Surprising as it sounds, sewing bloggers do not spend all their time hunched over their machines churning out jealousy-inducing garments--or over their laptops, pencil behind ear, composing unfairly witty posts. Sometimes they make forays from their fabric- stuffed caves to go... fabric-hunting. Or even, as took place this past Friday lunch hour, to eat falafel:
In between the usual sewing-nerd-type chatter about patterns and color and seam finishes and fabric stash overload we got onto the anxiety-provoking topic (for me, at least!) of self-rating oneself as a sewist. How do you know when you're not a beginning sewer anymore? What is the magic combination of experience and skill set that rates a self-promotion to the land of intermediacy?
Now five of us are PatternReview members and some of us are on BurdaStyle as well. Both social sewing networking sites ask you to rate yourself by skill level, and these ratings appear on your profile, next to forum posts, and alongside your pattern reviews. BurdaStyle makes things comparatively painless -- the only options are "novice," "intermediate" and "expert." But my beloved PatternReview has a five-tier system (depicted in the above illustration.) There's no clear criteria given--it's up to the seamstress/seamster, though there have been discussions over the years on the PR Message Boards.
Of the five of us who met up on Friday, all self-classify as "Advanced Beginner" on PR, with the proud exception of the Slapdash Sewist (who ranks herself as "Intermediate", since no one would believe someone who has reviewed and made over 160 patterns, many of them super-crazy-complex, to be a "beginner" anything). This despite the fact that Elizabeth makes boys' shirts with perfectly pointy collars and lovely lined & pleated wool skirts, or that Peter can match plaids, make jeans, jumpsuits and fancy dresses and spin soiled sheets into club collar gold.
Yet both Peter and I classify ourselves as "Intermediate" on BurdaStyle... since we're obviously not just "Beginners."
Perhaps I'm making too much of a small thing--what does it matter exactly how you grade yourself, as long as you're having fun sewing (which I SO am)? Still, I'm a goal-oriented gal, and in my head I imagine all the fun sewing mountains I might climb to inspire a self-promotion "Advanced Beginner" to "Intermediate"--constructing a fitted underwire bra? a somewhat-tailored jacket? a men's button-down shirt?
I know I'm not just a plain old "Beginner" Beginner because:
- Duration: I've been sewing since I was five, at least a few years of that with some seriousness and dedication.
- Garment types: I've made fitted woven dresses and skirts (some lined, even!) that actually look good on me. In the knit garment department, I'm pretty handy with tops, baby clothes, sweatshirts, skirts, lingerie (including supportive, if not underwire bras), and dresses.
- Hems, seams and seam finishes: I'm totally cool with blind hems, hand-sewn hems, rolled hems and twin-needle hems (the latter two being recent achievements). I can straight stitch, zigzag, pink, serge, miter, get around curves... I'm even getting the hang of reasonably even topstitching. I press (pretty decently) as I sew...
- Machine prowess: I've used a variety of sewing machines, am very comfortable with my beloved Viking Platinum 730, and recently have gotten quite cozy with my Kenmore serger.
- Patterns: More and more I take pattern instructions with a grain of salt and substitute other construction orders/methods/techniques. I've made traced patterns from magazines and (mostly) remembered to add in seam allowances.
- Fitting/alterations: I know my way around several types of major FBA and pregnant tummy adjustments and am not afraid to move and add darts, gathers and other fullness control methods as needed.
- Drafting : I've been trying out some very basic drafting (full skirts, changed necklines) and having a blast.
- Fastenings: I can insert zippers (invisible and not) and hammer on snaps.
- Fabric: I have a pretty good handle on how to cut, care for, and use a variety of fabric types and weights in knits, wovens, cottons, and wools. I cut on-grain and I carefully match my patterns to fabric and prints. I'm getting there on understanding interfacing types and sewing with stripes and plaids, too.
- Also: I THINK and READ and TALK and WRITE about sewing. A lot. Probably way too much.
Still, I've never...
- ...made a successful pair of pants. We will not discuss the elastic-waist gingham disaster of 1999.
- ... applied patch or welt pockets.
- ... come even vaguely close to tailoring anything, or even making an unlined jacket.
- ... made a blouse or shirt with a real proper collar and cuffs (in fact, I've only made one collar in my life).
- ... achieved a perfectly-eased sleeve cap.
- ... made a single buttonhole, bound or otherwise.
- ... managed to sew with slippery silk without repeated cursing/weeping.
Among other things. So an Advanced Beginner I shall stay--for now.
How about you--how do you rate yourself? Is this something you even think about at all? Are we sewists prone to real (or false) modesty, or just anxious that we'll be secretly scoffed at if we "over"-rate ourselves?