Whether you are a seasoned sewist or still learning, you may experience something I call DIY Anxiety from time to time.
Symptoms of DIY Anxiety include, but are not limited to: cold sweats, yelling at inanimate objects, reverting to childhood behaviors, and fabric-related nightmares. Loved ones may become concerned when you are found crying on a pile of what was supposed to be a pencil skirt.
Fortunately, DIY Anxiety can be prevented with self-awareness and discipline. Here are some suggestions for keeping DIY Anxiety at bay.
Not enjoying yourself? STOP.
Think I was joking about the crying bit above? I was not.
I suspect most crafters cry at some point during a project. When you put in the extra effort to DIY, you are inevitably going to have some feeling of affection towards your project.
On top of that, we’re inundated with images of flawless homes, crafts, and meals from lifestyle blogs, the Food Network, and Pinterest. It’s so easy for expectations to fly off the charts before reality throws you back down to Earth.
When you start getting tired, you’re going to make more dumb mistakes. Breaks are key.
That’s not to say that you should give up at the first signs of frustration. Sewing is hard work, period. You’ll spend countless hours ripping out stitches only to make the same mistake again. And sometimes things just don’t work for whatever reason (that reason might be that you only meant to clip off a loose thread, but also trimmed a good chunk off the sleeve).
You will be upset. Then, you might scrap it and make something else that ends up great because you learned from your mistakes. Failing is learning. Regardless, if whatever you’re doing starts to feel less like a puzzle and more like misery, just sleep on it. It will be there tomorrow.
Learn with your hands.
If you want to learn to sew or advance your skills, don’t start by trying to understand it all now, just sew.
You might make some spectacularly ugly things and that is great. I used to be ashamed of what I made as a teenager. For example, my prom dress was green camo with pink tulle peeking out the hem (it was the early 2000’s). Even though I still cringe when I look at those photos, I did learn to work with a lot of different fabrics during that time. My naiveté was a boon because I didn’t know what fabrics were harder to work with and I didn’t care. I was a self-absorbed teenager and I was going to make whatever I wanted.
Now, with my adult “wisdom,” I’ll sometimes buy a few yards of a great fabric and actually be afraid to use it. What if I cut it out wrong? Will I be able to rip out a seam without fraying the entire edge? What if I just don’t like it? Worrying is more wasteful than trying. Whether or not a project is a success, you are going to be training your sewing muscles, so jump in.
Don’t judge and don’t compare.
I hate when people scoff at using quilting fabric for apparel. Sure, it’s not always ideal, but the whole point of sewing is to use your creativity to make something unique.
I’ve made plenty of great and not-so-great garments using fabric a pattern wasn’t meant for. Sewing experience is the best way to learn. Not to mention, it’s very easy to sit on your high horse if you have access to apparel fabric stores (or actually know what pique is so you can buy it online). Judgment will always come back to bite you because you’ll start becoming hard on yourself since you’re the one who sees all your mistakes.
Relatedly, comparing your projects to all the other ones online won’t keep you motivated to continue learning. It is absolutely ok to want to become better at sewing and drooling over beautiful sewing blogs for inspiration, that’s half the fun. But remember, many many many bloggers are professionals. Even if their blog started out as Average Joe Sews, once advertisers, partnerships, and professional photography equipment get involved, the outcomes are going to be decidedly less average and much more exceptional.
If professionals make you feel inadequate but you still want to see what a sewing pattern looks like finished, try doing a Google Image search for the pattern you are considering and looking for “average” photos—dark images, wrinkles in the garment, a refrigerator in the background, and other indications the sewist has a day job, too.
P.S. Tilly and the Buttons has some good advice for working with quilting cottons.
Don’t use sewing as another way you don’t add up.
Most people don’t sew. You already have a skill (or are learning a skill) most other people don’t have. Think about how much freedom that gives you to add pockets to a skirt, embellish a thrift shop find, get a discount on a damaged shirt and go home and fix the split seam yourself (I have done this plenty of times), or make a knockoff dress you saw in a magazine. These are all things you can do now that many people only wish they could do. Try reminding yourself of this when something goes epically wrong.
Think about what you want from sewing
Once you tell people you sew, the requests will roll in: Will you hem my jeans? Can I pay you $20 to make me a dress? Where do you sell your clothes? When are you going to try out for Project Runway?
Personally, I prefer not to capitalize on my hobbies and that is hard for some people to understand. I do have a tendency to say yes too often, and I feel like a jerk if I say no to a friend or co-worker’s alteration requests. But, if I say yes when I want to say no, I only end up resentful.
On the other hand, if you do want to end up the next Etsy success story, you have to treat it like the business it is. Ask anyone who runs a small business how many hours they put in each week and how long it took to turn a profit. Even if it’s a business you run in your spare time, it is hard, hard work.
And remember, just because someone else thinks you could make a Spring Collection doesn’t mean you would get satisfaction from it, so listen to that little voice in your heart. Have an idea of what you want to get out of your hobby and it will be much easier to choose the opportunities you take advantage of. That way, you don’t spend a bunch of money and time making a collection of shorts only to then realize you don’t ever wear shorts (not that I know anything about that).
Similar to the common cold, DIY Anxiety is not something that can be cured. You will face it from time to time no matter what precautions you take. When you notice symptoms, a remedy of rest, clear fluids (vodka counts), and a dose of reality will get you back into that sewing chair like a bad ass.
Which of these causes of DIY Anxiety do you experience most?