Thursday, February 12, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Becky, Lisa Laree, Elaina, Amelia, Sewuptight, Alison, Gwen, Lois, Summerset, Claire S. and Sarah for talking back to my confession last Friday!

I asked if people follow the instructions that come with their patterns, or do things their own way?

There was a pretty strong pattern in the responses. Most people described a natural progression of following the instructions most faithfully early in their learning, and then relying on them less and less heavily as they gain more and more experience and comfort with basic techniques.

Elaina’s story was one exception to this progression - she reported that learning how to sew with vintage patterns on a vintage sewing machine resulted in an early independence from pattern instructions. Of course, I know that this worked pretty well for her, because she has told the story previously about how she wasn’t allowed to take sewing in high school, because she could sew better than the teacher!

At the same time, Elaina also mentioned that she follows pattern layouts pretty carefully and that she doesn’t hesitate to consult a sewing reference book when in doubt... And she’s not the only one who mentioned either supplementing or replacing pattern instructions with other sewing reference materials – including the web.

While most intermediate and experienced sewers reported relying more heavily on their construction knowledge and skill to guide them than the pattern instructions, many also said that they did at least skim the pattern instructions up front to make sure that there weren’t any surprises (or new techniques to learn).

One thing I found interesting was the variety of experiences / events that contributed to people moving away from a strict adherence to the pattern instructions. Becky called out her projects reconstructing old clothes and Amelia mentioned doing alterations. Neither of those activities comes with instructions, so you do end up learning to work without them.

Amelia also mentioned a couple of other contributing factors to her instruction-independence: first, the experience of teaching someone to sew – someone who is always challenging the conventional way with “Why?” and second, the experience of sewing from international pattern magazines like Ottobre and BWOF, which only come with sparse instructions.

Of course, even the Big Four can have confusing instructions. Sarah, for example, refers to instructions as "destructions". And Lois told the story of how she used to work in fabric stores, and over time she earned a reputation for being the “go to” person to help make sense out of confusing pattern instructions – she says that she enjoys that kind of problem-solving! :)

Lisa Laree has a great post on her blog about her transition from faithful instruction follower to independence. For her it was kind of a “Eureka!” moment brought on by a design detail in a pair of RTW pants that she couldn’t find instructions for in any pattern. It took a while for it to hit her that she could try it without instructions – but once she had this realization, she never looked back… (This is just a summary and I encourage you to read the whole post on her blog – it’s really interesting!)

Finally, a couple of people confirmed that their attitude towards sewing instructions was a lot like their attitude towards life – interested in knowing the “right way”, but generally doing things their own way… ;)

Thanks again, everyone, for your insightful comments!

Photo credit: specialkrb