Wise readers, what's your take on competitive sewing?
Do you engage in it yourself and/or watch it on TV? Do you think it's fun?
Last year I won the Pattern Review Beginner contest with the flowered shirt that currently appears in my blog header (to be replaced with a Burt Reynolds-inspired Nude-With-Sewing Machine portrait as per reader requests). Winning that contest (Rachel of A Sewn Wardrobe came in second) was extremely motivating and validating too.
But sometimes I wonder if, in the long run, all these competitions don't take some of the joy out of sewing or aren't perhaps an expression of something dark in our collective souls and I don't mean black cotton sateen.
The idea of selecting a winner suggests that the vast majority of us will always be losers (or at least not winners). Is that the way we like it-- somehow affirming how we already see ourselves in a celebrity-worshiping culture that defines success as winning the big prize, earning the big salary, being the most famous?
That hunger to win is fed by television shows like American Idol, Project Runway and even The Bachelor -- i.e, there's just not enough love (or men, or prizes) for everyone, so you have to fight for what's available.
In a world of dwindling resources and a growing gap between rich and poor (and rich and poor countries), this seems to mirror the world at large in uncomfortable ways we may not even recognize.
I've entered a few other competitions on Pattern Review, most notoriously my ruffle-collared A-line shift in the Little Black Dress contest of 2009, which was won by none other than the Selfless Songstress herself with her homage to Breakfast at Tiffany's. (If poor Audrey is turning her grave, Edith Head must be spinning like a top.) OK, I'll admit it, it's a lovely dress; dinner with Elaine the other night has worn me down.
Pattern Review runs a lot of competitions and many of them are very popular and I do enjoy checking out the entries from time to time.
I think many sewers find competitions motivating, whether they win or not. It's a nice way to raise your profile on the site too, if that's important to you.
I've only seen Project Runway once or twice since I don't own a television set. I thought it was fun in the way "Reality" TV is fun: who doesn't enjoy a good cliff-hanger or a pull-out-all-the-stops emotional breakdown? It's likely that Project Runway has given fashion design a real boost (in popularity if not as a sustainable career). I'm not sure if it has any effect on home sewing, however, though there is a Simplicity Project Runway pattern line.
You probably know about that Burda dress I've been kvetching about for weeks now. The fact that it's part of some sort of competition (albeit a small and unremunerative one) has made it just a little less joyful for me, frankly. I don't like to sew for sport so much lately.
In closing, what's your take on competitive sewing? Is it just good clean fun or does it feed our baser, cut-throat survival instincts?
Does competition diminish us somehow, especially in a creative arena like fashion design or sewing?
Since we're all sewing different things and have different skills, aren't we generally comparing apples and oranges?
To what extent do you think these contests are primarily about the sponsors and the publicity they can garner? (It's a great way to promote a brand, you must admit.)
Finally, why this, why now? Do you think the focus on, and popularity of, competition in something like sewing -- whether in a high profile context like Project Runway or the more homespun Pattern Review -- is a sign of the times? If so, what does it say about us?
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns, in addition to sewing for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!