A disconsolate letter poured into the Getting Things Sewn headquarters this morning addressed to our advice columnist, Miss GTS.
Miss GTS says, “Compare and despair? Au contraire, ma chere!” (Miss GTS knows that the first “e” needs an accent grave.)
Dear Miss GTS,
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I should be excited to be in the Ready to Wear Fast year-long sewing challenge, but I’m depressed, and it’s only Day 4!
Over a thousand sewers have signed up, and some have already posted pictures of their first finished garments on the Facebook page!
Meanwhile, all I’ve done so far is give up on a pattern that’s described as “so easy even the schoolgirl can make it.”
I had high hopes for making a sleeveless jacket from Pictorial 7318, but the 1930s pattern-drafting mystifies me and I don’t know whether the fault lies in the pattern or in my feeble understanding.
This jacket, a sleeveless version traced from the pattern illustration, looks contemporary.
I guess those schoolgirls in the 1930s all went to vocational schools in garment districts.
While I was folding up the pattern pieces and putting them away yesterday I was mad because I can’t count this project toward my total count, which I was planning to be awesomely awesome.
Are the pattern pieces fine or do they need to be fixed? The waist was marked a full three inches above my waist–that was definitely not right.
The one who sews the most garments wins, I’m already behind, and I’ll never make up the lost ground.
Miss GTS, what can I do? I’m miserable!
Sniffling in Columbus
It sounds like you’re suffering from a common malady called Compare and Despair. You are using a cheap, off-the-rack mental shortcut to compare your projects with other people’s projects rather than a tailor-made instrument to judge your results against your goals.
I could say “Just stop counting–right now!” but that would be as ineffectual as telling you not to think about a polar bear. Instead, I suggest that you radically change what you count.
The number of garments you make is much less important than how well you’ve planned those garments to work with each other. Leverage the power of capsules to create hundreds of outfits.
If you make 8 tops, 8 bottoms, and 8 jackets or cardigans that all go together, that’s 8 times 8 times 8, or 512 potential outfits. Is that impressive, or what?
And remember, zero is a number, too. How about aiming for:
Zero wardrobe orphans
Zero fabrics in unflattering colors or patterns
Zero patterns that don’t work for you
Zero Craftsy classes or sewing DVDs bought but never used
Zero unfinished projects
But even creative counting can get you only so far. The most valuable lessons, skills, and knowledge awaiting you are unquantifiable. If you are lacking in pattern-drafting knowledge see how you can achieve your goals within your current capacities.
Before you can be a practitioner, you have to practice.
Learn more patience. Practice using your serger.
Learn more diligence. Practice fitting a pants pattern.
Learn how to ask for help in more ways. Take advantage of being able to ask your Craftsy instructors questions.
Push yourself to work on your challenge edge–and be sure to give yourself credit for it.
Also, take breaks.
So for a vastly more interesting, productive–and fun!–year, drop the self-defeating game of Compare and Despair and design your own game of Dare and Declare. Dare to define what you want to accomplish, and declare, “This is what I’m doing–you’re welcome to join me!”
A tear-stained letter poured into Getting Things Sewn headquarters recently:
Dear Miss GTS,
The pace of my househunting has really picked up lately. I’ve been flying to Columbus and back so often, the flight attendants don’t ask me anymore whether I want the peanuts, the pretzels, or the cookies! That’s the good news.
Miss GTS says, “An UnFinished Object doesn’t have to be an UnFun Object!”
The bad news is the time has come to get cracking getting our house ready to sell. You know what that means: weeks of packing, cleaning, painting, and making everything pretty for prospective buyers. It also means not sewing.
You know that jacket I was working on, that I thought I’d finish this weekend? Ha! I’m stuck. I can’t do any more on it till Edith bails me out. Again.
I’m running out of time, Miss GTS. It looks like I’ve got to set this jacket project aside. You may be thinking. “Just go back to it when you’re ready. What’s the problem?”
The problem is when I put this project away it will become a UFO. I hate UFOs! I can feel them silently mocking me for my slowness and inefficiency.
It is so hard to build up the momentum to get my things sewn that when I have to stop, it’s like certain death for my project. And this project has such promise!
Miss GTS, how can I avoid consigning my jacket project to the world’s growing pile of UFOs?
Miserable in Minneapolis
Miss GTS sees three strategies in getting your jacket done:
using an expert
In her experience, despite its popularity, the bribe is the least likely to succeed. She’s read countless times in women’s magazines to reward yourself with chocolate, a manicure, or a bubble bath if you get some loathsome task done. Please. This shows a sad lack of ambition and imagination.
Also, it doesn’t work, at least not for Miss GTS, whose taste in bribes, which she prefers to call incentives, runs more to diamond bracelets. (In fact, after she answers your letter she is rewarding herself with two diamond bracelets.)
The threat is much more effective. Think of something you would want to do even less than tackle your loathsome task. Now, doesn’t the loathsome task look so much better?
If you’re having trouble thinking up something threatening enough, do what Miss GTS does: take three things you dislike and find the overlap.
For example, Miss GTS despises
singing telegrams, and
A perfect threat for her would be a surprise singing telegram from a clown. (In fact, if Miss GTS does not answer your letter by 4:00 today, JoJo the Singing Clown is going to surprise her with a singing telegram sometime in the next week.)
Go ahead, Miserable, try it. Find the overlap of three things you dislike intensely, and threaten yourself with it. See if your productivity doesn’t pick up! Feel free to borrow Miss GTS’s threat to try out– giving her the proper credit and link to her blog, of course.
Now, the last and most effective strategy is using an expert. The trick is finding that special person who has exactly the knowledge you need to help you get your project done.
In Miss GTS’s experience, finding a husband is usually easier than finding the right expert.
However, Miserable, you’re in luck. Because in this case, the expert is–you. You, even more than your sewing teacher, are an expert in this project.
what you feel uncertain doing, like checking the sleeve fit and ease in that muslin one more time, or drafting the lining
Have your questions for Edith’s visit, and make sure you understand all her answers. Take notes in OneNote and use the OneNote recording feature, too.
After Edith leaves, you’re going to sit down and write your future self–the one who will be finishing this jacket in your new sewing space–a letter.
The letter will tell your future self how to finish this UFO. Think of this UFO as a kit that will become a smart little jacket from a 1959 Vogue pattern. This will be the best kit you’ve ever received, let alone completed.
Read the pattern sheet. As you review each part of the construction and write that part of the letter to yourself, put the pattern pieces, fabric, thread, and other supplies into a box, ready to be unpacked and assembled like a piece of Ikea furniture. (Only better–because your instructions will be better.)
And while you’re at it, list those books, magazine articles, and notes that are going to help you through the buttonhole, lining, and other stages.
When you finish the letter, sign it, “Your friend.” Put it on top of the supplies in the box. Close the box.
Now go pack, clean and paint. Sell the house, move out, move into your new house, and set up your new sewing space.
Open up your kit for the jacket, and follow the instructions your friend–your earlier self–wrote to you. And if you never open that box, the kit will be ready for someone else to take up and complete.
But Miss GTS is betting that making your UFO into a kit is going to help you finish this project. Besides, don’t you want to see that jacket you’ve been dreaming about?
p.s. By the way, Miss GTS has given JoJo the Singing Clown your address. Just in case.
Miss GTS says, “Make yourself at home–thread my serger!”
This plaintive letter recently poured in to Getting Things Sewn:
Dear Miss GTS,
I’ve bought a serger–hooray! So I should be happy, right? But now I’m worried I might break the machine out of the box and actually use it.
Miss GTS, can you help me?
Concerned in Columbus, Ohio
Of course I can help. I’ve been an expert in not using my serger since 2007.
You’ve already taken the most important step: buying a serger. Good for you, Concerned. Miss GTS hopes it was a top-of-the-line model, the better for making your friends jealous. And also, why aspire to being an expert in not serging with a piece of junk?
Just follow these ten easy steps and you, too, can not serge for years to come.
1. Buy a very expensive serger (if you haven’t already), and plan to learn how to make those pretty edges on cloth napkins. Then recall that you don’t use cloth napkins, because
cloth napkins get stained
you hate laundering napkins
you hate ironing napkins
(And remember those napkin wedding presents? From both marriages?)
2. Store your serger in a dark corner. Cover it with fabric remnants you’re collecting to “practice” on. Bonus points for storing your machine in the original packaging.
3. Have a dealer that’s at least a 30-minute drive from home. Sixty minutes, even better. If the dealer is located in a chain fabric store with Muzak, you’re home free.
4. Assume that the manufacturer must have great instructions in the manual and online written by (or at least edited by) a native English speaker.
5. Take a class from the dealer to learn stitches for making “gifts” for your friends and grandchildren.
6. Take a “fear of serging” class at the annual sewing expo and make a very large, ugly cardigan.
7. Don’t go it alone, Concerned. Take local “fear of serging” classes. Swap stories with other timid serger owners about how horrible it is to thread your machine. The one who takes the longest to thread her machine wins!
8. Hang out with enthusiastic serger owners who boast about how many panties per hour they can produce.
9. Borrow serging books from the library that were published in the ’80s and browse the fashions. Lettuce edges! Seam finishes on the outside! Oversized decorated sweatshirts!
10. Attempt making a t-shirt without getting help. When it doesn’t turn out, give up.
If you faithfully follow these ten steps, you’ll be on the path to success to not using your serger.
Good luck, Concerned. I’ll be thinking of you.
(A copy of these tips suitable for framing is available for 25 cents for handling plus a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Just send your request to Getting Things Sewn, Basement Sewing Domain, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Allow four weeks for shipping. You’re welcome.)