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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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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On aprons and destructions

I am sorry I went AWOL on you, but this week has flown by.

I needed to take some recuperation time.

I needed to get two new classes of totally disorganized online students up and running for the second summer term. I love them dearly but these guys are all over the place in all senses of the word. 

Help!!!! I am not in your course!!!! I really need this to graduate!!! I think I forgot to register!!! What do I do????!!!!!



In between all this I knitted. 

If anyone in the family is fed up with my socks they better tell me now.

Actually it's too late.

And I sewed.

Another apron, and one that makes me first want to detour to an interesting conversation that has been going on at Bunny's blog

I won't try to rephrase what has been said so well there, but do suggest you hop over and read it.

The gist of the discussion was the proliferation of instant sewing experts and sewing celebrities who maybe are presenting themselves sources of direction to new sewers when in fact they might have been passing on less than the best advice.

Surely I am not the only one that has noted one class for a tailored garment that made me want to wonder if the instructor really knew how to work with hair canvas, or in fact owned an iron, but was still charging for information.

 So I think I understand some of what prompted this lively conversation.

That said I am generally amazed at the quality and quantity of work being done by new bloggers and new sewists - and am quite sure I wasn't that good or as skilled at their age. 

And I do believe that sometimes breaking the rules is an effective route to real creativity.

Look at Kenneth King or March Tilton as examples of this in action.

And I believe in nurturing new talent, new enthusiasts, and younger sewers. As a teacher in my other life I can tell you that the best part of teaching is you learn more from your students, the ones that register, always than really you have ever taught them.

This is leading somewhere.

To an apron in fact.

Some time ago I bought a hip looking apron pattern from an Etsy designer. I wanted something different, wanted to support a new designer, and I wanted something I could make for my middle son's wonderful and very hip girlfriend.

This was one weird pattern.

I am not going to identify it because that seems sort of mean spirited, and the shapes weren't that bad at all but the construction advice, what a friend of mine calls the destructions, made me sad.

Not sad so much for the designer but for the poor hip young sewer who would be trying her best and leave the experience disappointed in the results, frustrated and upset, and worst of all disappointed in herself.

What if this pattern made her give up on sewing?

When a pattern instruction gives the sewer the hardest possible method (the long edges of a tie were to be sewn together with the "ladder stitch" by hand, a stitch that is used to butt pieces together invisibly most often in needlework), pieces that don't fit (the gathered bodice was lined with a piece tucked in by what were referred to as darts and absolutely didn't fit the outer piece) - well I could go on and on. 

I figure if you followed this route you could make the apron in about five hours with breaks off to cry.

It was has if Harry Houdini had written this instructions, no disrespect to anyone who can tie themselves into knots.

Needless to say I threw out the instructions, and regrettably the pattern too, and put it together with intuition.

Here's the shot, taken  in front of the spouse's motorcycle which for some reason he considers the world's most interesting back drop:

Now I may try to make my own pattern, for my own use, because the idea is a good one.


In the meantime if you are a new designer and want someone to proof read pattern instructions, someone who has about 50,000 hours of getting it wrong herself and knows every way a sewer can be confused well,

You know where to find me.

I mean that.


Shiny Green Penny said...

I like this post. Many things well said, with a glint of humor.

Debbie Cook said...

Very well said. I have made exactly one pattern and I thought the instructions were good, but I also learned from my testers (yes, one must have testers) that we all interpret the written word just a little differently and they helped me to make things even clearer.

Register. Hahahahaha!

Rhonda said...

Yes and as someone who is returning to sewing after nearly 30 years away, I can say for sure there are a lot of things people take for granted in their instructions that could definitely use some more detail. BTW, cute apron after all :)

Anonymous said...

Your sample Q and A had me laughing out loud--and shaking my head. That and the ever-amazing gap between the fearless DIYers and those who think that angels have good reason to fear treading at least some ground. We do have a lot to learn from one another, assuming both humor and humility are in good supply. Glad you're back. Elle

Belinda said...

Pretty apron. LOL. I love your sense of humor. I've been hearing a lot about that particular class.

Not much good.

Hopefully the pattern maker from Etsy will get better without ruining too many budding sewists along the way.

badmomgoodmom said...

I am not hip. Nor am I young. But I made this self-drafted apron 3 times. Here's the pattern if you want to reproduce it yourself.

Here's how it looks on me.

Karin said...

Yes, yes, yes. I like the idea of you proof reading the patterns. Where will you find the time? Keep getting better!

Lyrique said...

Oh, what a pretty apron! Lucky is the girlfriend.

The value of well-written instruction cannot be underestimated for either our students or for ourselves. Your blog and those you have referenced have been invaluable to me as sources of instruction and information, and the humor, frustration, and joy have been instructive, too.

Like Rhonda, I have been away from sewing for a lifetime, and have returned only because of the fun I see you all having. Your willingness to share what you know, especially with pictures, inspired me to begin a project two weeks ago.

That's right...what might take you all an afternoon has taken me two weeks, AND I'M NOT DONE! I made a muslin for the first time (I didn't know what that was until reading blogs). I cut it out, sewed it together, made adjustments, used the seam ripper liberally (smiling at the laughter I just knew I would hear from you), taped up my errors, cut some more, made a second muslin, and finally, last night I cut out the fabric itself.

This morning I discovered that I had managed to cut off part of an already cut out piece, and I didn't have any more fabric left. Hah! I laughed so hard.

So, I hacked up another remnant to sew in as the missing puzzle piece, spliced it in, and began sewing this afternoon.

Needless to say, this will be my lawn mowing shirt.

I consider this a triumph, and I owe it to the spirit of people who know what they're doing, have the wherewithal to describe it, and love to share it. :-)

LinB said...

Could the pattern-maker be suffering from Dunning-Kruger effect? (My college-professor friend just alerted me to the existence of such a thing.) It would explain a lot.

Barbara said...

LinB bingo you have a winner. I had forgotten about Dunning-Kruger...

Rebecca Clayton said...

Wow--I didn't know about Dunning-Kruger. Thanks--I understand it ALL now. (Just kidding.)

I haven't run into many bad sewing or knitting instructions, but I've baked several bad recipes. And my husband says there's a world of free guitar tablature on the web, all of it wrong.