Let’s take a moment and go back in time, to the beginning of my sewing journey back in 2010.
When I first decided to start this sewing adventure, I was enthralled with the idea of choosing my first pattern. I scoured all the patterns available from the “Big Four” (Simplicity, Vogue, Butterick, McCalls) trying to decide which pattern would make the cut.
It’s important to note that this was before I learned how many freebies and tutorials the internet had to offer – nowadays, my advice to beginners is always DON’T USE COMMERCIAL PATTERNS when you’re a complete newbie – but alas, I chose a Big Four pattern because I just didn’t know any better.
After much deliberation, Simplicity 2685 won me over – an accessories pattern that included four different purses. I had seen the pattern listed on a review web site, described as, “easy for beginners.” Awesome!
Plus, I was determined, and convinced that I could complete the bag if I just followed the directions meticulously, Googling every once in awhile if I didn’t understand a term. Easy enough, right?
I got through just a few steps before I was completely stumped. From what I could tell, the sentence fragment Simplicity provided was complete gibberish and the diagram was absolutely useless. I couldn’t move forward without completing this particular step. ROAD BLOCK.
I GOOGLED THE HECK out of that pattern for days and came up with nothing useful. Nothing but that “easy for beginners!” statement taunting me over and over again.
The unfinished project sat there for days, and then days turned into weeks. I’m pretty sure I went through all the stages of grief, convinced that I would never learn to sew.
- Denial: JUST PRETEND YOU DIDN’T SEE THIS STEP. IT’S NOT IMPORTANT. YOU DON’T NEED IT. (Yes. Yes you do.)
- Anger: I HATE YOU SIMPLICITY. I’M GOING TO THROW ALL MY SIMPLICITY PATTERNS IN A CANYON. (Simplicity, to Lindsay: “K bye.”)
- Bargaining: IF I START THIS WHOLE THING OVER AGAIN, AND PAY MORE ATTENTION THIS TIME, AND ALSO HELP LITTLE OLD LADIES ACROSS THE STREET EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, I’LL KNOW EXACTLY WHAT TO DO WHEN I GET TO THIS GODFORSAKEN STEP. (No, you won’t. Because the sentence fragment is still gibberish and the diagram is still completely useless. You’d be better off asking the little old ladies for help interpreting the pattern.)
- Depression: I’LL NEVER LEARN TO SEW. (Blah blah blah)
- Acceptance: (No shouting here, just shoving the pattern to the bottom of my fabric bin, never to resurface until… 2016.)
So, it’s a good thing I finally reached that acceptance stage because it allowed me to completely move on and try something new. I eventually found and conquered the friendship bag tutorial from ‘p.s. i quilt’ which was the incredible mental boost I needed in order to recognize that my sewing machine purchase wasn’t a complete waste. That’s also what made me realize that the internet was the key to my sewing success. Thank you for existing, my sweet World Wide Web!
It was a long, long time before I finally tried a “real” pattern again since I was convinced they were too advanced, too scary or too “I need Rosetta Stone to interpret this.” Luckily, I eventually got over that mental block, and these days I’ve successfully completed lots of “real” patterns.
But that Simplicity bag pattern has always hung over my head as my first sewing failure. Every time I stumbled across the pattern pieces in my fabric bin, I got annoyed and wanted to throw the pattern in a canyon (I didn’t). I eventually cut up the fabric for use in other projects.
It was just in the past year or so that I started to wonder if I should try the pattern again. It’s funny how tastes and preferences change, because when I look at the pattern now, the bag I was trying to make is not appealing at all. It’s not the sort of pattern I’d pick up these days. I didn’t even want the bag anymore… but I DID want to strike the pattern off my list of failures. I did want to stop being annoyed every time I found the pattern pieces. And I wanted to stop thinking there was some pattern out there that had conquered me, versus me conquering it.
I’m sure you all know where the long, dramatic story is going.
I know you’re all dying to know… was the pattern really at fault this whole time? Or was it my complete lack of sewing expertise that caused all this drama?
My conclusion: it was a combination of both, but I will continue to mostly blame the pattern because this is my blog and I’m allowed to cry (and point fingers) if I want to. But seriously, I’m pretty sure the pattern was written by babboons using finger paints.
Even with my not-so-newbie experience, I had to stare at that notorious step for awhile and figure out what the heck they were trying to say. I eventually had to stop looking at the pattern altogether and just make some educated guesses based on my bag-making experiences from the past six years in order to make it through. And no “beginner” should ever be expected to make educated guesses on their first pattern. Just sayin’, Simplicity. Just sayin’.
So, there you have it. The six-year project. I’m glad I finally conquered it. But I never want to see this bag again!
My advice to newbies: Avoid commercial patterns. When a pattern gives you trouble, just push it aside and try another one. Don’t give up. The more you sew, the more you’ll be able to make educated guesses. Just keep swimming. Just keep sewing. Etc. etc. etc. And when a pattern makes you angry, don’t throw it in a canyon, because you might want to show it who’s boss a few years later.
Have you ever revisited an unfinished project years later? Am I the only one who has had trouble with commercial patterns?