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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Saturday, October 15, 2011

On the issue of quickie

Right now I don't have enough time to sew and it is getting on my nerves.

You, of all people, know what I mean.

The sewing I have also been able to sneak in has involved a lined jacket - not a hard project - but involved and slow. It should be done tomorrow and there will be pictures up. Most definitely.

Carolyn and Debbie Cook have talked about the concept of a quick project and that has really been resonating with me. 

You know there was a time when I traced Burda lined jackets and made them. When I made those fully lined wool suits for work. And I didn't mess them up.

But somehow along the line, the line that involved a more complicated life with harder jobs and with older kids who do things like have new babies and two year olds and need help, I need to sew in tighter circles. From concept, to execution, to my back in a day or two or over a weekend. I like to have an idea on Friday and wear it to work on Monday. And then on to the next thing.

What's happened to me and my sewing?

I have a confession to make.

I often look at the blogs of other super sewers - folks making muslins of tricky jackets, under-lining with china silk, and hand basting the hell out of every thing, and I wonder if I have lost my game, if I should try harder.

But I think there is a little bit of balance here. I did my achievement sewing more in the days when I was home full-time with kids and trying to match socks and trying to find a supper all participants would eat. At that time in my life my sewing represented some kind of quality work. 

Now, when my day job requires more out of me, I want to sew to try a new pattern. To have something fresh to wear maybe, but mostly just for a few hours of having fun, fooling around.

You know I don't think that my ability to sew complicated stuff has left me as much as my life has broadened a bit. In some ways, I don't know how else to say this, I just don't feel I have anything to prove, to myself in particular.

So that damn jacket is going in the out basket tomorrow.  Then I am making a "beautiful pink dog suit" as requested for Miss Scarlett, I am going to get going on a Christmas present for one of my kids (no further details in case anyone family member reads this), and then I think I am just going to get up on my weekend mornings, go down to the sewing room and see what I feel like at that particular moment.

These days that's how I sew. 

How about you?


annie said...

Do I remember those days! You know, finding a meal that all the participants would eat. I let it be known early on that I would not be a short-order cook. But that's another story. I, too, used to spend endless hours on an attempt at a "couture" garment, tailored coats, etc. Now, since I wear mostly jeans, I concentrate on the fun stuff that I would have once considered frivolous. I evolved, somewhere.

annie said...

Seven participants, btw.

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

I totally understand these sentiments. I'm good for one involved project a season any more than that and I lose focus. I'm like you I want clothes to wear not projects hating on the closet door waiting for me to finish them.

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

That should be hanging on the closet door...

Irene said...

Hopefully, we sew for enjoyment as well as for putting something on our backs, so I think that one should sew whatever will bring the most enjoyment and happiness - quick or slow depends on the person sewing. Anyone else's opinion really doesn't matter - oh, except to say what a wonderful job we've done on any given project.

Mary said...

Awesome post!! What you have written is so common to my own work, and I believe to any endeavor which requires skill, practice and creativity. Sometimes we use all of our talents, and sometimes we use part of them. It is cyclical, and a way to re-energize.

I can do many things(in sewing, and sport, and arts) but I don't need to be "on my game" all the time. Too exhausting!

I have moved past a place in my life where I challenged myself a lot, and needed to define myself by my accomplishments. I now define myself spiritually.

Kristine said...

As time goes on, needs change. The needs of our family (which dictate how much sewing time we have), the needs of our career (see previous parenthetical note), and the needs of our sewing passion. From needing a prove something to yourself, to needed to cloth your family economically, to needing to make quality time for yourself... I've been through each of them, and will probably cycle back again in the future! I just find that it's best to be honest with yourself, your time limits, and your personal needs. Only then can you truly enjoy this wonderful hobby of ours! Great post!!!

Bunny said...

Great post, Barbara. Yes, sewing does change over the years. Mine sure has. I totally understand where you are coming from. For me, having much time available to me now, I revel in the opportunity it gives me to sew without being so focused on need. I need a new suit for work. I need a new winter coat. I need some dark skirts for work. Those were all sewn. I needed them and did totally enjoy making them. Now I sew for the pure joy of it. Now I sew a lot for others as I need little in the way of clothes at this point. At this stage I get much joy out of sewing for others, whether fast or slow, quickie or or intense. There is much more joy to my sewing than ever. You have to sew what gives you joy. Sewing really nice things for others that they really appreciate is just awesome and gives me a lot of pleasure.

Loved your concept of sewing "in tighter circles" , great expression.

Barb-Central Texas said...

I initially started sewing to give my brain something new to play with. I'm getting old, and I was looking for something completely new that involved thinking and using my hands in new ways. I had no idea sewing would be so much fun!

Since I sew for fun, I don't worry too much if a project takes a long time. On the other hand, I have a rather demanding job and not a huge amount of time to devote to sewing. Finishing projects and actually wearing them and getting compliments on them is encouraging. So I usually have 2 or 3 projects going at any one time -- a couple of quick ones that will only take a few hours, and a longer-term one.

Right now I'm working on a lined jacket and also a quick silk blouse and a quick denim skirt.

NG said...

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who is experiencing an alteration in my approach to sewing. Long gone are those days when I would spend hours making intricate Halloween costumes for my kids, or top-stitched blouses, lined suits and coats for myself.

Now, I sew my own clothes for political and economic reasons (Make in USA, not China or a third-world Latin American country) as much as for the satisfaction of knowing that I control this important basic need. For expediency I tend to gravitate toward easier patterns, which I've noticed are increasing (have you noticed some of the shortcuts Vogue includes in patterns these days, e.g., bias tape or grosgrain ribbon for facings?).

Maybe this tendency toward and desire for quick and easy is driven by something larger, this thing that alters our perception of time and speed: computer technology.

Just yesterday I was at a sewing shop and was introduced to Janome's newest embroidery machine. Any my thought was, who would want to embroider with a machine? When I told the young sales clerk that I embroidered by hand, he looked at me as if I said I still had an outhouse in the backyard. Are we replacing handicrafts with machine-manipulated "crafts"? And, if so, are we not imitating mass production, to some degree, in our private lives?

So, like the slowfood movement, maybe we need a slow sewing movement.

Or maybe not.

As someone said to me yesterday, "You cannot hold onto the past."


Ruthie said...

I never got that good at sewing, but sewing is just a part of our lives, and mostly those other parts really are more important and sewing goes in the gaps. I've got over that, and just need to make sure I sew in proportion to the fabric purchased, other than that, well you know its supposed to be FUN folks, and if its not we're going wrong somewhere.

badmomgoodmom said...

I made a couple of long, involved jackets and decided that wasn't my idea of a relaxing time.

With market and family work demanding so much of my time, I am sewing faster clothing projects that get a lot of wear IRL. My quilt output has plummeted, though. They take so much time that I don't have.

LinB said...

Oh, I think you've identified the thing that was niggling at my brain when I commented on Carolyn's article: I know that I can still do couture sewing, I just don't always choose to do it anymore. I don't have to be the one, anymore, who makes 40 historically-accurate costumes for the children's musical at church. But if I want to, I still have the skills to do it. Sounds like you've struck a balance that works for you. I hope that I can learn when to settle for good-enough, and when to challenge myself.

Kathy said...




Giselle said...

Your description of the super sewers and their projects makes me want to run a mile! Talk about overachievers. Let's not go there.
I am really envious of all the seamstresses commenting: you are all getting stuff done! I am so jealous.
Me, I am burbling away with ideas of what I want to make, and little design adaptations and stuff, and end up not actually sewing. I get only to the cutting out stage and, knowing how much work it takes to mark it all up before you get to the fun part (the actual sewing bit!), I don't get any further. Doesn't help that my last four projects all failed for some reason or other.
Let's do quick and easy and one of those complicated jobs: only if it is a piece that you fell in love with and can't bear not to do. Let's above all have fun!
(And please keep your fingers crossed that I finally get over my marking up block, thank you)