When scrolling through social media, I sometimes find myself concluding that everyone else sews perfectly all the time. The beautiful clothes and the well-matched quilt points convince me that I’m the only one who spends hours with my seam ripper. The only one who has creations that don’t work out, who makes silly mistakes, or who gives in to the occasional lazy tendency.
When these intrusive thoughts occur to me, I try to remember two things:
One, social media is not a reflection of reality. (No one likes to share pictures of their worst mistakes!)
And two, the reason my quilts and garments don’t look like the proverbial ‘theirs’ is precisely because I’m not them. I’m me! And that should really be celebrated.
Just call me 'Ms. Frizzle'
What I’ve learned about my approach to sewing is that the process is just as important as the results. For me, sewing is one huge science experiment. I love to theorize about what might happen, observe the results, change one thing, and try again.
I’ll use one of my favorite patterns – the Sew House Seven Free Range Slacks – to illustrate my point.
Get messy, make mistakes!
If you follow the Confident Stitch, then you know I have pretty good sewing habits. I prewash my fabric, I alter the tissue before cutting out my project, and, I cut everything out on-grain. And yet, projects still don’t always work out the way I’d intended!
Though I’ve made the Free Range Slacks four times (and I’m currently working on a fifth!), I’m still finding new ways to tweak and improve my process
Here’s what I mean:
Pairs 1 & 2
With the first two pairs, I dutifully lengthened the pattern pieces four inches, and pre-washed and dried my fabrics – one was a Speckled Essex Linen, the other a Manchester Cotton. But even with all my preparation, both pairs still turned out a little too short after the first wash!
I like these slacks (the colors are great!) and I still wear both, but the gangly middle-schooler in me (who was teased mercilessly for her too-short pants) feels a little self-conscious.
If at first you don't succeed
So, for my third pair, I made adjustments to my original process, adding an additional inch of length to the bottom of the hem with tissue. These slacks – made from a gorgeous reversible cotton jacquard – turned out great and didn’t shrink too much after being prewashed.
Once we started carrying the Blue Jay colorway of the Brussels Washer YD Linen, I was inspired to make my fourth pair. Though I’d been very happy with my third pair, I was conscious that the change of substrate might affect my process. So, I put my scientific thinking cap back on!
Testing my hypothesis
I know from experience that Brussels Washer Linen shrinks 5% in the wash and sometimes has a tendency to shorten even after it’s been prewashed.
So – to circumvent this potential problem – I washed and dried the fabric TWICE. Then, I refrained from ironing before cutting out the pattern pieces; the reason being that too much pressing can cause the fibers in some fabrics to ‘stretch’, adding temporary length that will disappear once the finished garment is washed.
These safeguards worked, and my fourth pair is what I consider to be the perfect length!
Try try again!
I saw a phrase the other day, “I succeed or I learn,” which sums up how I feel about sewing. As I made my pairs of Free Range Slacks, I learned to wash and dry my fabrics twice before cutting out my pattern pieces. I learned that I needed to lengthen the pants five inches, not just four. (Even though my daughter informs me that the shorter length is “cool.”)
For my fifth pair, I’m going to try serging all the edges of my pattern pieces and see how it improves my process.
Wonderfully, uniquely you!
In one way or another, each of our personalities guides our approach to sewing. For some, joy comes from making perfect quilts with all points matching and jeans with flawless topstitching. Others love the excitement that comes from improv quilting or whipping up a dress made from old curtains ala Maria Von Trapp. And still others fall elsewhere – enjoying the satisfaction that comes from a well-executed technique, but not overly bothered when it doesn’t all go according to plan.
My personality puts me somewhere in the third category. Though I was a little upset when the first two pairs of slacks shrank, I was also excited by the possibilities that this problem presented. Shrinking, re-thinking, and trying again – though these may seem like mistakes or complications to hide (especially from social media!), I realize – for me – it’s all part of the journey!
The point is that no single approach to sewing is more correct than another. So go ahead – relish your mistakes. Revel in your special process! And – most importantly – trust that everyone is out there doing the same thing.
Remember, however you derive joy from sewing is amazing, and – just like the things you create – wonderfully, uniquely you!