Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Confession

Following Instructions

By nature, I tend to obey the rules, follow the instructions, color within the lines, etc. But the more I sew, the more willing I am to ignore the instructions.

For example, take my current project, Mariana’s princess dress. The instructions would have me insert the zipper last, after the dress was constructed. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer putting a zipper between two flat pieces of fabric over inserting it into a completed column of fabric – especially when that completed column is as small as a four year old girl! ;)

So, I spent some time thinking through all the construction steps, and finally decided that I could complete the front and the back of the dress independently first (facilitating zipper installation), and then connect them along the side seams afterwards.

Ana, on the other hand, is of the personality that is always questioning the “accepted way.” Even with her small amount of sewing experience, she’d be happy to throw out the instructions without glancing (much less reading) them! It took me a while to convince her that it’s worth following the instructions the first time you sew a particular pattern. The second time, I told her, she can make whatever modifications she wants. But the first time, she might consider the possibility that the person who drafted the pattern knew what he/she was doing and did things for a reason! ;)

So, what about you? 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?

Photo credit: Sister 72


Becky said...

It depends on the project/element of the project for me. I've been sewing long enough now that I feel pretty comfortable just sewing without instructions for a lot of things--like I know how to do the basic construction a top or a skirt without reading the step-by-step. Getting into the habit of reconstructing old clothes over the last couple of years has helped a lot with that-- while I'm taking things apart, I can see how they're put together, and since I'm just winging it without a pattern most of the time, I just do whatever makes the most sense to me. But then there's things I haven't done quite as often or haven't gotten the comfort level with yet. Like fly fronts (which I have yet to do successfully on the first try, both times I've sewn it completely shut and had to undo it), invisible zippers (I still have to check the picture in the package, at least, to make sure I'm putting the zipper on the right way, as I have a tendency to make it go inside-out), attaching linings for jacket-type things, etc. I'm sure the next time I attempt a blind hem on a skirt, I'll have to read the instructions again, because I've only done it once and I don't think I can even recognize the foot for it off the top of my head yet. But I know that the more I do these more advanced techniques, they'll get easier too.

Yeah, that was a lot of rambling. But you get the point.

Lisa Laree said...

My comment turned into today's blog post...

And yeah, now I ignore the directions and put the zipper in first 'bout all the time,too! ;)

Anonymous said...

Depends on what it is.

I learned to sew on vintage patterns and those require you to have a pretty decent understanding of the basic sewing process. I also learned on a vintage machine, so I had to learn techniques to sew (stretch on a straight stitch, putting sleeves in with out the piece that comes off the machine, resizing on a single sized pattern that didn't even really fit in the first place...) so for me it never was a method of following directions, because vintage ones suck anyway. Now, I don't follow them for a lot of things because I was never used to being hand held in the first place. I do read them, so I get an *idea* of how they think it should be done, and only refer to them if I get stuck/detail sewing and about half the time I refer to a book, not the pattern because of the way I learned to sew. I do refer to the pattern layout faithfully, which is about all I strictly adhere to.

As to my life, I learn to do it the way I'm supposed to and then ignore it.

Anonymous said...

oh yea, zippers: I pick them all. I can never get them where I want them, and they wind up being stronger then a machine inserted one, so it doesn't matter when I do them.

AmeliaSews said...

I laughed when I read what you told Ana about following the instructions the first time and then going in your own direction. I am always telling William the same thing when he makes a new recipe. I want to say how can you know if the recipe is bad or good when you didn't follow it in the first place?

I guess this shows a difference in our personalities- he uses a recipe as a jumping off point to find new combinations of flavors.
I have to make it the way it says a few times before I can even begin to think about making changes.

With sewing, I have found I have really started opening up and experimenting a little more in the past year. I have to say that a number of things contribute to this.

I sew mostly from Ottobre Design (and have a whole stack of BWOFs waiting for me). The directions are more sparse, so I find I have to think more about what I'm doing and therefore sometimes find alternative ways. I am also more apt to look at a reference book (or several) instead of relying on the directions.

I am doing alterations for other people. Besides becoming really fast at hemming pants, I have to take garments apart to make them fit better and then I have to think about how they have to go back together - these don't come with instruction sheets:)

I also am teaching my ten-year old daughter to sew and she will ask me 'well, why can't I do it this way?' and I am trying very hard to not say 'because it is done this way', but instead say 'why don't we try it and see what happens'

I guess, tying back in to what I said about recipes, I have finally reached the point that I've done these things enough that I can change how I do them because I know a better way.

I almost always put zippers in first. It is so much easier to work on a flat piece of fabric.

Manecoarse said...

I follow the instructions to the t, the i, and to the z. I am totally lost without them.

Anonymous said...

Well I suppose if I *did* sew zippers LOL I would put them in before sewing any seams. I only follow instructions sometimes. I usually read them first & then decide what I think is stupid & change it. One of my pet peeves is easing/setting in a sleeve on a knit. No way, Jose! It's flat sleeve insertion all the way for me & knits.

Oh & thank you for the award, Gwen!

gwensews said...

Love the instructions on bananas!

Generally, I look over the directions, then put them away. I seldom follow them, unless there is an unsuual design detail in the garment that puzzles me.


Anonymous said...

I love reading pattern instructions, but don't generally do it while I'm sewing. ;) Many years ago I worked in several different fabric stores and just loved it when customers would bring in their instruction sheets for help figuring out what they were supposed to do - I loved solving the puzzle and I had a reputation for it.

Now I usually just dive in an make the garment the way I think it should be made. Generally this works just fine, but I miss out on new techniques and special touches. I have occasionally bought patterns because I've been told they have good instructions, then failed to read them before using the patterns - what a waste of a good learning opportunity.


Summerset said...

When I was learning to sew, I'd follow the instructions. I'm a sort of "do it my way" person, so at this point, I glance at the instructions in case there's something I'm not familiar with and then toss them. After sewing for so long, you develop what works for you and what doesn't and know what you can do better than the instructions.

Claire S. said...

Right now I'm too new to do it 'my way' - I don't have a way yet :-)

I'm definitely a follow the instructions type. But, that being said, my instructions no longer come from the pattern only. I have my books and any reference material I want to dig for, right here on the Net. I'm learning new things all the time and I expect to skim, then toss, the instructions at some point - but I'm not quite there yet.

So far, I prefer a picked zipper - it's neater. also I'm pretty sure my first change on my first knit tee will be to set in sleeves flat.

Unknown said...

I hate directions most of the time... I have this habit of calling them "destructions".
But I have eaten humble pie often enough while sewing to know to look at them the first time I make something. If they don't make sense, I won't follow them. If it's something I've done before, I normally don't look... Things like princess seams, hems, zippers.... You know, those. There is a comfort level with the skill set I have now that I don't feel the need to look back at the directions with every step, just like I don't transfer all my marks of use a million pins.

On a completely separate note, shoot me an email( about Pay it Forward... I want to know about your favorites to get some ideas!