For many, this seems more of the rule rather than the exception. A lot of my students come to me so exasperated that they are ready to throw their sewing project failures, thread, equipment, and even their sewing machine in the trash and do something else. I remember feeling that way before I met my sewing teacher and mentor. I would get so frustrated and exasperated because I couldn’t make an outfit and look at the picture on the pattern and think, “What in the world is the matter with me? What do I not know? Where can I find this out?” All the while, thinking if I could only learn all the right techniques it would OK….or if I could simply learn how to fit, it would be OK…or…..ANYTHING!!!!
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Believe me, when I first started, I thought the same thing – Sewing is just like a crapshoot. I couldn’t figure out why my garments never looked like the ones on the pattern envelope, and yet someone was making that garment on the pattern envelope and so someone had to know how to sew this dang thing up.
Today in the world of airbrushed this and pixel removal that, there’s no telling what is real and what isn’t in a fashion photo shoot. Even as important is what is going on that the camera doesn’t show like this great shot of Patricia Heaton’s book!
The front looks downright glamorous and very doable, while the back is more the truth – especially in that dress!!!!
So it’s no wonder sometimes if we can’t make a garment like what appears on the pattern envelope cause there are several things happening here:
Is it any wonder we have trouble reflecting what is shown on the pattern envelope (not counting what’s in catalogs, magazines, and online photographs). I’m not writing this to be extra negative, but only so that this is put into perspective. Probably a more accurate depiction is a search for the pattern on Pinterest or Google Images showing everyday sewists completed garment. Here’s a perfect example of Vogue Patterns #1389. The picture on the left is what is actually on the pattern envelope. Most people, if they made the garment so it fit like that, would think they had made a mistake. The zipper looks warped at the bottom and the fanny is so accentuated that – well, I wouldn’t wear this even if I lived on a treadmill and my figure was beyond reproach.
Why wouldn’t I wear this version on the left? Because it’s TMI – too much information about my shape. The skirt (fixed) on the right looks way better because it is shaped to the body. Look at each side again, and again – which one of those gals has smaller hips? Amazingly it’s the one on the right, even though it takes more fabric to make it! Anymore we can’t even use the word fit because that means the picture on the left. When I use fit with my clients and students, I have to redefine it. It means shaped and skims the body but does not hug the body at every corner to The point is that this is the norm out there to be set as an example. If this is all you’ve seen, how are you to know 1.) that it’s wrong and 2.) that it needs to be fixed.
Originally, sewing wasn’t set up to be a crapshoot, because sewing was the only way a lot of folks had to dress and they needed to know how to do it to cover their bodies so as to protect their skin from the elements. Why and when this happened is another post, but what’s important to know is that if your garment doesn’t turn out exactly like the envelope, there’s probably a reason, and unfortunately, (except with a few pattern companies) patterns aren’t as reliable as they used to be. It’s good to know that so that you do not get discouraged. And it’s good to know so that you aren’t trying to achieve some unattainable goal.
Believe me, sewing is not a crapshoot! I know, because I used to feel that way. Most of the patterns do work, however, they are only a starting place. Yes, if you sewed when you were young things fit right out of the envelope.
Remember patterns like this? A couple of darts, a couple of pieces and you were done. That’s because you were a young sprout made of bone, skin and a little extra. Today you are a fully matured person reflecting your life experiences (I don’t care what anyone says, pregnancy leaves its marks), and genetics. This is the real world. This is the world that used to be fitted (yes and it was really fitted, not wrapped in skin-tight stretchy fabric to show every curve and bump).
Most of us think of Audrey Hepburn as being skinny. But today – looking at this she has a horrible muffin top and in addition, it looks like her midriff is hanging over her belt. Actually, this was very fashionable back then. Back then the accentuation was on that thin waist and women would cinch in that sucker even if everything else flowed out above and below it. Today we hardly see the thin waist, we see the muffin top! The point here is that with today’s eyes, even Audrey Hepburn looks fat!!!
Yes, the fitting gets harder as we get older, but it’s not impossible. In the following weeks, on my weekly email, I’ll talk more about this. But this is something that doesn’t have to happen.
I used to be scared of sewing – but I loved it, and not sure that was a good comment on my life – trying to do something I didn’t know how to do and didn’t know how to find out how to do!!!!
And there were times when I thought I was insane! At the same time, it’s worth noting that if your sewing techniques aren’t working, then it’s time for a change. Change is hard. Sometimes finding the right change is even harder – because there are a lot of right changes out there that will work – it’s finding the ones (that’s right there’s more than one) that work for you.
So I know what it’s like not to be able to sew and how frustrating it is. It can’t be that hard cause there are people all over the world who do not have university degrees and their hands work the same as mine. I had the willingness, but not the knowledge and didn’t know what I didn’t know so didn’t know what to ask!
But I also know how empowering, freeing, exhilaratingly satisfying and remarkably magical it is to sew for yourself and fit yourself. And that’s what keeps us searching!
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