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What with its being a bright, shiny new year full of promise, I’ve been indulging in one of my favorite pastimes: imagining bright, shiny new projects. My optimism is never higher than on January 1.

My mannequin, Ginger, and I put our heads (I mean, head) together planning great things for 2014.

My mannequin, Ginger, and I put our heads (I mean, head) together planning great things for 2014.

Uppermost in my mind is the short course Tailoring with Savile Row Tailors, which I’ll be taking January 14-24 at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. Could I learn more tailoring and do more challenging projects as a result? Could I finish the sportcoat I started for Jack back in 2004?

Yes and yes!

How about my serger? Over the years I have made several ill-fated attempts to use it. At present I am an expert in not serging.  Could 2014 be the year I not only learn to use but to love my serger?


Could 2014 be the year I really understand my best styles, fit, and silhouettes? Could I edit my patterns down to only those that work for my figure, taste, and lifestyle? Could I confidently match my stash fabrics to my patterns, transforming them into garments to create an ever more beautiful and functional wardrobe?

Yes, yes, and yes!

Perhaps I am getting carried away a little.  As I may have mentioned before, I have actually taken a test measuring my ability to imagine possibilities and scored high. That must explain why I like New Year’s Day so much: for me, it is a holiday about excitedly looking ahead.

And this excitement need not fade, like a New Year’s diet resolution, by the third week in January. With the right structures it can remain strong and productive.

This past year I learned a lot about what works for me and what doesn’t. What I learned will help me design my new projects to reduce frustration and markedly improve my chances of satisfaction and success.

Here’s what I noticed worked for me and what didn’t as I strove to get things sewn in 2013:

What Worked

  • Actually designing my sewing space.  Before, my sewing space existed by default, most devoted to storing too many things I was indecisive about. Designing my sewing space forced me to define what I wanted to accomplish.
  • Defining functions for my sewing space and assigning zones for them, which was easy and fun and worked miracles. I can hardly be torn away from my planning corner, where I now write all my posts.
  • Having the expectation that I’ll use experts as part of my project plans. I used to think of using experts like sewing teachers as a last resort, experiencing too much frustration and delays in the meantime. Now I better understand what frustrates me, and pay experts to help me over the rough spots.
  • Creatively and intentionally using sewing classes to capitalize on the teacher’s expertise, classmates’ interest and support, and deadlines to improve productivity. In my coat class I got the muslin of a second coat fitted and the pattern altered. While I didn’t finish the coat, I got help with the trickiest part.
  • Starting a blog forced me to be in action constantly to generate material.  Whatever confused, frustrated or even inspired me became opportunities for testing ideas, taking actions, producing results and evaluating them.  I think my old pie chart would show 80% planning 60% frustrated inaction, 20% planning and 20% action. Now I’d say I’m 20% planning and 80% action.
  • All that action, especially in the beginning, gave me invaluable feedback about what really worked and what really didn’t–for me. This past year I learned how I learn and work. Just as important, I am not apologizing for it. I’ll just look for people who can accommodate, even enjoy, my learning and work styles.

What Didn’t Work

Here’s what I jotted down in the “what didn’t work” list.

  • Buying clothes that need altering
  • Buying an online class on fitting and altering
  • Buying a DVD set on fitting and altering

The clothes bought last summer are still waiting to be altered. I’m guiltily ignoring the class. And I’ve watched the DVDs–that is, I’ve had the DVDs on while puttering–but have not really tried to understand and test the fitting principles.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned that my spatial abilities are only so-so. I assure you, this is not from lack of trying or from low self-esteem.  It’s an aptitude I don’t have in abundant supply, a situation common among writers.

If I learned one big thing in 2013, it’s that where I experience fairly consistent success–sewing and otherwise–is where my aptitudes are probably high. Where I frequently experience frustration, low aptitudes probably play a role.

It’s not enough to say, “I hereby resolve to finish Jack’s sportcoat!” or “I’m going to learn to serge or bust!” relying on Spartan self-discipline to power through the difficulties. Harnessing my abilities and desires and knowing my limitations, I can design processes to get things sewn to increase my enjoyment and success.

Ever pondering possibilities.

Ever pondering possibilities.