Thursday, March 24, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 24

Day 24: Something You've Learned

How to choose just one thing?? I've learned so much over the 50 years of my life.

I was discussing this question with my husband this evening over dinner, and he suggested I write about my battle with perfectionism.

I'm a total perfectionist; I'd rather not do something than do it poorly. As a result, I will drag my heels on new projects out of fear they will not turn out the way I see them in my head. I self-criticize a lot, and it takes me quite a while to fall in love with something I've made.

However, I've gotten a LOT better at accepting my own imperfection, and I have Cynthia Guffey to thank for it.

It was probably seven or eight years ago that I went to one of Cynthia's trunk shows at a sewing expo. I was so excited; I even got there early so I could snag a front row seat. I wasn't disappointed; the garments were amazing! Cynthia would hold up a garment and talk about the details; we would ooh and ahh. Then she handed the garment to the audience and it was passed from person to person for closer examination.

And that's where the interesting part came in: once I had the garment in my hand, I could clearly see the imperfections (yes, even Cynthia Guffey has imperfections in her garments!). They weren't huge... a jump stitch not clipped, or a corner that didn't lay perfectly flat. But they were things that would probably drive me nuts in my own sewing.

Then it occurred to me: My first introduction to Cynthia's garments were from about 15 feet away, seen as whole, complete garments. So my first impression was of the finished dress. Seeing the little imperfections after I had already seen the finished dress somehow made them less... imperfect.

In contrast, we sewers see our garments first as elements, close-up, as we're peering at them from eight inches away on the bed of the sewing machine. Our first impression of our own projects is of components, and that first impression lingers even after the garment is done and part of our wardrobe.

So I learned to be kinder to myself in my sewing. If I'm getting frustrated with a garment, I will put it on a hanger and look at it from across the room. Usually, any perceived flaws disappear when I do that, and I can relax and continue the process.

This attitude has also been invaluable to my costume sewing; I am now able to remind myself that the costumes will only be seen from 20 feet away at the closest; as long as they're pressed nicely, no one in the audience will be able to tell that I top-stitched the hem instead of using a blind him, or that the waist seam is off by 1/4" at the zipper.

I passed this lesson along to each one of my sewing classes when I taught at G Street; I only hope that some of the students were able to take the lesson to heart and be kinder to themselves about their sewing than I was; I wasted far too many years (and yards) beating myself up over invisible gremlins.


  1. Excellent post! It comes at a very good time for me too! I appreciate it!


I would love to hear your thoughts... Please share!