Thursday, 13 May 2010
Learning to sew
The problem with being self-taught is that you don't know what you don't know. It's hard to figure out what questions to ask if you don't know that you need to know the answers.
My sewing skills aren't entirely self-taught; my mother taught me the basics, and set an incredible example. But being the kind of genius improvisational sewer that she is, she treats instructions the way some people treat the picture on a jigsaw-puzzle box: it's fine to look if you need to, but that's sort of like cheating and the fun is in working it out yourself.
What tends to happen to me, though, is that once I figure out/stumble on a technique or solution, I stick to it. This works fine, so why figure out another way?
Enter Ruth Singer's Sew It Up. It's a sewing book similar to The Best Knitting Book In The World (Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook). It's a book of techniques, full of instructions for the proper ways to do things, and explanations of why these work - so important for the stubborn self-taught sewer. Like the Knitter's Handbook, it shows different ways of doing the same thing, for instance hemming fabric. It explains which technique is suitable for what, and why.
And that's why it's the perfect rule-book for breaking the rules. Knowing why something is done allows you to decide whether you can get away with not doing it. With this in my hand, and my mother's voice in my head, I'll have the perfect strategy for any sewing project I'm likely to attack.
(Ruth Singer blogs here.)