A month of tiny failures.

I started February’s A Month of Tiny Steps with the best of intentions. I ended February’s AMoTS with a solemn resolve to “do better next time.”

To begin with, I chose the exact wrong sort of thing to do: A close ended, single project that only lent itself to tiny steps at a couple of different stages. I know where I went wrong, and I won’t make the same mistake again. We’ll call this a “learning experience.”

These tiny steps were also meant to help in habit formation, and sewing is unlikely to be a daily habit for me (unless I end up making a living that way again). I’m not trying to build up a body of sewing work, or stretch my skills on a daily basis. Writing lends itself especially well to the tiny steps method, and I’ve had great results using the technique with knitting projects, too. I’m not much of an artist, but I can see how drawing (more than painting or sculpting) would be an excellent use of tiny steps, too. But sewing? Not so much.

Sewing is a flow activity for me. One step flows easily into the next, and 20 minutes is not enough when I am in that head space. I take lots of reasonable breaks when sewing, so I’m not likely to tire myself out more than usual. (Though I learned that the hard way.)

So I’m going to continue to sew the way I have had the most success. I use infrequent very good energy days to cut several projects at once, and then take as much time as I need to sew through the pre-cut projects. The last two or three times I’ve done this I have gotten much more done than cutting and sewing one project at a time.

Also – and I know this is a petty complaint, as I have a dedicated sewing area – I really hate leaving out the ironing board. I can, technically – it just barely fits by the bed – but it’s such a nuisance that I would rather put it away each time I finish sewing. So that’s also against the “have all your tools ready to go and portable” rule.

All that being said, I would like to sew more. I really do enjoy sewing, and I particularly like making my own clothes. But I will use my daily tiny steps for other activities in the future.

See? Learning experience.

DIY not?

I came across “The Class Dynamics of DIY Clothing” the other day while looking for something completely unrelated. (Because that is how the internet works.) I can’t help but agree with the essay, and own my privilege in this area.

I know how to sew, have a decent machine in working order, a good amount of fabric squirreled away, and pretty much every sort of notion you might need to make basic items. If I like a pattern that doesn’t come in my size, I know how to make it bigger.

The initial buy-in to begin sewing is expensive – mostly because of the equipment. You need access to a sewing machine, an iron, an ironing board, good scissors, pins, needles, marking tools, and a space large enough to cut fabric (whether on a table or the floor). You’ll need a pattern (or the ability to make a pattern), thread, and fabric – which is often more expensive than a ready-made garment, especially if you wear natural fibers. You may need zippers, elastic, buttons, bias tape, interfacing, or trim. You will need adequate time (and energy) to sew.

The bottom floor for sewing is several stories up the building, if you catch my meaning.

I learned to sew in home economics when I was 13, though I wasn’t very into it at the time. Various relatives pooled their money to buy me a basic sewing machine for my 15th birthday, after I became interested in making my own clothes…because I couldn’t find anything I liked in my size in stores. (Does that sound familiar?) My grandma worked in a garment factory and had access to very cheap fabric remnants that I used both for practice and for finished garments in those early years.

By the time I was 18 I was working as a theatrical costumer. My experience is absolutely atypical.

I think there’s something else going on beneath this cheerful admonition to “do it yourself,” too: a little whiff of the “you’re on your own” mentality so prevalent these days. Society (in the form of the retail marketplace in this example) is failing to provide for your needs? Well, too bad! You’re on your own! Just do it yourself. Go sew your own, fatty, and get out of my face.

I could be wrong about that, but it seems to be there.

I truly love clothes, and I enjoy sewing. I would never tell someone not to make their own clothes if they were inclined to do so. And though I think that retail options should definitely be expanded in larger sizes, I’m not sure how much change we can expect in the short term. Even before the economy tanked, when fat ladies were (supposedly) lined up with cash in hand, retailers didn’t do much to expand plus size offerings anywhere other than online. So what do we do?

I wish I knew.

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 (I made this dress, and I wore this exact same outfit today – though this photo is from last fall.)