Saturday Musings: Self-Taught vs. Self-Taught

I recently came across the post “#1. Learn to Sew” by Megan Nielsen, which touched on the topic of being a self-taught sewer. Before that, I saw a blog post about a home sewer teaching her niece to sew by having her do sewing drills on paper. I’ve also seen a blog post in which the self-taught seamstress made her incredibly sloppy process into a tutorial, which theoretically other sewers would adopt as their own. And I’ve seen things on blogs (and among my makes) that are pretty bad, but presented as examples of good sewing.

Thinking about it, many sewers nowadays are self-taught or learned at the feet of someone who taught themselves most of what they know. There are some who were formally trained before becoming professionals, but many of those formal courses were not as formal as say, a university-level degree program, or a unionized apprenticeship/training program.

Being self taught, in anything, has the downside of not getting feedback from someone more knowledgeable than yourself and/or not having an objective standard against which to compare yourself. It’s easy to overrate or underrate your skills and knowledge, misread situations, and the like. How can you achieve mastery when when you’re learning on your own?

This has been a question on my mind for quite some time now — in fact, my entire recent sewing journey — because I came to sewing in order to become a professional. Intially, I wanted to be a fashion designer. At the time, I had no money, so I decided to do everything myself — designing, drafting, and sewing. Designing and drafting were a challenge (I can’t draw), but I managed to get a solid grasp on both, especially drafting.

But sewing, ah sewing. No matter what I did, it didn’t seem possible to consistently produce professional quality results. Nonetheless, I plugged away, and did (what I thought was) my best on each project. Now, three years after buying my beautiful and beloved Pfaff Hobby 1142, I’ve become fairly proficient at constructing a  garment. But I feel my sewing skills still leave something to be desired. No matter how much I read and practice, that lack of objective evaluation haunts me!

Moving forward, I’m taking sewing seriously. That means pressing every seam, basting as much as I need to, and in general taking the time to do things right. It’s nice to get compliments on my makes, but it will feel better to know I’ve done a really good job of sewing them. In knitting, this is called process knitting versus product knitting. What about you? Are you a process sewer or a product sewer?


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