Sunday, 16 December 2012

In Potentia

My biggest problem in garment sewing is not the actual sewing, but the feeling that my sewing is a waste of fabric. There's the problem of my ever-fluctuating weight, which means it is quite possible I can make something now and not have it fit, one way or the other, in a couple of months time; the fact that I'm still learning to sew clothes so making a wadder is a likely prospect; and the perennial problem that really, I am not great at working out what looks good on me at the various sizes that I wear at different times. I also have the worst contradictory feelings about consumption: the desire to consume and have nice things, and typical, largely unhelpful, liberal middle-class guilt over actually consuming. This manifests itself as a penchant for thinking up weak justifications of purchases (95% of my fabric buying is second-hand, from private sellers on eBay! That makes it totally okay!); reading websites about simplifying your wardrobe and consuming less in the way of clothing etc (but not actually doing it); and making elaborate sewing plans to make my fabric and pattern consumption worthwhile (that I then don't implement).

The end result of all of this is total inertia. I don't want to use fabric I like on anything in case either (a) I ruin it; (b) I make something I love that I then stop being able to wear because of weight changes, thus introducing more waste; or (c) I make something and then discover the Mythical Perfect Pattern that I could better have used that fabric for. The potential of the pattern and the fabric starts to get more heavily weighted than actually using it in my head, and then I just don't do anything at all.

Muslin I made of Style 3997
Take, for instance, the muslin I made of Style 3997. I was so excited by the experience of making this, mainly because of the breakthrough it represented in doing an FBA. I fully intended to make a "real" version to wear at Christmas. Then I faltered. The fabric I had chosen is really cute. Do I really want to use it for this? Does this top really look good on me? What if I made it and it looked terrible? What if it looked really handmade? My family is actually not all that critical, I have to tell you, but I don't know, it suddenly all seemed so RISKY. Which, you don't have to tell me, is RIDICULOUS. It's only a top, it's only a bit of fabric, and there's really not much bad that can happen whether I make it or don't make it.

I have five days left before I head down to my parent's house for the holidays, although my sewing time today is spoken for, in that I am mid-way through an iPad case for myself that I want to finish. So the question is, cut out this top or not? Argh.


  1. Take a deep breath and cut it out. I too went through this. I have now been sewing for a year and have come to the conclusion that there is plenty of pretty fabric out there.

    I was loathe to cut into the pretties but hated using the horrible stuff to do muslins. I have made a decision not to buy yuk fabric for muslins as I find the process of muslins boring. I now use nice fabric and hope that the muslin will be wearable - (but not the best fabric) and if it doesn't work - so be it.

    I had to make this decision because I - like you - were stymied and not moving forward and I found the biggest waste was to have all this nice fabric sitting in the cupboard not doing anything.

    1. I don't mind the muslin thing because in this case I really really needed to work out the FBA adjustment for the princess seam. I ended up doing all kinds of ripping and cutting and writing all over the fabric. I'm not sure I would have done it without the knowledge that this was icky fabric about which I did not care a bit. There's probably a place for ugly muslins when have some pretty extreme adjustments (oh gigantic bust, how I don't love you) that you have to figure out. Now that I've done it though, I am hoping I can transfer a lot of my findings to similar patterns without too much pain.

      You are right though, I just need to be brave and cut this top out! What's the worst that could happen, right?

  2. Cut Cut Cut

    Think about how easy it is to buy fabric and all that potential it always seems to have. That part is actually pretty easy to come by. As you sew more, you will only find more and more places to get fabric and patterns, not less.

    Think about all the so-so ready-to-wear that you not only like, but wear time and time again, even though the fit could be better, even though you would like it to be a bit more this or that.

    I have a hard time assessing a garment made of fabric that's too thin or in an ugly print, there's also the question of practicing finishing techniques etc. There's just no substitute for making (and sometimes failing) to make the 'real' thing.

    Cut Cut Cut!

    1. You are very right! And I totally get your point about making things in real fabric to get finishing techniques right. Making muslins with no facings and roughly set in sleeves is not the way to see how it will look when you make the "real thing".

      Today's sewing task: CUT OUT MY TOP.

  3. You have exactly described how I feel. Exactly. Frustrating isn't it?

    My very first post on my blog addresses this problem, so I am going to do something I swore I would never do, which is post a link to my blog on a comment on someone else's blog. It just seems so needy and desperate somehow. Here goes.

    1. I'm so glad you broke your self-imposed rule -- that article you posted is SO TRUE. SO VERY VERY TRUE. And especially that remark about perfection, about how what we make will always be just the wrong side of perfection and how paralyzing it is to know that.

      In the last few months I've bought the vast majority of my dressmaking fabric from a woman selling her late mother's fabric stash on eBay. I think I was her most frequent buyer, and we ended up on first name terms, exchanging cheery e-mails every week as I arranged postage and so on. She e-mailed me earlier in December as she was winding up her fabric selling before Christmas to say how glad she was that her mum's fabric was appreciated and wanted by someone. She said her mum used to go through her fabrics but always decided it was "too good to use" and she hoped I wouldn't make the same mistake! So it's sort of painful and comforting to realize I'm not the only one who feels this way, about exactly the same piece of fabric.

      In the meantime, I have bravely laid out my pattern on my red fabric for my Christmas top. I feel like I owe the lady who originally bought it to do so now!