Sparks of Inspiration

Ready to make that first cut in your fabric? Be brave!

Julia Child being fearlessLet’s talk about that moment in a sewing project when you’re about to make that first cut in your fabric. It can be intimidating. Sometimes it can be downright scary. And sometimes that fear is enough to stop a project in its tracks.

I’ve had sewing students tell me they’d pay someone just to stand nearby and spot check them while they cut out pattern pieces. Experienced sewists can hit this moment of hesitation, too, particularly if the fabric would be expensive or difficult to replace, and even more so when the materials or the project carry strong emotional weight. Cutting up a young person’s long-beloved t-shirt to make a t-shirt quilt? That can give a person pause.

For me, the anxiety is greatest when I’m about to cut into an heirloom wedding dress. I take that back. It’s greatest when I’m about to cut into somebody else’s heirloom wedding dress. Once while making a wedding chuppah canopy from a wedding dress worn by a client’s mother, I froze for nearly a week at the point of making that first cut. I had everything ready to go. Everything had been measured, the patterns were ready, the notions were all gathered, and still it took me nearly a week to make that first cut.

Sometimes measuring twice doesn’t feel like enough

Silk Applique Video ScreenshotIt’s true that sometimes taking a moment to pause and reflect can save us from making an expensive mistake. But more often, there are no more steps we can take to increase our level of confidence and still the second-guessing gives us pause.

How do you deal with the anxiety of making that first cut in the fabric? When you’ve measured twice, three times, then a fourth time, and still you hesitate.

Channel your creative role models

For me, one way I get myself up and over that mountain of hesitation is to think of creative people I admire who have dealt with similar moments.

For example, I once saw a video clip of Steven Spielberg talking about making movies. He compared the fear of starting a new project to diving off a high diving board. I get that. If Steven Spielberg can feel the fear and dive in, so can I.

And this from writer Stephen King: “The scariest moment is just before you start.” He gets me.

I often call up images of Julia Child, The French Chef, whose television show I watched growing up. She was known for being fearless in the kitchen. In my mind, I think of her flipping some fancy food over the air and saying, “You must be fearless.” I don’t know if Julia Child actually ever said this, but sometimes in moments of hesitation I call up my best French accent and say to myself –and sometimes out loud— “Courage!” (Full disclosure: While fact checking this blog post, I find that the better French phrase to use here is probably “bon courage”, but I’m just telling you what gets me through.)

Need more? Here’s a quote from writer and Princess Leia actress Carrie Fisher: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway.” That makes excellent general life advice.

And so I say to you: Measure once, measure twice, measure as many times as you need to. Then think of creators you admire and take the next step. “Bon courage!

Here’s Julia herself to inspire you to be fearless:

[Top image: Screenshot from “Julia Child – Favorite Moments from The French Chef” via YouTube]

Maria BywaterMaria Bywater is the author of Sew Jewish: The 18 Projects You Need for Jewish Holidays, Weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebrations, and Home. She teaches hands-on Judaica sewing workshops.

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