The Selfish Seamstress recently ran across a few comments about her and her blog elsewhere on the interwebs that got her thinking. First, her tone has been criticized as harsh and snide, which seems sort of… obvious? It’s a bit like saying that Cake Wrecks, Go Fug Yourself, Regretsy, and the Colbert Report aren’t warm and supportive of baking, fashion, crafting, and conservative reporting efforts. Or like saying you don’t like salt because it’s too salty. My response to such comments mirrors the attitude to I take towards most of life: Well, duh already :)
More thought provoking, however, was a comment that my post on avoiding amateur sewing mistakes made people want to give up on sewing. Well now, that’s sad, especially since my blog is pretty much just one big piece of satire. If a beginning sewer is so easily discouraged by a stupid snarky blog that he or she would actually give up sewing after reading it, that same person would probably give up anyway the first time he or she tries to make a pair of slacks that fit decently. You can’t learn to sew without making mistakes, and best to learn to laugh at them now. Sewing takes guts and gumption and a thick skin. The most amazing sewers out there get great results because they take on challenges and take risks, and I’m guessing they’ve all had epic fails along the way that have helped them to get where they are. There are a lot of things you’ll run into in sewing that are much more important, and much more discouraging, than my snide sense of humor. If you want to sew, you have to learn how to fail, and you have to learn how to get over it when you make something that looks like crap. It happens.
As a side note, I started blogging for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted a way to record and archive my own sewing exploits, largely for myself. Second, if I didn’t blog, Dan would probably go insane from my yammering to him about sewing all day. But most importantly, I started blogging for the purpose of entertainment- so I could laugh at myself, so others could have a laugh at me, so others could laugh at themselves, and so we could all get together and laugh at pirate armwarmers. [Please note: I do not and will not mock the sewing projects of other hobby seamstresses; you won’t catch me scoffing at Jane Sewingblogger’s latest triumph, no matter how badly it may need pressing. Commercial patterns, RTW and designer fashion, celebrity fashion choices, bad fashion trends, and my own stuff are totally fair game for mockery here though!] I realize not everyone will find my blog amusing. Not everyone has the same sense of humor and some people’s senses of humor are LAME. (Haha, I’m going to take flak for that one!) Stop by and visit if you like it and want to giggle and scoff with me, and if you don’t, don’t. There are also lots of better, warmer, and more wonderful blogs if you’re looking for inspiration, motivation, gorgeous projects, techniques, and encouragement, like this, this, this, this, this, this, and many more. I frequent these blogs to learn new skills and raise my sewing spirits, and I encourage you to do so as well. As for me, I’m not expert enough to teach you well, and not nice enough to feed you anything but sarcasm, so if you don’t like sarcasm, you’ve come to the wrong place :)
Back to the subject of failure, there is a phrase that is commonly used on sewing blogs, and for good reason: “Ask me how I know.” Mistakes are important when you’re learning to sew. First you mess up, and then you know something new. As much as I would like to be someone whose projects always turn out beautifully on the first try, who never makes a bad choice or a stupid mistake when sewing, it’s never going to happen. Ask me how I know that flowered calico can make for a frumpy, ugly tank top. Ask me how I know that pressing all the seams open at the end is a bad idea, rather than pressing as you go. The first time you insert a zipper, it’s going to be frustrating. At some point you’ll probably accidentally cut two left sides and then not have enough fabric left to cut a right side. You’ll kick yourself for having gone with a fabric that seemed a smidge too heavy and stiff because it was exactly the color you wanted and then you ended up with a dress that gave you the silhouette of a cardboard box. The second time you insert a zipper it’s going to be frustrating. When three people in one day ask you whether you made that dress yourself, you’re going to want to rush home, take it off, crumple it in a ball, and hide it in the corner of your closet. Ask me how I know.
And it’s not just beginner mistakes either. As you acquire more skills, you’re still going to have failures. Why? Because you’re taking on new challenges and learning more difficult techniques. Ask me how to botch a welt pocket. Ask me how much success I’ve had with sewing sheers. Ask me if I’ve finished Dan’s sport coat yet! And even when something may be a technical success, it can still be a failure. Check out these items from my Greatest Flops collection:
They look okay, right? Guess how many times I’ve worn these garments. If you guessed zero, you’re correct! That cream dress is just wrong for everything. Too fancy for work, too white for wedding guest garb, and for any occasion in between I’d just sooner go for something in my closet that is more chic and less garden party. And that white coat? I don’t know, it’s just all wrong every time I put it on. Fail, fail, fail. But these mistakes help me make better choices now.
One of the most important skills that a beginning sewer can learn, in addition to pressing techniques and making wise fabric choices, is how to get over discouraging mistakes. Obviously, you do what you can to try to prevent the failures. Arm yourself with knowledge and information before you cut into your pricey fabric. Learn what you can about how to avoid mistakes. Make your best effort and be cautious about taking shortcuts. But also, know that there will be some failures and the best thing you can do when it happens is learn from them, laugh at them, and move on. Make yourself some Big Girl Pants and put them on (even if they don’t fit perfectly the first time) because you’re going to need them if you want to be able to stick with it without giving up. Then go forth and sew, fail, pick yourself up, and keep sewing. And don’t let the fear of failure or the Selfish Seamstress’s bitchy blog make you stop :)