Monday, July 23, 2012

What is Sewing Success?

How do you define a sewing success?



Exhibit 1. 
This top was made from fabric selected by my 5 year old daughter as a birthday treat and then sewn into a top (as requested) within a week of purchase, with instructions for "no ironing!" followed strictly. The fabric is from Tessuti Fabrics, and the pattern is # 151 from BurdaStyle issue 11/2010 (also made in textured Japanese cotton for summer here and in riotous winter colour here) with the gathered raised waist turned into pleats and centre back zip omitted. The bodice is lined in a soft lyocell fabric for comfort, and the whole thing sparkles and shimmers beautifully in the sunlight.



But this is a top that will not be worn because the style is wrong. Apparently 5 year olds wear tight stretchy tops; looseness is for dresses and little girls.  So that's a fail.


What about this?


Exhibit 2. 
This is a top made for Mr Upsewlate to test out a pattern I put together based on one of his favourite long sleeve t-shirts. The fabric is cheap stuff from Lincraft (and I've used it before for a quick & dirty top for myself) but soft and cottony with a nice weight. Remarkably for a cheap fabric the stripes run pretty straight (and have been matched on side seams, sleeve seams, shoulder seams as much as possible - of course). The neckband and sleeve bands are made from a coordinating rib knit.



You'd think that basing the shape on an old favourite would be smart...hmm. Apparently this top fits better than the original (now you tell me!) and feels comfortable on, but obviously the shoulders are way too broad and the sleeves are also too wide and too long. I think this will get worn but I will always be conscious of those ridiculous shoulders, so this is a fail too.

And this?


Exhibit 3.
What can I say... I think you know the answer already. I hate it on me! I do like the neckline and the shoulders / sleeves but that's it.

This fabric was an interesting remnant from Tessuti fabrics that I held onto for ages because it didn't really seem to be my style - I don't like brown and I don't wear 70s. The pattern started with the top from Vogue 1310, the recent Chado Ralph Rucci pattern, which I turned into a dress (and obviously it's not cut on the bias). I made this dress as a tester for a planned winter dress which I am now very unsure about.



It's better on my dress dummy, and the zig zags are reasonably symmetric and reasonably matched on the side seams, and the neckline and shoulders are properly stabilised with clear elastic, and the self-fabric lining matches pretty well on the zig zags too - but all that doesn't make me want to wear it. Another fail.



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So I think for me sewing success is about wearability - part and parcel of that is whether it's been sewn neatly, whether the fit is decent, and whether the fabric / colours / style look good on. I don't require my sewing to look perfect on the inside so long as the imperfections aren't evident to my eye from the outside of the garment, but I don't think I'd be happy wearing noticeably wavy hems or puckered seams - I don't want people to know from 50 paces that what I'm wearing is homemade.  I don't require immaculate fit because I haven't had much experience of it to date, but I expect to get more picky as I become a better seamstress.


I see that the success / fail metric varies a lot across the sewing blogs. Some of us are happy to make something we can wear, but others are really tough on themselves.  Do you think some seamstresses are seeing errors that the rest of us don't even notice??? [That's my hypothesis....] And what about finish? Should RTW be the yardstick for garment finish, or should we be aiming for couture perfection?  I haven't ever seen couture IRL, but my David Coffin trousers book shows there can be couture seams with no finishing - so how does that reconcile with my serger ownership aspirations? Can I still justify one?

20 comments:

  1. I am going to sound really old but I think a success is a garment that is comfortable! I think as we blog and take pictures this can highlight any flaws for us that we wouldn't see had we just put it on and walked out the door. I'm sure if I took photos with some of my high street purchases on I would go 'oh dear!'. My aim is not not to fail (if that makes sense!) as I haven't loved everything that I've bought off the peg - my aim in both is to learn from my mistakes whilst still taking some leaps of faith!

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    1. No, you don't sound really old - that's a very practical view!

      Yes, I know I certainly have been known to buy things that look terrible on (or that turn out to be poorly made)! I really like your perspective, and I think those leaps of faith are what keep sewing exciting.

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    2. Move quickly and don't point out your mistakes! :)
      The Amish people in Pennsylvania purposely add a "mistake" to every simple quilt they make because they believe that only God is perfect.
      Successful sewing is being able to do something with your hands that brings you and others joy. I used to be a perfectionist until I realized that it almost stopped me from sewing completely because I didn't want to cut into my nice fabric if I was going to make mistakes...now I just look at my projects as training sessions with nice fabric that (*hopefully)will mask any errors if I decide to wear them.
      By the way, there was a Harvard University study that found that people with creative outlets/passions lived 8 years longer than people without them. Happy Sewing!

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    3. Excellent response!

      Yes, even the "good" fabric can be thought of as providing "wearable muslins" :-).

      I like that study - and I don't know if it's all part of the same thing but I've found that creative activities are also good for the analytical parts of my brain - stops them getting creaky!

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  2. What a thought provoking post! For me a garment is a success if it is comfortable, fits pretty well, and is not of sub-standard fabric. However, and this is a giant however, I sew for a variety of reasons. Some of my projects are only seen at the barn, or in the garden. Others are proudly worn to dinner parties and lunch. I do blog both my best work and not so best and really don't worry about criticism. I am my own critic.

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    1. I think we're on the same page! You're reminding me of another of my problem areas though - how to stick to sewing lifestyle appropriate clothing :-). With a wide ranging wardrobe to sew, it certainly makes sense to apply different success criteria depending on the planned function of the clothes!

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  3. Interesting post! I think you are right, wearability is the bottom line. I suppose the finish you are aiming for depends on what you are sewing and your purpose for it.

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    1. Thanks Karin, I do feel a great sense of satisfaction from finishing a garment carefully, but it feels pretty pointless too to spend a lot of time on something when you're not sure how it'll fit or look in the end - or if it'll be rejected outright!

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  4. These don't look like confirmed fails to me. Would the sparkly top get worn if it was paired with tweeny-tight jeans? The sleeves on the striped top could be easily shortened and I reckon if you topstitch down the armhole sleeve, it will sit smoother and look like a dropped shoulder style. If it's comfy, he'll probably wear it. And I would love for that last one to work, because the fabric is so groovy. Could it be salvaged as a maxi skirt to be worn with tank tops for summer?

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    1. Thanks Katherine, you're very encouraging!

      The sparkly top has been rejected over and over again for the past few weeks, and even the threat to give it to her best friend isn't making a difference. She pretty much lives in pink leggings and I would have thought it'd look good with them, but she simply will not try it on. Oh and jeans are also in her "no way" category.

      I like your suggestions re the striped top and I think I'll try them. I've got fabrics lined up for a couple more long sleeved t-shirts for him so I'd really like to get my pattern worked out too - hopefully without dropped shoulders in the final version :-).

      Would you like a groovy stretchy brown, orange and blue dress in an approx size 12 (shoulders) to 14 (hips)? I really don't like it!

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    2. For sure! Not that I need more clothes, but that fabric really is groovy. My email is katherine dot peter at bigpond dot com. If you really are happy to part with it, email me.

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    3. HI Katherine, I've just emailed you about sending the dress to you so please leave me another comment if my email doesn't find you.

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  5. It's so frustrating when everything goes so well but the end result is just not right - there's nothing wrong with the garments but you know they won't get worn. Personally I really like each of your items and I'd give Katherine's suggestions a go, I especially like the idea of turning the dress into a maxi skirt.

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    1. It is... luckily knits sew up so quickly! I do like the sparkly top and the striped top, but even though I know Katherine's maxi skirt idea is a smart one that fabric just isn't for me.

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  6. I agree, and think all of those could be salvaged. Perhaps your daughters could be turned into a skirt! I love your dress and it would look great as a maxi skirt but if you like the top half, why not shorten it to the knees and wear it with leggings!

    And by the way, I measure success on the way something fits because if it fits nicely and the colour is right, I feel I am on to a winner.

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    1. Thanks, so much encouragement! Yes, a skirt made out of that sparkly top is another good idea...

      Oh yes, colour - that can really make or break it! Home sewn clothes are definitely an opportunity to really get the fit right.

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  7. Success equals something I wear over and over. Some garments are technically good, but if I don't wear, there is less celebration. Garments must fit and be finished well enough that I'm not concerned aboiut looking like I'm wearing handmade. This is a major fear of mine.

    I also agree with Katherine's advice. Also, you really must get a serger. It will change your life. t-shirts in seconds. No fraying seams. Seriously, just get one. I have a base model one and have no problems - just a few hundred dollars

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    1. Oh, good definition. Yes, when you start to notice yourself wearing something over and over you know you must have been on a winner - and vice versa! I do worry about the shoddily-made look too - but I figure if your finish looks no worse than RTW and your fit is better, no one will be pointing and sniggering in the streets.

      OK, convinced me - I need one! I will have to do some research...

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