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Dec 20, 2010

Conflicted Sewing


Wise readers, do you subscribe to the belief that our outer worlds are a reflection of our inner worlds?


Do you know people with chaotic lives that seem to mirror the turmoil within?

To bring this concept into sewing (where it shall remain henceforth), do you ever wonder why the projects we're most excited about generally move swiftly and smoothly to completion while other projects -- projects we might be less committed to -- keep bumping into obstacles?

Remember that straight skirt I started making for my mother?  It's not done though I could probably complete it in an afternoon.



Remember the corduroy jacket still sitting in a rectangular Sterilite plastic storage box under my bed?



How about Michael's suit?  (He won't let me forget it.)



It's important to be clear with ourselves about what we want to be sewing and what we don't in order to avoid this dilemma, friends.  Conflicted sewing never results in our best work and is the source of little joy.

Enter the holidays.

I bought these two patterns with the intention of stitching up some tote bags I might give as gifts to Michael's mother -- or my own -- or Michael's sisters.  Are you surprised I haven't even gotten started?



Last week I received this dog coat pattern.  Do you think I'm excited about making Freddy a coat? 



Friends, how do you push through sewing projects you're conflicted about?  What techniques do you use to make yourself sew that hundredth pair of little girl pajamas (you know who you are), flannel boxer shorts for your DH, or throw pillows for the RV, when what you'd rather be sewing is a vintage Vogue Paris Original by Yves Saint Laurent?


What I'm really asking is: how do I work up the enthusiasm to make a couple of faux-python tote bags between today (Monday) and Saturday?  I'm running out of time.

So what am I really excited about, you ask?  Guess!





Folks, I need strategies -- affirmations, meditations, incantations-- something to help me push through these projects. 

MUST I let a cold chihuahua dictate my actions?

Does/Did this ever happen to you?  What do you do about it?

Your wise counsel, please!


56 comments:

  1. I think you need to talk to the Selfish Seamstress for therapy. I should talk - I've got a millions pajama pants to sew before the 24th!

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  2. Selfish Seamstress....why does that name sound familiar?

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  3. Totally agree with Julie. Why do you sew? The fact is I love to sew for myself, but hate sewing for others. Of course that doesn't stop me from volunteering and then feeling enormous guilt for procrastinating (remember those mushroom print boxers for my son - still uncut; and now there's a fleece poncho for my daughter - ahh mother guilt!) Oh I'm sorry this was supposed to be about YOU!

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  4. You are too too funny, you naive seamster! EVERY sewist does this. And an fyi; I too purchased a Singer 15-91, based on your post(s).

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  5. Hmmmm....an unfinished (well, un-started!) Burda shirt, and vintage boxers for my hubby; still trying to finish a project for the local museum (THAT project could be an entire column on using your creative talents to sew something completely unsatisfying!); piles of felted sweaters that were supposed to be hats and mittens by now.....Well, the thing is, you're not alone! I can't even seem to finish a dress for myself, due to the inspirational demands of shopping online for fabrics and vintage patterns! It is just the curse of the creative, Peter. Some days you just have to put on a pot of coffee, some favorite movies as background, and get to the dirty work of those less than thrilling projects. Dangle those lovely pants as a carrot-if you finish the boring stuff, you get to indulge in something decadent!

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  6. And I was hoping to secretly slip some unfinished polarfleece socks and an almost finished rag quilt into your "sewing for others" pile and hope you wouldn't notice.
    No advice from me....but you might hear me quoting from another "bleak December...Nevermore...." If only I would remember this frustration in time next year!

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  7. My coping mechanism is to work on other people's projects for a little bit and then work on my own. Like say, you cut out the bags, then cut out the leopard pants. Or finish a bag, then allow yourself to work on something for you. That's how I got through my Christmas sewing at least.

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  8. Ahh, I agreed to make six chair covers for a friend of mine. I even get a little (very little) bit of money. I wish I'd never offered it when she told me how ugly her chairs were because after two muslins and travelling to the other end of Berlin for fittings I have no intention to sew the five remaining covers together during the next few weeks... maybe month. It's so monotonous, it's work for an ape.

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  9. Hmmmm, it's called procrastination (I should know I live it most days oops!).

    I tell myself I can buy (as a reward to moi) that fabric or that super sewing-gadget if I just finish XYZ (even if I told myself I wasn't to spend over a certain budget that month on sewing paraphernalia I let myself off if I complete the job I don't feel like doing). Is this because I need motivation to finish the "boring" jobs (re-hemming curtains that have been basted for ooooh 2 years now? or fixing hubby's torn jeans), or is it a trick my sub-conscious is using to allow me to get away with buying more 'n' more stuff ? I dunno, I'm too busy trawling eBay for my next fix LOL!

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  10. We all do it, Peter. Promise yourself a special gift for you if you finish. I hate sewing for other people too. Most of them don't know how much work it is, so they don't appreciate the gift. I expect the same level of appreciation as if I had given a finger or leg or kidney...but no!

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  11. I have two sets of PJ pants to sew before Christmas. I pick them up every day, think about it and put them back down for some imaginary reason. I prefer to sew for myself. Why? Because I like my sewing better than they do and appreciate it more. It really is my little bit of selfishness.

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  12. Millions of Chinese factory workers have already produced millions of tote bags, and several thousand of them are available a short walk from your apartment. Go buy your gifts, which will also buy yourself some time to sew what you want to sew.

    I'm not sure about all of your UFO's, but it's your mom's fault that her skirt is not finished. If your mom were as much of a pain as my mom, you would have finished the skirt by now.

    Claudine

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  13. I stash fabric, patterns, buttons, sewing machines (a new featherweight due to your blog), feet, patterns, books, trims, notions.......and ideas in various stages of completion. But, alas, no strategies -- affirmations, meditations, incantations.

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  14. OMG, Couturearts, yes!

    Are you a psychotherapist in real life? :)

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  15. First step is to turn off the computer. Way too many distractions there. Fuzzy slippers and sweats. Music. Pot of tea. Cut, cut, cut. Sew, sew, sew. For the task oriented watching the right pile grow and then diminish is its own reward.
    Glad you finally found a use for the python. They may be more satisfying once you complete one and then try to beat your time with the second one.
    Dog coat? Might have to cut the pants out first just to have the scrap to use for that...
    I would also assign each machine a project and use it as a way to evaluate and service each machine in turn. But then I'm anal like that. In the end I could either justify keeping them all or know for sure who would be the next on Craig's List.

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  16. That boy in the leopard trousers looks so LOUCHE he shouldn't be allowed - how can you think of sewing boring bags and dog coats when that's on your mind? As everyone has said, buy your presents and save sewing for following your wildest dreams. :)

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  17. Sewing small items for others - don't, unless you can start it the day you offer and finish it the same day or the next day. Sewing things you're not crazy about? Definitely carrot and stick does it, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Set time limits eg. I will make a dogcoat out of fleece that requires no seam finishing and will spend maximum 30 mins on it.

    Sewing whole suits for other people? What are you on? It can only end in tears.

    Hatty

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  18. Julie said it first and best: Consult with the Selfish Seamstress. She will send you one of her haiku.
    Lonely fabric
    Promise made
    Snow prevails

    (or something like that)

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  19. "OMG, Couturearts, yes! Are you a psychotherapist in real life? :)"

    I DITTO Couturearts, Peter!! AND I've HAD 20 years of psychotherapy... Does that count ;/

    Warm hug, she who's making boy's pj bottoms now ;)

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  20. We've all been there! I joined a sewing ministry at my church so I could sew for others, albeit strangers. That way, I'm sharing my talent, but I don't have to deal with people wondering when I'm going to finish their pillows, skirts, tote bags etc. etc. etc.…………… Sewing for friends and family has way too much drama attached.

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  21. I would be interested in how people finish things. I have UFOs older than most of your readers.

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  22. You need to adopt a new rule for yourself once these projects are finished: no more sewing for others*. It clearly doesn't bring you any pleasure, so why ruin the fun of sewing? That's my philosophy.

    *except for Cathy

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  23. HOLY CATS! Those leopard pants will be AMAZING.

    I flit and flutter from project to project, leaving UFOs in my wake. I'll get back to 'em eventually! Just work on where your heart sends you. Those "others" who are the beneficiaries of your benevolent sewing will be glad to see their gifts whenEVER you get around to it. Always keep 'em guessing!

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  24. Damn, not just a frump, but a COMMON frump. Ouch.

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  25. Oh yes, I have been there. Don't like that place a lot, I have to admit. The way I handle is is that I just give myself a kick in the butt, and forbid myself to work on something else (something I do want to work on) until I finished the item that I think I SHOULD work on. And then I promise myself that as a reward I don't have to sew anything I don't want to for a long while afterwards. But first I have to finish those other things. If even only for the clearing of my head. Somehow, when I have all those kind of unfinished objects lying around somewhere in the studio or house, that makes me feel messy and unorganized in my head too. And I don't like that feeling. It prevents the creative juices from flowing, I feel. So. I'd say: Kick yourself in the butt and finish those things you think you should finish, or else just throw them out. Don't let them mess up your mind and space. It's a waist of energy and space in that gorgeous creative mind of yours.

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  26. I feel ya. I hadn't sewn in so long (other than an ugly muslin collared shirt for my school project) and then when I finally get to sew, I had to sew Xmas presents for my family. I had to make my sister a cardigan/wrap, my dad a hawaiian style shirt, my niece a pair of pjs and matching doll clothes, my other sister a pair of pjs that match her daughter's, and I have to make my mom a hand-bound daily planner. Basically, I have to get done before Xmas, so that's my motivation. Set a goal for yourself. If its really that important to finish, you'll get it done.

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  27. I put the total kibosh on sewing, knitting, beading, making-up, reupholstering, drawing, drafting, painting, origami-ing, or otherwise crafting for anybody else. Took a bit of psyching myself up, but I decided enough was enough and I announced to all my friends and family that the Ms. May sweatshop was CLOSED. No more projects for anyone but ME. And it's been the most liberating thing I've ever done. Took me 30+ years to figure it out, but the sound of the word "no" is so amazingly beautiful sometimes. I still actually do craft for others, but only as a surprise and only if it excites me. Otherwise, selfishness in creating has been my greatest gift to myself. I highly recommend it.

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  28. I empathize with the Selfish Seamstress and try never to sew for others or I get what you have there, UFOs So, what am I about to embark on ? A wedding dress for my dd.

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  29. Oh, and I love the leopard fabric!

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  30. If you just get started on one of them, you'd be surprised how quickly you would complete them.

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  31. I don't want to sew anything for anyone else, ever again. I promised a shirt to my partner in september and still haven't started it. That coat pattern is so beautiful, I came back a second time to look at it.

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  32. Well, I do think you've waited too long to get started.

    But my cure for doing projects I don't enjoy? I fit them in between other projects I want to do.

    So, You're not allowed to cut out your pants until the handbags and dog coats are cut. Then continue to budget yourself in this way so that the dreadful projects are done just before your pants are.

    I love doing this because lots of things I didn't want to do get done and then I have ONE thing of my own completed too. I often put my own stuff off to do other people's work....so it's MY wardrobe that suffers most.

    If nothing else, it makes me look like a very selfless sewer because everybody's alterations are done for the whole family, and only THEN did I work on my wardrobe!!

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  33. Ha! No, the YSL! That's the kind of coat that would get me sewing coats again.

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  34. I have rules - ONLY one project at a time, and at least 10 minutes/day of work on it. And not sewing for other people. You push through the boring projects eventually. The question to ask yourself is not "can I sew that?" but "will I sew that?". Be honest with yourself and others and don't pick up projects that don't excite you...but I bet you knew that last bit already!

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  35. Age old problem. I collect vintage patterns and still find patterns and transfers from the early 1900s that haven't been opened. Someone once explained to me that it was the artistic temperment: you see the thing you want to make in your mind's eye, but the thing itself doesn't live up to your ideal, so you lose enthusiasm. OK, but, I also think it's that we appreciate what we make much more than the person for whom we're sewing, partly because it's fulfilled our artistic vision. I agree: buy gifts, save the python for a sewing machine cover or doggie bed, and do something you enjoy!
    Heather

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  36. Put on the music (I like the sound track from Priscilla, but you may have more refined tastes), set the kitchen timer, and do half an hour of it. I do all my chores this way - at the end of half an hour, if I'm in the zone, I can keep going, and if not, well, I'm half an hour down the track. Then do something fun.

    Finish the skirt. You can buy the rest. Unfinished stuff like that is like having someone waving their fingers up and down in front of your left eye. It interferes with your Chi and is also b***dy annoying.

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  37. I tend to enjoy the process of creation- designing, fabrics, cutting, sewing, tweaking, everything.

    Those are the sort of projects I could do in my sleep and so are unrewarding for me. So I focus on all the accolades I'll receive, how happy my mom will be, how cute my niece will look in the little dress I know her mother will never press.

    It's hard work around Christmas. Sometimes I just give in and buy a present.

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  38. Who one earth can think about sewing tote bags when there is a lad clad in leopard pants to ogle and 'Mildred Pierce' to watch?
    ps I have plenty of unfinished sewing projects squirreled around my house...like 3 pairs of curtains, cut, but not completed; a cushion for an outdoor bench and one or two kids' outfits that wouldn't fit my daughters any more so why bother...
    pps. Have you seen the film 'The Leopard'? Ignore the fact that Burt Lancaster is dubbed into Italian and take note of the fabulous costumes (1860s)instead!

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  39. I think it is because we basically sew for the fun of it. We don't have to sew; we want to sew. Well, if you don't want to sew something that doesn't inspire you, it is hard to flog yourself onward. I do think that we sometimes lose interest or motivation mid project, and that can be because we didn't count the cost of doing the project, so to speak. It is unbearably boring, or requires more knowledge than we have, or we lose patience because we also run out of time.

    I think the python tote bags sound cool, though. And it wouldn't take much time to do them.

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  40. I'm afraid there isn't a magic formula. Just do it. I made a grand total of five pairs of jammies last week--two adult male, one toddler little boy (they button together with a grand total of 17 buttons... revenge on my sister because it will be hard to convince Jeron to wear anything else!), one infant little girl and one toddler little girl. Part of it is the fact that I have a Saturday deadline. Heck, I made a pair of PJs from start to finish yesterday. I have a turtle, a dolly coat, and one pair of jammies left. Compared to last week, it's gravy!

    I have, however, found that if you get started, it's easier. It's a discipline thing, I guess. I usually don't allow myself to start something new unless whatever I was working on before is finished. It sure cuts down on the unfinished project pile! And I find that I can get an extraordinary amount of sewing done if I just make myself start. I've sewed together entire quilts from start to finish (Queen size, no less) in a week before, and that includes the quilting and binding. And it was because I knew I had a deadline so I made myself start working.

    Chop chop! Get going, Peter! My sewn-through fingers are aching in sympathy for your list and I go to start on my (thankfully) smaller one.

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  41. I suppose the trick is to be careful what you promise? And if you have to, then just make yourself finish the project. Hide all the fun stuff and force yourself to get 'er done. I'm plowing through a gift shirt and it's so tempting to push it aside for more fun projects! That doesn't really help you too much. At this (late) point, decide if you're going for it or not. And if yes, then turn off the distractions and get to it! It's the sewing equivalent of homework, isn't it? Good luck!! Think of the leopard pants as a treat for getting through the obligational sewing :)

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  42. well IMO Couturearts summed it up perfectly.
    But, we all get suckered in to offering our talents then wonder why we did it when we'd much rather be sewing our own stuff!
    are we silly or what?
    My solution to motivate myself to finish these things is to give myself a reward when I've done my 'duty' sewing, to remind myself that I've done a favour for a friend & it was worth doing.
    Something worthwhile too, to really make sure I finish it.
    Then I make a mental note to self never to bloody offer my services again! ( it never works tho, a few yrs later I forget & do it all again.)
    And if you do have a moment of insanity, try to minimise the impact on your personal sewing time by not going for grandiose projects like wedding dresses etc.... easier said than done.
    (ask me how I know that!)
    I know I'd much rather see you sewing the leopard pants too, I want to see them finished!

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  43. Please keep sewing the boring stuff for others and postpone the leopard pants.

    But keep talking about the leopard pants and posting THAT image..

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  44. I feel so reassured after reading the post and all the comments! I offered to make a table runner for my sister, and last year only ended up giving her the fabric and pattern -- now a year later I just started it last night! I think I spend more time reading about sewing than actually sewing.

    My mom didn't start crafts until the house was all clean, and since my house is rarely, if ever, spotless, I always feel like I should clean first.

    I'm so glad I'm not alone!

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  45. part of the problem is that not everyone sews these days. If they did you would only be sewing for yourself. That said, you have taken on obligations willingly, and you must honor them. Do your best, pace yourself, and interweave some obligatory projects with things you want to do. Those totebags might make good birthday presents. As I did when younger, I think you bit off more than you could chew. New sewers sometime do that. right now I am recovering from exhaustion brought on by my christmas sewing, but then , I loved every minute of it.

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  46. I try to avoid that sort of sewing. I don't avoid it completely, perhaps, but I agree with Elaine May's approach. It's my hobby, for my enjoyment, and just because I *can* make it doesn't mean I will. :) I think it's important to honor the Sewing Mojo, or it might become elusive and then you wonder where it's gone.

    When it comes right down to it, would the MIL (or sister or mother) love the beautiful home made purse *that* much more than a lovely purchased one? :)

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  47. I, too, am excited about your animal print pants and this morning I ordered a similar print on velvet, no less, because I was so inspired by these daks (daks is colloquial Australian for pants - to dak someone is to pull down their pants - trakky daks are track pants etc). Although I live in the subtropics and although we are starting the hottest and most humid summer in a decade, as soon as my fabric arrives I will be clearing the decks to make my leopard spot velvet pants. I think that answers your question.

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  48. Sometimes everything that must be done in a project overwhelms me just looking at it. I have found that only focusing at the next step and telling myself to only do that helps. Like, this hemming will only take twenty minutes and then Ill be done. Suddenly I have worked for three hours and made a lot more.

    When leaving a project I write what to do next on a piece of paper and pin it to the fabric. Then I won't have to think so much before I start the next time.

    I'm not very sentimental when it comes to started projects. If I don't like it after some point, Ill throw it in the bin and forget I ever started it... fast!

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  49. Much depends on -why- you're sewing at all. If your goal is to have fun while perhaps supplementing your wardrobe, then the leopard pants are the obvious next step. If you are serious about sewing all your clothes (kind of silly in NY), it's clear that you'll get more use out of that corduroy jacket (I like it :-)). (Although it's clearly an example of killed by technical overkill, in what should have been a nice little project, with fusibles.) And there can definitely be satisfaction in getting a lot of wear out of good homemade basics. But forgive me if I suspect that you're more the leopard pants kind of guy.

    As to bags and skirts for mothers.. let me refer you to the selfish seamstress' many wise words on the topic. I'd definitely make sure that whatever project for someone else is both easy and fun (-leopard- skirt for Mom, hot pink fur coats for the dogs), or can be construed to be a muslin for yourself (or Cathy, who may need a homemade bag at some point). I'm afraid that the suit for Michael falls squarely into the too-much-trouble category, and I hope you can convey that gently, pointing out the many other ways in which you do express your love :-)..

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  50. I just hate the way people who don't sew presume it must be easy and you would be only too happy to whip up something for them.

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  51. Unfortunately, I usually strike a bargain with myself that I can start that new project as soon as I finish the one I'm bored with. It works, but there's gotta be a better way than trying to make bargains with myself. Lane

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  52. Marilyn's Rags said...

    I prefer to sew for myself. Why? Because I like my sewing better than they do and appreciate it more.


    This is the best thing I have heard all day. What a great, succinct, and true summary of the situation. It's true, nobody else likes what I've sewn as much as I do.

    That said, I did just make an outfit for my mom. But I was able to accomplish it in one day and she really will appreciate it. I chose the patterns and the fabric; sewing to order would be much worse. She, bless her heart, has absolutely no fashion sense--which is much worse than bad fashion sense--so I like to put her in decent clothes every once in a while.

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  53. I've been putting off sewing something for a family member for so long that when I finally started up on it again, in order to get it done, give it to her for Christmas, and start sewing fun stuff that I want, the machine broke in retaliation. Now I can't sew this darn thing for her, or anything for me.

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  54. Sarah, that's a great argument for owning more than one sewing machine! ;)

    Trena, isn't bad fashion sense worse than no fashion sense? Maybe there's a blog topic in this...

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  55. Conflicted sewing. I feel conflicted about the majority of my sewing projects. Most of what I sew is for someone else, obligation is what fuels me to get the project done. Completion of the project brings a feeling of satifaction. I have one proviso with each project. What sewing skill can I learn from this project that I don't already know? That is what I get out of it, it's enough for me.

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