Becoming an Expert Seamstress

IMG_2156   I may not be big on New Year’s resolutions done the wrong way. I know how infantile it is make a long list of previously unattainable goals and go at them all at once full force…for, like, 2 weeks.But realistic goals I agree with. And what’s a better time to state a goal than the beginning of the year? -Ish.

Which leads me to my biggest work-related goal for 2015, becoming an expert seamstress. As you may know if you’ve read many of my posts, or my ABOUT page, I have a degree in fashion design. We learned everything we’d need to know to get a decent entry level job in the design industry, but sewing wasn’t up there in priorities. It wasn’t a focus in school because the idea is to graduate, get an assistant design job for a company and have your sewing work outsourced. We had a sewing class each semester and had to sew our final collection, but we didn’t get tons of practice, which is so key in mastering such a technical skill.
Now that I’m a custom designer and doing freelance stuff, I have to be able to produce it. And, because I’m me, I have to be able to produce it well. I talk a lot of crap on here about the perfectionist in me, but, God love her, she gets stuff done the right way! (Click here on one of my posts about overcoming perfectionism in your new year’s resolutions.)

If you have perfectionistic tendencies, (Here’s a little litmus test for that…if you’re not sure whether you do or not, so you made a little mental list up just now with signs you may be a perfectionist on one side and reasons you may not be one on the other, you definitely do have those tendencies!) here’s the key to conquering them. Find out how perfect is too perfect. You’re a perfectionist. Great. You’ll produce a high quality of work. Reversely, you may lose money doing it if you spend too much time on every single detail.

I’m in that stage right now, trying to figure out just how good I want and need to be and what I’ll have to do about it. This is how I make my living now, but I’m going to be candid with you guys on my sewing weaknesses. Hopefully, if you’re in the same perfectionisty boat with me, you’ll get something out of my process here. But if this is just too personal of a post, feel free to skip it and read tomorrow’s blog!

Here’s what I can do:

Basically put together any garment from a pattern, or make my own pattern and sew it together. It will look nice, but I’m not confident with my work, because I’m pretty rusty on most things. (I’ve had my sewing machine put away for most of the time since I graduated college.)

Here’s what I need work on:

Different Zipper applications


My serger- basically everything other than threading it and running it on the regular settings.

Fly front zippers (Even though my final collection was separates and I had like 5 pairs of pants and I had the sewing DOWN, I totally forgot how to do it. I had to watch a youtube tutorial on it as I was sewing some trousers last night. Oh the shame.)

Jeans- I’m sure I could make them, but I haven’t tried yet

Lining methods

Finishing techniques

Fit and alterations

Ok, I’m gonna stop there, but the stupid list goes on and on in my mind!


   Now, here’s where a decision has to be made. Where are you at on level of quality with your work-realistically? Where do you want to be? Now, should you back off your expectations a bit? That may sound simply horrifying to you. If it does, congratulations, it’s confirmed. You are a true perfectionist.

After I was diagnosed with ADD, (which I later found out was really just a symptom of narcolepsy in my case) I remember trying to explain to my dad just how overwhelmed I was by little tasks and life in general. I was expecting him to validate me, I guess, and tell me something like, “Yeah, you’re right, you are really messed up.” So when his response was, “Don’t you think you’re expectations are a little high,” my stomache dropped to my knees. This was my father, who gave me life and raised me and told me I could do anything and do it well. This was the guy who visited my prospect college and asked the guide if there could be a real living in fashion design for me assuming I would be in the top ten percent of my field, because I would be. He’s the one who’s assured I can go so far, even when I don’t have that confidence.  For me, him asking about my expectations meant he just didn’t get it. Of course I didn’t have expectations that were too high. They were just the necessary level of expectation-near perfection. Chuckle break.

If I had just listened to him then, I could have avoided a really rough 2 or 3 year period of trying so hard to be unattainably perfect. Stupid, huh? However, I did come out of that learning that there are some areas in life I have to settle on. So my house doesn’t stay clean each and every day. So I forget people’s names immediately after meeting them. So my schedule may always be a little sporadic. I can live with those things…because not being able to live with them doesn’t mean that I can actually perfect them. It just means I can’t meet those unrealistic expectations and then I have tons and tons of anxiety and guilt built up inside for letting myself down. (It’s just me expecting those things of myself, but somehow, I always feel like I’m letting the world down.)

Enough of the backstory, let’s get back to sewing!

Bottom line: I’m not where I want to be with quality. (Or speed, for that matter.) My options are to either go ahead and run with design and not try to improve my sewing before I jump into starting a line, (or what have you) or to go overboard and get so into the details that I abandon everything else to become really spectacular at sewing. Choice A’s just not really an option for me. I want to be genuinely good at sewing because I have to be the person actually making my own designs now. Choice B is stupid, (even though I may gravitate toward it if I don’t keep the perfectionism at bay) because I know there’s a quality to price ratio in business. I could spend years to become like someone who works in the Dior atelier. I could get to a point where my sewing is so beautiful it looks like it was done by a thousand Tibetan monks while they bathed in the rivers of enlightenment. But people will still only pay so much for an item. So what if I can make a dress that rivals the quality of a $12,000 haute couture dress! I don’t know anyone who would pay that for a dress, and I know I could never sell it. So I have to get better, but not focus on becoming the best seamstress in the world or anything. I’m a designer. Sewing is a means to an end to me. I love doing it, but not at the expense of designing.

So here’s the plan: 

This year my focus is on becoming an expert seamstress. That means I’d like to be able to confidently take on any sort of garment anyone asked me to and make it very well.

Is a whole year a waste of time? Not to me, because it’s an investment in my career. If I can’t make a good product, I don’t want to be in the game! Also, it works out because the more I sew, the more I have to show people. The more I get to practice design and perfect (is that the wrong word in light of the tone of this post?) my patternmaking skills. And, maybe most importantly for me, I’ll come out of this year with confidence in my work. If someone asks for something or I go to make my own line of clothing, I’ll be able to go into it without being afraid that I’ll mess it up or that it won’t look professionally constructed. I’ll know I can sell something that will hold up well and fits well. One other cool thing is…I can and will be selling stuff I make in this year. I can sew pretty darn well as it is. I may be disappointed with my quality still, but I probably always will be. I’ll never come to a point in my life when I think I’m as good as I ever want to be at something. Never. That’s the other side of the perfectionist coin…THE DRIVE TO IMPROVE! And come 2016, the focus changes. I can’t let myself stay stuck in trying to improve my skills too much before I really dive in full force.

For me, I’ve found the right balance. My style is classic and tailored, and the construction for those pieces has to be professional or I don’t want to do it. But there’s no point focusing so much on improving my sewing skills that I never move on into designing and producing lines. So this year is practice. And only a year. After that, the focus is narrowed down to doing the type of clothing I’ve always wanted to design for women.

Come 2016, Holla at your Girl!



Refuel Your Inspiration

IMG_2070What Inspires You? Sure, a killer pair of heels and cutting edge fashion, but I’m talking about beyond that. As a designer, I was taught that finding inspiration was half the job. That’s the part you don’t get paid for, but without it, you have nothing to draw from. So we spend our time searching magazines, museums, nature, cityscapes, all to have our little imaginations filled to the brim with lines, silhouettes, colors, and moods we can paint our own portraits with. That is so vital for designers and any creatives! Still, when I ask what inspires you, I’m asking what has you down deep inside. What churns your soul and makes you willing and able to go on? Because sadly, those things are often the most neglected.

For me, when all is stripped away and I do a personal inventory of who I want to be, I’m reminded that the two things most important to my heart are God and my family. (This recent inventory is thanks to Karan and our newest Sunday School series “Simplify”) I neglect God a lot and I’m working on it. The thing is with Him, He has a way of always pulling me back. My heart is His, and He never forgets me. Although I forget about Him daily. That’s what’s so awesome about Him. It’s soooo obvious that He’s the One who saves me; because I have no ability to even remember Him consistently, yet I’m continually on His mind, despite everything I’ve done to deny Him at different points in my life.

My other priority, family, often takes a back burner to what’s going on in my life. I never realize I’m doing it because it always feels justified, doesn’t it? We have a deadline, or chores, or we’re running late, or we have to get the kids to the game on time. But are we actually spending real time together-where we connect and fill each other up with love and energy that will keep us strong for days ahead? Often, I go without that. My husband and I watch tv together instead of focusing on each other or my kids are playing while I’m doing chores. None of that ever seems too bad, until I’m asked to take the dreaded long hard look at myself and how I spend my time and then I’m forced to understand that I can’t remember the last time I really had a day of laughter with my childeren.

Today I had that. We played with our hair and played dress up and put on mini fashion shows and concluded it with a contest to see who could throw the most crackers up and catch them in our mouths. One at a time, of course. I lost. And hit myself in the face with a lot of crackers! But, Oh My Goodness, was it a blast! And as much as I love writing and it fulfills something in me that nothing else does, I can’t wait to finish this post and get back upstairs with them and keep playing. I set my dreams of designing aside for a steady job when I found out I was pregnant with them. It didn’t bother me. I didn’t resent it. It was wonderful to be able to provide for my children. And when I thought about how much I wanted to fulfill their dreams in life, I was so much more than willing to give up design forever to give them the stability I know is such an important springboard in life.

Then the deeper I thought on the subject, I wondered what I would want for them if they started families before getting established in the career they were passionate about. Would I want them to settle or fight through it and live their dream? I don’t think I have to say which one I would hope for. If you’re a parent, you know. And I thought to myself, how could I ever expect my daughters to live based only on what I say and not on what I do. Aren’t they far more likely to just follow in my footsteps?

That’s why I came back to my third love. That’s why I’m designing-and writing- again. I’m living my passion so that they’ll have the courage to live theirs. They are my inspiration! They are my joy and my fuel. When we’re not close emotionally, my “energy bucket” will never be full. They are exhausting (let’s just be honest!) but they help me recharge. Another one of life’s little paradoxes that shows beauty and love can never be fully understood, yet are meant to be fully lived out.

Here’s to spending time with the people who hold your heart!
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