The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Artists and who are they?

I’ll admit.  I have a passion for bucking the status quo and changing things up a bit.  OK, maybe it borders on being a little obsessive, but I think it’s still normal….I think!!!

As a little background, most of you know my “run-in” with the local Home Ec dept. in my high school at an early age  I was so dying to learn to sew and was thwarted right out of the shoot!  Dang!

But I had to create – if it wasn’t meant to be dresses and designing clothes, then it was going to be something else. So I turned to art, and studied being an artist/painter/visual artist.  And although I loved it, sewing was my main love.

But art gave me a background I needed (and didn’t know I needed).  By studying art and dealing with all the issues an artist has to deal with, I learned a lot about being an artist.

So without getting to esoteric or sound like some high and mighty critic from the New York Times, here’s what I learned.

There are some basic tenants to art; composition, line, movement, balance, color, dark/light or negative space, shape, center of interest and stuff like that.  You basically have to know these or you’re in trouble from the beginning.

There’s the  technical skills– how to mix colors (blue and yellow make green, etc.), how to apply the medium, what medium does what, canvas, paper, board – all that technical stuff that you learn while studying art.

Then you have to practice.  Practice is what makes you really great.  If I haven’t been painting in a while, I’m really rusty and have to tune-up my skills to get back to my fighting artistic level.

Artists are problem solvers (and some times problem-makers).  They create scenarios in which they have to solve a lot of problems like: put this color here or no there; does this balance here or over here; is there a point of interest….do I want a point of interest;  do I have all my elements in place and where I need and want them; does it look right.  These are all some of the issues that come up when you’re painting and creating art work.

It’s vital to have good equipment and good medium to work with.  When I first starting painting I used “student” quality paints and equipment and it showed.  It was amazing how the right equipment and the right paints made my work not only easier, but way more beautiful.

Unbeknownst to me, what I was learning was how to create beautiful design in my garments with the background in art that I had, sewing design became a very easy transition.

All I had to do was learn sewing – which was like teaching a kid to learn how to like candy!  The tough part was finding a teacher.  But I digress….back to the subject – which is….

Sewing is an art form.

Many of my students these days are coming to me because they want to express themselves creatively.  They don’t want to wear something that everyone else is wearing and the second reason is fit.

These students already know how to sew – the basic part of sewing – they want to learn how to fit, how to be artistically creative in the selection of the fabrics, patterns and designs.

And the whole process of creating a work of art is almost parallel to creating a garment…

  1. Basic elements of art, composition, line, movement, balance, color, dark/light or negative space, shape, center of interest
  2. Technical skills
  3. Practice
  4. Problem-solving
  5. Equipment & Supplies (Resources)

I’m here to tell you after studying art and sewing, both have the same parameters.  I had to learn the basic elements of art (OK, I was ahead of the game on this cause I had studied art in school);  I had to learn the technical skills of sewing (I had a few in my little repertoire, but had so many more to learn); I had to practice (something that we don’t seem to talk about in sewing very much – you do a project then go on till next year when you do another project!); problem-solving (this is the big give-away that sewing is an art form….if you think picking out a pattern to match a fabric to match the event for the wearing ain’t problem-solving – I gotta an ocean I can sell you – cheap!!!); and finally equipment and resources (a good sewing machine and equipment is absolutely necessary to turning out well-made garments, as well as sewing on good fabric – for the end result – muslins is different).

See how much is the same, and you can see why it’s so easy for me to scream that sewing is an art form and why anyone would think otherwise or qualify it as some sort of other thing is absurd.

Sewing is an art form – PERIOD!!!!  And approaching it this way gives you insight on many of the dilemmas and decisions you make when you’re sewing.  To be consternated, frustrated, confused about making decisions about patterns, fabrics, designs and fittings – is NORMAL!!!  It’s all part of the process and the problem solving that you will do in completing your creative project.  To have great equipment and great supplies means that you will have a better chance of a great garment.  To practice and keep your skills honed, means that you will have better results and faster.

It may make it a little easier to approach sewing from this point of view, because the problems you are solving are similar although not the same as what other artists and sewists have tackled.




  1. Claire,

    Your post is so encouraging and brings peace to my soul I have posted a link to it on my blog.

    Thanks so much!


  2. You are so right. It is definitely an art one that gets better the more we practice. Love your insights .

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