Like a lot of people over the last year my lockdown life has led to me picking up a bunch of old hobbies. For me this was a lot of fabric based stuff, costuming in particular. Though I’ve also been doing a lot of embroidery, too.
This has made me realise a lot of things about myself and my creative style. Mostly that I can be pretty darn lazy even to the point where the project is let down by it. And I am way too willing to throw something away and start again once I hit a wall. These two traits seem pretty contradictory, shouldn’t I be more determined to stick my head down and finish a thing rather than starting over? You would think that, but the numerous half finished and abandoned projects that are currently spread across the house will vociferously disagree with you.
Seriously, I am managing to take up like four different rooms in this house with my nonsense. I am very glad that my family is willing to roll their eyes at me and let me be ridiculous. Currently I have taken over the dining room table, the spare room, several bits of the sitting room, and my own bedroom. I am like a nuclear reactor, only I create mess instead of radiation.
But what has really sunk in this last week or so are what kind of projects I enjoy over others. It turns out that if you give me an unlimited number of podcast episodes to listen to I can embroider for days, basically only stopping when my hands get sore. I will very easily sink into a sort of fugue state where I just concentrate on the stitches and what threads I need to use and all that fun stuff. Honestly, if I could line up enough podcasts for a nine to nine session every day for a week I would probably only stop when my hands started feel like they were going to fall off. It’s not tidy embroidery and because of that a set pattern to follow isn’t something that really works for me. But it is something that I find incredibly easy to just sink into and let my time drift past.
Then on the other side of the coin is the project that I am having a lot more problems with.
A bit of background might be necessary here.
I love the Regency period as a setting. Jane Austen is one of my idols when it comes to writing and I cannot count how many times I have read Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice. The last year or so this obsession basically became a full time job. Thanks in part to the Netflix adaptation of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books I decided to try my hand at making a dress. This was after some misadventures where I attempted to just buy a dress since I though that would be easier, it was not.
But anyway. I bought fabric, Ikea was having a sale and since the majority of dresses for this period are made from white cotton I bought a multitude of bed sheets for the job. Seriously, I checked how much it would cost to buy the fabric as on sale bed sheets and duvet covers versus fabric from a fabric shop and I rubbed my little hands together in glee. I bought some ribbons to go along with it all, I looked up lots of instructions on how to make Regency style dresses and ended up subscribed to numerous costumers on Youtube and then…
I got stuck? Even while I was doing it I was wondering why the hell it was that I couldn’t just get the thing done. The project was a little ahead of where I am skill-wise, but you don’t get better at things if you don’t do them. I told myself this daily, sometimes hourly. And yet I would find myself doing ANYTHING else instead. Eventually I got started on something. Not the dress itself (heaven forbid I actually do the thing I was meant to do) but part of what I would be wearing underneath it to get that specific Regency style silhouette.
Oh my god you guys it just got worse.
I got the fabric measured and cut it out. I sewed up two of the three sides that I would need to put together (the fourth being where the fabric folded and thus not needing TLC). And then I put it down and did not look at it for what seemed like a million years, but what was probably more like a month and a bit.
I talked myself out of doing anything more, declaring to myself and anyone who would listen that it was because I didn’t have any bias tape to close up the really long and slightly wonkily cut long edge of my stays. Then I didn’t buy the tape, instead watching it move up and down in my Amazon basket. Eventually I bought the tape. And then I put it in my sewing box and tried very hard to ignore it.
Eventually my procrastination was defeated. I took the piece of fabric out again and looked at it.
Well pretty quickly after that I had unpicked my stitches, pulled apart the two layers, tried stitching up just one layer, unpicking it again. Cutting it into a different size, then stitching that for a while, before giving up on that again and deciding to instead cut a new piece of fabric, binding up the sides and doing away with the attempt at making my life easier by having one side be the fold.
That all happened in one night. My insomnia seemed to catch fire and I stayed up until 4 am trying to get all the bits sewn together so I did at least have a rectangular piece of fabric that wasn’t going to fall apart if it got left on a shelf somewhere for another month and a half.
That was a couple of days ago.
The stays now have four boning channels pinned in place and one that has been sewn on and filled with some plastic boning. Hopefully, I will be able to keep the motivation going to get the other channels sewn in and filled, the eyelets done, the straps done, and whatever else needs doing to get it to actually be a functional piece of clothing.
I am exhausted. I am already thinking about how it’s not good enough and how I really need to try and do it again. I’ve not finished yet!
And I haven’t even started the actual dress, this is just the bit underneath the bodice that I’m doing!
If I turn my head I can look at it sitting next to me on my desk and I just feel like I am going to scream.
Meanwhile my very pretty piece of embroidery is sitting on top of some other stuff on my desk (so that I can see it) and I feel proud and hopeful looking at it. What’s the difference?
Well one encourages my creative side, if I think of a cool thing to do with a thread then I can absolutely do it and make it look good. Meanwhile the stays demand my constant attention and I cannot do anything outside of the box with them. And I think that’s the difference. It doesn’t matter that, strictly speaking, the stays should be easier to do. At this point it’s just sewing things together in straight lines, I should be able to do that. I don’t need to be the best sewer in the world to do this, I just need to get it done.
I hope that writing this and creating some documentation of my issues will help me think about them and why they cause me so much trouble. I don’t know if it will, it may have been simply a fun way to write over a thousand words about my own inadequacies. But this, unlike my sewing projects is something I have actually managed to finish today. After so many repetitions of start, stop, restart, stop, tear everything apart, try again, I really needed the mental closure of starting something and getting to the end in one go.
What have I learned from all of this. Mostly that I can waffle on forever, but that I knew already. But also, having expectations – even just the expectations of the thign you are making should end up looking like this – can make me feel pinned in place like a butterfly. I can’t move forward because the thing is SCARY and DIFFICULT! But also I can’t stop because I need to get it done. So I restart, which feels like I am moving forward by really means that I am just spinning in circles.
Will I learn anything from this?
Honestly, probably not. I have always loved the idea of a project a lot more than actually doing one. Even the thrill of finishing one tends to fade in comparison to the shiny idea of what I could do.
On the other hand I have definitely improved in sewing thanks to all of this. I might not have learned how to be better at managing myself, but my stitches have gotten neater and I’ve figured out how to use my various sewing gadgets a bit better. I might just need to take that as all the improvement I am getting from this debacle.
I mean, it would be nice to think that I have taught myself a lesson about getting things done and planning and whatever it is that I would have learned from this if it was a children’s TV show universe that I lived in.
But I might just have to accept that I am a dumbass who procrastinates too much and has to move forward in the most wiggly, zigzagging line known to humankind.
Anyone else feel like this? Anyone got any advice beyond just drinking a lot of caffeine and getting things done? That’s the only way it seems to work for me.
Let me know in the comments if you have anything to say, even if it’s just that you too are a procrastinator of incredible talent. What should you be working on right now?
Also, if anyone knows any good Regency era LARPs that are going to be run in the UK once Lockdown is over let me know. If I have a deadline it might kick me into action.
It might kick me into action, remember those first two words people of the internet, they are very important.
Wherever you are and whatever you should be doing, I hope you stay safe out there,