Saturday, November 29, 2008

Feel the Fear...Wait! What Fear???

These are just some sewing thoughts brewing in my head. After reading a few different threads over at Patternreview, it got me to thinking (I can already hear my wonderful DH saying, "Oh no..." ; LOL ) There are always those threads where people ask, "What skills do you think one should have to rate themselves Beginner, Adv. Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert?" Truly, I think it is a matter of perspective, not necessarily skills per se.

My own view of what determines those levels will vary greatly from someone else's view. I call myself an Intermediate level sewer because there is ALWAYS something to learn. Always new machines with new bells and whistles. Always new notions coming out to use, and new fabrics to be used. My classification is based not on what I know, but how I feel in the vast world of sewing. Technically, I can do and have done many techniques of what people consider "Advanced". But do I feel advanced? No. I'm always humbled by the works of others when I get that feeling like I'm doing real well. There are always many sewing moments where I say to myself, "Wow! I never thought of doing it that way."

What has been on my mind lately is a thread about an Advanced Beginner doing welt pockets. But this same issue applies to bound buttonholes, bagging a lining, or other sewing tasks perceived as difficult (aka "advanced"). Why do people think these things are hard? Technically, they are very easy. IMO, (using a bound buttonhole as an example) one just needs to perfect a straight stitching line, be as accurate with measuring as possible, and have the right tools (like great scissors that can cut right to the point), have good instructions, etc. to get the job done.

In this respect, I find the Internet has done many beginning sewers a disservice. There are simply too many people categorizing specific sewing activities as Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. In addition, the "fear" factor has become standard, almost a "rite of passage", for techniques some consider advanced. Gotta thank the Internet for that. Personally, I think a good Advanced Beginner can learn how to do a neat and tidy welt pocket rather easily with the right tools and the ability of precise, straight stitching. That is simply practice. And no fear!

I bagged several linings as a newbie sewer. I started doing some serious sewing in 8th grade and by 10th grade was working on blazers with bagged linings. I never thought about them being hard. What I did think was, "Is this really going to work when I turn it right side out?" And amazingly it did! I didn't have the Internet, didn't have any sewing books, didn't have a mother to rely on for sewing info (my mother did not sew other than fixing a hem or sewing on a button). One of my older sisters did sew and was very good, however, she simply wasn't around much as she was 6 years old than me. She was away at college while I was working on blazers. The only thing I did have to help me was good directions from a Big 4 pattern. And everything turned out fine. My only disgust with most of my sewing projects was using my mother's piece-o-sh** machine that she rarely used, never had serviced, and was about 15-20 years old.

Nothing seemed to hard for me. Consider it naivete. Or maybe simply youth. There's something to be said for make-it-work sewing. There were no classifications in my little sewing world of "Beginner", "Intermediate", or "Advanced" and for that I'm grateful. Imagine the things I would have passed over simply because I would have categorized myself as a Beginner sewer when I was in 10th grade.

The Internet does much good. There's so much knowledge out there and it has improved my sewing skills tremendously because of it. At the same time it is discouraging. Not for me, but for others. I want to shake people when they feel something is hard or might be hard. They had to hear it was hard from somewhere. I want to scream at them, "Try It! It's not as hard as you think!!! In fact, it's kind of easy."

I think for the first time, I realized that I do not like sewing classifications, and I'm thinking of removing mine. It's almost like a hold-up label for some folks, like if you're an Adv. Beginner you can't do welt pockets. Which is entirely untrue. So I'm mulling it over. Sometimes classifications are good, but when it promotes fear or self doubt and possibly holds back a sewer from working on a project, that's when I want to do away with them. Let's see where I am in a week with this thought. Although I'm leaning toward removing my classification.


Sigrid said...

I agree fully to what you say. Try, try and don't think it's difficult to start with.
That sewing level business has made me wonder often enought. Didn't realise you can remove it. Must think about that.

Keely said...

I so agree. When it came to classifying myself on PR I was told soundly by JudyWilliment I was better than I thought I was. I know I certainly feel like a beginner compared to some of the sewers out there! But, like you say, it's all about fears. The very first outfit I made, I put in a zip. I followed this up with jeans. I didn't realise that some people thought these might be difficult, I just did it. I've noticed that I'm less adventurous now on techniques because I now have learnt some things are rated harder than others. I also now tend to sew the McSewing route because of time constraints. I'm trying to work on starting a more time intensive project and doing it in bursts. Like fears, it's all in the head!

Amy said...

I totally agree with you! I've read others blogs and had to laugh when I read that they've never made a buttonhole or put in a zipper. Why do people fear these things? When I first took a sewing class, I made a blouse with collar and buttonholes. I finished earlier than others and the teacher then showed me how to put in zippers. But I knew I could do these things because like you, I was fearless. Yes, I was shown how to do those things but I've also learned how to do a lot on my own. Give me a good pattern and I can sew it!

Beth H said...

Agreed. I like your "There's something to be said for make-it-work sewing." I feel that's what I do: make it work.

It's well known that "what you think about you bring about." When someone tells a new sewer that something is hard, they make it hard or even worse, are afraid to even try.

I removed my rating long ago because I don't want to be pigeonholed. I'm advanced at some skills and barely beginning on others.

Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post.

Tamara said...

What a great post Kat! I totally agree with you. I always have a hard time classifying my skill also. I am good at somethings and some I am not (although it is really lack of practice). Fear can get in the way definitely. This past week I put in 2 invisible zippers for the first time. I love doing zippers. For me they have always been easy (give me a zipper over buttonholes any day) but I had never tried invisible. I think somewhere along the way I heard they were difficult. Boy, was I wrong! I couldn't believe how slick they went in! I may never do a lapped zipper again. If I had let even a tiny amount of fear keep me from doing the invisible zipper I never would have found out how much I like them. Next thing to tackle: welt pockets (I think).

Anonymous said...

I agree too. In my case, my "advanced skills" are pattern drafting, fitting, and a few (easy) couture techniques. I started both as soon as I started sewing. It was a matter of being interested, not special abilities.

I had previously removed my "level" from PatternReview but put it back in because I was finding that people were assuming I was much more of an expert than I was. (People read that you're drafting slopers and they assume you're an expert at everything, LOL). I have left it at "advanced beginner" because it reflects the types of things I make.

Sue said...

I call myself an advanced beginner and have just sone a faux welt pocket, however I still feel like an advanced beginner as I don't feel confident doing it. I find that even though I am reasonably confident I still make some errors and don't really understand why. For example, I was going great with invisible zips and now the last few have puckers & I am not entirely sure why, so until I feel more confident that I understand what is happening and have more confidence in my skills I am not ready to 'upgrade' my level.