The Simple Steps to Start Sewing: Lesson 6 Develop a Pro Sewing Practice and Grow Your Skill Set
The Challenge in Learning Anything New
I know you might not know how to sew yet, after all, this series is called 6 Steps and Start Sewing. Heck - I’m even telling you to read this series before you even touch a machine. However, I think it is really important to cover what’s involved in the process of sewing, so that you can know what to expect as we wind down this series. Keep reading, this post will have a lot of helpful information for you if you are learn to sew on your own.
I have dreamed of learning how to do something new, took the course, bought the tools, but found myself in way over my head. This just happened to me recently when I took an online course on Pinterest. I bought a class, and thought cool!! All my questions are being answered! And the teacher made it look so easy and fast, I thought, great! In one week I will be up and running. And then found out as I got started that the exercises were going to take months.
Its not the teacher's fault, nor do I regret spending months on my Pinterest clean up. LOL, I’m still working on it. But the point is - unless you start, you have no idea what is really involved in the process of learning anything new. Nor, what questions will arise, and what to do when they show up. I get in trouble when I decide I really want to do something, and then when I reach the hard part- taking action on the information - I become discouraged when I don’t see myself working as fast and easy as it looks in the class.
Can you relate? What can we do to be more helpful? In this day and age, we can get information and classes so fast that we really aren’t factoring in how much time it takes to research the new information and apply it step by step. And when you you consider that college courses are a semester long, you realize that it takes time, and step by step action over a course of months, to really implement and master a new skill or idea.
Does this shed light on the whole online education phenomenon? I am a fan of it myself and use a lot of online education to help me in my business. But a monthly module for me realistically looks like a 3 to 4 month endeavor, no matter what the instructor says! However, this expert is presenting information that likely took years of practice and implementation to acquire mastery. In these courses, I think if THAT was really clear in the beginning, I would manage my expectations more realistically. AND if it was described how much time and practice I will need and what practice looks like, then I would probably have been more successful and not put myself under so much stress to try to learn something immediately.
This post is meant to tackle this problem of managing expectations. Being an educator, and online student of many curriculums I know I get stuck, and that you will get stuck at some point too. Its really natural and part of the learning process. But when it comes to sewing, the trouble comes when you get into the practice part of it and then get overwhelmed by how many steps you don’t know. Then you abandon the project, and when you don’t come back to it, sewing becomes a latent dream put on the back burner.
When I was in grad school, I worked with prolific professional and accomplished artists. They had built a capacity to not only teach at a demanding and prestigious institution, but had built their lives to be able to also support a demanding career as a professional artists. One of my teachers told me that you need to keep a record of where you are in the studio. You don’t know when you are able to come back to the project, you may not be able to sew until 5 days from now. But working this way will help you be able to pick up where you left off.
Each day will repeat, but if you keep a record for 15 days, you will have a diary of what you have learned, and where you need more information, research, and education. You will also be able to complete projects faster, because you will know exactly where you left off, and can return to the record to help you start up easily the next day, or week, when you return to your sewing.
A practice plan is also helpful
Last year, I created new way to work on my personal sewing project that I want to share with beginner and advanced sewists. Last year, I really struggled to find ways to fit everything I want to accomplish into my schedule. I research time management often, because when I was first working as an artist, I would only be productive if I knew I had a block of 6 hours to work on a creative project. That’s just not the way my life is set up anymore, and I realized I was losing months at a time by keeping that mentality. And as a teacher, I know that the key to student success is practice, but finding the time to practice is a very common hurdle.
During my weekend reading, I found a blog post by Christine Haynes and it really inspired me. She has a great blog to check out, and her post includes more suggestions for those of you building a creative practice. Last year I pretty much sewed for professional freelance and worked on a costume team. Other than a few weekend projects, I had to put my personal studio work on hold in order to focus on some really big goals. I was so burned out and needed to make some of my own personal work. I’m sure you can relate, when you try to find new time to sew into an already tight schedule, you can feel like its not going to happen. When I read about her process, I was compelled to try it. This was something that I could take action on, and I knew it would help me get back to my process of design, and I had a lot of patterns I wanted to develop and test. And now that I have done it a few times, I know that this process will work for all levels of sewing.
The Sewing Practice Process :
1. Pick out one project, or more if you are ambitious, that you really want to sew.
Gather your pattern, and material, and cut all of them out at once. For me, I would cut out 4 to 5 projects at a time because cutting requires me to clear my workspace and table, and I like to batch my tasks. I found that completing the cutting all at once was the key for me to knock out a lot of sewing projects that I just could not find time to complete.
2. Put them in project bins.
When I worked on a costume team, we made project bins to organize the project in one place. When the stitcher was ready to start on the project, he or she would have the garment pieces, thread, buttons, proper interfacing, and a sketch and be able to jump right into sewing. This project management technique really helped me in my own studio, so that no matter how busy I was and crunched on time, I could start right where I left off.
3. Have your machines and kit set up.
Having my conventional machine and my serger set up along with having all of my proper tools nearby really helped. I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but this cut down on my set up time. Sometimes finding everything and setting up takes 15 minutes and then there’s no time left for sewing.
4. Commit to 15 minutes a day.
What worked for me is to commit that at some point today, I was going to take a break and work on my project. I didn’t pick a particular time of the day to sew, but for some people who need to build routine, doing so can be very helpful.
And folks that's it! If you commit to regular practice, and being mindful of your learning process using the guidance and steps outlined in this week's post, you will be successful in your sewing and process of learning and growth in design.
Thanks for reading, and happy sewing!