I could never do that!

I'm sure many of the sewists reading this will have experienced this at some stage in their life, and it's not something I can ever quite understand. What I'm talking about is that moment when you tell somebody "I made this" and their first reaction is "Oh my goodness that is amazing" and the next thing they say is "I could never do that!"

I often get asked when and how I learned to sew, when I started to make my own clothes, and the truth is, mostly through trial and error. Like a LOT of error. I learned how to sew my watching and helping my Mum, who used to make a lot of curtains and sofa covers for our house, and learned to follow a pattern in textile classes at school. Even from the beginning of my sewing career I have preferred to make my own patterns rather than follow someone else's instructions (I blame this on the fact that the first pattern I made was a t-shirt that turned out nothing like it looked on the pattern envelope, was way to big and essentially very very ugly).

In the early stages drafting my own pattern meant tracing round the shape of my clothes, cutting them out a size bigger than they should be and tweaking and fitting as I went along. The first dress I ever made from my own pattern was this sun-dress style thing that I made in a weird checked cotton fabric (I hope my style and taste has improved since then) and I forgot that it would need a zip or some sort of opening to get it on so of course I tried it on, got stuck half way and had to essentially rip/cut my way out of it. Lesson learned: think about fastenings when working with woven fabric.

I learned to draft my own patterns a bit more properly using old books such as these (no idea where they came from to be honest) :

I meticulously read and followed their instructions for measuring and creating bodice blocks, advice on fitting issues, how to draft sleeve heads and different seam finishes. This was before video tutorials were really a thing and to this day I would much rather read how to do something and follow instructions and pictures than watch a video tutorial. Call me old fashioned!

I think the most important thing to remember when learning a new skill is that it will very rarely go well on the first try. But that is the beauty of it. Every mistake is a chance to learn something and that small lesson will make you a little bit better next time you try it. So when people say "I could never do that" I like to say, "well of course you can't. Not yet anyway." If you've never had the opportunity to sit in front of a sewing machine, cut up a piece of fabric and sew it back together in a different way, of course you are not going to be able to make a dress right now. But all you have to do is try. And try again. And again, and again and again. Read a book, take a class, watch youtube tutorials and just give it a go!

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