Sunday, August 16, 2009

Are you happy now?

(Sorry, couldn't resist using the title of my favorite Richard Shindell song in a post about creative happiness.)

Nancy K wrote a post earlier this week asking if we were happy with our sewing, and if not, (or if Yes) why?
I'm happy now, but I haven't always been happy. When I was in college I was of course young and fit the patterns right out of the envelope with very minor tweaking. I liked to sew and made most of my clothes.
Then later on, when my kids were small I did not have much time to sew at all, so my projects were small and easy to achieve. I wasn't happy at all. I had almost zero time for myself and hardly any time to make anything. And I learned an important lesson then: don't bite off more than you can chew. Or, as my mom would have said, "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
So I scaled back. I made simple stuff, just for fun. I remember making simple wrap skirts, cute clothes for my daughter and her first communion dress. But after that I mostly made Halloween costumes and holiday decorations for a few years until the kids were old enough to no longer needed high intensity supervision (they no longer desired to eat glass or play with knives), AND I finally had a sewing room! Only then did I have a safe place to leave my things out, and make a creative mess. I admit it; I work messy. I have pattern pieces and fabric and scraps everywhere when I am in my creative frenzy and I don't clean up until I'm done. Then when that project is done I survey the wreckage and clean up. After I had my sewing space and room and time to experiment I was MUCH happier. I was able to work on more complex projects that stretched my skills. I had a few missteps, but being a former teacher, I know that mistakes are part of the learning process. I think most of my mistakes in garment sewing at first have been in not really understanding what would look good on me and why. This is difficult for many people to learn. What I like and what looks best are not always the same thing.
(I confess that I sometimes have the fabric selecting skills of a five year old, and that my inner five year old has to be restrained at all times. She wants Princess Fabric. If she is let loose all of my fabric would have sequins, or be shiny or gold lame or otherwise be appropriate only for circus wear. The practical grown up me needs a khaki jeans skirt. The five year old me wants a laminated linen one with metallic accents. You see the problem.)
Fortunately, any woman with a grown daughter and son has a built in "Fashion Death Panel". They are very strict. I once was admiring a black and white paisley knit with 3D sparkle dots.(Sparkle Dots! Yes! Shiny! says my inner 5 year old) One Death Panelist came over and said, "Are you going to wear that pole dancing? If not, you don't need it." (see how mean they are?)
Of course after a few failures I am better at picking my projects. (She says, while knocking wood), I think I do best when I try on a similar item of RTW and see if it looks good on me before I make something similar.

My rules for successful garment sewing follow (your mileage may vary)

1.Make a muslin. It matters.
2.When you make a successful garment, make more of that same pattern and change it up each time. No one will know it is the same pattern.
Plus you learn new skills every time you make a change.
3. Read all about the skills required to make your garment before you start. Read the directions. Make sure you understand them. Read sewing books to amass more skills.
4. Practice new skills on scrap fabric before you cut the crazygood stuff
5. Sometimes things don't come out the way you want them to. This isn't a failure, it's a 'design opportunity'. As Tim Gunn says, "make it work."
5. Sometimes if you set a problem aside, you'll think of a solution later.
6. Be nice to yourself. This is supposed to be fun!

Also when I am stuck in a garment sewing rut, I mix it up and make a shirt for Mr. Hunting Creek, or a baby quilt or something super easy to build up my self esteem. Then, afterwards when my kids aren't looking, I sew something shiny.


Lindsay T said...

Good words of advice.

Venus de Hilo said...

Oooh, can my inner princess come shopping with you?! She loves all the sparkly glittery tacky stuff, too. I've had a piece of white denim in my stash for 3 years intending to make another truly useful (wearable-in-public) all-purpose at-home and run-errands skirt... and I just can't seem to gather any enthusiasm for sewing it up. Which would take about an hour, max. Maybe if I lied to little miss glitter and pretended I would add some rhinestone trim when it was done??

SuBoo said...

I really enjoyed reading this post - thanks for sharing!

gwensews said...

Love your post. Light-hearted and down to earth.