Thursday, July 31, 2014

DIY Angst: Chalk It Up Better Luck

New Home Sewing Machine Co. Our clothes are made on the New Home sewing machine (front)

I spent most of yesterday and today making a cashmere dress out of a big thrifted sweater. The seams were done on the sewing machine, and the embroidery by hand. Last night I assembled the pieces and started anchoring pleats to make the dress hang well. Next step was embellishment, adding green accents to the faun-colored body. I spent hours chugging along happily, streaming Law & Order: SVU in the background.

This afternoon I looked at the product of my accumulated efforts, so close to being finished, and just... didn't like it. The design was inconsistent and clumsy, bodice clashing with skirt. My decorative stitching looked amateurish. Well, that was that. Matter-of-factly, I scissored off scraps of the soft wool to salvage, and tossed the rest of the now-mangled garment into the trash.

Afterward I felt so guilty. Not about rejecting the project, but guilty because I wasted materials, time, and energy. I told myself, "Can't you do anything right? Use a pattern and then you won't run into these problems." The issue is that I'm not interested in executing other people's aesthetic plans. I want to have my own creative discovery process.

The rational part of me knows that there is a learning curve, and I'm still at the beginning of it. The rest of me, the harsh part, always seems to speak louder in these situations... I'm listening to a spunky Dixie Chicks song with the hope that it will drown out my critical inner voice.


  1. I've definitely gone through similar situations before. For me, I've never liked instructions and I think I can just freestyle it and it will turn out perfect, which it almost never does! I don't know why I've always been bothered by instructions, I guess I'd rather just figure it out by myself, even if it takes longer and I end up making a mess along the way.

  2. I can relate to this so much. That's what sewing frustrates me. It is so difficult to make something to fit the human body in all its various forms. Patterns are so laid out and can feel restrictive at times. Your approach to sewing your dress is more like the scientific method, which I think is really cool and boosts your creativity and ability to figure stuff out. :)

    1. You have a knack for describing things that I don't like about myself in a way that makes them sound better! I really appreciate that <3

  3. Don't listen to the negative part - tell it to shut up and go make the dress itself if it thinks it can do better! :-D

    Practice makes perfect :-) If you can bear to, I'd pull the remains out of the trash and try to work out what all the things that bothered you were. Why did the stitching look amateurish to you? How could you work on that? By looking at it critically and allowing yourself to be in the process of learning, you can use even a failed attempt to propel yourself forward even faster, so there's nothing wasted in the end :-)

    It's like what Danielle said about the 'scientific method'. When we get a negative result or a failed experiment, there's no use getting dicouraged. You just analyse what data you did get and try to improve your experiment! Also, to extend the corollary: the scientific method tends to rely heavily on previous literature where it can. Maybe gathering up some tips and tricks and principles about tailoring/pattern making would help you avoid some of the pitfalls of dressmaking, even if you don't actually want to make or follow a rigid pattern?

    LOL, sorry for the essay - this touched something in me, as I did experiments for 2.5 years before getting useful data for my PhD. I have made daily trips to Fail City that whole time, but difficult things are the most rewarding when you finally crack them!

    1. Thank you, Syl! Yeah, I think I should take a basic dressmaking/seamstressing class to get the fundamentals down, so it's easier to combine them. I really appreciate the encouragement <3


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