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The goal.

The goal.

My test garment is underway. Here are the headlines:

  • Patch pockets have been lined and edgestitched to the fronts.

    Patch pockets sewn to the fronts.

    Patch pockets sewn to the fronts.

  • Fronts have been sewn to the back.
  • The under collar has been sewn to the neckline.
  • I sewed the darts and seams in the sleeve.  They’re ready to be sewn to the jacket.


What a puny list.

I always hope I can get more accomplished than I do.

It would help if I could rely on the instructions that came with the pattern.  But, no.

They make it sound so straightforward!

They make it sound so straightforward!

Sometimes they call for fussy hand sewing that doesn’t necessarily yield a better result.  Or they just say “Make buttonholes,” and you use whatever method you choose.

No, the 1930s instructions are of very little use.

I have built up a fund of knowledge from previous tailoring projects. I’ve got notes, photos, marked-up pages in books, sometimes sewn samples.

I need all these memory aids and detailed instructions because my spatial abilities are barely average, according to the results of the aptitude tests I took from the Johnson O’Connor folks.  I need all the help I can get.

Dexterity scores? Fantastic.

Spatial ability scores? Not great.

Convergent reasoning scores? Don’t ask.

This makes for some painfully long periods in the sewing domain and in sewing classes staring incomprehensibly at an illustration or instruction, struggling to follow reasoning that should be apparent.

Simple pictures, but not simple sewing!

Simple pictures, but not simple sewing!

Cutting lining the right size for a patch pocket? There was some obvious principle that was not sinking in. Humbling.

Finding the roll line on my lapel? (Most modern patterns have this drawn in on the pattern piece.) I got in the ball park but am not positive.  It’s a rather important thing to know in tailoring.  Annoying.

In this stage of my sewing career, I know some things really well and others not well at all.  My sewing is like my driving was as a 16-year-old when my dad was teaching me on a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle: smooth, then lurching, then killing the engine, then starting up again.

My bedtime reading last night was dipping into George Leonard’s book Mastery. Disregard the cheesy cover. This little book is a gem.  Leonard says that you have to practice diligently to attain new levels of competence, but also be willing to spend most of your time on the plateau.

Published about twenty years ago, Mastery is about the value of practice.

Published about twenty years ago, Mastery is about the value of practice.

On the plateau you may feel you’re not learning or making any progress. Still, you practice.

“Learning generally occurs in stages. A stage ends when the habitual system has been programmed to the new task, and the cognitive and effort systems have withdrawn. This means that you can perform the task without making a special effort to think of its separate parts. At this point, there’s an apparent spurt of learning. But this learning has been going on all along.

I hope he’s right.

I’ll see you out on the plateau.