About me

My photo
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


Follow by Email

Follow me on Instagram


Thursday, November 13, 2014

How sewing builds, or at least creates, character

I am still supposed to be reducing my running around while the bones in my foot heal from getting beat up by the cutting board. This has shrunk my sewing time to increments.

I have been working in small bursts on the Archer shirt, which really is a wonderful pattern. All the pieces just slot together so nice.

However I have been picking it up and putting it down and this has had its consequences.

Somewhere along this start and stop process I did a very nice job of applying the collar and stand (credit to the pattern) but when I held it up to admire my spectacular sewing skill I noticed I had put the collar in upside down, meaning the center back seam of the undercollar is now on top.

Compared with problems like what to do about North Korea and melting of the polar ice cap this is not the end of the world. But that doesn't mean I just can't believe I was this dumb.

Of course the 500 collars I have applied before in my recent sewing career all went in with this not happening, but what I am going to do? Wear a sign on this shirt that says "I never make this mistake?"

What I am really going to do is just concentrate on the part that was not a mistake, and move on to the sleeves.

I'm tough.

All this sewing has made me this way.

Which has got me thinking about all that sewing has done for my character. Of how many transferable skills there are to it.

Here are a few I can think of tonight, your own thoughts would be much appreciated.

Let's start with the obvious:

Sewing makes you resilient. 

Essentially you have no choice. To have invested so much time and energy in something and have it not turn out, usually because of operator error, but to keep on sewing develops your bounce back. I figure years of moving past the ones that were duds, onto the next one that won't be, develops the moving-forward-despite-current-evidence skill and an outlook that's very useful say when you lose a job, have a crappy interview, or serve your worst ever meal to the people you most wanted to impress.

You learn to say oh honestly, then oh well, and then move on.

Sewing makes you persistent.

I don't actually like to tell those folks who make a pillow one week and want to design their own line the next that, in addition to the ability to move past failures, sewing also requires you keep at learning how to do it better. Buttonholes and zippers that don't give you a heart attack take a lot more practice and patience than anyone is really willing to tell you - sort of like those nurses who refer to labour as uncomfortable. You have to use a seam ripper a lot to be a good sewer. You have to be willing to revise your technique and try new ways of doing things all the time.

What sewing teaches you most of all is that if you stick with it you can get pretty damn slick.

Sewing makes you open to the unexpected.

Right this very minute as I sit here with my dog on my bed with my foot wrapped in ice and elevated on an exercise ball I am wearing a top made out of some fabric that I was going to ditch and in a dolman sleeve pattern that I thought wouldn't suit me. Because I didn't think the fabric was my colour I figured why not waste it on a pattern that will also look terrible.

The thing is that both the fabric and pattern were a surprise and this is my favourite top.

Surprises like this teach a person a lot. They also keep her from missing good opportunities, like that diamond in the rough man or that quiet person who turns out to be real funny. Being open to surprises reminds you are probably aren't as smart as you thought you were and judging too fast keeps you from missing out on some of the real good stuff.

I am sure that over the next few days I will think of more things sewing has done for me, but tonight that's enough to make me at peace about that upside down collar.

What do you think about this?


KellysSewing said...

I did the same dang thing. Same pattern too. Except I also attached the button placket on the 'boy' side and put the left sleeve on the right side and vice versa. Not so bad except the sleeve placket was then on the front of my arms. My seam ripper and I are real close. My shirt of perseverance. Love your blog. Your wit always makes me smile.

Anonymous said...

Ooh! What a great place to put a little piece of striped grosgrain ribbon to cover that center seam! I absolutely love your "blog", thank you for going to all this trouble for those of us who only sew and lurk about online!

Sueann Walter said...

Sewing has taught me to use my imagination. It has at times taught me to accept criticism, when I ask my husband for his honest opinion. It has taught me humility and that you get results based on the effort you put into something. But sometimes things just don't work out and you have to move on to a new challenge with an optimistic attitude.

I so enjoy your blog and find myself happy when I get to read a new one of your blog posts. Thank you for sharing parts of your life.

SewRuthie said...

These days I unpick things more, find creative fixes and have more successes. Also when something doesn't work I donate it cheerfully and move on. Its quite freeing and I am no longer creating unfinished projects.

Janet said...

I have learned that there is satisfaction in thinking, about sewing, and planning projects. I used to think I was incompetent at sewing when I made mistakes and then I realized that I was never going to make clothes if I thought that way. Essentially, I grew up, and sewing helped.

Jane M said...

Great lesson summary, Barb. Sewing has taught me discernment. When I do buy RTW I am so much more careful about fit fabric and price. Sewing has taught me persistence, yes, but also humility since those pictures I take for my blog are more honest than my optimism about a particular style or fabric. Sewing has taught me about the generosity of people who have no agenda other than to encourage and share skills, experiences and often their excess sewing supplies!

Mary Collins said...

Oooh. I love a good design feature. When I was in university, a friend got engaged and actually held me to my drunken promise to make her wedding dress. While sewing this beautiful, simple medieval-looking gown, I managed to make a v-shaped snip in the center of the lower bodice. After some hyperventilating, my mom and I made a couple of extra covered buttons, and put one on each side in the same place, covering up the repair. Design feature!

Sewing teaches you everything if you let it. People sometimes say "I could never do that" (makes me crazy) but my response is "Of course you can. I've been doing this for 30 years. Dig out your sewing machine and get moving". You just have to be willing to be a beginner again. Sewing always makes me feel like a beginner once in awhile. It's one of the things I love about it.

Hope your foot heals fast.
Thanks for the blog.

Mrs. Smith said...

I love this post and agree with it all.

Hope you bounce back soon :)

Marianne said...

Love this post. I just found your blog and decided to start at the beginning, reading your posts in sequence. I'm now sitting on the edge of my seat wondering how your pants fitting adventure will turn out (Oct 2008)! Hahaha! Fun to find a kindred sewing spirit; I have spent more hours than I want to think about trying to figure out the engineering behind a good pants pattern. Thanks for a fun read.

Marianne said...

Oh, I meant to reply to your current post before writing my previous long winded comment. In addition to the qualities you mention, sewing teaches me to think creatively. How do I make this thing, or fix that garment in the best way possible? What are some of the options and which one is the best one?

Anonymous said...

I see a lot of clothing nowadays that look like they were mistakes...but they are deliberate so I don't think anyone would notice. If the seam bothers you, you can cover with self bias tape and use the same "design element" elsewhere in the shirt to make it cohesive.

I also did an odd mistake by attaching plackets on wrong side of the pocket. It was done on fine cotton which would have shredded if I took it apart so I left it and every time I wear it I laugh with and at myself which actually feels good for some reason. I think it is a reminder of one's imperfection and acceptance of that. I doubt I would have felt that way when I was younger.

Donna W said...

You are a wise woman!

SimpleFibreLife said...

Great post. Sewing teaches me to think outside the box and that there is more than one way to get where you want to go.
It has taught me to slow down and get it right the first time; although perfectionism is overrated.
It's also taught me that practice makes perfect and testing is an important part of a project (toiles for sewing, swatches for knitting/crochet). Hmmm, glad I sew :)