|Cutting skirts in sewing class|
As adults, we have a couple things that we do well. For most of us, there's one thing we're trained or schooled in, and we do that daily for work. We may also have a hobby or sport that we play, and we've probably been doing it for some time — maybe even since we were tweens. So the opportunity to make mistakes doesn't come up all that often for many adults. We are out of practice at flubbing things up. We take it personally. We use the word "fail" as a noun.
And that's the biggest challenge I find in teaching adults — reminding them it's OK to make a mistake. Nobody will die if you sew the right side of your bodice to the wrong side of your skirt. There's more fabric. There's always more fabric. You need to break a few eggs to make an omelette.
But the kids. They are awesome at failing. They do it with such grace. They don't berate themselves or question whether they could ever be good at this. (And I don't need to tell them that I also make mistakes — though they do like to hear that).
Peter of Male Pattern Boldness recently ruminated on what it means to be a fashion designer — and whether those of us who sew for fun would ever use that term to describe ourselves (many home sewers are actually much more involved in the process of creating something original than many modern-day designers). Reading the comments on his post, it's clear that even those among us who have the skills and creativity to create whole outfits from scratch are wary of labeling ourselves "fashion designer." We reserve the term for those who have professional accreditation, their own section at Macy's and are know by a single surname.
A kid, meanwhile, has no qualms with staking their claim to a title. Paint a picture at preschool and you're an artist. Help dad with dinner, and you're a chef. Learn "uno, dos, tres" and you're telling your building's Super that you speak fluent Spanish. Ask my daughter whether she's a fashion designer and she would say yes:
She'll be six in the summer and already she's sewing on a machine. And, because she has kid-confidence, she's also designing. But she's not a prodigy or anything — and I'm not bragging. Rather, I'm showing you this to make it clear: designing is not all that hard. Even a kid can do it.
You draw a picture. You choose some fabric. You commission a patternmaker to draft a pattern for you (What? You don't have access to a patternmaker? So you use a commercial pattern that matches the design you had in mind. If you think about it, it's the same thing!). You sew it. You wear it — and you tell everyone you see that you made it. (Seriously, every person in our corner of the Bronx will know by Friday that my kid can sew. Talk about self-promotion. I could learn a thing or two from this kid.)
When we teach our kids (or someone else's children) how to do something new, we praise effort and tenacity just as much as achievement. In the face of frustration, we remind them gently that they are learning — and that every mistake is just part of the process.
So too should we be kind to ourselves: how would you talk to a child about the mistake he or she just made? Be at least as nice to yourself and you will enjoy sewing so much more. And give yourself the same credit you would extend to a child — if sewing were easy, everybody would do it and H&M wouldn't exist. It's not brain surgery, but it does take practice. So please, be proud of your sewing accomplishments — and call yourself whatever you want to!