Sewing trepidation, or, how to make a shirt in 16 weeks

It’s been so long since I first taught myself to knit that I’d forgotten the utter fear that accompanies new crafty endeavors. In particular, this week has been a sewing week. Not just any sewing, though. No, garment sewing. Did you hear that? Yes, I am crazy enough to attempt making clothing that I might actually wear.

Now, I have sewn before. You’ll note in the annals of this blog many small projects, all of which are either square or rectangular. Like this. Or this. The stage I’m at now with sewing reminds me of how I spent my first two years as a knitter: afraid to move beyond simple squares and rectangles in easy-but-predictable garter stitch. Once I took the first step and picked out a pattern that included some foreign techniques, my knowledge and skill multiplied with each project. And today, I can’t imagine knitting something that didn’t require a new technique, that didn’t require a few hours of good ol’ Internet research and time spent on the Ravelry forums.

So, keeping in mind how “quickly” my sewing skills would grow once I tried something new, I set out this week to make a “simple” (by all accounts) shirt: McCall’s 5388. I’ve never made anything from a real, bona fide pattern. Now, I probably should have started with something even easier: perhaps this simple A-line skirt tutorial that’s been in my Delicious queue for years? But I had to go with the pattern. And I’m glad I did. Something about cutting out those onionskin shapes and pinning them down on fabric made me feel like a real sewer. The feeling, however, was short-lived.

For even though the steps are easy to follow and I get the gist of what’s going on, the thought that I might do something wrong is paralyzing. So I suck up the courage to do about one step each day, all the while fearing that imminent garment destruction is just around the corner. I remember this feeling in knitting, this fear that each next step will either advance me or completely ruin all my hard work. Or the fear that I will finish it, but it won’t fit or will just look like total crap.

But nonetheless, I plug along, and occasionally, I forget that I’m so scared of what I’m doing and instead, I just enjoy the easy thrumming of the machine and my foot on the pedal and the fabric running under the presser foot in clean, easy lines, and I know maybe I’ll get this done, sometime.


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