Fear of the Fear of Failure

by Erin on May 1, 2008


Liberty Print MIM

The Liberty fabric above costs roughly $45/yard, slightly less if you're a lucky eBay bidder (click on the image if you feel lucky, punk). And though I often recommend that if you possibly can, you should sew with Liberty prints, many people tell me that they couldn't possibly cut into such expensive fabric — even people who have been sewing for many more years than I have, even people who have made tailored jackets, for pete's sake. They're too afraid they'll screw it up.

So I was wondering about this, and decided (very uncharacteristically for me) to do the math. So let's say you buy fabric for four Liberty-print dresses: that's ($45*4 yds)*4, which would be $720.00.

And let's say that you ruin, beyond hope of recovery, ALL FOUR of your Liberty-print projects. That's a lot of money wasted, right? That's a month's rent for some people. Two or three car payments, maybe. Months of groceries, depending on how many teenage boys are in your household.

It's also 5.76 $125 dresses bought at a department store. (I'm taking $125 NOT as the median department-store dress price, but because it's the absolute maximum price I think I could bring myself to pay for a new dress off the rack.) Have you bought more than 6 dresses in your life that you didn't like? That you wore once, maybe? That hung in your closet until you pushed them into the forgiving arms of the Salvation Army? (Replace "$125 dress" with "$45 sweater" and "6" with "more than I want to recall" and you have MY experience.) What did you learn from buying those dresses? A lot less than you would have learned from trying to sew them, I wager.

Here I'm assuming (highly unlikely) that you would be unable to salvage anything that you had sewn … but I'm also assuming (highly likely) that you would learn a GREAT DEAL from four sewing projects, even if they were all sobbing failures. So much so that with the *next* project, you would most likely make something wearable.

That's just what failure is, or what it ought to be: failure is just figuring stuff out the hard way.

Almost every Saturday morning my little boy and I go roller-skating together. And every Saturday I tell my son (who HATES to fall down) that if he doesn't fall down, he won't learn anything. If you don't fall, you won't ever know how fast is too fast, how tight is too tight to take a turn, how soon (after a mega-blast blue-raspberry Slurpee) is too soon to head back to the floor. And if you don't screw up something — anything — in your life, you won't ever know how good you could have been.

So I *hate* it when someone tells me they don't want to try something because they might screw it up. So what? Unless what you're trying to do involves tightrope walking 5000 feet up, you probably won't DIE. And short of death, almost everything is fixable. Don't ask me for advice if that's not what you want to hear, because I'm the person who is going to tell you to take the new job, to ask the guy (or girl) out already, to move to the new city, to wear orange. I'll tell you to stop focusing on what you might lose, and start thinking about what you might LEARN.

Sometimes when people say they're afraid of failure, what they really mean is that they are afraid of humiliation. Which is completely understandable. But, speaking as someone who has felt humiliated more times than she'd like to remember, humiliation passes. (It passes like a kidney stone passes, but that's another story.) Not to mention that humiliation passes differently for each person: you remember it for months; the witnesses remember it for seconds (they have their own humiliations to obsess over, and don't have time for yours). You wake up the next morning, same as always. You head back into work, you run into that guy again ("Uh, hi!"), you get a new haircut to fix the one that wasn't such a good idea, after all. But at least you tried, and now you know something you didn't know before.

Or … you try, and it works! It works beyond your wildest dreams. (Insert wildest dreams here.) Even if it works a little bit short of your wildest dreams, that's still further along than you were yesterday. And there's no rule that you can't try again.

So, that thing? That thing you've been scared to try, because you think there's NO POSSIBLE WAY you could do it? That everyone would point and laugh when you fell? Today looks like an EXCELLENT day to give it a shot. Take it from me. (Everyone's looking the other way, anyway.) Go for it!

And if you're going to do it, you might as well wear something orange while you do. (I'm just saying.)

{ 104 comments… read them below or add one }

Marge, Born Too Late Vintage May 1, 2008 at 9:32 am

Powerful words to live by. I’ve said the same things to my girls about making mistakes. I’ve always learned more from my failures than my successes.Reach for that inner child when you’re afraid you’ll make a mistake. My girls were fearless at the age of 2 and 3 so perhaps we need to take a lesson from that.

Reply

Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 9:35 am

Great entry today! And someone who is really, really worried about messing up when sewing with expensive fabric could always make a test copy in a cheaper fabric and end up with *two* dresses. And if they didn’t like the cheap dress, they could give it to someone who would!Monique in TX

Reply

Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 9:38 am

Maybe this particular fear (the fear of Liberty print) is also the fear that while it may be REALLY beautiful fabric, it might turn out to be a far from flattering skirt, dress, whatever. And so no matter how good a job one did, technically, with the sewing, maybe the real fear is that–for instance–people with bright red hair, very pale skin, and big blue eyes already have so much contrast going on, that they just don’t look as good in many-colored prints as they do in a tweedy olive/mole solid?

Reply

Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 9:40 am

Thank you. Just…thank you.

Reply

Tara May 1, 2008 at 9:40 am

OMG Erin I love you! Best rant evar.

Reply

Netter May 1, 2008 at 9:41 am

I like Monique’s point about taking a test run with the pattern first. And I think you can assess the appropriateness of a fabric by just draping it on yourself. Not the same as wearing a piece made of it, but you could re-sell 4 yds uncut. Fear, for me, is a reason to do things. I won’t not try. And as a big girl, this can lead to loads of humiliations when I try to do physical things, but I do not let fear of failure stop me.

Reply

karooble May 1, 2008 at 9:42 am

For me, it’s more the opportunity cost of that money spent on that fabric. I’d rather spend $720 on 144 yards of $5/yard cute cotton lawn prints (not name-brand Liberty), with which I could make 28.8 dresses! That’s a lot more practice for the same amount of money, if you aren’t too picky about brand names. :)

Reply

Deirdre May 1, 2008 at 9:42 am

Oh Erin!You’ve written something that speaks to exactly what I am dealing with right now — not the fabric but the taking of a risk. I took a risk to get where I am and I think I need to take another risk and move on.Thank you for this post.ps I always think of the cut part of the fabric as the edge of the seam allowance so it can be all raggedy any way. That helps a lot. Plus pinking shears.

Reply

Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 9:46 am

Your timing is impeccible, Erin. After 25 yrs sewing experience, I’ve decided I’ve done my last free alteration. Scarlett O’Hara style, I will never hem as a favor again!Now I am working up a small business card to post on our village bulletin boards. I am quite thrillingly terrified by the prospect of going semi-pro. Prom season is fast approaching.But I can’t do worse than Walmart, and I can do a darn sight better than most of the work I’ve seen people have paid for. Working up a price list has been enlightening. They charge *how much* for hemming? And I’ve been giving it away?! I’m a goldmine!The worker is worthy of her wages: my new mantra.

Reply

Lisa @ the Vintage Fashion Library May 1, 2008 at 9:48 am

So it’s “give me Liberty, or live in fear.”Great post, Erin. Great post.

Reply

libbylondon May 1, 2008 at 9:52 am

Erin, this is great! I got a little misty at the end. I’m in the middle of starting a small business (wedding videography) and a freelance career at the same time, so the subject of risk is on my mind everyday. Thank you for this wonderful reminder. I’m going to print this out and post it by my desk.

Reply

Stephanie May 1, 2008 at 9:57 am

Great Post! You brought tears to my eyes – ok, so I cry at everything, good, bad, sad, uplifting and inspiring.I have a non sewing project that I have been putting off since December out of fear that I’ll ruin something that cost me a lot of money… I need to just do it!Thanks Erin!!

Reply

the_lazymilliner May 1, 2008 at 9:59 am

I’m a little bit like Erin in that I don’t like to make muslins. I just dive in and cut, and usually ruin a project or two or three or four or five. Actually I’ve lost count because I’ve *such* a short memory. Even though I’ve tossed many unsalvageable outfits, I’m still wearing a heck of a lot of things I made. Like today, I’m wearing *two* tops I gave birth too. Labor was hard, but well worth it.

Reply

tea May 1, 2008 at 10:01 am

Holy fantastic! I, too, will have to print this out and post it because I’ve been too afraid of too many things for too long and it’s time for me to take life back by the balls. Also, anonymous 9:38, I have the same exact coloring and I wear the craziest prints I can get my hands on. The way I figure it, I’ve got so much color going on already, why not just run with it full force?

Reply

Allison May 1, 2008 at 10:04 am

I ditto the thanks above and the decision to print this and post it! I am currently working on my Ph.D. dissertation and it is the scariest, hardest thing I have ever done. (Then again, I have never yet sewed with fabric that cost me $45/yard.) Every day I have to convince myself that what I’m doing and learning is worth the fear of the unknown and the humiliation of speaking poorly in another language and the frustration of figuring out the rules as I go along. But you’re so right–I am learning every day, even on the days when stuff doesn’t turn out very well. I only stop learning when I stop trying. Thanks for the reminder.

Reply

Hyena In Petticoats May 1, 2008 at 10:12 am

LOVE this post. Thankyou thankyou thankyou. Personally, I can’t stand Liberty. The fabric is gorgeous, but I aint a floral gal. But I do spend money on gorgeous fabric I love, and I do it so I can make clothes that look different from what everyone else is wearing, and fit to my own style expectations. And just for the record – I ALWAYS cut out of the nice fabric first. What the Hell. And like the Lazy Milliner, I sit here typing in an outfit I gave birth to. Thanks for the pep talk! Leah xxx

Reply

1912 Suffragette May 1, 2008 at 10:13 am

Several years ago I bought a (for-me-then) fabulously expensive three yards of Liberty and made a dirndl skirt. I discovered I didn’t look very good in dirndl skirts, but you know I loved that skirt. I wore it to death because the fabric was awesome; I felt like a million bucks in it. I never got (m)any compliments, but I always felt radiant whenever I wore it. Thanks for the great post!

Reply

Jenny May 1, 2008 at 10:19 am

Thanks for the pep talk. I’ve been thinking so much about my swimsuit experiment that I’ve nearly paralyzed myself with pressure and anxiety! I appreciate the reminder that I’ll certainly learn a lot from the experience, even if it is a failure. Thanks!

Reply

harmless-drudge May 1, 2008 at 10:28 am

Aaand that’s why I’m making the Butterick Walk-Away with the vintage grass-green Marimekko fabric and the lemon-yellow cotton lawn, though I know for fact that I look horrid in both colors unless I’m deeply bronzed. Something I haven’t been since I was about 9 and played outside for 3/4 of the day.Still. Carpe diem! My grandmother hoarded this fabric for decades and never made a thing from it. Far be it from me to allow another 30 years go by before this Marimekko print sees the light of day.Great to meet you face-to-face in NYC the other night! Next time I’ll wear the Walk-Away.

Reply

jen May 1, 2008 at 10:39 am

Erin, thank you! You know how if you open yourself up to the universe, and put something (like a question) out there, that you will get help, that you will get your answer? I have been struggling with the idea of getting back in art again and fear of failure, humiliation, etc. has certainly been a part of it. But lately EVERYWHERE I look, I’m getting encouragement – so thank you again! Wow, OK, I’m all about long comments this week. :)

Reply

Stephanie May 1, 2008 at 10:41 am

Wonderful advice! We like to quote from Batman Begins around our house:”And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Reply

Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 10:42 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Just the kick in the arse I needed to get started on a Marfy dress for a wedding in September.Mermie

Reply

Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 11:01 am

There’s no success like failure.

Reply

EveryDot May 1, 2008 at 11:03 am

Erin–thank you for it. I’m going to Ebay right now to buy some Liberty fabric and make a nice summer skirt.This post is one for the ages. I’ve already sent it to a few of my friends.- Leslie at goodcrafternoon.com

Reply

Eirlys May 1, 2008 at 11:06 am

Oh boy, you got me squeezing a tear too today. Such wisdom… Love your tags: “encouragement” and “ranting” – not words I’d often associate, though you combine them so convincingly. You should come bottled, Erin, and the world could throw away it’s Prozac.A nice little enforcer of today’s lesson is the sequence from Swing Time with Fred Astaire playing a wannabe dancer with two left feet. His teacher, Ginger Rogers, sings him ‘Pick Yourself Up’. Cute thirties teacher dress on her too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDXZkBIxso4&feature=relatedThanks again – I will steel myself for some tana-lawn scissoring very soon.

Reply

Deborah May 1, 2008 at 11:11 am

Yes, nothing is more paralyzing than fear of failure. You must jump in and try. Nobody will die or get arrested. Do a trial run to take the edge off but TRY. And if you fail, go buy some more Liberty and try again.

Reply

Leizel May 1, 2008 at 11:13 am

Thank you, Erin, I needed that today!

Reply

La BellaDonna May 1, 2008 at 11:20 am

Dear, dear Anonymous at 9:46, I am SO HAPPY for you that you’ve decided to go professional!! If you charge, you are professional, no “semi-pro” about it. You may not take on many clients, due to time constraints or personal choice, but you are absolutely correct about being professional. There are numerous publications available that will suggest what you should charge for what, and what you need for your IRS records, etc., and what you can deduct FROM YOUR HOUSE EXPENSES, if that’s where your workspace is, etc. Do look into them all, and keep good records! I happen to believe that alterations are much more difficult than sewing from scratch, and should be billed accordingly.Now, I’ll be a little ranty here myself. I think it’s wonderful when the ladies (or gentlemen) who come here choose to donate their time and skill to making something for a loved one – son, daughter, niece, nephew, parent, some stranger in need, as a wedding or christening gift, etc.HOWEVER – and it’s a BIG however, as you can see – it really frosts my shorts when people assume that, just because you know how to do something that they need done, that they are ENTITLED to have you do it for them – FOR FREE. I have encountered this galling phenomenon more times than I’d care to count, and not just in terms of stitchery. That just happens to be the one that I get tapped for most often, myself. And I’ve had people who were virtual strangers up and ask me to sew for them, either for free, or for considerably less than they’d pay the nice folks at the drycleaners’ shop!Your time, your skill, your knowledge – they are valuable. It’s a flipping INSULT for someone to assume they are ENTITLED to them, even if they are married to you. It’s a wedding band, not a badge of ownership! What galls me most is that sewing, particularly, is a skill that is often devalued at the same time it is being requested; if the requestor thinks to offer to pay for services rendered, he/she seems to think that something in the range of $2 per hour is a good rate. Speaking for myself only, if I’d spent the time in medical school instead of sewing, I’d be a neurosurgeon by now! I spent years learning to do what I do; the fact that I like what I do doesn’t mean I want to do it for someone else for FREE! Imagine asking a roofer, or a plumber, or a landscaper, for a favor of that nature! (I don’t mention doctors or lawyers, since I know that they also get tagged for free labor – it’s an interesting group to be paired with, isn’t it?) When’s the last time you had a muffler changed for free at a shop? It takes years of labor and study to do what we do – a good many of us read an awful lot of sewing books and magazines, and search out answers to technical problems in the community itself. In the Middle Ages, Guilds were created not only to pass on such knowledge, but to safeguard it as well. Your knowledge and skill are valuable assets, ladies and gentlemen. Don’t ever think they’re not, and don’t ever let anyone treat you, or those skills, casually. Don’t be taken for granted.And, Anonymous at 9:46, the very best of luck. Do let us know how you make out!

Reply

Eirlys May 1, 2008 at 11:22 am

Oh, and I’ve just remembered that I went to a great talk by Kaffe Fassett a few months ago with more sage advice. He was urging people not to be perfectionist in their needlecraft, but to get stuck in and learn by doing. Don’t fear “white glove mistakes” he said, meaning the imagined criticisms of the prissy crafting elite. Don’t be afraid of technique and a few holes (he was talking about knitting at that point). Once you begin, your hands start to do the work instead of your mind – your hands know what to do, he said. Kerpow!

Reply

downstairs Designs May 1, 2008 at 11:22 am

Thank you for this post. It is something I try to live by already, but need a reminder now and then. And how you applied it to your child is going to help me with mine, who is struggling with being scared for her first dance recital. I needed another way to explain the need to try things, at least once, and you have given me another approach and I very much appreciate it. So thanks.

Reply

cheekie May 1, 2008 at 11:33 am

You just made my day. It IS humiliation/embarrassment that keep us from doing what we really want to do.Even though I am very very VERY good at embarrassing myself, I keep doing it.Guess that means I am a genius cause I have learned so much??? lol.Honestly, brilliant post!

Reply

sixties sewer May 1, 2008 at 11:38 am

Nothing makes me sadder as a sewer than to “go through” the estate of a sewer and find carefully wrapped, expensive, gorgeous fabric that was never used. Too good. Too special. Too expensive. My mom has drawers full of beautiful objects, some given as gifts, that are too good to use. Or only for special occasions. There is nothing more special than today.Thanks Erin.

Reply

tea May 1, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Speaking of fear of fear of failure… I know I already posted a comment, but I’m going to post my equivalent of “asking out that cute boy” (one of my fears is asking people… well… anything I think might bother them). I’ve been editing for a crafting magazine that recently decided not to continue publication. So in the spirit of asking out cute boys, I know many of you readers are smart ladies and lots of you are editors or in that type of profession. So! My question is: If anyone knows of any jobs in the editing or crafting field (also: I used to edit and currently write children’s books, which I far prefer) I’ve got my resume posted here. Please do drop me a line?(AND I severely apologize if this is an inappropriate venue for this type of thing.)

Reply

ambika May 1, 2008 at 12:01 pm

This is a wonderful sentiment that I can identify with (especially that paragraph about the orange and asking the guy out already. I would think my friends would have learned by now I am *not* the person to talk to if they’re looking for the kind of advice they *want* to hear as opposed to *needing* to hear.)

Reply

Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 12:25 pm

My mom had a few yards of beautiful silk material she bought in Japan. She kept it for years before she got up the courage to cut it. Then she didn’t like the dress she made. But then we just took it apart and recut it into something else that turned into a smash hit! :0 As the Grateful Dead said, “The cards ain’t worth a ‘dang’ if you don’t lay them down!”

Reply

Zoltar Panaflex May 1, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Judging from my fabric stash, guilty as charged.I have two baskets of ironing, and my present when done is – a promise.I will cut out a pattern and then start sewing and create it.Honest!Also – my husband joyfully wears orange – and even better? It suits him!!!

Reply

Liz May 1, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Thanks for the pep talk. Also, thanks for the comment about not being willing to pay $125 MAX for a dress. My sticking price is far less than that usually, and I always feel like I’m cheaper than the average shopper. Guess not!!

Reply

Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Thank you for this post. I really needed to hear this today. – Becky

Reply

Cookie May 1, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Thanks for the mention of the 25% discount at Lanetz Living yesterday! I just bought 3 patterns. (I tell myself I’m saving on postage that way.) I’m thinking of blowing up all my lovely pattern covers and wearing them as sandwich boards, should I drag my feet any longer about jumping in and making the dresses. I mean, it would be a START… :)

Reply

Bean May 1, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Rock on! Try, try again. Refuse to live in fear. Words I live by every day! :)(and I WILL master my serger, damnit!!)

Reply

Andrea May 1, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Just what I needed to read! I start a new job!!!Thank you!

Reply

Linda May 1, 2008 at 1:34 pm

I like your analogy. But I have a different perspective on it. Instead of 4 yards on something this expensive, one yard would make a beautiful straight or A-line skirt for just about anybody at “52″ wide. However, I am not too sure, but isn’t the pound stronger than our weak dollar right now. So wouldn’t it be more than 60 pounds. I don’t know the conversation rate and the last time I looked the Euro was 1.57 to our dollar. I haven’t seen the conversation in a couple of weeks now, but I am pretty sure the math should go in the other direction. I could be wrong too, in which case you can ignore the whole thing.

Reply

Jill May 1, 2008 at 1:43 pm

Wow! Just what I needed to get started on my vintage dress patterns for summer. Thank you for great words!

Reply

NoGrandmother May 1, 2008 at 2:12 pm

“they have their own humiliations to obsess over, and don’t have time for yours”That is FANTASTIC advice.

Reply

Cookie May 1, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Great. I got hooked on an out-of-stock pattern at the Lanetz sale, and had to order it from Sydney. Now my credit card number is floating around INTERNATIONALLY! But that looks like the perfect suit jacket!http://www.sydneysvintageclothing.com/cart/products/VINTAGE_60_S_MCCALLS_DRESS_SEWING_PATTERN_5511-10816-214.html?feed=Froogle

Reply

Karen May 1, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Erin, thank you. I’m currently working through stash inherited from grandmom, aunt and mom, all of whom bought fabrics that were “too good” for them to use. Jeez, they’re not too good for me!I just made a dress out of a Liberty print paisley that I got (at a considerable discount) a while back, and while it almost physically hurt to take scissors to that gorgeous stuff, it’s also so much easier to sew quality fabric. Point: I should have made a muslin, the dress is a tad snug, but I also know I need to lose 10 lbs; maybe this is the motivation I needed? Thanks for the rant, the encouragement, and the wonderful stuff you post every day that sends me back into the workroom again and again.

Reply

Opal.mn May 1, 2008 at 3:05 pm

I like 99.9% of what you say, but I think it’s best to skip orange for me, being a redhead but the rest is great!!! Although, I’ll have to start making some of the patterns I’m afraid I’ll screw up so haven’t yet attempted. So Thanks for the inspiration, and the reminder that failing is only success in waiting disguise.

Reply

redheadedwoah May 1, 2008 at 3:14 pm

I usually lurk around here and read this when you update, but I loved your comment about wearing orange.I use my red hair as an excuse to wear orange :) In fact, I’m probably one of the only girls who wore an orange dress to prom.http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a188/ChristyFace/promdressshopping001.jpghttp://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a188/ChristyFace/n708295_30163727_3034.jpgI figured you’d appreciate that :)

Reply

Erin May 1, 2008 at 3:15 pm

I love that orange prom dress! You look beautiful … and happy, which is more important. :-)

Reply

redheadedwoah May 1, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Thanks Erin!~Christy

Reply

Eirlys May 1, 2008 at 3:36 pm

Now THAT’s the way to wear orange, redheadedwoah! You look phenomenal! Just proves again that the only rule is that there are NO rules. Now, let me see, why don’t I feel so excited about setting off my brown hair with a brown dress…?

Reply

Nadine May 1, 2008 at 3:39 pm

God, Erin, you are SO FANTASTIC!!

Reply

Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 3:47 pm

a waste of good hard-earned money when there are so many poore people in the world who could use some modestly-priced clothing. that is a lesson in charity.

Reply

Susanne May 1, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Thank you very much for this post. It came in a very timely fashion. Though wearing orange is not the problem for me. (Am currently wearing orange-purple-yellow-and-some-other-colors socks and an orange lace-shawl.)On the other hand I put off sewing my very first dress (also orange) because I gained a lot of weight and didn’t want to sew a dress for this year only (because I’m surely losing this weight until winter, ahem). But then I thought that maybe their will be more fabric and I can just sew a new dress next year. Or take the other one in. And have something to wear this year.

Reply

Cel Petro May 1, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Sending to my 30 year old son (or maybe I’ll take him rollerskating). Thanks a big bunch. And snip, snip, snip

Reply

astrojen May 1, 2008 at 4:23 pm

A big thank you to Erin for her encouragement. To me, failure only comes with quitting, not trying. Succeeding comes with trying once or a thousand times it just depends on you and if you accomplished your goal.My first skirt was a disaster if you took to examining it closely. To me it was not a great success, but I accomplished it. I learned. I love to learn. I am willing to try anything legal. Well, almost anything. I figure the more you can learn the more valuable you can be to helping others.I also think that what La Belladonna said is so true.because what you know does not mean you enable others who so often feel entitled to your efforts. This is what I love about Erin’s blog. So many ladies are so bright and full of common sense. I hooked like the rest of you. My hardest thing is to cut into something vintage. Like an oldlinen or tablecloth. Just because of its history. Sentimental I suppose.

Reply

Theresa May 1, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Hear Hear! I never spend even close to $125 for a dress or $45 for a sweater.I do buy stuff that WAS that much but is on clearance because the season passed.This blog has made me braver. I do harder pattern in fabric that cost $10 a yard.and I wear orange dresses! (just not bright Clemson or street sign orange)! dark brown hair, fair skin, blue-green eyes, freckles.

Reply

La BellaDonna May 1, 2008 at 5:02 pm

Hmmmm. Yet ANOTHER brave, brave “Anonymous” poster, whose only aim, let’s not kid ourselves, is to bring down the spirits of everyone who reads this blog. Not for ONE SINGLE MINUTE do I believe that YOU YOURSELF are the kind of person who buys “moderately-priced clothing” for “the poore.” I’d be surprised to hear that you’d bought a single T-shirt for anyone of that description. Why don’t you direct your screed at the RETAILERS who are making money off high-priced clothing, instead of at the women who sew for themselves and those they love?Remember what I said about nobody being ENTITLED to your skills and your knowledge? The same goes for YOUR MONEY, which you EARN with the SAME skills and knowledge, and which you are entitled to spend as you see fit. And what about all those poor people trying to earn an honest living, by selling patterns and notions and thread and FABRIC, and who design FABRIC, and who MAKE FABRIC – they are clothing their OWN families with the hard-earned pennies spent by the women who come here to dream! There’s more than one way to help the “deserving.”You, whoever you are, why don’t you take your dismal unpleasant unhappy unkind miserable sanctimonious selfish self elsewhere? You contribute nothing of value here; you don’t like what we do here; be somewhere OTHER than here. THAT would be a REAL act of charity.

Reply

Kelly May 1, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Well spoken!!! Great post today Erin. Thanks.k

Reply

anthrok8 May 1, 2008 at 5:51 pm

Erin, thanks for this great post!And, Anon, please. You can be sure that modest prices for fabric mean some textile worker somewhere got paid modest wages. Very. Modest. Wages.Not only this, but beautiful handmade things are the product of skilled labor and are a kind of daily, down to earth art. If you were going to spend money on anything, fabric for a home made dress, or a hand built desk, or hand thrown and glazed ceramics is *IT.* Until we all weave our own homespun, this is as close as we are getting to exiting the dirty global process that is the clothing industry. And because we all have to wear clothes, we all participate in that- Liberty Fabric is not worth a huff. No Sweat Movements- that’s worth a huff.

Reply

Alexandra May 1, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Well said!

Reply

lorrwill May 1, 2008 at 8:07 pm

“…failure is just figuring stuff out the hard way.”Then I have to be one of the biggest failures in the world. The universe. And all of time and space even.Why? Cos I continually challenge myself to improve on stuff I think I know and to try new things I am not at all sure I can do. In the process, I discover just about every single way not do it.I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing. Well I am sure that it keeps life very interesting.

Reply

kagitsune May 1, 2008 at 8:09 pm

Beautifully put, Erin. ^^Oh, and if you’re worried about cutting into your gorgeous, expensive fabric, MAKE A MUSLIN VERSION FIRST. Saves a LOT of time, energy, sweat, tears, and sleepless nights in the long run. xD

Reply

Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 8:34 pm

I know how you feel, I just got some cashmere wool for $35/yd (reg.$70). It’s so nice. I hope I don’t ruin it.

Reply

geogrrl May 1, 2008 at 9:10 pm

redheadedwoah, if ever there was a perfect shade of orange for a redhead, you found it. You look fabulous in that dress!And I’ve always loved red hair. I’m a brunette myself (going silver-grey now) and I’ve always envied redheads because I think red hair is so pretty.

Reply

Anonymous May 1, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Wow! Well said and great words to live by. Now I know why I have so many projects lying around (fear of screwing them up) and also why I didn’t when I was younger (younger people are used to screwing up and tend to be a little more resilient). Thanks, this was a lot cheaper and faster than therapy : )JenL

Reply

Theresa May 1, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Charity begins at home. I had a friend get out of prison today and she had nothing. i took her to the store and bought her quality(so they will last) clothing, down to underwear, socks and bras. I bought what I could on sale. Now,she has a few items to mix and match to go job hunting in. (and to feel better about herself in.) And after I take her measurements – I will make her beautiful things, hopefully to start a new job and a new life in.So don’t preach to me about how to spend my $125, or $45. I do practice what I preach.

Reply

WhiteStone May 1, 2008 at 10:18 pm

Well said. A great read. I check your blog several times a week. Love shirt dresses, too, and wore them as a young woman, but my waist no longer looks like those on the pattern envelope. Sigh!

Reply

India May 1, 2008 at 11:53 pm

Erin, you absolutely rock.redheadedwoah: That dress is honored to be on you, and your photos are proof that a smile is the best accessory. You look gorgeous!theresa: Thank you for sharing your story, which I know I will remember for a long, long time. I hope we can all be and have such excellent friends.[ Sniffle ]

Reply

AliceInWonderland May 2, 2008 at 12:19 am

Unfortunately, I would buy a dress for $10 rather than $125, so this damages the mathematics of the initial argument. So my fear would be wasting money, or wasting the fabric more so. I find it amazing that people spend so much on clothes, to be honest. It seems quite crazy to me (and yet, the crazier thing is that the makers of the clothes are probably underpaid).

Reply

anthrokeight May 2, 2008 at 12:41 am

Theresa, thanks for the great story.

Reply

Tala May 2, 2008 at 2:05 am

I’m only new to your blog (which I have been enjoying immensely), and WOW, what philosophical and sage advice/stance on life. It’s worth a cut and past to forward on and brighten someone elses day. Well said you!

Reply

Katy May 2, 2008 at 6:30 am

My not-quite-New-Year’s resolution is to stop being afraid of things, and to remember what I have done that is scary (and that I wasn’t scared when I did it).I do a fair bit of dancing and take classes with girls who are half my age, and I fall about twice as much as anyone else. But then I found a quote from Twyla Tharp about a Balanchine dancer who used to fall on stage.. a lot. Twyla said that she always cheered this dancer on because she knew she was always trying to push herself past her boundaries…

Reply

Monkeygrrl May 2, 2008 at 9:39 am

Back in the day, when I was still working in costumes, I had to cut 4 coats out of a piece of fabric intended for 2. It was the most expensive fabric I have ever cut (I think it was around $75 a yard-changeable silk taffeta with chenille embellishment) and it was all that existed in the world – so once it was cut, that was it. We were going to flatline it anyway, so I laid the muslin out, fit all of the pieces in and cut. My draper was freaked out, but someone had to cut the fabric or we couldn’t build the costumes. Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and cut.

Reply

Claire May 2, 2008 at 10:17 am

What a wonderful post!

Reply

Anonymous May 2, 2008 at 10:37 am

May God Bless you all who posted your charitable efforts. Especially Theresa. Fabric is beautiful, indeed, and you all as well as I have the freedom to choose to spend our money any way we please, that is true.I am sorry if some of you were brought down by my post- that was not my intention. My intention was to promote thrift and charity as opposed to wasting anything expensive, fabric or otherwise.Thrift in sewing is a beautiful thing.Good luck and God’s Blessings in your lives. I agree; this is no place for someone like me. ‘bye.

Reply

Julie ZS May 2, 2008 at 11:15 am

Thanks Erin, that is just what I needed to hear (read) today! You are right and I need to get off of my ever expanding ass and sew those dresses up, no matter what happens I will learn something. And I won’t die. And I just might, maybe, hopefully will end up with a new dress that I can enjoy wearing.

Reply

Ellen May 2, 2008 at 12:07 pm

The marquis in front of our local garage recently read, “even if you fall flat on your face, you are still moving forward.”This post is brilliant. Really. You should have more children.

Reply

marissa May 2, 2008 at 12:22 pm

WEll I agree that acting from fear is a bad habit but as much as my eye’s popped when I saw that fabric I couldn’t imagine that it is really worth it. I mean really if I had tons of extra money and was nervous of how it turned out I’d just make a muslin version first and make sure no one was around when I was cutting out the fabric but I don’t know if I could spend that much per yard. Yikes It might be cheaper to have some textile student to try and recreate some fabric that is similar.

Reply

redheadedwoah May 2, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for the compliments on the dress! It’s the only thing I ever spent a lot of money on (about $130, if I remember right), but I thought the orange was absolutely worth it!

Reply

Flo May 2, 2008 at 2:41 pm

this has inspired me to start that dress I’ve been meaning to start for weeks, it’s just been sitting there on top of my sewing box, so next week’s midterms be damned, I’m sewing today!

Reply

Eirlys May 2, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Could I say to the Anonymous who is clothing her newly-freed friend, what an amazing thing you are doing. PLEASE don’t go away. Everybody has their understandable sticking point on what they consider to be crazily wasteful, frivolous, or downright self-indulgent. For some it will be spending too much on fabric; for others, bothering to sew at all; yet others will find reading blogs an unjustifiable waste of time (let alone writing one), and don’t let’s get started on the merits (or otherwise) of Facebook! Everything’s relative. There’s a lot of extremely good stuff here, and I’d hate for you to miss it. This is a broad church, and on behalf of the church wardens I urge you to remain seated in your pew: I’m absolutely sure you’re worth it. A word about Liberty fabric – yes, it’s worth it too. Until you’ve felt this fantastically delicate, close-woven fabric, you won’t know. It is light yet strong, fiendishly soft, and a total dream to sew, nevermind wear. Please tolerate our addiction – maybe, one day, you’ll understand.As to whether one should be focusing on sewing vintage dresses out of arguably over-expensive fabric while there are people suffering, starving etc, fair point. I’d echo the point of another commenter that our store-bought bargain clothes may generally be too cheap due to exploitative production, but let’s not go there. What I’d really like to say is that our lives are mostly lived just where we are, whatever our ethical and political views. And (to paraphrase my guru Kaffe Fassett again) a little fantasy and beauty simply make life a little less suicidal. The decorative arts (dressmaking included), beautifully done, are not frivolous. They are important to life; they make an event out of something that could be just plain pedestrian. Life-enhancing things, wherever they occur, ought to be encouraged and celebrated by all of us. There’s enough negativity out there, and the pull of the vortex is STRONG, Sisters! We… must… resist…Here endeth the lesson. Apologies for being over-preachy. I’m past forty and past caring… Happy sewing, everyone, and hope to encounter you again, Anonymous.

Reply

Minya, Warrior Seamstress May 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm

But I loathe orange, and it’s the cheap fabrics I keep falling in love with…I have a perfectly beautiful blue-&-purple-violets-on-black print that was clearanced at $2/yard. It WILL be a dress, eventually. It has to be, I already have jewelry to go with it.

Reply

La BellaDonna May 2, 2008 at 6:53 pm

Eirlys, not to take away anything from Anonymous, but I believe Theresa is due the credit for taking care of her friend (not that that’s why she’s doing it, but the credit for same still goes to her). Theresa, there are also organizations which your friend may be able to utilize to help build on what you started, geared to providing work-appropriate clothing and accessories for women; you may want to guide her in that direction, if it could be of use. Good luck to her!Oh, Minya, it sounds LOVELY! My colours, too! How lucky! I managed to pick up dollar-a-yard pink damask at a flea market, which will be a dress also (as soon as I unearth it).Eirlys, I don’t want to scare you – or anyone else new, including Anonymous, if it was indeed her first time. I should perhaps explain that occasionally, a troll keeps coming by here – HERE, of all places! – to harass Erin and her readers. Most of the time we ignore it, but my indignation got the better of me. This blog is a haven for those of us who come here to play and share. We may disagree with each other’s choices, but we don’t do so in such a way as to make other people feel bad. But trolls – bah! How feeble, trolling on a sewing blog.

Reply

blacksquirrel May 2, 2008 at 7:19 pm

Hey, can I ask…What makes Liberty fabric special? The prints are pretty, but is it more than that? And what weight is it? It looks like lawn from what I’ve seen.

Reply

Sandra May 3, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Great entry today Erin, and great posts everyone. I made a pilgrimage to Britex last month, drooled all over the Liberty cottons and the amazing rainbow of woolens on the main floor, and left empty handed. So my goal is to test drive a few of the patterns I have set aside for myself and return next year, older, wiser, and with a more willing Visa card in my purse. I find it’s easier to spend on others and not myself sometimes, so it’s hard to not only afford the expensive beauties, it’s harder to justify it to myself and not feel selfish.As far as risk taking, cutting that Liberty fabric is an easy one! I have a far harder time using my vintage, can’t-be-replaced-ever fabric!

Reply

7/10 split May 3, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Many people tell themselves they don’t do things from a fear of failure because it’s preferable to believing that they’re just plain lazy. And for all of you who just had to write about how daring and or generous you are, and how much you have accomplished or contributed… please know you make my ass tired. Really well written and inspiring post Erin, thank you.

Reply

elisa May 4, 2008 at 2:55 am

Thank you so much for your post, it is so very encouraging to remind ourselves that we need to fail and we need to let our children fail and struggle at things… it makes the successes so much sweeter…

Reply

cheriezel May 4, 2008 at 11:42 pm

I think I need to save this or crosslink it to my blog. Such great motivation to Just Do It!I actually have been getting over my fear of cutting into expensive fabric for myself by cutting into expensive fabric for other people! Nothing teaches you troubleshooting like messing up the cuts on $100 a yard silk for speciality window treatments!

Reply

bettyninja May 5, 2008 at 9:52 am

Okay that was the cutest, smartest, most hilarious post ever. Right on! I am always petrified of cutting expensive fabrics or vitnage fabrics since I know odds are- I will find a way to screw it up. But, thanks to your mathematic breakdown and positive words- I might just cut a little fabric right this second. Find me something to snip! Also, thanks for the encouragement on wearing orange! Totally underutilized color.

Reply

bettyninja May 5, 2008 at 9:52 am

Okay that was the cutest, smartest, most hilarious post ever. Right on! I am always petrified of cutting expensive fabrics or vitnage fabrics since I know odds are- I will find a way to screw it up. But, thanks to your mathematic breakdown and positive words- I might just cut a little fabric right this second. Find me something to snip! Also, thanks for the encouragement on wearing orange! Totally underutilized color.

Reply

bettyninja May 5, 2008 at 9:52 am

Okay that was the cutest, smartest, most hilarious post ever. Right on! I am always petrified of cutting expensive fabrics or vitnage fabrics since I know odds are- I will find a way to screw it up. But, thanks to your mathematic breakdown and positive words- I might just cut a little fabric right this second. Find me something to snip! Also, thanks for the encouragement on wearing orange! Totally underutilized color.

Reply

Miss Fitz May 5, 2008 at 1:50 pm

2 words: Muslin. Mockup. Calculated risks will teach you something if you fail. Reckless risks might not.

Reply

Kristin May 5, 2008 at 11:18 pm

Bravo! Let’s all wear orange to celebrate when we are conquering fear!

Reply

Eirlys May 6, 2008 at 9:00 am

Oh yes, I wasn’t reading comments carefully enough, Bella Donna. Thanks for putting me straight there. Not sure about the trolling reference – I’m probably desperately naive (guilty as charged) but would rather give people the benefit of the doubt.

Reply

Bev May 6, 2008 at 10:35 am

Erin, thanks for posting this! My sister sent me the link, and it inspired a post of my own. If you’d like to see what I said, here’s the link: http://randomthoughtsofanagingartist.blogspot.com/2008/05/slaying-dragon-or-not-being-afraid-to.htmlI'll be back to visit your blog again — great stuff!!

Reply

La BellaDonna May 6, 2008 at 11:26 am

I, on the other hand, really enjoy hearing how daring or how generous other people are, what they’ve accomplished, and what they’ve contributed. It doesn’t fatigue my backside, or any other part of me. This is why ice cream comes in more than one flavor, too.

Reply

Jean C. May 6, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Well Done, Well Done! And everyone (that I read, I don’t have the time to read all of the comments) had great advise too. Hmmmm I’m thinking that a sewing advise column is in the making! Towards the top of the comments someone said that she had fabric from a grandma (or some family member) that had never been cut into… and that you encouraged her to use it! Way to go! My dad bought my mom some lovely silk when in Japan during the late 60′s early 70′s. She never used it! It had the lining and everything. So a couple years back she gave it to me! For Christmas the following year I made her a beautiful (of course it was beautiful, it was pink on pink floral silk!) jacket! She was pleased! If it hadn’t sat soo long, it may not of gotten the stains it did, which I had to cut around! So, let that be a worning too… if you don’t use it; you have wasted your money and maybe even the fabric!

Reply

Anonymous May 7, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Well donna, most well bred people were taught at an early age not to blow their own horn. And, if they do something charitable, it should be done without calling attention to themselves or seeking some reward(including the positive regard of others.) I enjoy hearing about the accomplishments of others, only not in the first person, and in a forum where the claims have been verified. But, I find it pretty obnoxious when someone writes a great post intending to inspire, and people have to comment about how this really doesnt apply to them because they already are so daring and courageous and accomplished, etc etc, or theyve said all of that first and better. Everyone knows the internet is completely anonymous and anyone can claim anything. But, in my opinion the point of the Comments section is not to seize the opportunity to brag about yourself, or rant on about how unappreciated you are. Doing so could constitute provocative behavior, something that you seem to believe only applies to others and not yourself, huh donna?

Reply

Anonymous May 7, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Actually, I want it known that the above comment was published by 7/10split, only I could not make an entry with that name. I could only publish if I published under anonymous. What’s that about?

Reply

theresa May 10, 2008 at 3:32 pm

I was not “tooting” my own horn but merely pointing out people here do not need lectures on charity. there was no reason to make disparaging remarks on a person’s eloquent (an I mean Erin’s not mine) encouraging words on learning to be brave.

Reply

Theresa May 10, 2008 at 3:33 pm

PS – i never claimed to be “well-bred”

Reply

Fashion Maze May 19, 2008 at 4:38 am

erin, I really like this blog. It is the first time I read your blog and I really amaze on the content of your writing.

Reply

Belinda November 16, 2008 at 9:25 pm

oh. my. god.i know this is an old post (i only just found dress a day, and am reading backwards through the archives, yay!) but i have to comment.no, i have to THANK! Thankyou, Erin, for making me realise what nothing and nobody else has been able to. i’ve been in such a funk lately, and too despondant to attempt to do anything, due to my paralysing fear.also, top drawer blog. know that as i type, my eyes keep flicking to the seam ripper and dress i am about to transform into pure awesomeness.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: