I am a run-of-the mill, self-taught home sewer. My sewing style is not couture, but time-challenged. I would have named the site “Sew Quick and Dirty” if I wasn’t worried about attracting the wrong kind of traffic.
I admire couture and its painstaking perfection. But I can’t sew that way myself. I lack the mindset, the time, and to be truthful, the social life, for couture sewing to be my thing. My own approach is best described as “get it done so I can go on to the next fun thing”. The next fun thing being the next sewing project. I blame it on genes. Once upon a time as America sashayed into the Roaring 20’s a pair of artistic Irish blues smiled upon a set of capable German browns. The ensuing marriage spawned an entire family line of crafters afflicted with a love of handwork and a desire to produce as much as possible in the shortest amount of time.
Hence I find the painstaking part of creation to be too painful. Why hand-sew a hem when even the stuff I buy at department stores is machine finished? The machine makes a better buttonhole than I do, so it makes sense to use it. Over time I have learned that aligning my sewing methods with techniques that emulate store-bought clothes makes the most sense for me.
Now I purposely Sew Store-Bought. But it hasn’t always been this way.
I began my sewing journey in the late 70’s and early 80’s when making your own clothes was seen as a bottom of the barrel,(are you nuts!) kind of hobby. Nurturing immature preteen hopes of fashion finesse I joined 4-H thinking it would teach me to sew. Everyone and their mother, (including mine!), assured me that sewing your own clothes was once the done thing.
So I figured how hard could it be?
Much harder than my precocious adolescent imagination envisioned. I was taught traditional sewing methods and it was assumed that if I mastered the technique then I would have a lovely well-fitting garment in the end. Both patterns and people kept using words like “basic”, “easy”, and “you’ll pick this up in no time!” Ironically these are the very words that discouraged me the most because “by the book” techniques resulted in dorky homemade looking clothes. I was devastated and assumed that something was wrong with me. I was a bad sewer.
Dorky results just about kept me from ever sewing again.
Getting around the dorky and homemade look has been, and still is, my biggest sewing challenge and the impetus behind this blog.
Over time I have come to believe that this one thing, working so hard on a garment that you never want to wear, is for beginning sewers, the biggest impediment to staying with the hobby. Most of the time we are working alone, with no instructor nearby, wading through strange terminology, squinting at huge sheets of paper trying to decipher the instructions, and in so many other ways, left to our own devices. Many things can go awry and they do, leaving a new sewer, often a young woman, thinking that she has no talent. And she quits sewing. I hate that!
I don’t want anyone to quit sewing!
I enjoy watching fashion trickle down from runway to ready-to-wear, and I admit to admiring the store-bought version more than the extreme designs paraded by haute couture. I look for patterns that match up to popular fashions and I want my sewing to so closely emulate the ready-to-wear look that it passes for store-bought. I am happy to be complimented on any garment I make, but I am happiest when the viewer does not ask, “Oh, is this something you made?”
For most of us going from making our first square pillowcase to sewing something that could pass for store-bought is a huge achievement. Getting past the dorky homemade look and into the flow of sewing has been for me, time-consuming, expensive and difficult. But it need not have been. I was going it alone.
Now that I have gotten some success under my belt I see that many of my difficulties could have been quickly averted if I had another sewer nearby who truthfully told me how she went about her work. As I go about my own sewing today I am reminded of my past mistakes, and often I have wished for a forum where I could offer new sewers some of what did not get as a beginner. I want to tell others and still sometimes need to hear:
- “Don’t give up. “
- “Yes, we all sometimes cuss out our sewing machines.”
- “Disobeying the pattern instructions isn’t a criminal offence.”
- “Don’t be afraid to do it your way!”
- “It’s not you. It’s the pattern, or the technique, or the instructions, etc.”
- “Here try this. “
Encouragement, honesty, humor and, I hope, some useful information. That is my aspiration in creating this blog as I reach out and connect with others as obsessed as I am with the amazing craft of making your own clothes.
Happy Home Sewing,