Ask Alex: Your Questions Answered (the personal ones)

ask alex Oct 30, 2018

A short time ago I sent a survey to my email list. The purpose of the survey was to get an idea about what they were struggling with so that I could be of greater service to them. One of the questions I posed was this:

If you could ask me one question regarding your struggle what would it be?

To my surprise there were a lot of personal questions in the mix that were asked several times, so I thought I would share my answers in this weeks video. The short hand version of the video is below for your convenience, but if you need elaboration on any of the topics, by all means watch the video!

Here we go:

  1. How do you make time for your personal sewing?

 It’s difficult, to say the least, especially since my business has grown, but I have made my personal sewing a part of my business because I believe that the time I invest in personal projects ultimately serves you. As I move through a sewing project, I experience the same struggles that you do. I have limitations on time, fabric, machinery and tools, and even knowledge so when I find solutions to those struggles I am able to share it with you.

I make time for sewing by making it one of my priorities. It becomes a priority because it has a higher purpose. This higher purpose is more important to me than other things. If you’re struggling with finding the time to sew, think about what higher purpose it serves.

We all have limited time in the day, we choose our focus, and what we focus on always grows.

  1. Do you ever get frustrated when you have to sew multiple muslins? How do you deal with it?

 Yes! I definitely get frustrated! And here’s a little secret, when I get truly frustrated I cry and have a tantrum! Here’s what I’ve come to understand, frustration arises when we don’t understand the problem we’re experiencing. Understanding takes reflection and research in some cases, so I’ve learned to combat frustration by taking a break from the project. It’s difficult to do when you feel short on time, but honestly you’ll save time in the end when you give yourself some space to solve the problem in a thoughtful way. 

  1. Do you make house calls? Can you come to my house? Can you come to Scotland? Can you come to the UK? Can you come to Australia? Can you come to the US? Can you come to Toronto?

 First of all thank you so much for the invite into your home! Seriously, I truly do hope to get to all of these places at some point but the reality is it’s probably not going to happen in the time frame that you need it so I would like to invite you to come and see me right here in Victoria, BC, Canada. It’s a beautiful place with mild weather all year round. My group workshops are held in a hotel in the downtown area that has harbour views and is close to shopping, restaurants, and other attractions. I’d be happy to spend the time with you!

  1. What are your thoughts on home sewers attending professional pattern making or sewing courses? Do they actually teach you the skills required or is it still a lot of figuring it out on your own?

 Attending a professional pattern making or sewing course can definitely have value! I always find when in a group environment, you have the opportunity to learn from the instructor and the students around you. It also puts you in the frame of mind for learning and exploring new ideas.

 If it’s a university or college program:

  • Understand that they usually cater to students who what to enter the fashion industry not home sewers who what to improve their skills.
  • Patterns will be developed for standard sizes and there will be limited discussion about solving individual fit issues.
  • Courses will primarily concentrate on developing a student’s creative skills not necessarily their technical skills. There are exceptions to this, but it is rare.
  • Most programs are designed to give you an introduction to several disciplines within the industry it is up to you to then find your specialty. So most classes will be broad strokes at the beginning.

 If it’s a night class or community college class:

  • Choose your instructor wisely. Try to get as much information as you can about their experience and specialties.
  • Choose more focused classes. For example, rather than a class the develops all the basic blocks choose classes that focus on each one separately. You’ll get more details about each garment category this way.
  • Do the homework. The homework is where you will discover if you truly understand the material and will give you the opportunity to ask questions and get answers for the areas you found difficult to complete on your own.

 Ultimately in any course you will learn the basic skills you need, it is up to you to practice and apply them. It is in this doing that you will learn.

  1. Do you have a book with all of your fitting solutions?

 No. But it’s something that will probably come in time after a little more research and experience. But to be honest, I don’t think any book can provide all the information you need so I am concentrating my efforts on online courses that will show you how to fit.

Fitting is a tactile art. It’s about fabric manipulation through gentle coaching and translating that to a paper pattern. It’s hard to put into strictly words or photos. I believe a combination of instructional videos, drawings, and written instructions is going to give you the best opportunity to learn everything you need to get a better fit on your garments.

  1. Do you have a mantra or favourite sewing affirmation?

 It’s not a mantra or really a sewing affirmation but there is a quote by Ira Glass, a writer, producer and radio personality that always keeps me focused even when things don’t turn out as I hoped.

 “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.”

I hope you enjoyed that Q and A session and found something of interest in the answers. If you have anything to add or want to share your answers to the questions, just comment below.

All My Best,