Friday, February 06, 2009

Beyond the Directions

Gwen asked a question on today's Friday Confession post that I found I couldn't properly answer within the confines of a reasonable comment, so I'm posting it here today:

When sewing, do you stick pretty faithfully to the instructions or are you quick to throw them out the window and follow your own path? If the later, were you always this way, or did you slowly grow into it as you gained experience? And does the way you approach sewing mirror the way you approach other things in life?

I used to be a completely by-the-pattern-guide kind of seamstress. I mean, I have been taught well to Follow the Directions. I remember sewing disasters and near-disasters, and the only comment I could make was 'Well, that's the way it SAID to do it!' Doing something different never crossed my mind.

Sometime in the Mid '80's I wanted to duplicate a detail from a pair of Liz Claiborne pants that I had purchased at a ridiculous clearance price and loved...the zipper was in the pocket. No ugly topstitching to worry about, no added bulk to the tummy area. I thought it was a great idea. The problem was, I could *not* find a pattern to show me how to do it.

Oh, I found some patterns that had the opening in the pocket, but it was just a finished-off edge. A little drafty, and I more than once put a Kleenex in my pocket and saw it fall out of my pantleg a few minutes later. But that was all I could find instructions for. I made do.

It wasn't until around 2002 that it occurred to me that it didn't matter if I did the zipper 'right' or's in the pocket! No one will see it! So, I devised a method of inserting the zipper in the pocket...and even used a zipper that didn't match the fabric, just because it was what I had on hand.

I had an epiphany with that project...I really *could* do things my own way! Why do things like the patterns say? The objective is NOT to Follow the Directions, but to have a nice-fitting, nice-looking garment in the end. Now, I use the Pattern Guide as a general idea of how to put a garment together...but I may or may not do it as instructed. If I know a better way, you better believe I will do it that way.

I hadn't thought about that as an approach to life in general...but you know, I probably do look for ways to do things better, adapt instructions to fit my particular 'skill set' (isn't that a great term? I just heard it applied to my abilities last week...). Most of the time, it's a good thing, but every once in a while I go too far out on that limb and have to scramble back to safe ground (and usually make some apologies on the way).

All in all, though, it was an esteem boost to realize that I had enough knowledge and skill to do something on my own...and that gave me enough confidence to try some things I would never have tried. So, unless we're dealing with an Absolute Authority, I will adapt and modify 'bout anything if it looks like a better way.


  1. What an interesting post! I threw the directions out years least 15...once I realized that I only wanted the pattern pieces to achieve the look I wanted because I couldn't draft a pattern! And it does make a difference in the number of wadders you end up with!!!

  2. Wow, really interesting post and I loved your zipper story! I'm so glad you wrote a whole post on the question, instead of restricting yourself to just a comment! :)