Monday, May 27, 2013

This Is Not My Box

On Saturday, I went for coffee with a friend and we had a wonderful two hour conversation about what was going on in each of our lives. On Sunday, I went to a barbeque to celebrate another friend's daughter's graduation - because they are important to me - even though my first choice would not have been to spend the afternoon with a group of people I didn't know and had little in common with. On the other hand, I can attend a creativity workshop, not know anyone, and it doesn't bother me at all since I'll have something in common with everyone and we'll be talking about one of my favorite subjects.

I've been told that I can talk to anyone and for the most part, that's true. I just prefer some kinds of interactions to others. How we relate to the world was the subject of my study yesterday. Reading through the chapter and answering the questions, I discovered - or perhaps confirmed is the better word - that I function best in a 1-1 environment. I'm good in groups if I'm the speaker, the instructor, or it's a group of like-minded individuals. In terms of structure, I prefer partnership with the view that we are all equals. It's no surprise that I'm introverted and relational. I think relationships are what life is all about. My love language is quality time.

I was thinking about how I relate to the world at the same time as I was pondering the questions Jilly posed in Musings On The Creative Process. Jilly wrote - I know there are a lot of reasons why we sew - I'm curious about those of us who are really interested in bringing the unique and creative into our clothes.  I really hope to open a dialogue with those of you who care to share..... I left a comment saying that I'd answer her questions here because - me being me - it was definitely going to be long winded and - LOL - I was right.

Do you sew, and dress, to express the inner you?

If this was a yes or no question, I'd say yes only the real answer is far more complex than that. Perhaps, it'd be more accurate to say that sewing and dressing to express the inner me are the main objective which is in turn comprised of smaller goals some of which I've attained and others I've so far missed. It's also the path of discovery. I'm experimental so I'm constantly trying ideas - read fabrics and styles - that don't have a high probability of success... just to see what happens... and sometimes I find that frustrating and wish I'd focused on what I knew worked only repetition bores me and therein lies a conundrum. 

Has sewing helped you discover/uncover who you really are?

The first time I sat down at a sewing machine, I was in love. There was never a period of learning to enjoy sewing as some of my friends experienced. I was never frustrated by what I didn't know and I'm still excited about what I can learn. I sewed fashions from age twelve until my early twenties and then switched to traditional quilts and then to textile art. While creating wall art, I went from following a pattern to creating independent pattern-free pieces and did a lot of learning about myself, my style, and my voice. When I came back to sewing fashions, I wanted to bring that learning with me only it wasn't that easy because...

Does it take courage to dress the way you really feel about yourself?

... it does take courage to dress the way you really feel about yourself especially when you consider that before you can dress that way, you have to figure out how you feel and what that feeling looks like. You have to research yourself. The more confident a person is with themselves, the more easily they are able to dress the way they feel. I did not emerge into adulthood a confident person and I march to a different drummer than most. It has taken a long time to be sufficiently at peace within myself to start reflecting that through clothing. I'm barely scratching the surface and I'm both thrilled, excited, and frustrated that it's taken so long.

DO you dress the way you really feel about yourself?

LOL - if this was a yes or no question, my answer would be no. I can identify what looks like me but I can't always transition that awareness to on the body. I've touched on it at different times and have favourite pieces as a result of those encounters but I'm not all there yet. I've been experimenting to discover what's me and at the same time, I have - perhaps - been both playing it safe and trying to put myself in the wrong box. It takes time to recognize that this is not my box. Ours is not a culture of dressing up or standing out. It's homogenized. To truly be yourself, and to wear your signature style with complete confidence, you need to be willing to stand out. Was I less willing than I thought or has it - with it being my signature style - not quite come together yet or is it something I've found and rejected and need to find again? Bits and pieces of all three. I'm getting closer.

Do you sew to express your own individuality, and what is it that you are expressing?  Rebelliousness?   Power?  Artistry?  Thumbing your nose at something?   Something else?

If I am attending a workshop with a big name, it's highly unlikely that I'll wear one of their patterns and if a pattern is suddenly very popular and "everyone" is making it, I probably won't and I may be so disinclined to sew it that I'll give the pattern away. I have no desire to be like everyone else. I sew for fit, for creativity, and for individuality.

The greatest struggle for me switching back to clothing from textile art has been the paint-by-number feeling of sewing a pattern versus the unknown exploratory journey of creating textile art. It's a vibrating, engaged, can't stop sewing, want to know what's going to happen next, type of energy that I've been working to bring into sewing fashions. It's why I love refashioning so much. I don't think I will feel truly expressive until I'm experiencing that energy on a more regular basis.

I recently read a comment made by someone who is searching for a special pattern. It made me pause to think about the opposite approach of making a pattern special. I think that's what is so amazing about a T & T. Once fitted, it can be taken in so many directions that make a pattern special, unique, and individualized as opposed to identifiable.  I don't think I'm pushing myself enough to really work a T & T pattern.

This difference in perspective and output between looking for a special pattern or making a pattern special engages my imagination and I know that's where I need to focus my energy so that my clothing is unique, individualized, creative, textural, artistic, bold, a canvas, and a background for points of interest like jewelry. I know it in theory only that goal requires play, practice, and persistence and that's another struggle - finding self imposed deadlines and sufficient pressure to motivate.

Part of accomplishing individuality is defining the styles, colors, textures, lines, and shapes that work for you. That's not an overnight, quick answer if you happen to think a lot like I do and if you experiment through trial and error and if you tend to get caught up in finding the answer. Right now, I'm feeling confident that I've arrived at some of those answers. A few.

Maybe you sew just to be able to be "on trend" and do it affordably, or just want clothes that friggin' FIT you, because nothing in retail does - I'm interested in those reasons too.  Or maybe you just don't want to be part of the "fast fashion" crowd - kudos to you for that!

I definitely do not want to be on trend and I'm not interested in fast fashion. I prefer clothing that is timeless by nature of the fact that it's classic or it's artsy and unique. It's also really Really REALLY important to me that my clothes fit extremely well and that the lines are flattering to my figure type and expressive of my fashion personality. These are HUGE goals that create tension and a division of time and interest. Will I focus on fit or will I focus on creative expression? What will I make time for? Where will I spend my resources?

Fit is a journey all its own especially when your weight is a moving target like mine is. Although fit is technical, I think that learning curve is made more difficult by the fact that our expressions of self can be a similar moving target as we grow and evolve. We are different women at twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, and so on. We can be different women after fitting our dress shell than before. Everything we learn changes us and what once worked, won't always and yet some things remain the same. All of the illustrations in this posting are of garments that I see as expressive of my style and most of these pieces would have appealed to me at any age but are more wearable now at fifty simply because I am more confident.

Why do you sew? 
I sew because I breath in fabric and sewing is the number one method by which I express, entertain, and energize myself. I like that how I sew has evolved over the nearly forty years I've been sewing and that there is still plenty of room to continue learning, evolving, experimenting, expressing.

And what is the creative process behind it?

Jilly meant these last two more as wrap up questions but I wanted to use this one to address the things we struggle with and the awareness we have of our struggles. We can set goals but we won't always attain them if there's something unidentifiable standing between us and that goal. It's fear, typically the fear of fear of failure which is ultimately the fear of rejection. If I were to take a guess at what's holding me back, I would say it had to do with all the years I invested in my previous career only to have it end by circumstances beyond my control. I would rather not go through that again except that as valid as that fear may be, it doesn't really work for my creative journey.

I want to move forward and I'm finding it hard to do the work without the publishing and exhibiting deadlines I used to have. I've been wondering if I need to create some of those and if so, how. I also see that creating originality - whether it's drafting a design, adapting a T & T, creating my own fabric, adding embellishment details, and so on - is the form of expression that will take me away from the paint-by-number feeling and into the originality and uniqueness I crave. I've mentioned it before so you'd think it'd be a no brainer to go in that direction once you've recognized it and apparently not so. I'm having trouble making myself do the work which is why do the work is this year's catch phrase.

Artistic expressions involve internal emotions and when that happens, sewing is not nearly as cut and dried as I'm sewing a blouse, or a skirt, or a dress. Stuff happens. Good stuff. I'll eventually figure out what's holding me back because I think we both have to enjoy and perfect our technical skills and keep pushing creative boundaries to really explore any art form. Or perhaps I need to because I'm a go deep kind of person.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - interesting questions to ponder/answer


  1. THANK YOU for such a thoughtful and well-written response to my post! Not only do I relate thoroughly with much of what you said; you also give me even more food for thought, and I love it!

    I too, am still discovering "who I am", and it's quite a delightful eye-opener to realize how much the creative sewing process helps me delve deeper into the self-discovery process. Bit by bit, I'm emerging with more self-awareness and more self-confidence, and that feels good :).

    I hope to think, and write, more about this as I carry on....thank you so much for keeping the dialogue so alive :)

    1. You're welcome. I enjoyed thinking/writing about it and will look forward to reading more on your blog. YEAH!

  2. Do the Work is a very good goal. I have so many items on my to do list that I go from one to another and it seems like I never finish any thing. Today is no exception. I am looking for a specific item and keep getting pulled off in another direction with something that has a higher priority. I want to work in my sewing studio but cannot afford the time because of this missing item.
    It is the same old circle.
    I need a second cup of coffee.
    Karen in S.W. Ohio

    1. Ah yes. Some days we can be so focused and other days so itchy. Good luck finding your item and then sew, sew, sew.

  3. It's so nice to see you contemplate all this. You have hit on some points for me, as well as given me more to think about, as I finish up the last of the grad dresses. Thanks for that. Love all the pictures too!!

    1. I was wondering how you were doing. Glad you're almost finished the dresses. I'd love to hear your thoughts if/when you're ready to share.

  4. Most of what you wrote didn't surprise me since I've been reading your blog for a while now, but a few things did.

    I would have never guessed that you consider yourself an introvert purely based on the way you like to dress. Maybe I'm stereotyping but to me you dress very much like in extrovert. I have a girlfriend that dresses similar to you and she's very, very much an extrovert. I'm an introvert and maybe that's why I'm having a hard time with the creative side of sewing. I just want to fade into the woodwork and not call attention to myself.

    I don't see how fear of failure equals fear of rejection. I've tried to make the jump from one to the other, and honestly, I can't.

    1. LOL - that's a very common reaction when I tell people I'm introverted. They think because I'm outgoing and curious and because I enjoy public speaking that I must also be extroverted. Not true. I require huge amounts of personal space and refresh by being alone. When we first got married my husband wasn't sure what I meant by needing space and now he uses the phrase applied to himself and will often say I think you need some space. On any quiz - and I've done a lot - I come out an introvert. There is of course a scale between extreme extraversion and extreme introversion and a mid point where you're almost equal. I may be closer to the mid point but definitely on the introvert side.

      All fear boils down to the fear of rejection through a link like this. If I attempt to do X and I fail (fear of failure) then everyone will know that I am a failure and they will think badly of me and may not like me anymore (fear of rejection). It doesn't matter if it's true, probably, or even possible. Fear is more often irrational than not.

    2. Thinking about this some more I should probably add that in many but not all situations I don't actually mind attention as long as it's positive. I like to connect with other people. They fascinate me and I'm always curious to know what they do, how they think, and what their dreams are. At the back of my mind, I'm wondering what do I know or what could I do to help attain that dream although I have very little patience for negativity and complaining and I'll walk away from that real quick.

  5. It's funny, but I've had a similar journey. You think you would like to dress a similar way, but when you wear it, it ends up feeling like a costume instead of an expression of yourself. As I've learned to sew, I realize more and more that I am not as funky as I think I am. It's all a discovery process, peeling of the onion.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.