Monday, February 28, 2011

Learning to Walk (...then skip to my Lou, my darling!)

 Tonia and I have a friend who is learning how to sew clothing and hopes to professionally work in the garment industry one day. Over the past few months, Tonia and I have been guiding our friend along in her learning endeavors, steering her here and there, encouraging her, and watching her skills improve with every new sewing project she successfully completes - step by step. 

 I'm not sure that our friend knows what her ultimate goal is yet (does she want to design clothing, construct modern pieces or historically inspired pieces, repair and alter clothing?), but no matter - first thing is first - she must learn basic garment construction techniques, design, and fit. These fundamental skills are always the most frustrating to learn because they have to be learned well. There is a precision to garment making - it's mathematical, it's architectural, and it's proportional. One must know the personality of various textiles, their characteristics, their temperaments, and their limitations. Moreover, there is an aesthetic value - the beauty of a garment - the color, the texture, and the dimension. There is far more involved in tailoring than throwing some fabric on top of the feed-dogs and stomping on the foot peddle...

Freddy, the armpit sniffer
...Boy, what Tonia and I would not have done to have had someone teach us the fundies of sewing when we were newbies more than a decade ago! lol! The people we knew who did sew, their skills did not extend past curtains and table runners, so they could help us very little, if at all. The whole thing - learning the business of tailoring clothing (if that's what you want to call it in the beginning) - was a comedy of errors, if not dangerous in some instances. We struggled and cursed and oopsied so often you'd have thought we'd have just given up the ghost and skipped on to some other less challenging endeavor, like nuclear physics or molecular engineering, but no. We were ignorant of our folly (or in denial) and we hammered away. I even sewed my fingers once - okay, twice!, but the second time my husky-rott stuck his cold nose in my armpit! 

I can't help but to grin when I look at those old photographs of my beginner's work  - it's a humbling walk down Memory Lane - I didn't know a whip stitch from witch ditch when I started. Tonia and I did not have the luxury of the internet or YouTube videos to instruct us on various sewing technique or another. We didn't have the money or time to take sewing classes. Our greatest resource was the public library. We poured through books, searching shelf after shelf. We Xeroxed everything and anything of interest or of possible value that we could find.We rented historical dramas from the library and Blockbuster and scoured fabric stores learning all the fabrics types and textures. We went to museums and thrift stores and carefully studied the cut and construction of anything we could get our hands on or close enough to snap a photo without being arrested. We were eager and willing students.

Some things will never change!
I know we were overly ambitious in the beginning and made many, many mistakes needlessly - of course, there was no one to help us or tell us any different - :) But there is nothing I would do over - not even the dozen and dozens of poorly sewn and constructed monstrosities I cursed over, cried over, or lamented over - or loved - lol! I wasn't alone in any of this - I had Tonia's companionship and I imagine that neither of us I would have made it too far without each other's encouragement, enthusiasm, and downright silliness...

...like singing "Skip To My Lou" while dangerously sleep depraved and hand-sewing a canvas carport cover at 1 o'clock in the morning under a street lamp! 

I am excited for our friend - I look forward to her growth with every new project - and I am not inclined to correct her every mistake. There is a secret joy, I think, in one's misadventures and mistakes, especially when reflecting back on a job well learned and a garment well loved despite its irregularities - there's something sweet in it...don't you think?
                         Cows in the cornfield, 
                         What'll I do?
                         Cows in the cornfield,
                        What'll I do?
                        Cows in the cornfield,
                       What'll I do?
                       Skip to my Lou, my darlin'.

2 comments:

  1. It's Derf! lol. I had completely forgot about singing in the middle of the street so late at night. I'm sure your neighbors just *loved* us. lol. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! It was fun remembering everything we learned and did. ;)

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  2. Oh, and the things we did...
    ...and the things we still do - lol!

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