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Jul 15, 2011

Sewing Ambition


Friends, are you ambitious?  With regard to sewing, I mean.

I think all of us want to keep learning more, and it's hard not learn if you take on lots of new projects.  The more you sew, the more you know, right?

I often ask myself what it is I most want to learn.  To be honest, I find the whole sewing thing a bit overwhelming: there's so much to know and it's not always clear to me how best to learn it.  Some people enroll in fashion school or take classes, others buy books, follow video tutorials, etc.  There's a lot out there.

It's frustrating when you want to do something and you don't really know how to do it, or the learning curve seems too steep -- like, for me, Michael's suit or that crinoline I never made a few months ago.

Then there's the sparkly fabric I showed you yesterday.  If I had more than the most elementary draping skills (I can figure out how to hang something off my very approximate-sized body form and that's about it), I would want to use draping methods to create something with it.  Should I just wing it or stick to a commercial pattern?



You know how they say, The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know?  It's so true!  I think it's important, then, to step back and appreciate the things you do know.  We're all works in progress after all.

For me, sewing has never been about dressing the family on a budget, or finally having clothes that fit me, or becoming the next ___________.  It's been mainly about fun and discovery and experimentation.  That's just the way I am.

Readers, how about you?  Do you harbor sewing ambitions and if so, what are they?

Do you hope to design for others some day, perhaps create your own fashion line?  Do you dream of finally making a perfectly tailored jacket that's as good as anything you'd find in a department store?  Or is your secret fantasy to costume the entire cast of Dancing With the Stars?


What you need to learn to get there, and how are you going to learn it?

(Is it time we all made sewing dream boards? I'm serious!)


Jump in!

34 comments:

  1. It's OK to have multiple goals, isn't it? Good fit, appreciation of others' talents & skills, dissection of clothes admired elsewhere, enhancement of creative talent, gift giving capacity, skills to aid those who need temporary modification of clothing, costuming vision? Fabric thrills, engineering challenges, geometric education in moving two dimensions to three, industrial education in fabric design & production, management of work space, operation of machines, and of course, manipulation of sharp instruments (scissors 101)! Storage of stash, management of inventory, whimsy, creation of toys & playing with color... Kristina in Ohio

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  2. Ohhh a sewing dream board!!! I am just happy when I can sew a straight line and make something relatively wearable. I have fun in the creating of it and knowing I "made it myself". Sure I wish I had tons of talent for sewing, but truly I am happy just to know the things I do about sewing. I met a girl the other day who did not know how to sew a button on. At least I am one step ahead of her.

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  3. I think my ambition changes from day to day (or minute to minute). Fundamentally I want to be able to conceive a design/style/idea in my head and be able to execute it. I've also discovered I like having a primarily me-made wardrobe, mostly because it's just that little bit more exciting to get dressed in the morning when it's something I've made. I also love the idea of producing unique, perfectly fitting items for others, although it's not quite as fun in the actual execution... ;) Which of these ambitions is dominant seems to vary from minute to minute, never mind day to day. :)

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  4. I enjoy the simple sense of accomplishment that comes with making something.

    As a beginner, I have modest sewing ambitions. I enjoy having clothes that aren't the same old stuff everyone in town got from Target, Kohl's or Dillards. I am THRILLED if I wear one of my simple garments in public, and get a compliment.

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  5. Right now sewing for me is happiness in creating something from a pile of fabric and notions. Dressing myself and my children in fun, original (and age appropriate) clothing. I do have long term ambitions: learning how to draft patterns and draping techniques. When the four rugrats aren't so small, I'd love to start taking classes. But for now, I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. Every project is definitely a learning experience. I just completed a swimsuit for myself!

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  6. I read a couple of sewing blogs where the writers are Obsessed with fit [you people know who you are] and I just can't get that stressed over that kind of need for perfection. I mean, I definitely like my clothes to fit me, but close enough is good enough some days. After all, it's just fabric and a dream, isn't it? But I've taken on some crazy-difficult patterns at times, because I loved the outfit and just Wanted To Have It. For me, I like to sew because it gives both sides of my brain a workout--I like facing the challenges, and sometimes that's more important than the finished piece. If you're feeling drapey with your sparkle fabric, go for it. If Cathy doesn't already have a dress form [not necessarily anything fancy or expensive, a duct-tape model will work fine) it can help to drape on a form instead of a live body. As for a dream board, I keep an inspiration board in my sewing room with photos of RTW garments that I admire but am Not paying retail for, ever. Drape and dream baby, drape and dream.

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  7. I *was* ambitious, as far as knowledge goes - sponging up everything I could get my hands (and brain) on and wanting more. I'm not saying that I know everything now; I don't, and I'm still learning and always will be (I like that about sewing). But I'm much more complacent in the acquisition of knowledge since I can now make pretty much anything I want to wear and have it fit. Sure, I still make mistakes, but I think that's how I do a lot of my learning these days instead of poring over each and every page in a sewing book or magazine.

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  8. I dream of a wardrobe of clothes that I made which has a mid century vibe to it. And that fit over my stoopid chest. I'm learning by doing, reading and asking a helluva LOT of questions to anyone who might answer them!

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  9. I sew because I "get into the zone" so quickly while I am doing it. My son plays basketball for the same reason! I learn all the techniques I need as I go and I like wearing what I have made. I also find it much easier to sew what I imagine for myself than to go out and slog round the shops searching through the racks, getting dressed and undressed in changing rooms, looking for things that suit my colouring, shape, lifestyle, taste, getting shocked at how downright UGLY some styles/mirrors make you (or is it just me?) look. And you know that shopping phenomenon - when you've got money you can't find anything you like, when you haven't got money, you find it but can't afford it? That also went away when I started sewing. I don't have any particular "ambitions", but I also don't have any fears about techniques anymore. I know that if I do it a few times, I'll get it right eventually. It's not brain surgery. Sewing is soothing - ambitions I find a bit stressy.

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  10. I started sewing for myself because I couldn't find any goth/punk clothes that fit me as an adult. I mean, I wasn't asking for perfection but skirts with an actual waistband and pants that nipped in at the waist didn't seem like an unreasonable demand. Not to mention that subcultural clothes are often made poorly and unfinished inside.

    I've put some of my original ambitions aside because I'm acquiring new skills and sometimes that means focusing on making something even if it isn't my particular style. However, I still have the same style aesthetic and I still know what I want even if I'm not quite there yet.

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  11. I'm fairly new to sewing and it's really so I can make unique original clothes. I've never really been one to follow the crowd when it comes to 'fashion' and like to wear clothes that no one else has. That doesn't mean I like to stand out in some crazy costume or outfit. But it's nice to receive a compliment because what you're wearing looks good and is something that isn't seen on everyone else.

    I also enjoy the process of creating something, and, as you point out, the more we know the more we realise how little we actually know. So, learning new skills is also what attracts me to sewing.

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  12. Oh wow!!! If I didn't like such variety in EVERYthing my ambition might be more focused and I might be further ahead but I want to dabble in everything. One thing that has not faded is my love of sewing and every aspect of it and at least now I can do simple draping and make a garment that I'll wear...SO much more fun than cutting out a pattern.(My least favorite thing to do).

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  13. When I started sewing, my goal was simple and pretty modest: make pants that fit.

    Now, my goals are less modest: I want a closet full of beautiful dresses that fit me impeccably. And a few coats and jackets that are statement pieces. LOL. A girl can dream, right?

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  14. My goals are fairly humble. I want to sew as many of my own clothes as possible, and not have them look terrible. For me, it's about fabric that I could never afford in RTW.

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  15. I suppose I'm an ambitious sewist, because I set the bar a little bit higher with each new project - I'm still learning & I hope I never stop learning!

    My end goal is to have clothes that fit in styles that are fun & unique & luscious fabric that I love to feel up. No way can I afford that in RTW!

    But mostly, I love the process - I appreciate the comment about using both sides of the brain. I'm old enough that I can view mistakes as just part of the process, and pay attention to what I can learn from them (which may have nothing whatsoever to do with sewing)

    Sewing is joyful, rewarding, challenging, creative...and a very good teacher of lessons in life - my ambition is to keep it that way!

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  16. I am actually trying draping right now for a dress design that's all in my head...no pattern--Eek! I know very little about, can find very few internet references, and can't afford the books that would probably help me out. I feel like I am a process sewer: there always has to be something new or challenging in a pattern or I won't try it (probably why I haven't pajama pants in a good long while). Plus, sewing is my way of being creative...and it's a productive outlet! Hooray! =)

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  17. There is so much I still want to learn. Mostly at the moment on want to find the nerve to start my bombshell dress and some jeans. I would love to sell children's clothing one day as well. I made my dd an heirloom quality/style gown for Easter this year which was huge for me. Strangly I also find that I'm bolder style wise sewing then I am when I shopping.

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  18. I want a wardrobe of pretty, comfortable clothes. But I work in the garden and take care of a handicapped child who is rather on the messy side, so I settle for clean and mended.

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  19. My sewing ambition?... so many, where to begin... to get my skills back to where they use to be as I re-discover the joy of sewing and to make myself a winter coat that is warm, fits well, and different than the ready-to-wear coats you find in the stores. I have the 4 metres of wool for the coat already, and my eye on a vintage vogue coat pattern, I'm just searching for the right coat lining and then I'm ready to tackle the project.

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  20. When I started, my goals were simple: skating costumes! I wanted to make the best skating costumes I had ever worn, and so far, I have been! For some reason, the fit I get when I make my own costumes has been so much better than when others fit me, despite them being professional seamstresses.

    Having accomplished that goal I moved on to wanting to make Halloween type costumes - but really stunning ones. However, while playing around with that idea, I realized how much I didn't know about fitting and technique that didn't involve lycra. So from there my goals evolved to learning about technique and fit.

    Now... I want to make everything! I have been changing size a lot the past few years, so my wardrobe is becoming increasingly insufficient, but now I want to sew replacement clothes instead of buying them. Sadly, I can't sew quite fast enough to keep up with that goal, but I am trying to minimize clothing purchases as much as possible. So far I have had to purchase a suit (I needed it on a deadline, no time to make one), a few button up shirts, and jeans. Other than that... I try to make it myself.

    My next immediate goal: get a serger and learn how to use it.

    Long term goals: Eventually I would really love to have a mostly me-made wardrobe (not for many years, I am sure, but eventually), I want to make several stunning jackets and coats because I love them but would never pay for them in the past, and I would love to go back to my other goal of making gorgeous costumes. And, of course, I want to continue making fabulous skating costumes. At the heart of the matter, it really always was about the shiny sequins and rhinestones.

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  21. I want to make clothes that express who I am. I sew like me, I blog like me. No other ambitions.

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  22. Wing it - I'm a great believer in jumping in the deep end and learning that way! Find the grainline, stick the fabric to the your dummy with pins, and start making folds in the fabric! You might make mistakes and need more fabric, but that is learning in my opinion.

    Mmm... I used to be ambitious, not sure what happened there - now I'm just happy to make things. Or at least start to make them!

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  23. Hey Peter, and everyone! On the sewing front, I want to learn pattern making and some couture sewing techniques. I am a "reading" learner, so I will buy books on the subjects and learn that way. I am also going to take an online course soon (Gertie's Bombshell Dress).

    I sew mainly for myself, and have no desire to become "someone" in the fashion world.

    I am completely self taught, and I believe that anyone with the desire to learn how to sew can do it. My entire website is dedicated to teaching beginner sewing methods.

    I am also very interested in mixed media art and doll making. Some day hoping to be published in both of these fun areas.

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  24. I am always astounded that sewists can take a flat piece of cloth, and turn it into something three dimensional. I mean, how cool is that? Sewing is a huge creative outlet for me, and my ambitions involving it are just for anyone who does see my finished pieces to enjoy them, for whatever reason pleases them. I am not obsessed about fit, but I love to keep learning new techniques, to see what sticks with me. I know I hate tailoring! And I know this, because I made a tailored jacket and was miserable the entire time I worked on it! If there isn't joy in the process, why bother? the only person you need to please is yourself. I think all sewers have a can-do attitude, no matter the skill level they are at; I find it just as rewarding talking to newbies as highly skilled sewers. I love seeing other people's projects as well. Guess that's why I lurk on the Burda site, and here also, so much! There is so much talent out there, in so many differnt areas of sewing, I don't want to miss anything exciting!

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  25. When I was lots younger and really sewing a lot I dreamed about attending fashion institutes. I settled for lots of area classes,every book I could find(no computers or internet then)and a couple of learning sessions where I shadowed a wonderful seamstress as she sewed a man's western shirt. She was also wonderful if I had a specific sewing question on a technique I couldn't seem to do. I wonder if the fashion schools there offer any auditing or short classes for those not wanting a degree-just a thought. I find it is good to learn things on your own but it is also good to learn from master teachers on specific techniques. mssewcrazy

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  26. I have a problem solving personality. The challenge of deciphering whatever puzzle in as many ways as you can and still come out on top is a great release for me.

    I also have a compulsion to make. Anything, really. Baking, art, sewing. I can't not have a project going in my day. I feel empty if I do.

    I guess that's one draw to sewing, the making part, but I'd say I'm ambitious on construction. Not immaculate fit per se but good sound construction that can last a lifetime. That involves taking the long road on things, hand sewing when needed, ironing as you go, mockups of patterns. No shortcuts!

    I've always believed it's not the destination it's the journey.

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  27. My wife describes me as a 'process' oriented hobbyist as opposed to a 'product' oriented one. That is, I'm interested in learning the technique and I not much interested in doing it over and over again to produce an object. As long as I know that I'm capable of doing it, I don't have to do it.

    So, I approach sewing like I approach many other things: I see something that I would like to know how to do, I learn how to do it, I practice it until I feel that I have it figured out, and then I file the knowledge away. I've made many, many muslins, often just practice pieces like a cuff made of scraps or five sleeve plackets on the same sleeve edge, but only one actual shirt for myself so far. But man, if I actually needed to make a shirt, I could sure whip one out...

    So, as far as aspirations go, I'd still like to figure a few things out: how to modify armscyes, what angle to set a sleeve at so that it gives decent freedom of movement, and how to make a good zippered welt pocket, among others. I'll probably only actually make an item of clothing once in a while, after I've amassed a large set of skills that I can apply all at once to a single thing.

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  28. Interesting question, Peter. Interesting discussion, too!
    I love a challenge - and I am tantalized by excellence.
    Life would be tragic if one were forced to stop at the point of adequacy.

    Have you thought about taking a class? Come down to Baltimore and sign up for a draping class, or couture boot camp. I think you'd love it! And I think you are very talented and have accomplished a lot in a short time. You are uniquely yourself, which is the most important thing for any of us. I would really like to learn about draping, too.

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  29. I started sewing when I was a teenager because I knew what I wanted, and I couldn't find it in the shops. I didn't think much of the available patterns, either! Also, I had a very limited budget and I preferred spending my money on fabric, rather than patterns. Because I was a teenager, I didn't worry about boring things like draping or patternmaking. I had a shift dress pattern and a collar shirt pattern that I used like blocks, although I'd never heard of blocks. I just made stuff! Many wadders of course. That's why my mother cried when I told her I was making my wedding dress. As I became older and less sure that I knew everything, I started using commercial patterns but I still love taking a risk and just making something. The black spangle fabric looks like a good candidate for some high-risk sewing. Visualise what you want, cut it out and sew it up. What's the worst thing that could happen?

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  30. I'm motivated by the product, definitely. I enjoy sewing, but if I had the money I would probably pay someone else to sew for me. My relaxing 'process' hobby is knitting. My dream is to be able to sew any garment I want and be reasonably sure it will turn out well.

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  31. I've worn vintage clothes since my late teens but I always have had to alter things as I had a large bust to a small waist. Now vintage clothes in my size are harder to come by so now I'm sewing from vintage patterns & always try to use vintage fabric or as near to that. My ultimate ambition is to make a 1950s hawaiian style halter dress with boning and shirred back, I know it doesn't sound too hard but I do have a disproportionate bust size so for me I think it's going to be a challenge!

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  32. Sometimes it's good to be one of the last persons to post. I've loved reading everyone else's response to this post. As one of the men who follow this blog, I've come to sewing from a slightly different angle. There has always been either an apartment or home that needed curtains and furniture. With the help of some Sunset Books and a hand-me-down Singer 301 I learned how to make drapes, slipcovers and how to upholster. As a result I've always managed to live in an environment that looks more affluent than the flea market cheapskate that I am. The apparel switched got turned on when I accidentally stumbled upon some Japanese sewing books on Ebay. Something just clicked and started the whole snowball rolling. My "ambition" is simply to make great fitting clothes that I love to wear. I struggle over the details in an attempt to make something better than I could ever afford. What I love, what propels me from project to project is that I get to choose it all: the color, the fabric, the style, the buttons. I AM my own luxury brand!

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  33. For myself, sewing is definitely not all about the end product. I love the sight of bolts of fabric and cutting equipment, pattern paper and pins, a photo of a vintage sewing workroom sends me into raptures of delight.Does anyone have 'SEWING ENVY'? you know, when everyone else's sewing is better than yours.

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  34. I have an "inspiration book" that is a loose-leaf notebook filled with instructions for craft, knitting and sewing projects, pages torn from magazines and catalogs, sketches I've made, measurements of garments I took into the fitting room to "knock off!!!!" and lots of other great stuff. I go through it frequently to remind myself....sometimes I even follow through.

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