Friday, 1 May 2009

it's easy

I get a lot of stick from people when I tell them something I did was easy. Easy for you, is a common retort.

But when I say easy, I mean easy.

I don't mean, I turned my back and it just happened like magic. Nor do I necessarily mean it is something a blind monkey could do without the use of its good arm. But neither did I mean easy for someone used to professional level production in their chosen field.

But I do mean it was something that with basic skills in the area required little care.

Take the sewing of a skirt for example. It might be easy, or easy but tedious, or easy but fiddly, or actually quite difficult, or a total bitch, or, you know, forget it. There is a scale.

The skirt I made last weekend which has been much admired (mostly by me) was pretty easy. No complicated pieces to fit together, no fussy finishes, no lining even if you use the right fabric. It did have a zip, and I guess for some people that's hard (though I tell you - get at invisible zipper foot for your machine and for a very small investment a zipper will never freak you out again), but that's it for anything beyond the total basics.

The grey version did have lining, but that wasn't any harder, just a bit more sewing (I put that in the tedious basket). And the machine embroidery was similarly easy if a little tedious - round and round I went with the machine chug chug chugging. I deliberately chose the overlay of lines to remove the need for any kind of precision.

And I feel I can call it easy because I have made hard stuff. Fully faced, lined and tailored suits with welt pockets and covered and faced button holes, things with structure and engineering as well as fancy and mind bending complicated finishes and flourishes.

Some of those things require real skill, but quite a lot of them simply require time and persistence. A preparedness to unpick a dodgy sleeve ease, to sew a little more slowly while you poke and prod and stretch and manipulate piece together. a preparedness to try it on a few times to check fit and adjust it where needed.

There isn't much I sew these days that goes past the easy category, sometimes a little tedious (a bit more sewing, more embellishment to conceal the plainness of the garment or the crappy joins) and sometimes a little fiddly (like the collar on that black and white shirt from last weekend which wasn't hard but which could have looked bad if a little crooked or such).

So when people say they like something I made I often say it was easy. I'm not saying everyone should do all the things I do, but I do like to challenge people who feel they can't do something I have done. With the right materials and tools and good pattern selection most of the kinds of projects I do are totally achievable for even very beginners.

In fact while we were sewing last weekend there were a few conversations about exactly that - our self defeating beliefs about what we can do, and recognising the difference between the choice not to do something and our inability to do it. It's fine to decide you can't be fagged to knit socks, but there isn't anything about knitting socks that's so complicated that pretty much anyone couldn't learn how to do it should they choose.

I hold great respect for people who tackle really hard stuff - professional millinery, shoe making, silver smithing and so on, or who become astonishingly accomplished at anything (they are genuine artisans and craftspeople in the old fashioned sense of the word) and I do not compare myself to them. I am a garden variety crafter and happily so most of the time.

So I admire people who set out to learn new things, who take up quilting or spinning or knitting socks when they used to have no idea. Who make the time and the space and gather the will to do something new, even when it is something that's easy, or when their made objects are wonky and unpolished. I admire them not because of their specialist skills or perfect products but just because they did it.


Leonie said...

you go girl!

missfee said...

great post- exactly
Easy is a perspective from the other side of a project, and the other side of a new set of skills learnt, tried and then tested.
Easy is the start of the learning journey and new set of challenges.
And that there is more to come.

Janet said...

yep. And easy is the beautiful reward for 20 or so years of sewing and making, for having a go.

Paisley said...

This is so true.
I find that the doing bit is easy - as long as you have the desire and patience to learn (whether formally or through trial and error).

Mind you - Whenever I'm asked if knitting socks is hard, I'm always tempted to say "Yes, it took me 20 years to get this good" :-)

two little buttons said...

i agree, well done with taht post, it got me thinking that yeah maybe i can do stuff i just have to rty. just started reading your blog and i love it

Clementine's Shoes said...

I have to say the mitts were very easy! Just a matter of mustering up the motivation and getting on with it.

Ali said...

Well said. There is much to be gained from having a try.

Lisa said...

I reckon half the battle is choosing the correct fabric/yarn/whatever. Like trying to make a basic quilt with stretchy fabric is not so easy. Use 100% cotton fabric, and it's pretty easy. Get the foundations right, and we can do almost anything. Great post.

Apple Flower Tea said...

It's often more about one's commitment level than anything else I guess. Also, access to instructions. Some people seem to do better when shown and others are happier with written instructions. I love your grand statements!

Kate said...

I've started to make some stuff lately. Nothing hard. Nothing complicated. And the end result is not fantastic, at least not to the eye of a person who knows what they're looking for.

But I realised that by aiming to high, at thigns which were not really in my skill level, I was setting myself up not even for failure, but for never starting.

Now that I've get the machine out, sewed some 'eay but tedious and fiddly' stuff that mostly involved straight seams, the bar has totally lifted. Now it's a continuum, not a huge hurdle.

And I've learnt that sometimes I'd prefer a skirt witha wonky seam that I made myself to no skirt at all. I feel that that's an important lesson.