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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, November 8, 2014

Something I am going to be thinking about

I read something last night in a crochet book I am reading that hit me in the head.

I have been in a sort of Craftsy induced self study program to learn to crochet.

 I think motivated by the fact it took me a whole year to knit some lap blankets for the boys, at least one of which is now a dog bed. I heard crochet was faster and after those projects that is all I needed to know.

I have a long way to go, that dog sweater had some made by me mistakes and is going to be redone, but I have been approaching this as if this was a degree granting program.

What I read last night was this -  before you begin you have to come to honest terms with who you are. Specifically are you a  person who wants to figure out and follow line by line patterns or are you someone who is happy with mindless but relaxing repetition.

When I read this I thought I just want to have something to keep my hands busy when I watch Netflix - you can't do that if you are busy getting lost in instructions. If I want to be precise I will make a shirt.

At least at this stage that's where I am.

I also realized I don't actually like a lot of crochet patterns. I am not a lacey person, so why am I suffering self esteem issues because I can't figure them out?

This made me think about how we approach sewing.

Do you want the clothes or the sewing time?

Do you like simple seams and quick garments or something slow and challenging?

It seems to me that we need to take the should out of sewing.

I see a lot of sewers, particularly those who blog or talk about it, taking on a whole list of projects because that is another skill they have to master. I was myself like that over the Chanel jacket fiasco. I don't actually think those jackets are flattering to everyone, like me who is a banana shape, and I found all that hand basting annoying when I had papers to mark, dogs to walk, meals to eat, and grandchildren to talk to.

I also am a quilting drop out. I like to fit but feel doing the same seam over and over again makes me feel antsy. The exact opposite of my sister the ace quilter who buys her clothes.

So my questions for you this morning are what I realize are the fundamental issues:

What kind of sewing do you enjoy most and look forward to?

What kind of sewing do you feel you should do/learn to do but don't really have your heart into?

I think the answers to this one will be pretty interesting.


Donna W said...

Very interesting blog topic. It really makes one think. I do not like to crochet if the pattern has line by line changes. I lose interest. Same with kniiting. I like to knit plain and even that I dont do much. I used to make more complicated when I worked (when I had less time...lol) now it's an easy sew for me. I find sewing relaxing. I love quilts but do not have the "finishing power" to make one. I go to craft shows and see all the beautiful items that people have created but I know I would never even try to learn.
Don't beat yourself up on learning to crochet. The sun will still come up tomorrow. We have snow here this morning in edmonton

Nana said...

I appreciate this blog more than I can say. I do know how to crochet. I can do many options without constant instruction reference. Knitting seems to be a craft that I will never conquer....have tried at great expense....thanks for the explanations....I think that it explains my failures. I love simple sewing in fabric choices of my choosing....thus why I resist RTW.

Angela M. said...

LOL, first of all - YES - those Chanel jackets are simply not at that flattering to everyone. I am built much like you, a banana, and for quite awhile I was beating myself up because I couldn't get motivated to attack a Chanel style jacket. But you have hit it on the head - I know it won't look great, and I just don't have time for the endless work.

As for what kind of sewing I prefer, honestly my answer is that it changes. My OCD side loves an involved garment. My real-life, very busy side is happy to finish a simple garment! So, right now I am in love with quick things, but once life calms down with the kiddos I would love to sink my teeth into more involved tailoring projects (but never a Chanel jacket, how refreshing to admit that)

Graca said...

Great topic! Coming from a Portuguese heritage I was exposed to crochet and my inability to pick up this art form is a disgrace to my Portuguese background. But I know enough to realize how much work is involved and to appreciated this art work: https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/155235387/exclusive-crochet-dress-for-a-special?ref=shop_home_feat_2

Same with quilting, I appreciate the art but not my thing. I still have a shameful attempt at a quilt that has taken me over three years to finish. I'm just winging it at this point.

As far as sewing I appreciate the challenging projects but like you said, it is tough when you have work, family and a social life to keep up with and threatens to cut into sewing time. I "should do" more mending and alterations and try to get rid of "the pile". One day.

badmomgoodmom said...

I run my life like it is not an either or question. Sometimes, I just need something to wear. Other times, I want to try something new (silhouette, color, etc). Other times, I want to learn some new technique.

My childhood violin teacher taught me that the ideal practice session begins with scales, then technique exercises (Corelli) to warm up. Then I work on my new pieces. When I'm fed up with sounding awful, I then play pieces I already mastered, but enjoy revisiting. That ends the practice session on a high note.

I don't play the violin anymore, but that was a lesson I still practice in other areas of my life.

Teri said...

I really like quick sews; however a challenging coat project is calling my name and I know I will enjoy it once I get started. I always feel like I NEED to change patterns up more, take chances, experiment, but I am most happy sewing them just like they are. Thanks for the thought provoking post. Have a great weekend.

Anonymous said...

Love this topic. Full disclosure - I'm a knitter and sewer and have been doing both for 30 years or so. The knitting and the sewing both fill different needs at different times. When I need to sit still and process something, an involved knitting project that demands sitting at the dining room table and pay attention is the best thing. Sometimes you just want to watch Netflix. The same applies to sewing. Sometimes you want a Chanel jacket and sometimes you want pj pants. That's what is so great.

Thanks for a great blog. No snow in Calgary yet, but it's looming....

Mary said...

I love clothes. I like wearing clothing which is a bit different from what can be purchased and so I sew. I like the process of cutting and constructing, and adding little touches here and there. I sometimes feel as though I don't use my machines and accessories to their full potential and so I will have a play day with feet, or seaming techniques, or applique. Must admit I am very competitive, and I try extremely hard to NOT compare my work against others. I have the same approach to my riding and try to just enjoy my horses. I am a terrible knitter :-)

kim nath said...

I can't tell you how much I look forward to reading your blog. Even if I have a hundred emails, I always open yours first. Unfortunately, what I can sew and what I want to sew aren't the same thing. I love challenging projects that I can wear. However, right now, I don't have time for that type of sewing. I feed my addiction with simpler things like quilts that require few technical skills, have lots of straight stitching and that I can do in small time increments. Some day when I retire....

wendy said...

I can't crochet or knit, so I'm a bit in awe of anyone who can do either. My grandmother was great at crochet- I'm actually sitting with a blanket she crocheted for me when I was in college- it is all done up with cables and things and looks like an Irish fisherman's sweater in blanket form.

For me the sewing experience is often the most fun. I enjoy making things much more, most of the time, than the finished product.

Kelley said...

I hear you on the way 'should' creeps into our lives. I have enough 'shoulds' in my day-to-day life that I certainly don't need them in my hobby.

I like to sew things that stay done - unlike the dishes and laundry. So, in reality, that means pretty much everything. I mainly sew quick and easy things because I live in a very hot environment and mostly wear summer clothes. I (luckily) love to sew swimwear and knit garments. I don't have issues with more complicated garments, but I do tend to get distracted and end up with a gargantuan UFO pile.

I sometimes feel like the whole 'couture' thing is sewing Nirvana, but I'm not interested. I'm just keen on having a bit of fun.

I do like to knit and crochet, but I'm quite the beginner (and have remained so for over 30 years), so I've managed to avoid any kind of pressure there for a looooong time.

mrsmole said...

I sew for others, brides, so my time is committed from the time they enter with a bursting garment bag until the day before the wedding. But if I get any time for myself, I sew flattering clothes. While I have tried quilting (totally boring repetitious)and used to crochet and knit before adulthood, sewing clothes is all I want or have to do. People call and assume because you own a sewing machine I want to do repairs on boat covers and tents and re-make coat linings and replace zippers in old ratty jeans. Just because you know how the machine works, you DO NOT have to master all genres of sewing. Try heirloom lace sewing or quilting and see what gets you excited...life has to have the passion and being honest with yourself helps guide you to your true goal. Ditch what makes you nuts and ignore the critics...smile when you say, "Sorry, I don't do home dec projects either"...ha ha Love your blog...it makes me smile!

Bunny said...

The sewing I love the most is challenging sewing. It could be the fabric, the fit, the skills or all of the above. I've rarely met a pattern or skill that I didn't want to overcome and get better at.

Repetitive sewing, as in quilting, go away please. This is not for me. This is why when people say "you could make those and sell them." No, I couldn't. I can't do the same thing twice without some sort of mental health aberration setting in. Call it ADD sewing but that's me. I did do quilting by hand for a few years when it was just too crazy with little ones to pull out the machine but that was the end of that once first grade rolled around.

What would I like to learn? more and better tailoring skills. I am toying right now with taking Claire Sheaffer's tailoring class this spring. Time and budget will tell on that one!

Catherine Daze said...

What an interesting topic! Personally I sew in order to have clothes I like. New techniques don't come into it for their own sake. I learn what I need to make whatever pattern has caught my eye...or try to anyway. I will put lots of effort into finding ways of avoiding hand sewing though. I used to make lace and rarely used the results, so there I would make designs just to learn new methods.

Lisa Laree said...

I like wearing clothes that make me happy.

I have a very very hard time buying clothes that make me happy.

Firstly, they are not there. Not my color, not my style, not made well enough to take home...

Secondly, they don't fit. Shoulders slide, arms bind, legs drag....

Thirdly, you want HOW MUCH for that cotton t shirt????

So, I sew. ;-)

Anonymous said...

From age 10 to 45, I sewed a lot for myself and my family. I was good and thought I loved it. I have tried to resume sewing after retirement for fun, but mostly have been sporadically making things I can't find. I realized that I have been just a practical sewer all my life.

My son moves out soon, and I am turning his room into a sewing room in hopes that I can use up the boxes of fabric I have. I am aching for a grandchild to find a reason to sew. It would be nice, too, if any of my kids would like shirts and stuff, like yours do.

Mary said...

We have far too many "shoulds" in our lives--things we believe we should do, should master, should finish, should read, should know. In theory, I would like to master certain sewing skills, but I have very little time to sew (commute 100 miles a day) and frankly, I am just too tired. So I live with my mediocre but generally satisfying sewing of easy to intermediate level patterns.

One of the virtues of getting older--I know my limitations.

Vicki said...

Interesting and thought provoking. Something I should think more about. But off the top of my head - I don't think I enjoy sewing (hmm, did I say that?). Often I get stressed. I don't find it relaxing. Yet, I enjoy a completed garment. I feel a real sense of accomplishment. I love to think about sewing and all the things I can make at a cost I am willing to pay. Love fabric.

Ginger said...

That is a great quote and could apply to so many aspects in one's life. I used to jump on the bandwagon and sew whatever was popular at the time. And it would sit in my closet and I would never wear it. It's only been in the past few years that I've decided to only make things that are "clothes." You know things that I actually wear and would buy if it was in a store. While it's fun to learn new things I don't have time to waste sewing something I'll never wear. I think having children changed my way of thinking.

Anonymous said...

One of the Asian languages - I think it is Korean - doesn't have the subjunctive tense. This means that the words 'should have,' 'could have', 'might have' etc don't exist. It's quite an interesting exercise to take them out of a sentence. e.g ' If only I had taken the time, I could have made a much better job of finishing that Chanel jacket' becomes: 'I didn't have the time.
I didn't do a good job of it'. End of story. Move on. Saves a lot of worry, if you're the worrying kind !

Jane M said...

I do love clothes but don't feel it's necessary to sew every item on my body. I can get envious when I see others sewing fabulous lingerie sets or elegant cocktail dresses...but then my own reality sets in and I stop living in the Disneyworld in my head. Even though I am retired I have a life full of many activites, interests and even responsibilities. I choose my sewing projects to fit my life and so that I can enjoy using my wonderful fabric resource center to its fullest. I did make several faux Chanel jackets but did them in the quicker stich and flip method. I love their sweater like snuggliness and have plans for one or two longer versions for skinny jeans but would only make them if they are projects that I will wear and enjoy. My biggest sewing challenge is to return to a jeans making attempt from late spring. I'll give it one more shot but if it doesn't work for me then I am happy with RTW or Elle pants from Style Arc. Do I wish I could sew all the gorgeous items I see on sewing blog? Yes, yes. Then I wake up and return to my own life and am happy putting on a slightly stylish top that I've sewn and marching on with my day. I do relate to wanting to keep my hands busy while watching TV at night with DH so I am thinking of using my more than redimentary skills to crochet some charity baby blankets and keep my fingers out of the leftover Halloween candy:-)

Judy said...

I sew to have clothes that fit my figure and please my sense of style. I want the "end result," and am impatient with the sewing process. I want to avoid the "happy hands at home" look in my garments, so I spend time on technique. My dislike for time-consuming fiddly details (e.g. welt pockets, multiple zippers) fights with my desire for certain styles (moto jacket). I have to *really* want that particular item in my wardrobe before I muster the willpower to tackle a time-consuming project. My ideal sewing project takes 3 days from start to finish.

Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

There are no more "shoulds" in my sewing only wants...I want sewing to be a refuge from my overwhelming day to day life. So I'm only sewing and making the things that interest me and wearing clothing that works for my lifestyle. That's it end of story.

Laceflower said...

I like to know how to do things. I have sewn just about everything you can; dolls, lingerie, suits, home dec, couture, and quilting. Currently quilting is the top dog and I dye my own fabrics. I'm making bed quilts and art quilts at the same time. I do know how to knit and crochet but haven't done any in some time because I always lose count. I want to make some fingerless gloves but can't seem to gear up to knit them. I also cook a lot; if I'm going to eat it better be great. I seem to like the process with the only exception being fitting the pattern and pattern changes.

Janee said...

I've thought about this a lot lately. I've been sewing for others as a business for over 20 years, so my personal sewing time is really limited. I've resisted the "should learns" for years - never really had the urge to make a Chanel jacket (just wanted to take the class with Claire Shaeffer), and after sewing one patchwork chair cushion I decided quilting wasn't for me. Each time I tried to sew something trendy because it was the current thing to do, I really disliked the garment on my body. I think I've finally come to terms with the way I need to dress for my shape, my age and my lifestyle, and classic garments are the way to go. I love to create something that fits beautifully, but I'm often sick of the project by the time I get to cut out the fabric. This weekend I spent preparing patterns and fabric to sew work clothes for my daughter, a new doctor who has no time to shop - her shape is pretty close to a fit-right-out-of-the-envelope, especially in the ponte and jersey knits I've chosen. When I sew these garments next weekend at my annual retreat with great friends, I think it will make me really happy!

Janome Gnome said...

Hi, First, I love your blog and your writing. I always enjoy reading your musings as well as the sewing posts that brought me here.
I've been thinking about this a lot. I'm trying (and getting better at) matching my projects to my mood and needs at a given time. Some is mechanical - not point crocheting here in Morocco in summer. Ditto working with the supplies I can put my hands on here. But mostly it's about self-knowledge. One of the main reasons I sew is that I have two young boys and after the endless cyclical work of clean-dirty-clean -dirty or to school and back and school and back... I just adore a process that starts at zero and ends with a product in my hands. And if it's something other people appreciate as an achievement, then I'll enjoy that too. Now, as you said really, I've started to get better at picking the project according to the way I want to spend my time. Sometimes I do need to say "ha! I did it! I made that!" by the end of one evening. Some of my other priorities require more complicated projects: learning something new and challenging, working on slowing myself and my goals down and, last but not least, having specific garment requirements, like good pockets or different darts or knowing a particular fit or feature would suit me better. I'm also curious about what doesn't work. There's also fitting the sewing into my life as a whole. I am quite happy to learn from ill fitting clothes if I enjoyed the process. I love seeing the boys' trouser knees trashed if they've been played in and enjoyed. Even if I'm not able to show a wardrobe of sewn garments as evidence of the work, for me the process is far more important than the product. I started sewing in the evenings when my husband's travel started taking him away from home about 50% of the year. Before, with his travel, my evenings had been like the ones when he was there, only worse. But now, when he has a trip coming up, I start planning projects. Sewing doesn't replace him (ahem) but it is another way of living that I have when he isn't here. It's a new rhythm and one that works really well. And when he comes home, I've usually got the sewing bug out of my system and am not going to subject him to trying to have a conversation over the wheeee wheeee of my machine every evening. And besides, I can always crochet in front of the telly with him if I'm feeling crafty.

Sox said...

I'm trying to learn both crocheting and knitting but it would have been much easier if I was younger and my brain wasn't full of useless information (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).
As for sewing -I sew to have clothes to wear and if I learn something along the way, so much the better. It is my hobby and since it is supposed to be fun, I don't want to feel pressured into thinking I Have to learn something.

Janine said...

Hmmm. This makes me stop and think too. I think I enjoy sewing for both the result and the sewing time . I like to improve my skills but definitely have no desire to make a Chanel jacket or even a wedding dress ( I have three daughters )! I don't like knitting and haven't tried crochet but like you think just sitting watching TV ( I assume this is what Netflix is ) is a waste of time. Sometimes I read but this doesn't work so I recommend you don't bother .my mil always said the word should be abolished -she can sometimes be astute. Love reading your thoughts as always.

SimpleFibreLife said...

When I make things it's usually because I want the end result. Tbh I'm not really in it for the techniques and the process, although when the need arises I do like experimenting and problem solving.

I used to try to keep up with the latest trends, but that felt too much like work.

The part of sewing I enjoy the most is where I'm sitting at the machine sewing, the part I enjoy least is fabric cutting. Which is why some projects take forever to get started.

I dabble in crochet and knitting because I can, but I'm yet to make anything wearable other than a scarf. Although I did make a granny square throw rug (it was one giant granny square) which took me about three years to finish.

Great post and great blog. I only just realised that your the Barbara who writes the Final Word in Stitches Magazine. I love your column.