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Overcoming sewing frustration to create something beautiful

I remember my sister saying when we were young about her one of her friends - "She's my best friend and I hate her". Sometimes that is how I feel about dressmaking. It's a big part of my life but sometimes I find it really frustrating.

I recently started to make lingerie and although I have been dressmaking for many years making lingerie had escaped me. I think it's because the fabrics and accessories involved are quite specific and my aversion to getting things wrong (like ordering the wrong stuff) previously stopped me taking the plunge. But the wonderful Alison Smith and her fabulous School of Sewing provided me with a safe environment and opportunity to learn and I gave it a go.

Because it was something I had wanted to learn for some time I hoped that when I finally got round to it I would be a natural and I would fall in love with it immediately. Hmmm, that's not quite how it went. Like all things we do for the first time, it was never going to be my best attempt but that didn't stop me getting frustrated as things didn't go to plan straight away.

I started with a pattern that Alison recommended - the Marlborough bra by Orange Lingerie. It is similar in style and sizing to the ready-to-wear bras I like and wear. It was easy to cut out (although even though the pieces are small there are lots more of them than you would expect!)

Because I wanted to use padding the first job was to pad and line the relevant cup pieces which was fine until I tried to attach them together. Working with 1/4 inch seam allowances takes some getting used to particularly with four layers of relatively slippery fabric and padding that seemed to have a life of its own!

Unpicking skills tested to the max with these fabrics

It's also not very forgiving when things go wrong as trying to unpick the lacey and silky fabrics without puckering them is a very slow and deliberate job. After a few attempts I was still not happy with how it was looking and I left the first session feeling dejected.

It felt like my dream of becoming a skilled lingerie maker was disappearing before my eyes and no amount of logical consolation from my friends and family could lessen my frustration.

A chance conversation with a very wise lady fortunately got me out of my funk. She talked to me about connecting with the beautiful fabrics that I was working with and just focusing on being part of creating something beautiful without worrying about the end product - just enjoying the process of handling the pieces and each small element of the construction.

My whole attitude in the follow up session was different. I was calmer, more present in the moment and more appreciative of the lovely environment and laughter in the sewing group. I took the pressure off myself and in doing so was able to let my creation evolve.

My first Marlborough bra

I am delighted with my first attempt - a thing of beauty. I have learnt a lot from the process but rather than being put off by my frustrations I am energised to give it another go and also have a strategy should I feel frustrated in the future.

When creating something we can often be our own greatest critic. If you find yourself feeling pressured or becoming frustrated it might help to go back to the basics of just being in the moment. Stop and look around you, wherever you are, and find one thing you love. It might be as small as the colour of an ornament or the fact the room is warm. Think about how grateful you are for that thing for a moment and then do it twice more so that you now have three things you love and can connect with (*1).

Cards and messages that remind me I'm loved

You can then take that new energy and perspective back to your sewing and it might help you connect with it in a slightly different way. And remember that it's also OK to reach out and ask for help even it is just an ear to listen to you vent your frustration and clear your head.

I'd love to hear more about your relationship with your sewing/dressmaking and any tips you have for managing frustration with projects so if you want to share please use the comments below.

Wishing you sewmuchmorefun...


(*1) If you'd like to find out more about this technique check out this book by the fabulous Sue Ricks - Three Steps to Enjoying Life

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