Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Rating Game

Ok, so it isn't exactly a game...but it does make a snappy title ;).

There have been various discussions of late about rating one's sewing skills for public viewing; Here's one from Pattern Review; here's another...I tried to search Sewing World, because I think I remember a discussion about it over there, but all I got was the dead end white screen. But it was Ann's post that made me decide to talk about it here. (I'll admit it...household duties do not lend themselves to sewing blog posts so I'm seeking post inspiration where ever I can find it...)

So, what's up with ratings? I think the only site that has a sewing rating on it that really matters is Pattern Review, because someone who is a beginner will have a different perspective on a pattern than someone with advanced skills. The beginner will tend to follow every little detail on the guide sheet, while someone who's more experienced will likely do what they've learned that works, whether that's what's called for on the pattern guide or not. So what is an easy pattern to put together using tried and true techniques may be a pain in the seam ripper to do by the antiquated and illogical instructions given in the pattern guide. Case in point: Miss M, who is one of my costuming cohorts, is a fairly recently self-taught seamstress. She is fearless...which is totally inspiring...but she was making a couple of child's dresses for last year's production of Scrooge from a pattern that had the most UNBELIEVABLE zipper installation I think I've ever seen. I wish I'd made a note of the pattern number, because it was *really* bad. She was stuck on the first one when she brought it to me and we kind of salvaged it, then I told her a better way to do it on the second dress and gave her a roll of Wonder Tape (wash away basting tape). Because she had installed very few zippers, she didn't know how to substitute a reasonable technique for the poor one given. It's amazing that beginners often don't know that you CAN do something differently than the pattern guide suggests (I still remember the epiphany I had...not really so very long ago...when I realized that I didn't *have* to do it 'their way'). But, my point is that the pattern really wasn't horrible, except for the pitiful zipper installation. However, to fix the zipper, the whole order of sewing the dress had to be changed. Not an easy task for a newbie, but second nature for someone who's experienced. If Miss M and I had both reviewed the pattern, we probably would've given it different ratings. In fact, I might not even have realized that the zipper instructions were so awful because I would've done it my way from the start. Someone reading those two hypothetical reviews would only have had our self-labeled ratings to go by to process the difference in our opinions. So I think the skill level ratings are important there, just to give perspective on the opinion presented.

So, then, that presents the problem...with no objective guidelines to go by, how does one rate one's sewing skill level? Aye, there's the rub, for who can objectively assess those skills that have such a difference in perception? And how much of the rating is technical construction vs. fitting vs. fabric manipulation (the curling panne snarls from my memory) vs. fashion sense (what about the beautifully constructed garment that it totally unsuitable for the wearer's body type?) Does 'advanced' mean that that person could be the premiere in an atelier? Or does it just mean that they're willing to try and able to get a decent looking garment from a pattern that Vogue labels 'Advanced'?

I'll 'fess up; after spending two years on PR with an 'intermediate' rating, I bumped myself up to 'advanced' on my own...that is, it wasn't a result of fellow PR members saying, 'Oh, my dear, you've definitely moved up to advanced now...please change your rating'. It was a tough decision and I'm still not entirely sure the shoe fits. But, I will tackle advanced patterns, I do sew without pattern guides (mostly) and I do make up stuff in costuming (which is NOT couture! ;) )as I go. I think 'advanced' reflects the ability to make things that are beyond the ordinary, but it definitely is not the same as 'professional', for which I do not feel qualified...yet.

There's always room for learnin' !

1 comment:

  1. "There's always room for learnin' !"
    Boy, ain't that the truth? That's what I love about sewing. It's process. Most sewers I know are constantly striving to upgrade their skills. Thanks for a thoughtful essay.