Lately I’ve been thinking about my sewing learning curve. In some ways I feel I’ve come far and fast (I’ve sewn two coats, sewn a little boy’s shirt complete with collar and stand, and have found and fitted one TNT to name a few of the things). But in others I feel so dreadfully behind, like fabric selection.
There are a few fabric pieces in my stash that I just have no idea what I would make with them. They’re beautiful, but just completely overwhelming because of their individual characteristics that either make them hard to sew and or just plain hard to figure out what I would sew them into. They came into my stash based purely on their beauty with no other consideration going into the purchase decision. See the lovely lavendar silk below? I bought it at the PR weekend in Philly this past May. It’s the most unique weave that ravels at the slightest touch. I have no idea what to make with it or how to sew it so it will stay together. It’s like a silk linen with a stiff hand. It seems like it’s silk yarns woven with cotton threads. That’s the only way I can describe. I can’t imagine that just stitching it together would hold up at all. but it is beautiful….
Recently, I bought a collection of doubleknits in a wide array of colors, but I am hesitant to use them. I don’t know if I will look good in a double knit as I have such a lumpy body now. Doubleknit fabrics might show off all my lumps and be to0 figure hugging for my comfort level.
And then there’s the moving target that is my body, constantly changing on me. I don’t understand how anyone can have a dress form when our bodies change so much all the time. I’d probably spend more time changing the padding on the dressform than actually sewing. *sigh*
Nancy K wrote an interesting post about learning to sew recently and how she likes to help out on PatternReview answering newbie questions. I was once like those people. Wanting all the knowledge right away, not having the patience to learn from my own mistakes which is how most people learn. I remember pestering Carolyn and Karen with questions all the time until I found my teacher Thea. They were very patient with me but still managed to show me that I would have to learn through trial and error, that being the best method to learn anything. Not because they were withholding information, but for the very practical reason that they weren’t in the room with me handling the fabric. Each fabric is unique. Even if it’s 100% cotton, the weave, the weight of the fabric is different from bolt to bolt. Every fabric handles differently and requires different sewing techniques. There’s no way to teach fabric hand over the phone or in an email. It’s a skill and hard-earned knowledge learned over time (a lot of it) and with many different fabrics passing through your hands and under the needle.
Sometimes I feel sad that I came to sewing so late in life and despair of ever accumulating the fabric knowledge which I so covet. But that doesn’t deter me from continuing on the learning curve.
I think the best advice I can give to a beginning sewist who’s just starting out is this, practice, practice, practice. It is only through doing the act of sewing that one learns how to sew. There is a knowledge gained through doing, that no amount of reading or asking advice can give you. There is no substitute for manipulating the fabric yourself. The pattern instructions that flummoxed me when I first started sewing two years ago seem so simple now. Yes, it’s confusing in the beginning, but it gets better. It gets easier. The really hard thing to learn and most valuable to have is fabric knowledge. But that, I think, takes a lifetime and you probably never stop learning.
I wish you much fabric knowledge and joy in the learning process.
And a Happy Thanksgiving to my U.S. friends!