Friday, November 18, 2011

My Amazing Weekend with Heather Ross and friends

I want to get this out as quickly as possible. I don’t want to lose the intensity of the emotion before I have a chance to get it written down. Do you know how some days, or weeks burn themselves into your brain, either in the moment, or afterwards, as having been really critical in some way? Maybe you learned something that you’ve been trying to learn for a long time. Maybe you finally became aware of something that has been nibbling at your subconscious. This past weekend was one of those times for me, and here’s why.

I signed up for this Heather Ross “Sewing Weekend” this spring. It was something to look forward to, and it was purely “me” time. It wasn’t cheap, but when I saw the slate of guest teachers, I knew I had to go. There was Gretchen Hirsch of Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, Liesl Gibson, Moda fabric designer, Oliver & S and Lisette pattern author, and Jay McCarroll, winner of season 1 of Project Runway. These folks were IN ADDITION to Heather herself. An aspiring designer’s dream team. So I took my hard earned cube farm bonus and paid up.

(view from my hotel room...LOVE the water towers)

(blurry picture, but love this note on my bathroom mirror)

As is usually the case, as the weekend neared, I had doubts. Did I really want to be away, for a whole weekend, without my kids and husband? Was it really going to be worth all the money I had spent? Would I just be wasting one of precious fall weekends and come home exhausted needing another vacation? But I forged ahead, packed my bags, and headed to NYC on Friday evening.

We started out with a private shopping event at Purl Soho. The store closed at 7 and we got to shop from 7-8 with the guest teachers offering guidance. I was so star struck at first, I really found it hard to approach anyone, even the other students. As is often the case with me, I waffled between insecurity and that “oh, will they LIKE me” mess, and wanting to rip all the bolts off the shelves and run out the door to hoard the amazing fabric. I bought 2 ½ yards of a Liberty of London fabric to make a blouse pattern I had brought along (purchased 2 years earlier when I had a SERIOUSLY inaccurate handle on my sewing skills). I also bought fabric to make an Amy Butler bag, and this amazing ombre fabric that I have no idea what I do with, but just HAD to have.

(eye candy from Purl Soho)

(ONE of the many Liberty sections)

We went from there to a group dinner at Lucky Strike. They weren’t really ready for us, so we had to sort of stand awkwardly in the middle of the restaurant waiting for people to leave and for them to put our tables together. It was worth the discomfort though, because I got to sit across from Liesl and we had the most fantastic dinner conversation. (I have no idea if she thought the conversation was good, she was incredibly gracious). We talked about the fabric industry, her pattern making and how her Lisette patterns came to be. We talked about kids, charitable giving, and earning a living (or not) designing fabric and writing sewing and quilting patterns. If I had gone home that night, I would have been completely satisfied. I felt so fortunate to have gotten the seat across from her, and to have gotten to speak with her for so long. She was frank, honest, and forthcoming. It was wonderful. If that wasn’t enough, the dinner was fantastic.

Saturday morning we started sewing at The Sewing Studio, and in typical NY fashion, they packed a lot into a really tiny space. Each of us had a machine, and there were two large cutting tables in the centers of the sewing spaces. Not for nothing, but their cutting tables are the same Ikea ones I got this summer, so I was feeling pretty smart. Heather and Liesl convinced me to make a muslin of my pattern, which honestly terrified me at first. How crazy is that? What is that? Work the kinks out, make all your mistakes on muslin and NOT this $39/yard fabric? Liesel also helped to me to choose to make a size 12 muslin. I still get confused about pattern sizing vs retail sizing vs the fact that I am a real person and don’t fit into any one size…more on this later.

Heather also showed us this fantastic technique for copying patterns onto muslin or fabric using this cool waxed transfer paper (you can see it on the table next to her). Again, that information alone would have made my weekend complete (then we went to a store and we all bought it!). There was shopping at the FIT bookstore and Mood, then back to the studio for more sewing.
I managed to cut my muslin, sew together the front and back, including many darts, completely screw up the plackets, and get completely confused about how to make a collar stand. On Saturday night, about 8PM, I had my muslin on (embarrassing!) and got manhandled by Jay, Liesl and Heather all trying to decide if I should size up or let out darts.


We decided if I wanted to breathe or if I ever ate again, I should size up. Imagine if I cut that Liberty, and the damn blouse was too small??? I’d have sworn like a sailor on leave and jumped out the window. But I DIDN’T cut it first, and I got to cut the size up, and start sewing it on Sunday morning. Can I get an AMEN?

Of course all while this is going on I have extreme project envy. There are folks making children’s things, aprons, and messenger bags. And finishing them. And starting on second projects. Or thirds. I must have thought “oh I WISH I was making THAT” at least three or four times. But thankfully, as the last morning of sewing drifted away from me, and I got to see my fabric choice come to life, I decided that I was thrilled I had brought something so challenging for me. That was the whole point I told myself, right?? This was a rare opportunity to stretch, go outside of my teeny tiny comfort zone, reach to challenge myself and learn something new. Gain experience, knowledge and thought process from FOUR sewing experts. And learn I did.

What I learned, most importantly, were two things. One, that I need to “swim in my own lane” as my friend Bari calls it. I need to think for myself, make choices for myself, and be confident in my own skin. I am where I am, I need/want to learn more than I want to look like I can sew in front of total strangers. Every one of us is in a different place, and that it how it’s supposed to be. And two, maybe even more importantly, I learned that all this self doubt about how I look to others, or how quickly I’m learning, or how quickly I can make something, or how perfect my work comes out, or when I can create my own fabric line, is useless and wasteful. I’ll get there when I get there, and it will be exactly how it’s supposed to be.

Of course the caveat to all of that is that I need to actually DO it. I need to make time for myself, and for what I feel is my passion. What I was born to do. I need to go away for weekends, or spend time practicing and screwing up. I need to ask for help. I need to be willing to look like I don’t know what I’m doing (because a lot of the time, I don’t).

What I will get though, is infinitely valuable. Experience. Confidence. Comfort in my own skin. Pride in myself when I accomplish something hard. And the wonderful camaraderie with all my fellow sewists, designers, and bloggers. Well worth the bonus money spent on a weekend in New York City with total strangers.


Anonymous said...

I'm SO happy that you had an awesome time. Loads of Love to you! XO,

Three Rings said...

Awesome job, Baby. I'm glad you went.

Rosy Lady said...

Great post! I can relate to so many things that you've written about learning things in my own time, not worrying about other people think about my learning process as long as I get to follow my passion and my dreams of becoming a textile designer.

Jamie Wood said...

Great post! This sounds like a dream come true for you. I love it! All things in their own time. perfectly stated. BTW...Can we see the top you made??

restitcherator said...

Yes, Jamie, I promise when the top is done to post pictures. I have the collar and sleeves left to do!

Prof. S said...

What an amazing experience! Every time HR announces new Weekend Sewing dates, I feel that longing...but I have to wait a little longer, until my youngest is a little more independent :( Thanks so much for sharing your story -- and good for you for challenging yourself.