Husband Mark said something to me recently about sewing that made me pause.
He said I never seem happy with anything I make. He said he doesn’t know what my favorite creations are, because I never seem satisfied with anything I’ve sewn.
He did, however, say that there must be something about sewing that I like, something that keeps me coming back, because I’ve been at this for years now and I haven’t given up on it. (Unlike knitting.)
I am a slow sewist, and my sewing time is limited. (Those kids — they cut into your creative time!) When I take the time to sew, I want everything to turn out, well, just so. I don’t feel like I have the time to make mistakes or fiddle fart around. Which is, of course, untrue.
I struggle with feeling like I need to be productive with every waking minute. I work hard. I hobby hard. And when I am fumbling through a sewing technique or when something doesn’t turn out just so, I feel like I’m wasting my time.
So, yes, this is jacked up. How very self-aware, eh?
I don’t like this, and I’m trying to change, with self-compassion, good humor, and patience.
I recently finished Liz Gilbert’s “Big Magic,” her tome about creative living, and I nodded my head through every section, especially when she wrote this:
“What you produce is not necessarily sacred … just because you think it’s sacred. What is sacred is the time that you spend working on the project, and what that time does to expand your imagination, and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life. The more lightly you can pass that time, the brighter your existence becomes.”
Experts weigh in on sewing and perfection
I came across two great pieces that touch on this yucky perfection topic, and I came away with two sharp insights.
1.) Give yourself credit for showing up.
Heather Lou of Closet Cases Files points out that when you look at something you made and see nothing but mistakes, everyone else is like, “HOLY CRAP, YOU MADE THAT?!?” Sewing is a superpower, but many sewists can’t see the forest for the trees. Not a lot of people have the skills to clothe themselves. (Not that these skills can’t be learned, which leads me to insight No. 2 below.) Perfect or no, be impressed with yourself for a minute. You make one-of-a-kind, you-shaped garments. Boom.
2.) Love the process, and love to learn.
Jen Beeman of Grainline Studio wrote about how sewing is a tough skill to master. She said she’s mangled a lot of fabric learning to be the sewist she is today. And she said she still has misses. Basically, if your standards are too high and expectations unrealistic, sewing will suck. Don’t do that. Every error is a test, an iteration, a lesson. Enjoy the freedom that comes with being a novice. Plus, everyone learns in different ways. You don’t know and can’t know if you don’t give it a shot.
Why these photos?
I made the shirt I’m wearing in these photos. It’s a Sewaholic Renfrew, a TNT pattern for me.
I’m curious to see if you noticed the neckband — how it’s slightly wavy. If you didn’t, go back and take another look. I’ll wait.
I used a beefy 100 percent cotton knit (it’s a pattern for knit fabric). Because there’s no spandex or similar stretchy fiber in the fabric, the neckband doesn’t have a lot of “hug” and recovery. It’s a shame, because the rest of the neckline stitching — the hardest part of the shirt — is GLORIOUS. It’s the best I’ve done when sewing this pattern.
I haven’t worn this shirt a lot because the neckband is slightly wonky. I wanted it to be a wardrobe workhorse, but I find myself looking past it because of the neckline.
What do I do now? Here are my options:
1.) Remove the neckband.
Replace it with something stretchier. This would call for some quality time with my seam ripper. I worry, though, that the neckhole could stretch out of shape during the replacement process.
2.) Don’t replace the neckband.
Wear it as is or give the shirt away. (Or retire the shirt to my fabric stash for repurposing.)
I’m leaning toward Option 1, because I could learn something about replacing a wonky neckband, and if it goes south, it’s not like I’m wearing the shirt a lot anyway. What would you do, and why? I’m trying to think about this less-than-perfect sewing project through a different and more constructive lens.
As a writer, I’m used to writing crappy first drafts. I look at writing this way — I can edit crap, but I can’t edit nothing. Why do I have such a hard time applying this thinking to the sewing process? I can’t become a better sewist who makes incrementally better projects if I don’t sew.
I’m getting better at loving the process, but it’s hard. Learning to love the process ALSO is a process.
What are your thoughts on creativity and perfection? How do you withhold judgment that holds you back? I’d love to hear your take!
Update (December 2016)
Well, I removed the neckband and replaced it with white ribbing. And, as you can see, it didn’t go well.
I had never worked with ribbing before. I think I should have cut the white ribbing neckband significantly shorter than the paper pattern piece. Ribbing stretches like crazy, and this neckband is waaaaaay stretched out. Look at how proud it stands from my chest!
A smaller neckband probably would have helped pull in the whole neckline. Instead I ended up with this gaping eyesore. So sad!
I’ve decided to donate this top. It’s bringing down my sewjo. Maybe someone else can fix it!
In spite of the result, I’m glad I gave it another shot.