refresher. I usually get so excited at one point while I'm sewing that I forget the photos or they are blurry!

  15. Pam, soo true - can't state how much I agree with your words on "making a tutorial takes a lot more of one's time than just sewing something"... Until I made my first sewing tutorial, I had no idea how much work it was!
    But it pays off, with every single comment from a happy user, doesn't it? So, I know I'm going to keep on. Despite the messy way my tutorials come into existance: an idea pops into my head, followed by impulsive sewing+snapping photos at a randome pace+editing+thinking it through (jep, no sooner than at this stage)+ writing+cutting chunks of wobbleboble paragraphs into readable five-word English sentences+sewing again because I just forgot to take a pic of one of the steps... And again because I just got another itsy bitsy different idea on a detail of that garment/piece to be shown..)... Well, not to mention the PicMonkey editing I enjoy far too much to constrain messing with pictures to a decent timing. Now you get an idea how MUCH your tutorial will help me, right? ;) Have a wonderful Sunday, Damjana

  16. Stopping by from Sew Can Do, I have a number of tutorials on my blog, and your tips are right on the nose! Thanks for the tip on including measurements of the final project, good tip!!
    Carole @ From My Carolina Home

  17. Wow Pam, such great advice. I love the idea of the Dummy text placeholder between photos.
    I tend to edit all my photos and then start writing/posting them in. The problem with that is I start writing the post in my head during photo editing then can't remember the great ideas I had when I actually come to write!
    I think reading great tutorials is a good way to learn, I try to notice what I find helpful in other peoples tutorials - Big clear photos so you can SEE those bits that are hard to describe in words are especially good!

  18. I think you and I are on the same page Pam, for the most part. I love when both kinds of measurements are included in patterns/tutorials, but of course as an American I never learned the metric system and I don't include those measurements in my tutorials, but I really should, so thanks for this reminder. I also like you sometimes forget to add the finished measurements in a tutorial. However, a lot of times I leave the finished size (like a quilt) up to the person making the item if it's not something that needs to be a certain size. Writing a tutorial is a long process, but it's rewarding seeing how nicely it comes out and of course hearing feedback from your readers is great too. It can take days or more than a week to create a tutorial (well if you do it correctly and really are a perfectionist about typos and such, like I am and you too?). So I really appreciate well written tutorials with lots of photos or graphics. Most people do want visuals and especially if they do not speak the same language, then it really helps them to understand better than poorly Google translated sentences. Thanks for this tutorial about writing better tutorials Pam, lol!!!

  19. woderful post. Your whole blog is full of helpful info. I'm going to link to you on my info page.
    LeeAnna at not afraid of color

  20. A very informative post Pam! You are always so generous with your knowledge and I thank you. Will have to remember the final measurements tip! :)

  21. Thank you Pam...this was really informative! I tend to write on pieces of paper from a sticky pad, and have all these little pieces of paper with notes and diagrams. I don't know why on earth I don't write in a note book. I will from now on! : )


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