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Why Don’t You . . . ? Ease Into Fitting

I often think about the differences between individuals at the beginning of their sewing journey and the stitchers with more experience. At just over a baker’s dozen years of stitching, where I fall in that range depends on the experience of the beholder. But there are certain things I’ve learned to ease up on. One of them is, in fact, ease.

In her Harper’s Bazaar “Why Don’t You . . . ?” column, Diana Vreeland challenged her audience simply when she asked, “Why don’t you . . .  fit your clothes easily?”

Vreeland was talking about store-bought—and likely designer-labeled, custom-tailored—garments. But yes, why don’t we? We can, of course, work our magic to the point of a garment being painted on when that’s the intended goal. But why don’t we fit our clothes more easily? We’ve all gone through that beginner stage of overfitting. It’s a tough stage to leave, for some (*raises hand*).

The allure of fitting

In my first months of sewing, I would take my measurements, cut out a pattern, then sew it up nose-to-tail, without trying it on once during the process. I wanted the result to be like a magic trick, with the final reveal a total, perfect surprise. It was a surprise, for sure.

Woman wearing a bold print wrap top with a pair of jeans

But that moment you realize you can pinch and pull a seam in process and make a pool of fabric disappear, that’s magic. In my first year of sewing, after that handful of  “surprises,” I began to throw on my garments inside out, maybe once or twice in the process, pinning up a seam here and there. Each little adjustment was a mini enchantment. With every new sew, the amount of time spent at the machine in my underwear increased. I was throwing that jammy…

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  1. user-7052553 | | #1

    Great post Marcy! I have finally arrived at that place in my sewing journey too. My wake up call was realizing I don't have to rush to "just complete" a garment, but I can take my time and make the necessary adjustments AND I was getting tired of wasting my beautifull (at times, pricey) fabric. :) So now, I make the adjustments but will make sure I add the "ease" factor in as well. Thanks for sharing, and I love the dresses...I'm a dress girl, lol. Can you share some of the patterns used for the dresses.

    1. User avater
      marcyharriell | | #4

      Ooooo, lemme dust the cobwebs off! I know the floral wrap top is the Desira pattern from Burdastyle, the orange skirt is the By Hand London Charlotte skirt, and several of the dresses are Simplicity patterns. They're earlier in my sewing career, so they may be out of print, but I have a handy section on my blog where you can search my "online closet," and several of these overfit babies are in there: https://www.oonaballoona.com/p/threads.html

      The last two dresses are my own design-- guess which one I can still fit into 😂

  2. user-6183249 | | #2

    Words to live by, Marcy! Thank you for sharing this retrospective. I've been struggling with over-fitting for the past 2 years. I get so tangled up trying to perfect things. Your post is a helpful and encouraging reminder that sewing is a journey and a process, which includes learning from mistakes (and actively choosing not to be frozen in place by them).

    1. User avater
      marcyharriell | | #3

      Thank you! Yes, mistakes are wonderful as long as we learn from them ;)

  3. betsyformpike | | #5

    Always love seeing your brilliant makes. I guess sewing is like gardening. It has a somewhat predictable learning arc too. Most people get lured into gardening by colorful annuals. With more experience they move to perennials which come back year after year and learn what plants work with their climate and sunlight, but really experienced gardeners focus on texture: trees and shrubs that set the tone, make the large statement that lets the color accents pop. Like sewing and ease its a matter of refining ones skills with experience, self knowledge, and more cultivated taste. I think you must have been born with a “sewer’s thumb”, but time and experience have refined your considerable gifts.

    1. User avater
      marcyharriell | | #6

      Thank you so much, Betsey! I love that analogy. My mom is a master gardener, and I lament not inheriting her green thumb. But I’ll take a sewist’s thumb!

      While we were down south, the garden came into bloom in the spring, and it was like watching a magic trick. I always want to plant things in full bloom, but I finally understood what gardeners love about watching it all happen.

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