Monday, June 18, 2012

Mindful Sewing

I think I can sew now for real.  I've been machine sewing for around 10 years.  Sarah showed me how to use a machine and I pretty much taught myself after that, although my friend Robin recently showed me the better way to install a zipper.  I feel pretty confident using my machine and I'm good at making artsy craftsy stuff, but I've never felt confident about my ability to sew from patterns.

First, I've never really been sure if I'm doing it "right".  Second, it takes a kind of precision that is problematic for me.  Third, it takes time and space, two commodities often in short supply around here.

When people ask if I can sew on a machine, I have usually qualified it with how I'm self-taught and blah, blah, blah undermining myself all the way.  This is not a useful habit.  I'm working on changing it.

Enter Mama Art Week-end.  Robin's pattern making workshop gave me a greater understanding of how patterns work and how to use them.  I also learned to draft my own.  Then I decided to make some sun bonnets by drafting my own pattern.  To get the pattern just right, I made the bonnet over and over, adjusting the pattern and my technique each time.  I noticed that the bonnet came out much better if I cut carefully and pinned carefully.  I began to actually enjoy these processes that led me to a better finished product.

Historically, I pin minimally.  It's so fussy and irritating.  It takes so much time.  It takes away from my creative flow.  I have come around to more pinning over time because otherwise things just get messed up, but I've always resented it.  How annoying.  Let's get to the sewing part.  Guess what?  The pinning is the sewing part.  Who knew?  You did, probably, but I would never have believed you.  I had to learn it for myself.

While sewing bonnets yesterday, I realized I liked the pinning and fussing over getting my pattern pieces lined up just right.  Maybe it was partially the ownership of having made the pattern myself.  Maybe it was my greater understanding of how the pattern fit together that helped me to see how the pinning and fussing was an integral part of making the piece work.  

I also turned down the speed on my machine for the first time.  I usually have the thing cranked all the way up so I can get things done fast.  It also makes me feel cool to just zip through my seams.  Except.  Except my machine needs servicing and the tension and the feed dogs are a bit wonky turned way up, so going fast was resulting in a less even line.  Except getting the curves of the piece just right was almost impossible at top speed.

And not to get too Psych 101 on everyone, but I think there was something else going on in my rushing the process.  I think that I was building in excuses for when things didn't turn out just right.  And I think I was rushing the process because I wasn't confident in what I was doing and I wanted to get past that feeling as quickly as possible.  Sort of, "Let's just get this over with already."

This feels like a big realization to me.  Let this be my official endorsement of mindful sewing.

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