I haven't been sewing much lately. Am working on one monster of a project that's part fabric, part varnish, part wood, part metal and part cardboard that's taken a year at least. Not because it's large or labor-intensive; more because it's conceptually demanding i.e. I must think through every step to make sure I don't foul it up. I started on it last summer but conceptualized it even longer ago than that. I wish I were done with it so I could show you because I think it will be the most useful thing I've ever made. Just last week I finally cleared enough Backlogged Projects to feel ready to tackle it again and what did I do instead? Sewed 22 bibs. As if I needed any of them. I'm nothing if not a master of avoidance.
I'm telling you all this and making you hate me for being so covert because I need you all to hold me accountable. Don't let me give up and talk about summer dresses and toys and dolls and bags and other feeble, feeble stuff. Don't let me MAKE summer dresses and toys and dolls and bags and other feeble, feeble stuff.
Don't let me make make cardboard things. No, that would be OK. Don't let me drag out crafts from my childhood and wax all sentimental. Don't let me introduce new crafts or hobbies, like crochet or tatting or beekeeping. Keep my nose to the grindstone. Call my bluff when you see me cheating and showing off some new useless beanbag or pinafore or felt flower that I made to "relax".
And now, a question for you. Last week I was thinking about how I learn to sew clothes (yes, it was another avoidance tactic). Notice I didn't say "How I learnED to sew clothes". I don't mean how I learned to hold a needle and thread it and poke it in and out of the fabric and make a skirt. I don't mean kinds of skirt fabrics and how to use a sewing machine and what kinds of body types there are. I don't mean pattern drafting or even fit. I mean, when I made my first skirts, how did I learn what shapes the skirt fabric pieces looked like, and which ones get joined to which ones before other ones, and which kinds of seams in which configurations to use to do that joining, and whether I needed zippers rather than buttons or scotch tape, or eyelets with ribbon laces or whatever, and where on those skirt fabric pieces the zippers should be connected, and how low, and how the bottom hem should be finished.
Some people, I think, learn all that by reading books. Really, they pick up books with titles like, "Sew A Skirt From Scratch" or "Basic Skirt Sewing" and they read every single word and scrutinize every single diagram and photo and at the end of it, they know the answers to all the conundrums I listed above. They consume the theory and they apply it effortlessly to actual fabric and they produce a skirt.
Some people read tutorials. They search the internet and find blogs, and they collect 100 of their favorite skirt tutorials and piece together their own workable cheat sheet of skirt-making tips. There isn't a lot of foundational theory, but there is a lot of friendly language and self-deprecating humor as fellow bloggers share their own failures at making a skirt. These kinds of people are experimental and experiential; they follow all the advice, avoid all the pitfalls, and produce a skirt.
Some people (we admire their courage) go to a store and buy a pattern. They look at the pictures on the package and decide which skirt they like the look of. They take it home, open it out, read the instructions (we really admire their courage) and follow them. As a result of their obedience and submission to the words of McCalls/Simplicity/Burdastyle/Ottobre/Independent Blog Designer, they produce a skirt.
Some people attend classes. They sign up for Skirt Making 101 (or homec or Mother-in-Law's free sewing instructions) and they learn by watching another human being assemble a skirt. They take notes, and they copy sequences and techniques. They follow along, ask questions, watch and let the Skirt-Making Guru check their work at regular intervals so they know they're doing it right. At the end of the class/ MIL-DIL bonding session, they produce a skirt.
Some people go to their closet and remove a skirt from its hanger (or from the crushed pile on the floor). They look at it and determine what shape the fabric pieces will be. They turn it inside out and examine its innards. They work out an overview construction sequence in their heads - (1) sew darts; (2) sew pockets; (3) sew zipper placket; (4) sew side seams; (5) sew waistband; (6) attach waistband; (7) sew hem. They apply that flowchart in their head to fabric and they produce a skirt.
Have you ever thought about how YOU learned to sew clothes? Or a bag? Or anything? Yes, I know you're going to say it's a combination of all those ways. But there has to be one primary method you use, without realizing it. It's your learning style- the way that, across the board, produces the highest rate of success in whatever your learn. It may even be a totally new method (e.g. stuffing a skirt in an IV drip, adding water, stirring, and letting it drain into your skull) that I didn't mention in my list above. You go first, and I'll tell you my answer later!