Aiming for Perfection
My earliest memory of sewing was my Tante (Aunt) Bebe showing me how to make stitches. As I recall, no matter how hard I tried, the stitches were not as small and even as she wanted them to be. Later, when I was working a bit more independently, I was nervous about cutting into the fabric before my mom had checked everything to be sure I wasn’t making any drastic mistakes. My aunt and my mom were highly skilled seamstresses. Their work was impeccable.
I’ve met seamstresses who started early on, making clothes for their Barbie dolls. I’ve tried to imagine making those tiny little outfits, with those tiny little details. Many of them also made most of their clothes growing up.
For a while, I was lucky enough to take sewing lessons from a couture seamstress who learned her trade in Budapest. She wasn’t allowed to even touch the shears or cut fabric until she’d been an apprentice for years. High standards, indeed.
Fast forward to this weekend. A visit with granddaughters. They wanted to knit in my knitting room. They really meant that they wanted to sew. They wanted to make outfits for a little mannequin and a toy mermaid. I was trying to figure out how to teach them, when they barely know how to navigate needle and thread.
Childlike fearlessness to the rescue. Practice cutting fabric with the scissors (safety scissors, of course.) Grandma threads the needle—thread doubled and knotted, for those of you who understand the dilemma of pulling the needle without losing the thread. Practice making stitches. Random lengths, sometimes in and out, sometimes out and around the edges of the fabric.
Then, they just started wrapping the fabric around the mannequin, and stitching the fabric closed. No big deal, and the outfits were beautiful, perfect, ready for a fancy ball.
We can learn a lot from young children. Come on, Grandma, let’s do this now. And, clearly, it’s okay to make it up as we go. I keep trying to improve myself, but perfection seems pretty far out of reach. It’s nice to see through children’s eyes: it’s okay to just do it, enjoy the process and the progress. Have all the fun you can!
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