Ann at Gorgeous Things did a brilliant post recently about the many easy ways to ruin a great project. I've been guilty of just about every thing on her list, and as I commented on her blog, the only reason I haven't been guilty of trimming myself up like grandma's favorite chair is the exorbitant price of home dec trimmings at my local store - good judgment and/or taste might not have stopped me, but cheapness did.
On the flip side, isn't it fabulous when you reach the point where you (generally) stop committing these fabric faux pas? I think the last stumbling block for me was using cheap interfacing, but I just ordered the sampler pack from Sew Exciting and I know I'm going to like it, just from listening to everyone else's comments. How many times do you have to put everything you've got into a project only to wash it once and watch the cuffs and collar get all ripply because you used the cheap crap from Joann's?
So when does it become clear? When do you stop taking the shortcuts that really aren't shortcuts? I've been sewing for years on years, but I really only consider that I've been doing it seriously since I joined Patternreview in early 2006. Before that, I sewed, off and on, since I was a kid, and I even wore a lot of what I made, but I was never happy with my results and the stuff always ended up in the back of the closet. I truly thought it was because home sewers could only produce a certain level of work, that the really good stuff was beyond us - RTW apparently was manufactured in some mystical place where everything just worked. They had special fabrics, better machines; they knew stuff that I didn't. (That last part was true, at least).
I didn't realize, until I started more or less living on Patternreview, that regular people could - and very frequently did - create garments that looked like RTW. Only better, because they fit exactly the way they wanted. Because they were exactly the right color, the right fabric, the right length.
Sewing wasn't just about picking out a pattern that I thought was cute, cutting out fabric that was pretty, crossing my fingers, doing whatever the pattern said and letting the machine do all the work. When I realized that, things started to change. Sewing was more than just reading and following the pattern instructions - and it really helped if I read the instructions before I started sewing. It was also about thinking. It was about reading sewing books, blogs, everything I could lay my hands on. It was retraining myself to not take the quick way, because it would show. It was the HUGE lightbulb moment that sewing = ironing. A lot of ironing. Which I normally hate like poison, and I still resent having to iron my clothes, but during construction? Hand me that iron, baby! That seam needs pressing.
Not surprisingly, the more work that I put into a garment, the better it turned out, and the more I liked wearing it. It only takes that happening a few times before you want it to happen EVERY time. Soon it becomes second nature to take the long way, to make a muslin for a new pattern, to try a new technique I've been afraid of. (My life changed when I got over my fear of invisible zippers). And I've stopped keeping the "good stuff" for when I'm "good enough" to use it. What's my motivation to become good enough if I'm sewing with cheap fabric and even if I like the result it won't survive a half dozen trips through the wash?
This isn't to say that I'm cured of short cuts or (brilliant) stupid ideas, and I'm sure there are plenty more wadders in my future, but at this point, I know that if nothing else, I'll learn something from the wadder projects, even if it's only to keep focused and resist the temptation to take the easy way out.