10.06.2014

Irrational Catastrophe

oonaballoona | go get catastrophic

Several weekends ago, under my maniacal supervision, in a mere fourteen hours, one of my very favorite girlfriends Brilliant Chica sewed up the Kate & Rose Giselle dress from start to finish. She walked away with a garment, I walked away with a bigger head. No, really. I literally command myself to LISTEN AND RETAIN INFORMATION when the two of us are together. Intelligence seeps off of her like a heady perfume. I love it. My favorite observation of her beginner's view on sewing:

It's all about the avoidance of catastrophe. 

DAMN STRAIGHT, I hollered back happily. That's why I love my seam ripper. 'Cause stitches be TRIPPIN. (We were singing a lot of Iggy Azalea that weekend.)

She, however, was hellbent on not using her seam ripper. Until she saw that I too had to use that most important tool. Lots. Even with careful planning for catastrophe avoidance. Whatever level you're at, the seam ripper is your Number One Pal. Her surprise turned our conversation to the assumption, propagated by beautiful blogs and eye candy instagram and what have you, that once you reach a certain level, perfect garments appear with very little strife on the maker's end. Sort of like that Facebook syndrome everyone was hollering about. A kind of Irrational Reality. The number of people stitching has grown like some gorgeous untamed vine over the past few years-- I think the last 365 especially has seen an absolute eruption of people picking up needles and joining in the fray. It's wonderful, but also misleading: Everyone is doing it, and look how easily. 

Lately, I've had a lot of emails asking advice on how to begin, how to get a good fit, how I choose my wackadoo combos, how much do I really drink... well. I AM QUITE BRATTILY FLATTERED! But let's be real, not everything in Kalkatroona is a winner. I'm just not showing you the wadders. I mean, I could start a weekly series on What Was I Drinking Thinking. (I'm also not putting Coca Cola in my Gin. The horror.) 

But while some things come (seemingly) easy to me, others don't. I look at the great big beautiful pool of sewing blogs, our version of Reality TV, and fall headfirst into the trap. I look at the reality of Sallie Oh's silks, and Cashmerette's coats, and Amy's undies, and I irrationally think I CAN DO THAT! I TOTALLY HAVE THAT TALENT SIMPLY BY VIRTUE OF HOW INSPIRED I AM!!!! MY HIGH WAIST AND PROTRUDING DERRIERE WILL LOOK AMAZING IN AN EMPIRE TUNIC! AND WHY AM I NOT MAKING ALL OF MY OWN CORSETS?! I WILL BE SUCCESSFUL AT THAT RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!!!

And maybe I will, but in all likelihood I so won't. I'll dive headfirst into whatever shiny thing has caught my eye, I will try, and fail, and try again, and maybe get better, and maybe fail some more, and maybe decide I don't wanna wear that ever again, and maybe be the best there ever was...which is ALL great. IT'S ALL LEARNING. Sink or swim, you've simply got to jump into the pool. And the deep end is different for everyone. For some, it's couture sewing. For some it's knits and an overlocker. You won't find out until you're standing on your own high dive board, ready to jump. More and more, I find I want to climb up to the top rung, stomp on out, and leap off.

It's where the irrational vibe can work in your favor. Turn it into inspiration, and have your seam ripper ready.

Go get irrational. GO GET CATASTROPHIC. Go sew something.

100 comments:

  1. Yeah girl, keep preaching it! I've gotten some similar emails lately along the lines of, where are the mistakes? I don't know how to answer. If you do one type of thing over and over you generally make less mistakes! But in the beginning of learning any of these things I jumped off the deep end. I love diving in over my head and just assume it's gonna be all messy in the beginning. It's the only way I learn... and it's good therapy for perfectionism.... and 9 times out of 10 shock myself with what I did. Ha, you should to partner up with a company and make a gorgeous big gold-handled seam ripper, The Oona Ripper! The one you don't lose and love to use!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Omgeee the Oona Ripper is a fabulous idea! Would definitely take some of the sting out...

      Thanks for the excellent reminder of this post! :)

      Delete
    2. I WANT THAT SEAM RIPPPPPERRRRRRRR. everything we use should be beautiful, no?

      Delete
  2. Very inspiring post - and really funny too - I reckon you should have your own show to inspire the folks out there about sewing. That would undoubtedly be a prime time TV moment I'd personally relish!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you and me both, my friend. wouldn't mind it one bit.

      Delete
    2. Oh how I wish this was a thing!

      Delete
  3. Last night I went to an author talk including Kim Werker. She has a new book out called Make it Mighty Ugly (http://www.amazon.com/Make-It-Mighty-Ugly-Exercises/dp/157061914X/) which is basically about how failure is good when being creative. I got a copy last night and I'm excited to read it and try the exercises.

    I think people get too caught up in the perfect photos being posted on blogs, instagram and pinterest and think that if they can't do it perfectly they shouldn't bother trying. It's the trying that's the fun part - not the perfect product.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes, i mean it's really not failure when it's a creative process, right? that said the wool cape over on my sewing desk sure feels like a failure. i shall re-tackle it after a glass of something red.

      that's another good topic; perfect photos-- i love playing with my photos (as in everything but the actual garment, of course)-- for me it's part of the creative fun of it. but it also supports the perfect product feeling...

      Delete
  4. You have no idea how timely this is. I've been sewing off and on for decades. Sewed shirts out of wool coating on a treadle machine (no, I'm not *that* old - just a hippie). Made a multitude of Halloween costumes ranging from Polar Bear to Assassin's Creed. Made a sheepskin vest on said treadle machine.

    But now I've got it into my head that I can sew with silk chiffon. Uhh...no. Yesterday I was working on my second catastrophe and ready to throw in the towel. This morning (here in Canada) you remind me that we're all learning.

    Hello, seam ripper. Sorry, silk chiffon about the unsightly holes. Thank you, Oonaballoona. I'm moving to Kalkatroona.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've not sewn with silk chiffon, but I had good luck with poly chiffon by soaking the fabric in heavy starch and hanging it to dry before I cut it out. It really helped the chiffon to be manageable. Maybe it would work on silk, too?

      Delete
    2. plenty of room here, SunGold! tell that silk chiffon the holes are beautiful battle scars.

      angela, i've been meaning to try the starch method! guess i ought to practice what i preach and dive in. i suppose you'd have to wash the silk afterwards, at least handwash?

      Delete
    3. Yeah. I think if you don't rinse the starch out, it will eventually damage the fabric.

      Delete
    4. Thank you, Angela. I'll try that. Battle scars, yes, these are definitely battle scars - on my soul!

      Delete
  5. I think we all fall into this trap a bit. Depends on the time of month, time of day, type of mood. What's important is to get over it. Life cannot be contained or adequately conveyed in snapshots, whether they're on blogs, Facebook or Instagram.

    Also, I LOVE calling sewing blogs our version of reality TV!! That is so on point!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. best TV on the internet.

      i swear, there's like a week out of every month where my uterus is all "nothing, eh? okay. CLOTHING BABIES. GAME ON."

      i love that week.

      Delete
  6. WOO-HOOO! Love this post! Got me inspired right now! :)

    P.S. I think a series of "what was I (drinking) thinking" would be amazing! Says the girl who never blogs wadders either - but that name is so catchy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YEAH GIRL! and double yeah, totally starting that series. wrote one for later this week :))

      Delete
  7. Hey man, you totally failed to put my DISASTER COAT post up there! http://www.cashmerette.com/2014/10/coating-with-cashmerette-trials.html

    SEAM RIPPER TO THE GO!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Feel for you Jenny! Have you found a fix yet? Surely it isn't a total loss?

      Delete
    2. nope. i just believe in you. you are TOTALLY going to rock that coat. slap those seams into submission!

      Delete
    3. Thursday night is officially TAKEOUT AND TAILORING NIGHT with Cashmerette and Katy & Laney where we are going to will that baby into behaving right. Either that or spill chinese food on cashmere. One or the other.

      Delete
    4. please tell me TAKE OUT AND TAILORING NIGHT will become a regular thing.

      Delete
    5. I wanna come to TAKEOUT AND TAILORING NIGHT! But I would DEFINITELY spill Chinese... so maybe I shouldn't ever be invited.

      Delete
    6. Important update: it worked! Both the takeout and the tailoring

      Delete
  8. Great post, very inspiring and just what I needed to read today!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (*not the implication of a possibly bad day, naturally.)

      Delete
  9. Go sew something that you are certain will be an ugly, unmitigated disaster, but do your very best at sewing it up. You may be pleasantly surprised at what comes out of the machine at the end of the day. Or you may have the most hilarious wadder ever ... both are worth the effort, because you will learn something by the doing of it. (You may learn that you never want to do that again, but it's still a lesson learned.) ((We all have gifts. We do not all have the same gifts.))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YEAH! i'm sewing something up at the moment that has a very good chance of being EVER so fugly, but i'm doing it right, as it's all practice.

      Delete
  10. love it lady! all my newbies in class look at me in horror when I tell them that they *will* make mistakes. it's not a matter of *if* it's a matter of *when* and they all visually struggle with this concept from that point on. yeah, try crazy stuff and f*ck that sh*t up! and then have a drink and get out the seam ripper ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. beau baby had a great post on how her kiddo classes were SO much more comfortable with the seam ripper. we ought to start looking at seam ripping as an art, i tell ya. (fortunately, all art is better with wine.)

      Delete
  11. I don't think you learn as much by playing it safe. It's when there's a risk for catastrophe that the 'ah ha' moments come, in sewing and life in general, I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yeah, some of my favorite things came out of going off the rails in deep water!

      mixed...metaphor...

      Delete
  12. This is poignant. I try to include my catastrophes every once in a while (the catastrophes inherent in the successes), because I'm thinking, someone could learn from my learning experience. But no level of learning like that can stop, say, the bottom layer unexpectedly wrinkling under your foot and getting caught up in the stitching and that HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. Seam ripper for the win. Maybe next time that happens, I should photograph it and include for the sake of frustrated newbie sewasauri.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. UGH THAT BOTTOM LAYER! bain of my existence! though, i have to say, Brilliant Chica was sewing on my Riccar and it got her several times--i was on my pfaff...doesn't happen. in fact, i don't think it's happened really since i got her.

      I KNOW.

      Delete
  13. This post is the best thing I've read in a long time, I want to set it to music and have a gospel choir sing it. I think as you sew more things, you don't think of the wadders as your fault or even the end of the road, and so their less distressing. It WAS hard at the start to make meh garment one after another and it seemed so effortless to others. I wanna jump on the bandwagon and say that I would LOVE to see a 'what was I drinking' series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. bandwagon is successful! there's three of us on it: you, me 'n amy. that's good company.

      yeah, i agree, i was harder on myself about failures earlier on. it's only recently that i can look back on it as learning.

      Delete
  14. After unpicking and redoing half the seams on a seemingly simple project this weekend (but new to me pattern) - these were words I needed to hear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. let it sit a minute before you restitch! like taking a little breathing room after a fight :).

      Delete
  15. hi, please could u tell me adress of fabric shop? im looking for that...o)))
    thanks very much,
    Gema

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hi Gema, do you mean the shop that carries the fabric in the picture? i took that shot at mood fabrics in Los Angeles, CA-- don't know the exact address, but you can find that info at moodfabrics.com :)

      Delete
  16. OOna for president!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. yeah!!
    exactly my position after a long cold winter of fear and uncertainty. It's been two weeks, and I am fully AT IT!
    t'was good reading this :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i'm glad! i'm ready to tackle the new season too. seems to be a lot of "up n at em" around the blogs these days, maybe it has to do with getting used to the season shift?

      Delete
  18. HELLS YES! Oh man, all the catastrophes that we don't show... like, oh, I dunno, when we accidentally sew our right side of our bodice to the wrong side of our back bodice.....

    But yes, this sewing community is hella inspiring and I want to try it all but, you know.... I am trying to convince myself to take things one. step. at. a. time. to avoid the costly catastrophe. And you know, maybe end up with something I wear four times a week. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ooo, that thing that is the first thing you wear out of the laundry, that thing that is the first thing you reach for on all important days.... if that thing is something you've made, holy cow. holy grail.

      Delete
  19. My favorite... sew the sleeve, perfectly, into the neckline. I do this at least once every two years or so. Been sewing for 30 years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HAHAHAAH! i have never heard of such a thing, that is GENIUS!!!

      Delete
  20. Great post! With capitalization and punctuation too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you may thank my family. but you shall never have Use Of Proper Capitalization in my harebrained comments! never, i tell you!

      Delete
  21. My sewing mantra is "The seam ripper is my friend." I think I've made maybe one thing without it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HOW?!

      i love my seam ripper so much i almost bought (hard to find) replacement blades while out of the country. with only a carry on. luckily i thought that one through.

      Delete
  22. What a fantastic post! I always love your writing (although this is my first comment. ..um, hello!), but this is so very true. So easy to get caught up in the end results of another sewer, without seeing all the toil and trouble lurking underneath.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. well thankya, first comment or fortieth:)! i'm glad you liked it.

      Delete
  23. Hell Yes and Amen (if I can say "Hell" and "Amen" in the same sentence). I've been teaching sewing for a few years now and I've finally come up with two rules for my classes: 1) Respect the Machine, It is a Power Tool; and 2) Make Mistakes. I give all new students a bright shiny seam ripper of their own to love and despair over, just to drive the point home. Sometimes you use it because you flat out f-ed something up, sometimes you just know you could do it better. Sewing is joy and meditation and tears and glee and grit and a constant Dance with Catastrophe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you can, and you may. i've come to love ripping out stitches because i can do it better. NEVER thought i'd love that.

      Delete
  24. Thank you Oona! What a great post! Hooray for seam rippers! I know I couldn't live without mine!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Oona! Thank! You! This post brings me out of reality and back to my imaginary world! I've been slipping towards making sensible makes...but, now you've got me itching to jump off the high board, and into the deep end. I wanna dance with catastrophe and sew like you're in the room with me!!!! xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. sue, i imagine you at my sewing desk alllll the time.

      Delete
  26. So true, success is built by trial and errors and we got where we are by just doing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. if the madness of project sewn didn't prove that i don't know what does!

      Delete
  27. Yes yes! A What Was I Thinking series would be so refreshing and hilarious - and sometimes laughing about it is the best way to recover from a catastrophe!

    Also, I may have just searched 'seam rippers' on Etsy... HOW have I gone this long without one of these psychedelic, wooden-handled, gold-plated tools of perfection?! It sure would make mistakes more exciting :D

    x. Zoe

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.....

      Delete
  28. So wise my dear. And funny. But no matter what I think, you'll forever be one of those unbeatable sewing ninjas in my mind, who pull miracles out of their asses every week.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Brilliant post! I too like to jump off the top diving board. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. No biggy! I always learn something though, whether I have a wadder or a pristine garment (which I don't think I've ever achieved really as there's always a tiny flaw that no-one else will ever notice except the maker themselves I.e me)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. and we are always sooooooo quick to point out our flaws.

      Delete
  30. So glad you said it, someone had to! Sometimes the internet seems all about shunning the reality of life, which can make reality seem more ugly/scary than it needs to be. Would actually be rad to see a weekly/monthly post of what doesn't quite work out. There's typically way more to learn from mistakes than successes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. coming up! maybe not weekly (though depending on my output, one never knows)

      Delete
  31. Girl, you just took me to church with that!. Now, to quote a most appropo and unchurch-like thing I heard while binge-watching Netflix: There's this little voice in my head that says, "You're gonna f**k this up." I just wish it was louder than the voice that says, "Let's f**k this up!!"

    Thanks for letting us hear and (be inspired by) the loud ass voice in your head.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Well a Giselle dress! Just in time for Frocktober. Will there ever be pictures? (Sorry! I am selfish like this, and self-involved, possibly.)

    But more seriously: I've recently given a few sewing lessons and the presence of a seam ripper in the hands of the sewing-authority figure (which cracks me up, because no, but you really shouldn't go destroy the student-teacher relationship by not taking yourself seriously as a teacher) - anyway the seam ripper in the hands of the sewing-authority person seems to be liberating. Also, when I tell people that any stitch you make can be ripped out (and then go on to demonstrate this, because also I've sewn that same sleeve with the wrong side of the sleeve to the right side of the garment before. Not just once either). For the record, I do think you could probably sew a corset successfully right this very minute.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Great post. And you're right, seam rippers are wonderful things. As are scissors for cutting up the complete failures, and corners for throwing/hiding the unfinished messes. All of us who sew need those things - and seriously, ripping apart abominations is incredibly satisfying. But do you know what I think makes a great sewist? It's not the ability to sew everything perfectly. It's the delusions of grandeur that makes you decide "why yes, I can make a structured silk taffeta dress in two weeks", and "of course neon green pleather will look great when I accentuate it with russet tassels". Those projects don't always (ever?) work, but they're oh so fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes, the delusions are wonderful! who knows what will come from them!

      also, so satisfying to skip the ripper sometimes and hack up a wadder for scraps.

      Delete
  34. But Oona! the urge to make it work is so great! frankly though, once in a while, chucking some sewing failures and letting go is good too. Yeah! for seam rippers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh yeah, it takes a while for me to get to the point where i abandon ship. sailing thru choppy waters, let's go.

      Delete
  35. Well, there are many true thoughts, that every seamstress has in her mind. The desire to sew everything you see around the blogosphere and the fear that comes with it, while trying not to fail in the sewing process.
    Trial and error is the only solution to master sewing.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I'm with you! Sewing's not easy, it's HARD! I'm a believer in taking your time and making things that you're dying to have. It gives you something more interesting to think about than, well, just about everything else. It's so much more fun to think about how I'm going to insert that collar than, oh, whether my 7th grader has finished his homework...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. especially when that collar is #edithhead!

      Delete
  37. I couldn't agree with this post more!! Just jump into the deep end and start mucking around! You can't worry too much about failure, because that's how you learn! Also, you probably won't even notice how bad your first couple of sewing mistakes ARE because you don't know what you're looking for! Haha! At least I didn't! I still wear those hideous things, too, even though the fit and finishing is so damn lousy! But learning to sew WELL and trying to get better at it is definitely a test in patience. And we could all use a little more patience! Thanks for the shout out on my silks! I need to get back to that - honestly I took a break because I was encountering a few roadblocks (happens to us all) and was getting seriously frustrated. But I think it's time for ME to jump back in the deep end again! Thanks for the reminder!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HAHA so true! i have some shots of my very first dresses that SHOCKED me-- i really thought they were perfection, which is great, loving every level you're at is the key to getting to the next level, methinks.

      DYE GIRL!!

      Delete
  38. Catastrophic! It's a good reminder. The blogs often only show the happy, shiny garments. To inspire. And we can easily forget about the hours (weeks??) of work (and rework) that went into the finished result. I think I'm more of a process person, so if I'm not feelin' it, I don't do it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's a good mantra as well. and sometimes i get back to feelin it after stepping away for awhile!

      Delete
  39. I still remember clearly when my mother first discovered the seam ripper - way back in the 60's. I don't know if it existed before then but that's when she discovered it. Before that when she had to take something apart she carefully and very slowly did it with a razor blade. Whenever I have to use the seam ripper I try to think about how happy my mom was to discover it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that. is. WONDERFUL. i think that image will be in my head as well (along with liza jane's theme song)

      Delete
  40. I just had to break out the seam ripper for a waistband that I sewed two times AND serged. And every time I use my seam ripper I like to sing to it. "Ohhhh, seeeam ripper, you help me rip my seeeee-eeeams" -to the tune of dream weaver- ha! Try not do it next time you use your seam ripper.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brilliant. I cannot now get that out of my head ... so, good thing that it is a good thing!

      Delete
    2. yep. it's gonna happen every time. i'm REALLY glad i like that song, yo.

      Delete
  41. I recently helped a friend with her first garment project and she thought I was just trying to be nice and make her feel better when I was telling her how the seam ripper is our best friend and it's just part of the game. I've never not used it on a project and I still love sewing :)
    As for jumping into the deep end, Tasia made me do that after I saw her knitting. I figured it would be too hard to learn to knit, or I would have to knit ugly misshapen scarves for a couple years before anything interesting came off my needles. The. Out of the blue and just all of a sudden started whipping up full on sweaters. OK THEN. !! I did it too!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's what Brilliant Chica thought too, until she saw me using it!

      i tried a sweater for ruggy once... it came up sized for Andre The Giant.

      Delete
  42. Hey Oona, great post...and an epic blog. I laughed out loud when I scrolled down this post...I thought the rolls and rolls of fabric were your stash and the 'Irrational catastrophe' was 'cos you'd lost some fabric. The way my mind works!

    Yes, totally agree that we should just photo, post and confess those little (and not so little) mistakes- how else are we going to learn?

    Love reading your blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thankya joyce! OH how i wish my stash looked like that, holy freaking yoda that would be amazing.

      Delete
  43. You lovely thing - I'm a tad late to this party (does that make me fashionable?) but I love what you've got here. It's so true, and it's happened to me, on numerous occasions. Like growing up though, I'm getting better at recognising it and making sure I stick to my straight and narrow, rather than be induced to head off skipping down a pretty path of inspiration. Not that I don't mind being tempted - all the time! x

    ReplyDelete

i thankya truly for taking the time to comment, i love a good conversation-- and hope you know my thanks are always implied, if not always written!