There is an interesting thread running on Artisan's Square right now that piqued my interest. Here is an excerpt of jem's original post:
"...After seeing some of the garments displayed on this site, I am both motivated and discouraged. Your work seems like absolute perfection. I don't think I have ever sewn an item that is absolutely perfect. There always seems to be one little thing out of kilter. I get really annoyed with myself and can't understand why I can't sew with perfection. I am not a new sewer either. My work is decent and my non sewing friends are in total awe of the fact that I make my own clothes, but I still feel that after all this time sewing I shouldn't have to do these little tweaks to the garments. Am I being too hard on myself? Do any of you have this thought process, or is it just me?"
This makes me want to sit down with jem and have a good heart to heart.
A Matter of Perspective
When I was new to sewing (at the age of 17 in early 1988), I was absolutely fearless. The first real garment that I sewed was a prom dress. I was either too naive or too stupid to know that sewing a prom dress was probably not the typical first project. However, despite my lack of experience, I sewed that dress, I wore that dress and I was pretty damned proud of that dress. I though it was absolutely perfect. Well, I still have that dress and I can tell you, it was not perfect. I won't go into a laundry list of problems with it, but suffice it to say that, although I did an amazing job for a beginner, I can do much better now.
I guess it's just a matter of perspective. For the skills I possessed at the time, I did an excellent job. But now, through study, experience and a healthy dose of common sense (attained through simply getting older), I am a better seamstress than I was 24 years ago. So, I submit that perfection is a matter of perspective, related to our age, our life experiences and our own personal standards.
Our Own Worst Critics
Why are so many of us always so hard on ourselves? And why is self reproach such a female thing? Believe me, I know that men aren't immune to self doubt, but it seems more ingrained in women. Not to mention, the desire to compare ourselves to other women. "If only I was as ______ as her" can be a common refrain for many women (how we fill in the blank may vary, but the general idea is the same). Unfortunately, this attitude can undermine and weaken us.
Comparing yourself to another seamstress is a recipe for disaster. Wanting to improve your skills is laudable, putting yourself down is not. For me, sewing is a revelation, a salvation, a blessing and a joy - it makes me sad to think that someone would feel even a tiny bit bad about herself because of sewing.
In the Eye of the Beholder
Like many things in life, perfection is defined by each individual - no two people will describe perfection in the same way. I often cringe at the hours (days, months, years) that are spent by some seamstresses trying to get a "perfectly" fitting pair of pants. All wrinkles and smile lines must.be.eliminated or else. For them, that is perfection. For me, it is an exercise in insanity. But, as they say, to each her own. What I might call a perfect pair of pants (or jacket or dress or...) may not be acceptable to someone else...and that's okay. We all have our own guidelines (which are likely to morph and shift as we go on in our lives) that we live within.
I guess what I'm trying to say, is that I feel for jem. I really do believe she is being far too tough on herself and I truly hope that she learns to cut herself some slack. I'm willing to bet that her garments are far more fabulous than she realizes.