Does your mindset change to match your sewing?

luncheon napkins and coasters 2I really enjoy sewing, all aspects of it: garments, quilting, embroidery, heirloom, couture – anything sewing related!

I started a garment project today, for the first time in a long while, and I realized my mindset was completely different – almost meditative. I was cutting out an underlining, which will get marked and then used like a pattern piece to cut out the fashion fabric, and it seems like parts of my hands are already feeling the basting thread and making their own notes of where hand stitches are going to go.

I don’t get this way with other sewing; maybe because it’s usually quick sewing. I think I’m experiencing is what’s called flow; being in a mental groove and everything else seems to disappear. But with garments, even when I don’t go full-on couture, I seem to enter this altered mental state.

Maybe because I had such a pleasant experience learning garment sewing from the wonderful and lovely Susan Khalje; she teaches couture technique to small groups of sewing enthusiasts in multi-day classes all over the world. Susan is a very calm and generous teacher; instead of telling you that you can’t do something because it’s “advanced” or not for beginners or too hard, she simply teaches you how to do it, it’s never a big deal. I liken it to those old maps that used to say on the edges of the unknown “beware, here there be monsters…” Susan just says, Oh, a monster? Here’s how you deal with monsters – doesn’t even blink.

Couture sewing is also a process; you trace out your pattern, make a muslin, alter the muslin, try the muslin on again; then you look at your fabric, get to know and understand your fabric. Then you think about your garment: does it need underlinings, linings, what reinforcements, interfacings, what finishes and other treatments will you use? Then you lay out your underlining if you have one, mark it; next you decide how your pattern is going to be laid out on your fabric; then you cut out your fashion fabric, then your lining, then you mark the lining and re-mark the fashion fabric/ underlining, then there’s basting, another fitting, then construction, maybe another fitting to be certain, then finishing… yes, couture garments take a while to construct!

But not every garment gets full-on couture, sometimes just demi-couture as I call it. Mostly though I think it’s the process, the mindset: step – pause. Step – pause. Step – pause. Right now, I’m pausing; I placed all the pattern pieces on my underling (just a few as it’s an a-line skirt) and stepped away; when I go back I’ll double check that all the pieces are there, then I’ll cut them out. After that, I’ll pause again, probably re-read (or rather quintuple-read) the directions, re-count the pieces. Then I’ll mark those pieces, then pause again, maybe re-admire my fashion fabric (I’ve already determined that the pattern is repeating and omni-directional. I could try to pattern match at the seams, but I don’t have lots of yardage, so I won’t worry about it.)

I like this mindset, and I’d like to bring it to more of my sewing. Not always, because sometimes we just need to get those coasters embroidered for a gift in a hurry! But some of my frustration with other sewing seems to come from missed steps, missed opportunities, and slowing down will help. That and, it’s just a pleasant feeling, being in the flow.

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