Sewing, “……it was really about perfection………”

The title of this post is a partial quote from the book “The Pink Suit”.  Here’s more of the quote to put it in context:

“Cut. Trim. Baste. Tuck. Pin. Trim. Stitch. That was what most people thought sewing was about, but they were wrong. It was really about perfection. Each stitch must be exactly like the one before it; each must be so small that it seems part of the fabric. A ribbon is sewn into the waist of a skirt to help keep the blouse in place. Zippers are placed on the side, for comfort, or in the back, to emphasize the elegance of a line. Each tuck and pleat carefully disguises any flaw in the wearing or the wearer – small breasts, uneven hips, thick waists, and, of course, waning youth.”

The character is talking about haute couture sewing as practiced in the very high fashion ateliers.

vintage-sewing-machine-clipartImage source

But let’s take the idea of perfection into our own everyday sewing.  I personally think these are murky waters for us home sewing enthusiasts. Therefore, I would love to see your views, so comment away! Here are my thoughts, which tend to agree with both arguments – and enter into said murky waters.

PERFECTION IN SEWING

Jacket

(Image from “Chanel” a catalogue published in conjunction with 2005 Chanel Retrospective at the Met in New York.)

On a certain level, this is why we sew – you know, that design/fit/fabric/trim correlation which becomes obvious when you just cannot take your eyes away from the item. When the stars align, it’s magic. And perfection. The haute couture ateliers come to mind, and rightly so. Image of a Chanel jacket, circa 1960, above.

The perfection seeking home sewers want to find it in the humblest of items; consider the very high popularity of classes and patterns which teach you how to create a perfect T-shirt! I love that!

Of course, these very same sewing enthusiasts are taking classes by Claire Shaffer and Susan Khalje to learn about haute couture techniques, and creating the perfect dress and the classic Chanel-style jacket.

Should there be perfection in inner construction? Does it matter? Unless I’m making something to be worn, say, in a couple of hours, I strive for perfection in inside finishing; not always achieving it, but I strive for it nonetheless. So, yes for pro-perfection.

And, the art of quilting. There is no inner construction in quilting, therefore perfection has to be obvious everywhere. I have seen, and been floored by, quilt exhibits at the International Quilt Festival each year in Houston. Quilts that won $10,000 were perfect in design and execution.

SEWING IS NOT ABOUT PERFECTION

Brooke

(I snapped this image from my copy of Threads magazine issue #107)

The gotta wear it tomorrow concept in sewing comes into play here. It cannot be perfect, but presentable enough to get me through an event, and I need it soon. For those of us who are committed to the completely self-made wardrobe, this issue can come up. You’re in danger of being left with an empty closet, a worn out wardrobe where nothing seems to be suitable for the event – and you need something new, pronto.

A side of imperfect sewing is manifest in designer Brooke DeLorme’s imperfectly perfect work – 12 years ago! In the article she wrote about her own design aesthetic in Threads magazine #107 where she admits that art and philosophy come before her actual design. Where is Brooke now? Her line now consists of lingerie and loungewear, sustainably manufactured in Portland, Maine. I would have loved to see Brooke’s aesthetic develop in the high fashion arena. Her concepts were new back in 2003. The sewing and design of each piece was intuitive, imperfect and unhurried. A lot of this aesthetic is seen now, but I thought it was innovative then. And I liked it! I’m giving points to the imperfect perfection of Brooke’s aesthetic from 2003.

Now, an imperfect sewing concept enters into murky waters; the judging of Project Runway. (Groan) In episode 4, a competing designer, Blake, created a badly constructed gown, but he had incorporated some never-before-seen design elements. He won. Wait, what?? He won at the expense of other designers whose entries, great designs all, were perfectly sewn – it was even obvious on the TV screen.

Enter a forgotten twist: the sewer’s skill level. The beginner should strive for but not insist upon perfection in sewing. What should sewing teachers stress for the very beginner? Is a crooked seam acceptable, or do you make the student rip it apart and re-do it? Or do you point out the mistake and take a promise to do better next time? Sewing teachers, chime in here.

Happy National Sewing Month to all my readers! For me, every month is sewing month……..

May the gods of sewing perfection bless you, always.

Samina

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12 thoughts on “Sewing, “……it was really about perfection………”

  1. I think striving for our own personal perfection is inherent for all home sewers. We strive to create the perfect suit or dress even if our skill set is not quite there. That said we should never quit trying and many do when we do not match the master. “Seek not the master. Seek what the master seeks.” is a quote to sew by. I belive we should relax and enjoy the process but know how very hard that is. Suzy

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  2. Ahhhh, perfection. That elusive quality that man (or, woman) has been aspiring to for eons. I love the Navajo Indian esthetic that drives them to purposely place a flaw in each of their exquisite weavings and pots in order to let the spirit of the maker, who has spent so much time and energy, escape.

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    1. Annie, thank you for the comment. It true, then. That crafting things goes hand in hand with emotional equilibrium. Love the idea of my spirit in all items I sew. Now you’ve made me almost cry…..

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  3. I have taught children to sew for many years. I used to teach in a way that would lead to making beautiful garments. The seam allowance had to be perfect. Read: http://www.thelostapron.com/2014/07/the-importance-of-accurate-seam-allowances-the-wonder-woman-story.html. Now I teach for fun and creativity. They learn for instant gratification. Children will never go on to sew on their own, if they don’t love it. I concentrate now on simple projects and let them create. I always let them decide if they should redo a seam. Some will aim for perfection and others will let it be. The creative ones will usually let it me. Those that need to follow the pattern will take it out.

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    1. Ana, thanks for the sewing teacher’s viewpoint, and the link to your post!
      I guess perfection-seeking in sewing will naturally come later to the students once they move forward and the art of sewing gets entrenched in their lives.

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  4. From the time I began sewing at age 9 I was always concerned about ‘structural integrity’ even though I didn’t know the word at the time. A plain seam might do the job but if a french seam was more ‘durable’ then that’s where I went. So it has been for the over 50 years that I’ve been sewing. Only when I took a couture class from Susan Khalje and then later bought a book of Claire Schafer did I learn that some ot that was called couture and my interest peaked. Perfection, not usually but I do try for a job well done!

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  5. I do try to cut with precision; and pin too….I definitely try to make my stitching purty (pretty) however I do not take my sewing so serious…I love it so and to make it like “work” would completely ruin it for me..I am not about to stitch and unpick a thousand times because frankly you’re doing no sewing at all then….but I wont wear uneven hems either….I guess it depends; but I know definitely love the craft too much to be militant about it….I just try to do it right the first time! (wink-wink) GREAT post!

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  6. I am more apt to think about redoing to make something better than shooting for perfection. When is what I’m sewing good enough? When it pleases me. I also believe in leaving well enough alone, improvising, and learning from trial and error.

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  7. For myself, I like my sewing to look good, so that means using the correct techniques and making effort to do it right. In class I will point out areas that aren’t quite 100%, for the beginner I tell them with practice it will get better, but it’s always up to them to decide whether to rip and start again. But – if it’s an obvious mistake it definitely comes out! Usually I say that they will notice that it’s not quite right, that it will bother them and then they won’t wear the item. Then they decide on their own to rip it out & do it again! 🙂

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