Mission Failed: Surrendering Sewing Projects

There’s plenty of advice out there about how to proceed with just about any kind of sewing project. But what if you can’t or don’t want to  proceed? When your options have been exhausted or are not viable, you may find yourself with one choice: surrendering.

The first project I surrendered was a 1940s satin dress. The satin was slippery and hard to work with, even with the correct needles, pins, machine settings, and techniques. It snagged. It shifted around. I was fairly new to sewing at the time; easing in seams and sewing convex curves to concave curves were foreign notions to me. I was being overly ambitious and taking on a project that was way too difficult. That’s how I tend to be with sewing. Sometimes I end up taking a giant leap forward in skill, but other times it’s a bust and I end up enraged and discouraged! Anyway, I ended up throwing the half-finished project into a plastic bag and stuffing it in the back of my sewing cabinet. I might get it out again some day and try to finish it. It’s a really pretty dress and the fabric is a beautiful shade of cranberry red, so it seems like a shame to just leave it unfinished. At the same time, I don’t know if I’d ever wear the finished dress. I really don’t know what to do with it, so I’m ignoring it.

As of tonight, I have more failures to add to the pile. I’ve tried to make knit shirts for myself because I needed shirts to match the two pretty skirts I made and I really hate shopping around for ready-made clothes. The first shirt was a disaster. It was too big, even after cutting the pattern down until I reached the point that it was impossible to cut the shirt down more due to the collar placement. It was too loose in the sides and the collar slid all around my shoulders to the point of showing my breasts, even with the top of the shirt pinned to my bra straps. It was so horrible and wrestling with it made me miserable. Such a waste of fabric, money, and time!

My second attempt at a knit shirt with a different pattern is heading toward failure as well. This time, it’s not the pattern. The pattern seems fine, the fit seems a bit loose but tolerable, but something else is off. I suspect that the fabric isn’t ideal, even though it fits the pattern’s pick-a-knit rule. It’s a Simplicity pattern, so that’s probably half the problem right there!

While working on the shirt tonight, I realized that I totally despise working with knits. I’m tired of hacking up knit fabric, wrestling it into my grouchy piece-of-crap Singer, making stiff zig-zag hems with it, and picking little bits of iron-on paper stabilizer out of the seams with my stubby fingernails while my back and hands cramp up. It’s aggravating!

I dropped the project, went on a rage for several minutes, and stuffed everything — the fuchsia failure, the pink disaster, the unused blue knit fabric for the third shirt, the patterns, and the scraps — into a plastic bag and shoved it all the way to the back of my sewing cabinet, right next to the failed 1940s dress.

I’m through with knits. I hate them. I know what my abilities are, and working with knits isn’t on that list. I might be able to make them work if I get a serger, but right now, I’ve had enough. Some people can sew knit clothing easily, but I can’t. I’m learning the limits of my skills and tonight I’ve found a territory where I do not belong.

It’s good to try new things, learn new skills, and add more abilities to your list. You might discover a new talent. However, it’s also likely that you’ll discover something that you can’t do. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, but it does mean that you will have to accept the fact that there’s something you can’t do. Trust me, that’s hard for someone like me to accept. I get very frustrated and I put myself down when I find something that I can’t do. I have to force myself to get over it and move on.

It’s OK to say that you can’t do something. Go back to what you know and what you enjoy doing. It’s OK to abandon a project and to write off the loss in time, energy, and money. For me, the second part is the worst. I can make myself stop fussing over a project, but I will continue to be aggravated over the loss of resources. Right now, it’s killing me that I spent all that money on knit fabric and patterns and I can’t do anything with them. Even though I learned a few lessons, I still feel like it was a big waste. I paid way too much just to learn that I have no business working with knits.

I’m going back to working with wovens and good patterns, preferably reliable vintage ones!

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