“Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair...”

My slow progress in the world of pattern making and other things...

Friday, September 12, 2014






Today is freezing cold and it's not even the middle of September! I am having a hard time getting anything really done today because I really just want to curl up on the couch with my sleepy cat and read all afternoon drinking nothing but homemade lattes. Do you ever find it hard to work when it's a chilly day? I think I equally find it hard to work on warmer days because I would rather be outside playing. Or maybe I just hate working and find excuses not to work?!! In any case, our new sweet cat has been an ongoing distraction, although a VERY pleasant one. Even when he is sleeping most of the day, I find myself just staring at him while rubbing his fluffy belly and holding his little paws. I can't stop kissing him! I know he is just a cat, but I love him so much! I already cannot imagine my world without my little feline friend.

I have been thinking of my fall collection lately, though my mind is split between sewing clothing collections and getting my sewing patterns ready for sale. I will admit to you that the sewing patterns have been on a bit of a hiatus since before the summer. The one thing that really has me stumped more than anything is writing out the sewing instructions. I almost never use instructions when I sew, so it's really hard for me to think up the right words so that others can make sense of my patterns. Whenever I use a new pattern, I scan through the directions, mostly just making sure I know where the pattern pieces should go and then maybe review some of the more trickier parts. But otherwise I tend to figure it out as I go. Does anyone else do this or is it just me? When I'm attempting to write out directions, I really want to just SHOW YOU how I'm doing it, not try to figure out the correct words. Usually the part that is hard for me to explain are techniques I'm not even sure are "correct." Like when I want to sew a yoke into a shirt, I don't want the seams to show underneath (and also I want to save time) so I figure out a way to sew each seam, including shoulder seams, right sides together so when I turn it out, the seams are invisible both on the right side and wrong side. But sometimes the yoke is narrow enough that most people wouldn't bother with this and just serge the raw seams or even just turn the wrong side of the yoke under and then top stitch in place. Which is the right thing to do and which is the wrong? Do I even make sense? I am thinking I probably don't! I then feel like I should spend more time reading sewing manuals and the directions included with patterns more often just so I can figure out what is normal and what isn't! Also when I start to write directions part of me is like, I wonder if this person sewing this knows what I'm talking about or do I need to basically teach them "sewing 101" so they get it?

Another part that has been challenging with pattern making is when I make my own patterns, I don't take into account that others will be sewing it. So, let's say there is a particular seam that is 1/4" off at the armhole, but I know about this so I always trim it myself after I sew the seams together. When making patterns for others to sew, this means all those little things that are slightly off, I need to fix. Otherwise I can only imagine chaos when someone buys a pattern from me and notices an error. I would be horrified if I forgot to fix one of these errors before making any of my patterns available! I know it happens to the best, but it's still something I am a little bit paranoid about.

And then finally, there is the comparing of oneself to other talented people in the same line of work. I look at someone else's patterns and I think, "goodness, if only I could make mine as beautiful as theirs." And there is the initial, "why even bother?" when comparing myself to other way more successful and talented artists. But then I realize I am also talented, but in a different way. My patterns may not be as successful as theirs or I may not have as beautiful pictures or drawings in my patterns, but that does not mean I should just stop what I'm doing. People can still benefit from my contribution, though it's easy for me to think otherwise when comparing. I can only strive to better myself and my work and by always comparing myself with others, that will not make me a better person and it will not make my work any better. If anything, it will just prevent me from making and doing what I love.

What about you? Do you ever compare yourself with others in your line of work, and does that in turn discourage you from doing what you are passionate about? Or do you find that by comparing, you are able to put yourself at a higher standard and create better work as a result?


P.S. On a totally unrelated note, I just started a new book series that I had never heard about until binge watching the first few episodes of Outlander. You could say I am hooked, but that would be an understatement (I finished the first book within a week and it was almost 900 pages)! Although I feel I should preface by saying, this book is not for everyone. It's not only huge (there are like 8 books so far, all somewhere in the 800-900 page range) but some of the content I know there are those who might not appreciate. Just saying, to each their own. I happen to love it, though!

7 comments :

  1. Anna, I would love to buy sewing patterns from you, please don't stop working on them :) I don't think there is a right or wrong way to do things. I usually learn something new with every pattern I sew or knit and I appreciate broadening my skills that way.
    And yes, as a photographer when I go on Facebook and Pinterest there is a moment every day that I think 'why do I bother? Clearly everyone else is so much better at this than me'. But, I can't stop doing what I love and I think we have to strive to take that 'jealousy' as motivation instead of letting it put us down.
    Your cat is so adorable! When we got our two I would spend hours just cuddling them while they slept too :)
    Yay, you're reading Outlander! I discovered the series a few weeks ago and I'm totally hooked, read through the first two books within days, I was so absorbed in the story that I coulnd't do anything but read. I am now on book 5 and love it that there's still so many more to come. The characters are so real and complex, a great series. I would wish you fun reading it but I wouldn't really describe it as fun myself, more like an immersion in a different world with all the heartbreak attached ;)
    Sorry for the super long comment, but your post really resonated with me!

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  2. It's so tough to not be a perfectionist with the things we make... but as I'm learning more and more if you don't point out the mistakes most people won't notice! I think I've (mostly) conditioned myself not to compare myself with others, but instead to be amazed and happy that they are doing so well and then keep moving along my own path. If I were to always compare myself to them then I'd never get anything done. I've started listening and reading, while I work on a brand new project, to people who have walked the same route that I am trying to go along, and I've been encouraged by both their successes and their failures because I'm not alone in that situation. I understand why people only show their final, best product but it's nice to see that people muddle things up along the way, too.

    Do you have anyone that's a proficient technical writer in your circles? Maybe they can give you advice or look it over! When I was doing technical writing for work I would basically sit with my laptop open as I was doing whatever it was that needed to be done (in this case teaching others how to use specific software - I'd run through the process on my own) and every time I moved my hands or clicked on something I'd write it down in a really long bulleted list. After I was finished I printed the list, circled the instructions that should be grouped together and started forming sections. Then, I simplified the language, took screenshots, and sent it off to be edited. Then, I gave it a to a few people who knew the program, at least at a basic level, but would walk through the stuff step by step and tell me where something was confusing and I'd go back in and go through the process again. It took a long time but some of those manuals are still in use at a university today! It's pretty amazing!

    Anyways, I'd encourage you to either film yourself going through the process and then watching yourself and writing everything you do, farming out your instructions to a few testers who are competent seamstresses and seeing how they'd edit your instructions, or something like that to make the process comprehensive. Finally, you can use the original video that you made in the beginning with an overdub of verbal instructions and tips as a how-to for anyone who buys the pattern and is a visual learner!

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  3. I feel that way about knitting. I knitted a cardigan this summer and designed it myself but I didn't really write in a language that is understandable to anyone but me. It is written is a series of tables with dots, dashes and crosses...row by row so I know exactly what I did at each stage. I need to write it up and post it on raverly one of these days.

    Buy a sewing pattern like New Look and see how they write them up for hints. Some really good tips here from other people who have commented! Keep up the good work!

    As for motivation, I know what you mean. Now that I'm doing my teacher training and some master modules in Education, I feel like I have very little free time so when I do have free time, I tend to get distracted and lack motivation. I'm doing computer programming notes today and tomorrow, I want to SEW!!!

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  4. I look forward to your patterns. You have a unique feminine but simple style I have not yet seen in the world of indie patterns. I wonder if u can give out a password protected link to those who buy a pattern from you - a link to a video of you making the item. It would be really helpful for those of us who learn by watching - and it might be easier for you to explain how to make the item if you just talk to us as you go? I'm sure some written instructions would still be necessary, but maybe not to the normal degree? I would love, as I'm sure would many others, to be a pattern tester for you.

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  5. I have similar issues with writing knitting patterns. I have written a few for Ravelry and found that although the majority of people managed to understand my patterns completely (or winged it) there were always a few who needed me to explain in a different way.
    More recently I have been working from Japanese patterns which are nearly exclusively in diagrams. Even without knowing Japanese, I find them easier to follow than English patterns. Grids, diagrams and charts are so much closer to what you actually do whilst knitting and sewing. Ideally I would love to use Japanese style patterns with a few words in English.

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  6. My mom got the channel Outlanders is on specifically because she loves those books so much! She hasn't stopped talking about the show since a month before it even began.

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  7. Don't compare yourself, just make your beautiful things and march forward with them :) I Stopped doing that long ago, and perhaps maybe it is my age, but now I just make my things that I love and set them free on Etsy. Totally hooked on Outlander as well. The visuals are stunning, and it makes me want to go back to Scotland!! I got my oldest daughter daughter hooked on it. She lives in London, and when we Skype we talk about all the beautiful clothing and scenery.
    Your kitty is so beautiful and looks soooo soft, I can see why you can't stop cuddling him :)

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