I challenge you!

Costuming is all about challenges. Sewing is all about challenges, for that matter. None of us is born with all the skills and know-how we need to do what we love. We all start somewhere and, unless you happen to be unbelievably blessed, that starting point is along about the “what is that supposed to be?” level.

You know what I’m talking about. You get a craft kit as a gift, or some spare felt or fabric, or a quilt pattern or whatever, and think to yourself “I can make that.” Of course, our first stabs at sewing don’t necessarily come out looking exactly like the model – not to mention the phrase “first stab” is a little too descriptive of what happens to our fingers when we’re still trying to get the hang of needle and thread and fabric. But that’s not the point, really. The point is we attempted something and, for better or worse, we were filled with a sense of accomplishment when we were done.

That feeling sparked something in all of us – whether it came from a Home Economics assignment, or from playing around with scraps of quilting calico, or trying to make clothes for your dolls, or from mending favorite pieces of clothing that had seen better days but you weren’t yet ready to part with. Regardless of the project, and even regardless of how it actually turned out, the making and finishing of the thing urged us to move forward and learn more and sew more and craft more.

At least, that’s how things started for me. I’m sure I had picked up a needle and thread at some time in my youth, but the first piece I remember making was a small, stuffed guinea pig in my 6th grade Home Ec class. I trimmed the fur a little too much on my piece, and it wound up looking less like an animal and more like a football with eyes, but I was ecstatic when I finished it. I took my little project home and gave it to my younger brother.

From that moment, I was hooked. I started trying my hand at sewing a little more. I tried to make clothes for my dolls – and was completely confused why my blocky attempts at sleeves came apart at the shoulder seams. Many years later, I finally learned about ease and allowing the shoulder to actually move.

These days, I have fewer moments of confused frustration when constructing clothing. Not to say it doesn’t still happen, but I like to think I’ve managed to pick up enough of the basics by now that I can muddle through most patterns. Of course, I still have problems getting zippers to line up correctly, and I doubt my button holes will ever all be the same size and quality on a single garment, but at least the things I make now bear more than just a passing resemblance to functional clothing.

Of course, as I work on improving certain skills, I still come face to face with projects that force me to step out of my comfort zone and hone my hand and machine sewing. Several of these are on the growing “work in progress” list that originally started as a list of winter projects. Seeing as how we are moving past winter (dear God, please let us be moving past winter), these will be extending into spring projects. I don’t want to list them…yet. Those posts are coming, as soon as I get some good pictures.

The point of all this, of course, is to get you thinking about the challenges inherent in crafting, whether your medium be fabric, clay, plastic, foam, wood, metal or whatever. There are projects we take on which challenge us. They prompt us to learn new skills (or fine-tune skills we haven’t perfected yet), flirt with untried or unfamiliar materials, and attempt to come up with new and unique ways of solving a problem. Sometimes those challenges don’t work. That’s not the point. The point is that you stepped up to the challenge in the first place.

That’s probably one of my favorite topics of conversation at conventions – how people solved the costume-construction problems we all inevitably come up against. It’s how I learn about new materials, or see how another person’s solution might be applied to my own (and vice versa), or how we all encourage young costumers in the craft. I imagine “challenges” is going to be a recurring theme of discussion at the upcoming MakerFaire I will be attending. I certainly hope I get to hear from people about the creative ways they overcame a roadblock. I know I’ll definitely be talking about my own.

Of course, even as I tell you about the challenges I am working on (which I really hope I can pull off), I want to know what challenges you are facing. Even though I’m the one in charge of the postings on this little old site, this is a community. I’d like to know a little more about all you folks out there in Readerland, and I want you to know that this is your place, too. What patterns are you fighting with? Which props are giving you night terrors? How are your skills and patience being tested at the moment? Having trouble grasping a technique or piece of sewing terminology?

It doesn’t even have to be crafting/costume related. If you’re having life-related challenges, feel free to share that, too. You can either leave comments here in the blog, or email me at nerfgunbobbinsATgmailDOTcom.

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