There are so many things in life that seem difficult to us, yet other people do them with ease. I used to think you needed special talent to be successful but sometimes it’s just about being shown how to do something, someone taking the time and patience to lead you through the steps.
Many years ago, I did a lot of sewing. I was very ambitious and wanted to make quite difficult garments: complicated dresses, lined jackets, detailed skirts. You had to give me ten out of ten for enthusiasm and optimism. I bought the pattern, materials, notions, and stayed up into the early hours, keen to complete my current project. But I was always disappointed with the end result: the fit was never quite right, that seam where I rushed was uneven, that bit I should have restitched but convinced myself would be fine on the finished garment just wasn’t satisfactory. I rushed the process in a frenzy to get to the end but had nothing satisfying to show for it. The sewing machine got pushed to the back of the cupboard, my attention turned to other things.
Recently I read a book ‘Sew Your Own’ by John-Paul Flintoff. It’s not a book about sewing, it’s a philosophy on life, but in it he gets someone to teach him how to adjust clothes to fit. A little spark of interest in sewing was rekindled in me. I bought a dress from a charity shop. The neckline was too low so I got out my needle and thread and altered it. I was pleased with the result. The spark was growing into a flame. I bought a new sewing machine, the old one having been dumped during my house move. I bought a pattern and material and got sewing. Being older and slightly more patient, I took a bit more care, but I still wasn’t pleased with the fit. The skirt was a little too big and needed a belt to remedy this.
Then I came across a website (craftsy) which has online courses. I previewed one – making a couture dress. It was cheaper than a sewing class so I bought it and started watching whilst I waited for the accompanying pattern to arrive. I was really impressed by the slow, careful instruction so I bought another course which was on special offer – making a skirt. I didn’t want to buy the accompanying book so I took the pattern I already had and, using techniques learnt in the couture dress course, adapted it so it was similar to the one in the skirt course. I then, for the very first time in my life, made a toile – a mock-up of the garment which you adapt to the correct fit. I chose some funky fabric and contrasting waistband and lining to make the project more interesting. Feeling confident that the finished item would fit, I worked through the different stages, exercising patience and care because I knew it was worth taking my time.
The real strength of the course is that it shows you exactly what you need to do and how you should do it. The process is demystified – it doesn’t depend on inherent talent, it is down to skills and techniques that can be learned. Things are easy when you know how. For example, it taught me how to tie a knot in a length of cotton – something I thought I already knew but there is a fantastic, fool-proof technique that makes it so easy.
Another important lesson that I learned is that you need to savour each step. There are lots of tedious things that we have to do in life, but if you take your time with them, take pride in doing a good job and admire each small result, the experience is much more fulfilling. This is a lesson that can be applied to so many of the mundane chores that we have to do.
Anyway, here is the finished result.
I’m really proud of it, but I’m even more proud of what it represents: an ability to be patient and savour the moment.