The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation


I get a lot of students who are looking for the perfect fit, or the perfect garment.

The truth:  there is no such thing as perfect in this mortal world.

I know you’ve heard that before, but it’s important to really take this seriously.  If you are looking to make a pair of pants that fits perfectly, you’re headed toward failure;  if you’re looking for the perfect garment to wear for everything, you’re headed toward a neurosis;  if you think that having the perfect figure will solve all your fitting problems, it ain’t going to happen so give it up.

At Episcopal school I remember the rector of the school previewing the next class with the comment, “Next time we’ll study why the Sermon on the Mount which is responsible for suicide, and then the Beatitudes which is responsible for saving you from yourself!”  I mean we could hardly wait – what a preview.  But what he meant was that the Sermon on the Mount set the bar impossibly high whereas man was forgiven for almost everything in the Beatitudes.  I’m not saying that sewing is exactly the same as the Sermon on the Mount & Beatitudes, but in this one respect  – man isn’t perfect, therefore man can not create anything perfect, as a matter of fact man will have trouble recognizing perfection to achieve as a goal, much less imitating or creating it.


So why trying even sewing?  I mean isn’t sewing about creating the perfect dress, or the perfect pant, or the perfect fit?  I mean, why even try sewing then if I’m saying you’re aren’t going to get that perfection, no matter how hard you try?  Because that’s really not what you want – perfection. What you want is to aim for it (thus the similarity to Sermon on the Mount which is meant as a goal, not a result).  The process of excelling and the aim of perfection is what you want, but not the goal of perfection.


This sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo babble type word use.  But here’s what’s important that I notice with my students.  If a pant doesn’t lay perfectly smoothly in all areas, then it’s a failure. It’s like they are looking for perfection or nothing at all.


Let me tell you something – this picture is not real.  Yes, it’s from a picture in a catalogue of a pair of pants they are selling, but it’s been doctored up.  No pant fit ever this close – unless it was painted on! This photo has also more than likely been retouched, and no matter how well you sew, you aren’t going to match a photo that’s been retouched.   It’s unfair to expect this from yourself and it’s an unfair game RTW is playing on the consumer.

This picture reminds me of Patricia Heaton’s book – this is the real cover which I loved.  This is a lot of how fashion photography is done today….looks great in front and in back….well,  the most informative part is the back.  This is exactly how photography is done and most professional photographers will tell you that and make no apologies or excuses.  It’s all fake, they know it, and most savvy people know it  .

The problem comes in when most consumers believe the front of the book, but fail to see or even what to know what’s really going on with the back of the book!  Those pants (above) are the same way.  If we were to get a shot behind the scenes, we would see probably see those gigantor clips all over the pants in back, to make them skin tight on the model.  So when you get ready to start fitting your pants and they don’t fit like the skin-tight ones on the model, you think – 1.) Gee I’ve done something wrong, 2.) Maybe I didn’t follow the directions correctly, 3.) How can I get these pants to fit right (and right is of course skin tight like they are on the model), 4.) Maybe I need to loose weight, and for a finale…5.) Maybe I can’t learn how to sew.

INTERVENTION!!!!  None of those 5 things are true.  You are being set up for failure by striving for perfection which is something you can never achieve.  So don’t strive for perfection.

So if you’re not going to strive for perfection, then why do any sewing at all?

As any seasoned sewists will tell you, it’s the process that’s important, not the perfection.  And here’s the kicker, working toward excelling in that process brings on a state pretty close to perfection.  It also brings on many many other ideas that are workable and plausible and realistic.  Working on excelling in the process is one of those magical events that not too many can put into words, but most know who have traveled this path that it does work over and over.


Think of it this way.

When you sew a project, you are practicing, and that practicing can lead down a path of a process.

This process builds on itself and you excel more and more in your techniques.

This makes your process at a much higher level.

It also takes all the pressure off trying to achieve perfection.


It’s like Leonardo da Vinci trying to make a better Pietá.  Because he had worked toward his process rather than perfection, excellence came to him.

And there are many, many other magical things that happen along the way – more creativity – excitement and joie de vivre about your work – loss of time or loss of your ability to keep track of time – which leads to better and better work!




  1. Thank you, THANK YOU for this post. I’m a recovering perfectionist, but I still have moments where I’m ashamed to wear something or show a friend what I’ve done because of some imperfection or less-than-stellar finishing work. The one thing I’ve been doing after every project is noting where I’ve improved … as long as I’m improving, I consider the garment a success. Besides, my husband reminded me that if anyone’s going to get close enough to critique my crotch seam not matching perfectly, I’ve got other problems to worry about. 😉

    • My mentor used to say “On a flying horse they won’t notice!” I used to think that was a motto for mediocrity, but her work was stellar, and she had a point. I’ve given up trying to make things perfect and not only has it increased my excellence, but my joy of sewing is much higher! That’s the whole purpose here is to be happy in sewing, channeling another quotable fellow: Be
      happy in your work

  2. Thanks Claire, your posts are ALWAYS “sew” encouraging!! I only wish I lived closer ! Online classes are fine ,but there is nothing like hands on instruction! Thanks again!

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