thoughts on creativity and the learning process

it’s interesting that debi over at happy sewing place happened to post on this during her blogiversary week, because something similar has been running through my own thoughts.  most specifically, i’ve been ruminating (big word!) on the idea that:

for the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good.  it’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.  but your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.  and your taste is why your work disappoints you.

in the midst of compulsively plotting my winter sewing, i keep coming back to garments i made last year, in fabrics i love, that i just can’t wear anymore.  and i think about this journey, of taking a natural talent or taste or inclination and turning it into an actual skill.  part of that process inevitably means, as ira glass suggests, that your early efforts are not going to be that good.

my first skirt, vogue 7937, in camel hair (with the nap running the wrong way) and complete with messy hem and blood stain from where i nicked my finger on the sewing needle. but you'd better believe i rocked it with a leather jacket and a killer pair of heels.

so you do what you can to learn:  you practice finishing techniques on garments that don’t need them.  you muslin an a-line skirt just to practice sewing the straight seams.  you pick out garments that have techniques that lead you up to another garment, and then another, until you have the trick of it.

puckered collar, poorly fused interfacing, and hem is a bit of a disaster. but it taught me about fusible tailoring techniques.

this is what i keep telling myself:  there’s no reason to look back on those first few garments and feel ashamed of them.  i promise you, at least 75% of the mistakes are things that 1) only another sewer would notice and 2) are only mistakes in retrospect, now that you’ve learned a new technique or perfected the old one.

like this dress. my friend, who has never once in the 20 years i have known him noticed an outfit, actually paused and looked at me and said, that is a great dress. *he* didn't care that the bodice is too big, even after two muslins and a pin-basting!

because that day your co-worker paused while making her morning coffee to say, “you look particularly nice today, that color is great,” she wasn’t looking at the huge shiny spot (from the iron) near the puckered waist seam.  you covered that up with a great belt–she didn’t even know it was there, and her compliment was real.  you should be proud when you get to say, even on that first imperfect garment, “i made this.”

the wreckage of my first attempted garment, proudly worn christmas week 2009 during a slow office day. i've since reconstructed it in purple doubleknit.

because that is the whole point in the first place, isn’t it?  learning something new and taking pride in the skill.  everything after that is learning, practicing and refining.

and even though i know all of that, i’m still struggling with it.  i find myself looking at older garments and considering if they can be re-fitted, or re-cut–like another favorite from last year that got overstructured and overfitted…

beloved liberty of london purple chris on two different grainlines for effect. shame about the bodice...

but try, try again! the needle marks do not show in the fabric, and it is ripe for re-fashioning using a moulage.

if the potential was there, then it is still there, and part of the learning process must be learning how to accept mistakes, and learning when they may be fixable, and teaching yourself the value of going back and finishing something properly.

and meanwhile, you just keep working.  because then, one day, you’ll be working on your machine and flying through something that used to seem insurmountable.  and you’ll have something you’re really proud of.

vogue 8495, my "gossip girl" jacket

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5 Responses to thoughts on creativity and the learning process

  1. Jilly Be says:

    Thank you for this post, and the perfectly worded poster at the beginning! Somehow I missed it on Debi’s blog – I have a feeling I’m going to eventually re-post it myself.

    It’s truth, it’s food for thought, it’s enouragement. Thank you :)

  2. Debi says:

    Brilliant post!! I has been really great to go back through and think about the learning process and how far we’ve come! Like you said, there are things we can do now that seemed insurmountable earlier and that just blows my mind!!

  3. prttynpnk says:

    Oh thank you for your honesty and encouragement. Could you have known I needed to hear this right now? Bless you!

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