I had my lesson planned for tonight but a couple of nights ago I hit Chapter Four and there in big bold letters was a nifty little bit of prose: "The Rules of Couture Sewing". I started reading them and while more than appropriate to couture, much of what she said applies to good old every day sewing. Her thoughts provide a wonderful lesson that I will share with you tonight. I'll give you her couture version and then my interpretation for our new and returning sewists. She makes a lot of sense.
The Rules of Couture
1. Sew with your head.
2. Maintain accuracy.
3. Let grain be paramount in all decisions.
4. Talk to fabric and listen to the fabric talking to you.
5. Reduce bulk whenever possible.
6. Understand that couture requires judgement.
7. Know that your hands are your best sewing tools.
8. Accept that pressing and sewing are synonymous.
9. Anticipate that the final garment will show "evidence of effort."
10. Enjoy the process as well as the result.
Now for my interpretation as to how her couture rules can work for any sewist, new or experienced. Remember, Next Level Sewing is not to learn couture but rather good basic skills.
1. I am going to say "use your intuition". Every time that little nag in the back of my head told me to do something to my sewing, something that wasn't in the pattern, I regretted it ten times over if I didn't listen to that nag. Madame Intuition has an uncanny way of being right almost all of the time. Follow your gut. It's only fabric. And I am willing to bet that your way will be the right way almost always, despite what the pattern directions say. In time you will learn to listen to that voice and gain confidence in your skills.
2. Accuracy? Goes without saying when it comes to all sewing, including the most mundane. Do you really want things to look "home made" ? How about "custom made"? Accuracy can give you that. Paying attention to stitching, seam lines. button placement, collar points matching equally, etc... will say "custom", not inexperienced.
3. Heard that catchy tune, "It's all about that base"? Well, in sewing IT'S ALL ABOUT THAT GRAIN! Learn to be fastidious about your pattern layouts, matching plaids and stripes, sewing the bias. One whirl through the washing machine and the best made garment, if cut off grain, will revert to an often unwearable mess. Number three is definitely for ALL sewists, ALL the time.
4. I'm not so sure about this one. LOL! I do know that fabrics often tell me they need to jump into my shopping cart when I first see them. They do tell me that personally! But what Roberta meant on this one, I can only guess.
5. Reducing bulk is often referred to in her book as "the cardinal rule of sewing". I agree that it is. Often, as new sewists, fabric and a garment's interior can be a bit intimidating. It's OK to trim corners back at intersecting seams, darts where they pass the stitching line, pretty much bulk anywhere. Your garment will be easier to press, giving a more professional finish. When making a judgement call in sewing, use Carr's "bulk rule" and reduce whenever you can.
6. I am not all that clear with this one either. Perhaps others can illuminate. I do know that we are constantly making choices in sewing. Do I pick a fabric not listed on the pattern envelope? Can I do three big buttons instead of five smaller ones? Is it OK to cut off the sleeves so they are 3/4 length instead of full length? On and on..... I am not sure what requiring judgement means to Carr. I do know that making these judgments gives us experiences as newbies trying new ideas of our own. With each success, comes more sewing confidence. With each non-success ( I will not use the F word) comes experience from which we learn and that also gives us confidence. Make your judgements. Live with the consequences, and pass or fail, know they all contribute to your skill set and sewing confidence and that's a good thing.
7. Our hands are truly a gift from the Divine. Lose them and you will learn how incredibly valuable that are to every aspect of your life. And to think that they can sew, embroider, quilt, cut, mark, hem and so much more that can bring us joy is very humbling. Even the most inexperienced of sewists, finding joy in using her hands, is a wonder to behold. That's really what it's all about. Maybe Roberta would agree?
8. I am just restating Carr's words on this one because it is so important to every sewist, no matter what the experience level, or type of garment/fabric they are sewing. ACCEPT THE FACT THAT PRESSING IS SYNONYMOUS WITH SEWING. Nuff said. Thank you, Roberta!
9. Can I get an "AMEN" on this one? Remember the early days of computing? "Garbage in, garbage out"? I guess all we do in life "shows evidence of effort" but it is not something I really think about very often or in regards to sewing. Maybe I should and maybe we all should. If we whip something out in a couple of hours we need to expect that it will look like we did. If we take a bit more time it will show also. "Evidence of effort", I am going to be thinking about this one for a while. It certainly can apply to all sewing, not just Roberta's couture efforts , but all of our efforts, whether they be sewing or just making breakfast. Life today is so fast that we often have to choose where we put our "effort". Sometimes knowing that you have that one place (sewing) that you can go to and can get lost in, totally focusing and putting out your best efforts, can be a very comforting place. I do know it has carried myself and many sewing friends through distracting times. Having your own mental place where you can put forth effort and focus can be a real lifesaver. Enjoy seeing your evidence of effort in your sewing. I think of the times when I have completed something and just stared and stared at it, sort of in amazement, sort of with pride and with much critique. Those moments are when we take in our evidence of effort and it is pure joy. It is why we sew. It is because our effort shows, no matter how humble or beginner it may be and it is a joy.
10. See Number Nine.
So, dear newbies, while Ms. Carr's Rules of Couture may not appear at first to apply to your learning, I think with a bit of word play in regards to every day sewing, they can. Let's be mindful in our sewing. It can bring joy, skill and confidence.
Next week we will have a lesson by Claudine of Rolling in Cloth. She is a gifted sewist and a very good teacher as you will see. Check out this trench coat she made of Duchesse Satin and silk screened with the rose motif. Fabulous! She has made an awesome video to share her lesson with you and I am really excited about it. She has been so generous to offer her experience and skill and I am very thankful to her. Until then................Bunny