“Perfectionism is a disease, and a form of fear!”

So said Kenneth D King in a short interview in Threads magazine as advice to the sewing novice.

“When learning the craft of sewing […], you should expect to destroy several acres of fabric before you get good. This is an acquired skill which can only be perfected by means of repetition—practicing over and over, learning from mistakes, learning when you can save something, and when you need to cut your losses and start over.

If you are afraid to make a mistake, afraid to ruin some fabric, or afraid to waste some time, you won’t ever get really good at this craft. It’s the dues you pay for becoming proficient.

However, if you are willing to charge forward, cut into that fabric, try something different, and risk making a mistake, there will come one day when you realize that you’re sewing without that knot of worry in the pit of your stomach, and the process effortlessly glides along.”

How very true! For me anyway. Hence that mammoth stash. But easier said than done. I’m back hammering at the moulage / sloper again. And I’m certainly destroying several acres of gingham. But no cigar yet. Maybe gingham is too flimsy to assess such close-fitting patterns. Maybe I need to lay waste to acres of my more expensive and better quality stash before I’ll have that elusive perfect fit. Oops there it goes again, Perfectionism at work! See what I mean?

And what do you think? Does Mr. King’s words ring true for you too? Do you think the effort to learn the craft is worth it? Or have you managed to leave Perfectionism by the road side and learned to live with “That’s Plenty Good Thank You Very Much!”?


BTW, here’s an interesting article about Simmin Sethna, the woman who taught Mr. King the French Couture Pattern Drafting method of Ecole Guerre-Lavigne (now Esmod)

0 comments on ““Perfectionism is a disease, and a form of fear!”

  1. That’s a great quote, but I’m also one of those people that’s not so great at using the ‘best’ fabrics. My sewing seems to work better with the ‘on sale’ stuff – less pressure I suspect :-). I use calico for muslins but fitting is hard. My latest thing is I have copied 3 very different but reasonably well fitting bodice patterns onto a piece of thick transparent paper (I don’t know what it is exactly) so I can check the basic measurements of new patterns against it before getting started.

    • Have you blogged in detail about your latest thing? Would be great if you can post the URL here. Would love to learn more!

  2. This rings true for me. I’ve been dragging my feet for six months now to really jump into developing a universal sloper and getting busy. I have developed a workable pants sloper from an old pair of pants. However, I have shelves of fabric and I am afraid of ruining it due to my lack of professional sewing skills. I realize now that the fabric I have purchased is not couture quality and it will take a wadder or 2 or 3, 4 … to get where I want to be.

  3. I like the title of your post. I agree that we should not fear too much about making a mistake and that mistakes are part of the learning process (I used to say that to language students). You can’t learn without making mistakes. And personally I have had some frustrations when sewing. ..but never have I thought to give up. As for the sloper…I am still struggling with the sleeve fitting. I think it would be helpful to find someone who could help me to point out the mistakes. I tried recently and the instructor told me there was nothing wrong with the fit…so I don’t know if it’s me looking for irrealistic perfection or the instructor not being specialised in fitting issues. What kind of issues are you having with your sloper? What about posting pictures on your blog and asking for advice?

    • Thank you for reminding me about all the help out there if I’d only ask! When the weather gets nicer I’ll have to take some clearer photos of the sloper muslins to make it easier for people to help me.

      The sleeves on your last dress look pretty good! So looks like you’re slowly getting there.

      I totally relate to your story about the instructor. It is rather hard to know what is a “good fit” and what are unrealistic expectations. Because I’m so used to fashion magazine photos with stick insect models, when I look at fitting book examples of “good fit” I feel disappointed. I don’t know whether it’s simply the difference between real people and models, or whether it is possible to achieve even more flattering fit for real people than shown in the fitting books.

      What about you? Have you got photos of what you think is poor sleeve fit vs good sleeve fit?

  4. Wow, words to live by! I tend to charge ahead and then blame myself for making mistakes… I’m glad to think of it as a necessary part of the learning process! Thanks for the insightful post! 🙂

    • During my youth I did that too. I think that was partly responsible for turning me into a hoarder rather than a regular sewer! So I was equally moved when I stumble upon this quote. It’s not like the fabrics are going to do me any more good sitting on the shelf than being experimented on. I guess the trick is to try, try, and try again, but always try to learn from your last less than perfect make.

      And the bit about learning when a project-gone-wrong can be salvaged vs when to cut the losses and move on is another great pointer too.

  5. Well, that didn’t hit home at all… says the girl who has several cuts of fabric that have been sitting in her stash for years attaining the status of “too good to cut”. No wonder I have so much more fun sewing muslins.

    • LOL. You better learn the art of cloth draping like those clever Indians. No cutting required then.

      BTW I quite like the way muslin look anyway. Sometimes I see photos of haute couture muslin and I think to myself that’s more than plenty good to wear!

  6. Fabric for toiles for blocks – Don’t use anything with a pattern, or that is too flimsy. I’d go with a lightweight calico to be honest, failing that, use a plain cotton fabric. Measurement (ease) over bust should be +10cm, in general terms, and waist should be +4cm, also, generally.

    Do you have any pther pattern cutting books to work from? I can recommend Natalie Bray for lots of “words”, but she’ll tell you anything you may need to know about what happens when you move something. For just plain getting started I suggest Winnifred Aldrich. She explains nothing, just says “do this, do that”. But once you have got the hang of drafting, Natalie Bray will fill in all the blanks!

    • I took the Fit For Real People route and started with Vogue Pattern’s fitting pattern. I thought if I can derive a basic sloper this way, not only would I have a foundation for drafting my own patterns, I’d also have a map of what changes I’d need to make to commercial patterns. Well, Vogue Patterns anyway. You know, two birds, one stone! 😀

      That was also the reason I used gingham this time. The grid was suppose to help me check the grains. Probably didn’t help that I pre-washed the gingham. When it comes to sloper development maybe stiffer unwashed muslin / calico is best? }:-)

      I have Connie Crawford’s Patternmaking Made Easy and Bunka College’s Fundamental of Garment Design for sloper drafting instruction. But to be honest, I’m not good with the “do this, do that” type instruction, like this dart has to be x inches from CB & y inches deep. I mean, our bodies are different right. OK, it might not vary by very much, but I don’t entirely trust generic figures to give a good personal fit.

      I’ve heard of Aldrich, but Natalie Bray is a new name to me. I like the idea of learning about the principles, what’s happening when you move something. Do you have the pattern design book or the fitting book?

      • i have Bray’s dress pattern designing, and more dress pattern designing, there is loads of info in them. re. body shapes and fitting across the bust, there is a method you can use for what we call “smaller or larger than standard” which is what the pattern cutting books work to, and why with commercial patterns you need to do bust fitting adjustments. i may cover that in a blog post soon, so maybe that will help? i don’t have any of the other books you mentioned…

        • Oh yes please – covering the subject of bust fitting adjustments in your blog that is! Always interested in how other people solve this problem.

  7. Jenny says:

    I love that quote–it’s so encouraging!
    I’ve been working on a sloper as well. Are you working from a pattern or from scratch?

    • This one started out as Vogue Fitting Pattern, altered initially the FFRP style. At some point I gave up FFRP & just started improvising directly on the gingham, probably over-fitting it – I can hardly breath in it! 🙂

      What about yours? Are you following any particular book or system?

      Speaking of which I just ordered Mr. King’s Moulage book. I’m after that nugget of advice on where to add wearing ease if you started with a skin-tight gingham.

      • Jenny says:

        Based on how many mods I have to make to EVERY pattern, I figured starting from scratch would be easier. But, I haven’t gotten to the fitting stage yet, so we shall see 🙂

        I hope Mr. K. can guide you in the right direction! Madalynne (I’ve mostly been following her tutorial) only adds the tiniest bit of ease around the bust, so I may find myself in the same predicament!

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