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Zen and the Art of Not Throwing Your Sewing Machine Across The Room

November 30, 2009

I made the mistake of ending my lovely, long Thanksgiving weekend by sewing.  Well, at least I thought it was a mistake.  I started the day off with a small stack of Silk Velvet Burnouts - the same ones we used as a wrap when we played dress-up with the cowl-neck top - and the goal of making as many different styles of scarves I could.  Attempt number one was a success, and you will see the results in a post in the next couple days.  Attempt number two, on the other hand, brought my creativity to a screeching halt and my patience to a severe low.  Despite everything, it gave me a chance to learn a lot about sewing, perseverance and the joy of failure.

Frustration.JPGThe offending project was a double-layered burnout scarf with beaded trim on the edges.  Immediately, the trim proved to be much more than my poor little amateur sewing skills could handle.  I wanted to just toss the fabric aside and move onto the next project, but I pressed on.  To my surprise, it started to look kind of, sort of okay in a way.  So I kept going.  Just as I finished turning the scarf right-side-out, I heard the pitter-patter of dozens of tiny beads hitting my floor.  Alas, I failed to make sure the ends of the trim were secured, and now I had lost too many strands to even fake it.  It was basically 3 hours of work right down the drain, and all I had to show for my efforts was a muddle of beautiful silk and pretty beads. 

My blood pressure started to ascend and so did the urge to push my machine off the table in an overly-dramatic fashion.  Before I could cause too much damage, I remembered that I'm supposedly a big girl now and should probably act as such (I know - where's the fun in that?).  I took a moment to calm down and realized that, really, I didn't feel that upset.  Yes, it's certainly frustrating to spend all day working on a project that doesn't pan out; we can all agree on that.  However, this was different because I at least did everything I could to ensure that the project was doomed before I gave up.  I wanted to quit after sewing in the trim, but by continuing on I was able to see that there was some hope, yet.  There's something weirdly comforting knowing that a project really is a flop and not just because I was too lazy to work it out.  I'm so positive about the whole experience, I might actually pick it apart in the the coming days and try something different with the silk instead of just throwing it in a box somewhere to collect wrinkles. 

I guess the point to this long rant is that sewing, like other arts, is a creative outlet from which we can learn so much about ourselves.  For me, my sewing has always been a reflection of where I am in life.  When I was younger I was impatient, overly-confident and sloppy.  I would start projects, get to the half-way point, and toss the mangled mess into a box with plans of one day fixing them.  Now as I sew, I see glimpses at my progress towards being a semi-sane adult.  I can now finish a project, although the urge to throw in the towel halfway still haunts me.  I take my time, read the instructions, pin everything and try to do things by the book.  I still mess up (a lot) and have tons left to learn, but I think I recognize that more now than I ever did when I was younger.  Most importantly, while I always liked to sew, I don't think I ever truly loved it until now.  The literal act of sewing was fun, but all of the implications of creating and learning and growing truly make it an enriching experience.  I get that now.

So as you tackle your holiday sewing list, unless you are the Wonder Woman of sewing (or Martha), chances are you are probably going to mess up at some point.  If you are like me, you going to mess up a great deal and will ask yourself if making things is worth it when you can just run down to the store and buy the same thing (or something better, which is often my case).  I invite you to stop and take a deep breath - and slowly back away from the sewing machine, lest you do some real harm - and remember that it's more than just stitching pretty things together.  It's about relaxing and learning and enjoying what you do.  It's about growing with every stitch and putting a little bit of yourself in every finished piece.  This time of year I find myself more and more likely to throw in the towel on my projects, but this year I'm resolving to stick it out, see it through to the end, and see what I can learn. 

Plus, in my case, it's a lot cheaper than therapy. 

Happy stitching and happy holidays!

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I don't have patience yet (and I'm 47 years old!)... When I really start messing up. I stop and take a break. I find that when the mess-ups get more frequent I begin again on another day...

I didn't sew for years and years because I would get too frustrated and upset. Then I began doing "simple" things (napkins, tablecloths, curtains), you know squares hemmed with a straight stitch. Then I got a lot older and a very nice sewing machine and my patience level was much higher. My sewing started to look better. So I decided to take the plunge and try sewing some clothing for myself. I can surely attest, here and now, that my clothing is beautiful. But it took patience and maturity to allow me to stop when things didn't feel / look right and then review my processes before starting again. I am now a happy sewer (though my husband thinks I'm not because I still sit at my machine and swear at it and myself sometimes). I consider my outbursts to be cathartic as well as giving me a gauge of when to walk away from something. ;)

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This page contains a single entry by published on November 30, 2009 8:52 PM.

Turkey Tetrazzini - great casserole for those turkey leftovers was the previous entry in this blog.

The Fabric Maverick has a confession! is the next entry in this blog.

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