There’s a little voice that speaks to all sewists sometimes. It’s the voice of doubts – full of questions and comments and general nastiness. It talks us down, and makes us doubt and avoid working on projects, telling us we’re not skilled enough, that things are too hard, that we’re going to ruin the beautiful things we’re working on.
But that voice is a liar.
And here’s a hope at putting it in its place and back in its box.
I write this post after many many months of trying. It has had umpteen drafts, existed in many forms, and honestly has been the hardest thing to write ever for the blog; but since it’s the New Year, let’s make a new start (isn’t that the whole point of New Years Resolutions?). It was inspired by a post put up in a Facebook group, and the response I gave. I honestly feel that my response to the post just didn’t cover everything I wanted to say – but saying what I wanted to say is harder than it seems.
A large majority of sewists have DIY anxiety – the worry that what they’re doing isn’t going to work / look as they wish or that they are not skilled enough. The little voice talks them out of the things they wish they could do, and holds them up to the things they see online and tells them they are never going to be good enough to make that. It’s the Fear of not meeting the perfection we have in our mind.
The Fear holds us all back.
We’ve all been there – prepping costumes quickly ahead of a big event, lamenting the fact we started so late, questioned whether we should have started at all. We work and we sew and we fret and we see every flaw and when we hang it up we look at it and despair. It was supposed to be bluer, brighter, have more trim/different trim/even buttons/rounder shoulders … it’s a mess *throws a dramatic strop or tantrum in our exhaustion*. All that time we feel has been wasted and sometimes we may take this beautiful new creation and leave it behind, going to the event in old kit or half-formed kit, apologetic to ourselves and others that we haven’t made that “thing” we hoped to.
It’s the Fear that other people will judge us on our kit, will see every flaw or lumpy hem or misshapen section of kit. That people’ll see the pulling seams or the torn loops or the tiny gap between braid where you ran out at the last minute.
The Fear won’t let you see your beautiful creation, your unique handiwork as everyone else sees it.
The Fear’s a dick.
Everyone assumes that everyone knows what they are doing, and that everyone with amazing kit doesn’t suffer through this Fear and the gnawing anxiety you feel when you contemplate picking up your scissors to cut your cloth or sew. The truth is the people who have the amazing kit go through the exact same thing as you, spend hours worrying over the smallest details or the quality of their cloth or whether they’ve got the look they’re wanting. It is because of the Fear that they have that amazing kit. Surprised? Yeah, it’s a weird thing but I believe this to be true. The Fear is debilitating, but it can be an ally. It challenges you; gives you problems to solve; gives you things to improve; gives you room to grow. You may think that things are never quite “good” enough or “right” or “correct” or “period” (though who are you comparing yourself to anyways?), so you change them – and that is what helps make the kit get better and better. We sufferers, we worriers, we who look at other people’s kit and sigh and compare are often the subject of similar worry and admiration and envy (yes, the good old green-eyed monster). Because we have made our own kit or edited it or accessorised it. We’ve made it ours, and regardless of how you feel, people are always appreciative of well thought out kit (whatever the quality, make, build or design) – because no one makes stuff the same, or accessorises it the same, or puts it together the same way. So, rather than telling yourself “I can’t do this”, do your research and make. And people will look at your kit and go “wow” even if they don’t voice it aloud.
When it comes to writing this post I am faced with my own version of “Imposter Syndrome” that has pages and pages written on online – it’s the Fear that you are not as good as people seem to think, and that one day the mask will slip and everyone will see exactly how self conscious you are. It’s a horrible thing to live with, and harder when writing content that is supposed to help others. Who am I to have the “expertise” to write about this? Who am I to even pretend to be knowledgeable about such things? The questions are constant, but here I am.
My opinion and experiences are just as valid as anyone elses, and yours are too!
Sometimes that is the hardest thing to remember.
So *takes a deep breath* I’m going to try offer my hope to you, to give you a sharp stick to poke that doubting voice back into its box (if only for a little while). I am putting this here in the hope that it helps, and to remind me of it when I am facing my own Fear, when it comes to costuming.
Procrastination is not always the best option
But sometimes it is …
Worrying over how badly something is going to go is just eating up your time until it becomes that rush job you’re dreading. Worrying over stuff can also help you see problems and seek solutions/alter plans to accommodate changes and learn. Worrying helps learning. Learning helps growth. Growth helps tackle the worrying.
Don’t judge a project by its photographs
Or optionally “Facebook lies”. We live in a world nowadays where the “best” face is sometimes the only face most people see. We spend hours curating a carefully fashioned profile on Facebook, populate it with photographs that show us at our best, hiding away the bad times or the times where you’re not feeling so good. The internet is a wonderful place for inspiration (I highly recommend Colette, Tilly and the Buttons and Colette’s Seamworks magazine for interesting reading, learning and inspiration within the sewing community) but it doesn’t show the hardships or difficulties in making some of the things that make us go wow. We see the finished project, we see the polished image. We don’t often get to see the hardships and struggle of making; or the late nights; or the wielding of the seam ripper for the umpteenth time on one particular stretch of seam; or the time when the gathering stitches broke and you cried (true story).
So look at the beautiful things online, but don’t compare them to yours. There is no comparison. Your creation is unique, just like you.
We are all at different stages on our sewing journey
This leads in from above – don’t compare where you are currently now to where others are. Don’t compare your gown to others, or your embroidery or your hand sewing etc. We are all products of our journey and experiences and something that makes us go “wow, I could never do that” now will be well within your grasp in time. We do not see the journey made by the creator of that garment; how they were 6 months ago, 1 year ago, 5 years ago! We do not see their struggles or their learning, so how can we compare ourselves to them?
Aspire to their inspiration, work and learn yourself and one day you’ll be making people going “wow” too! Because you already do.
Be kind to yourself and others
Accept compliments and give them in return. Ask for help if you are unsure and give your own experiences in return. Keep collecting inspiration and learning, keep inspiring and teaching.
Take time to stop and just look at what you are making. See where you have come from and visualise where you are going with your project. And just sew – no one will ever (in the whole history of the world) make a garment like you can, decorate it the way you will, accessorise it the way you will. It’s your costume, it has no equal ever!
I leave a quote from Labyrinth for you. It sums up my feelings on my sewing journey, and working to conquer my own DIY anxiety. I like to think the key points of this quote are – “through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here … for my will is as strong as yours … you have no power over me“.
See that? You read it right – you have no power over me.
So go on, sew and make and do. Because you can.