Sewing is knowledge work.
Sewing involves a lot–a lot–of decisionmaking.
I thought this yesterday as I pondered interfacings for my coat. There’s only so much advice in sewing books and magazines that I can follow without further reflection. I still have to determine what I want to accomplish, test the advice, examine the result, and see if I like the effect.
I usually have to practice the new technique, too, to get it right.
This all takes time.
I thought this, too, yesterday–that testing and perfecting techniques take time–as I saw my ambitions for coat progress dwindle over the course of the day.
Of course, it also takes time to document my process–write notes and take photos–in order to blog about it.
On top of that, I’m a deliberative person. I even have the test results to prove it.
“Craftsmanship,” writes Matthew Crawford in his book Shop Class as Soul Craft, “means dwelling on a task for a long time and going deeply into it, because you want to get it right.”
That’s just what I did yesterday. I went deeply into making those lined pockets with the tabs and bound buttonholes.
I wanted to get them right. They’re the highlight of the coat. But even more, there’s something in me that exults in the process of getting the rightness.
The first pocket is pretty good, a solid “B.” It will look better after a final press and topstitching. I followed the directions; even improved on them.
The second pocket is better. I learned from doing the first one. The bound buttonhole is better.
And here’s something else that’s better about pocket 2: it has more dimensionality than pocket 1. It’s subtle but definitely there. Really.
Here, look at this.
With pocket 1, I sewed on the button very close to the mark indicated on the pattern tissue. And when I slid the button through the tab, that tab was pulled down and flattened. It looked like it was straining to do its job.
Looking at the pattern illustration closely, I saw curves in the pocket that distinguish the design.
But in following the pattern piece for placing the button, I’d destroyed the character of the nice curves.
I didn’t notice all this till I’d made pocket 2. I saw how, if I moved the button placement a good inch, I could preserve the curves, and create a dimensionality. The tab wouldn’t be flattened. It, too, would have a subtle, pleasing curve of its own. The button could secure it without having it in a stranglehold. Tab and button in happy coexistence.
Two of Edith’s sayings come to mind: “What do you want to accomplish?” and “Don’t take the pattern instructions literally.”
In sewing you’re constantly making judgments and decisions depending on what you want to accomplish. And the more you observe and understand, the more freedom you have, not just to do something right, but to achieve rightness.
And that is why sewing is knowledge work.