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starzoe | Posted in General Discussion on

Do people who style themselves as “perfectionists” in their sewing ever take chances, do they deviate from the instructions, does it make sewing a relaxing experience or one of stress?

I have often pondered these questions when someone says that they are a perfectionist. We all do our best to turn out a pleasing item and it should be enjoyable, relaxing and a learning experience but I am inclined to believe that especially beginners at sewing who strive to be “perfect” from the start are doing themselves a disadvantage with that designation.


  1. tsuya | | #1

    I both agree and disagree. In a begginers point of view perfection is impossible, but from and advaced sewer point of view it is something to strive for. I know for myself if I am doing a french seam and some of the fabric is hanging out or if a seam isn't straight I'll take it apart and fix it. I'm a perfectionist and It is very stressfull the outcome is an incredible garment/bag/quilt that I can actually be proud of.

  2. Teaf5 | | #2

    Perfectionism can be an asset, and it can be a great liability.  While it might motivate you to take care to do excellent work, it can also be an excuse to spend more time than you should and to never finish anything.

    Some of us know that we are so very far away from achieving perfection that there is no chance we'd label ourselves "perfectionists"!  I take heart in knowing that even the most exquisite naturally beautiful object or creature usually has at least one feature that could be considered imperfect, and I relate well to those cultures that believe that humans' attempts to achieve perfection are insults to deities.

    1. Ralphetta | | #3

      When I hear someone say they are a perfectionist I've never interpreted that to mean they are perfect. I've always taken that to mean that they strive for perfection and take whatever steps necessary to get it right. That may not be the dictionary definition, but I think a lot of people use it that way. My friends who use that term are always quick to laugh at how long it takes them to do things so they don't have big egos and think they are perfect.I agree with the people who say it has good and bad results. It's true that it can make things seem so impossible that you hesitate to start, but I remember that when I was starting and too casual with my sewing I wouldn't wear the finished items. it was wasted time and not fun. It wasn't until I decided it was better to go slower and do things right (or as nearly as i could manage,) that I became proud of my work and proud to wear it. Doing it right was fun for me because I had mastered something new.

      Edited 5/1/2008 9:30 pm ET by Ralphetta

      1. sewelegant | | #5

        I think you described it just right, Ralphetta, because I have always blamed being a "perfectionist" the reason I would quit in mid-project and never go back.  Not only that, but never even start something because I couldn't see myself finishing it.  As for day to day sewing, I still spend a lot of time ripping because I do not like how something is turning out.  I have unravelled lots of knitting and crochet stitches to go back and fix an error.  I know lots of people who will not do that, but I feel so much better knowing it is as perfect as I can get it.  This can be a terrible hindrance to productivity.  I once attended a lecture given by Patti Palmer back in her early days and she had a rack full of clothes for us to look at and in examining the handiwork I noted lots of imperfection, but only on the inside where no one would see it anyway... she said she would never get everything made if she was too particular.  After that I began to think a little differently about re-doing every imperfection and would begin concentrating on the areas that matter, where others will see and label "homemade" if I didn't fix it!  For instance:  the top stitching around the cuff of a shirt must be perfect, but on the inside, if the facing is a bit askew that's OK, no one will ever see it.  Being a perfectionist is a mind set that needs dealing with just like any other obsession, it seems to me and just as hard to overcome.

        1. sewingkmulkey | | #6

          I think you and I have traveled the same journey.  Now, as a seasoned seamstress, I'm more concerned about the fit of the garment and how it looks on the outside.  The inside look of the garment is secondary in importance to me.   Years ago I thought the inside had to look as perfect as the outside but I have changed my attitude.  Please understand that I do not accept sloppy sewing and occasionally make couture quality garments that do look fabulous inside and out.

          I do "sew" love this forum as it puts me in touch with other sewers who think alike and understand the details of this wonderful craft.



          1. stitchagain | | #7

            Really Great Topic!!

            Although not generally a perfectionist, I have in the few previous years tried a few projects to loosen myself up.  From pattern drafting to sewing to surface design.  It has made me appreciate my perfectionist moods more.  The pattern drafting was making some wool felt slippers inspired by some old manufactured ones I had.  I wanted to try to make them but didn't think I would if I took it too seriously, so I sort of "winged it", pretended I was a master with the curves.  Well they could have come out better but are wearable and now I know I can make wool slippers.

            I have been sewing for 30 years (!*) and am amazed that I keep finding new ways to look at this hobby.  Even finishing old projects that never got finished.  A shirt stopped at buttons and buttonholes, not my style so much anymore but pretty fabric- finished it and now love it.  A bag for my crosscountry skis started maybe 15 years ago- put the zipper in wrong left an end open so I could slip my skis in from the end and use it (worked well enough).  About a year ago I  found the end piece for the project and decided to take the zipper out and finish it.  The nylon has worn real well and now my skis are all zipped up.

            After sewing for many years and sewing as a profession actually, I got the idea that I knew how to do things but by rediscovering old Threads magazines recently and following pattern directions very carefully I find that I still have stuff to learn (and it's fun)

            Having fun is important and possibly I can even have fun doing a perfectionists project!


          2. starzoe | | #8

            Glad you think this is a good topic - I thought I would ask the question to stir things up a little!!I am not a perfectionist, I have a more difficult time trying to decide what to sew. Not that I don't have a huge stash, or the time. As with knitting it takes me a long time to consider the project. I want to "invent" design elements and that takes time.As with the others, I have gone through phases of meticulous interior finishes and still do on occasion. I like hand sewing so do a fair amount of that on some projects. I live where casual dressing is the norm but it's not my style so I am forever designing for casual clothing with a little panache.

          3. Ralphetta | | #9

            I agree that fit is the most important thing. Inside is important also, but there have been times that I've seen things that had perfect finishing inside but not enough attention to the fit of the garment. The seamstress was very proud of her perfect sewing. It was sort of like that saying, " The operation was a success, but the patient died."

  3. damascusannie | | #4

    I'm a perfectionist in that whatever I sew, I want sew as well as I possibly can. However, I frequently depart from the instructions, making modifications in construction and style as needed to make what I want. For instance, last summer I made a cotton blouse that was supposed to be faced, but completely lined it instead so that I wouldn't need to wear a camisole under it. Perfectionism is a state of mind and I think you either are one, or you're not.

  4. BellaGabriella | | #10

    I think being a perfectionist is personal attribute, and a good one. To me, it means that I need to do whatever it is that I am doing to the level that I am pleased with it, then, push a little more. My Perfect Blouse might not be Your Perfect Blouse, but I think we set our own levels. If I'm a couple stitches off on a topstitched collar I will fix it because I know when I wear that garment there will be a floating, lime green blinking arrow pointing it out for all to see. Because we are proud of what we make we want to make sure when someone positively comments on it we can say "Thank you!" without pointing out the flaws.

    But you probably notice you expect that of yourself in other things too, right? Like house cleaning, cooking, gardening, or dressing for a lazy Saturday. I feel a person should always feel they can - and should - improve on what they are doing. If you know you do something really well, then you should move on to something to challenge your mind and soul. Even if it's just learning to add beading to a garment (did you see the back cover of THREADS, #136?) it's still doing something new.


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