“A little challenge goes a long way when you want to take your sewing up a notch.” This is the opening sentence of the description for a new class I am teaching at the Original Sewing & Quilt Expos (OSQE) this spring. It also captures my philosophy of sewing. I have been giving myself sewing challenges since I was young. My mother started it, giving me handwork projects while I sat by her side at the sewing machine. Then the tables turned and I began to torture her with my crazy ideas and a desire to sew increasingly difficult projects without the skills for success. But my mom had lots of sewing friends and she found teachers to keep me moving forward.
It might seem like the rest is history, but not so fast. I continue to keep my sewing fresh by setting complex goals. I have chosen to push up my skill set with self-defined challenges to incorporate in my work a new technique, a special fabric scrap, or a brand new fabrication. I also take the annual challenge that Threads Magazine gives to the members of ASDP (Association of Sewing and Design Professionals). Participating in this contest for the last 14 years has moved me in lots of different sewing and design directions. For me, the goal is not to be a winner, but to explore a new direction in my sewing as I expand my wardrobe.
My Threads Challenge Garment favorites will be on display in an exhibit at the spring OSQE’s. This is a great thrill for me. I have had such fun revisiting all of my entries and picking the most interesting ensembles to display. I hope you can catch a glimpse of them in Atlanta, Lakeland, Cleveland, or Wooster. If you visit the exhibit and want to see more, we will have an album of all my challenge garments and some of their interior secrets in our Fit for Art booth. Once the exhibit closes, I will post photos of all the garments in the portfolio tab of www.raecumbie.com.
Designing the inside of some of the challenge entries has been as fun as creating the outer shell. A thread-traced guide to the buildings featured in the skirt of the gown is inside the Drapey Fabric Challenge’s “Denver Head to Toe” evening dress.
Inside the “Inspired by Art” Challenge’s jean style jacket is a photo of the French Church that inspired the ensemble.
And the lipstick pocket from the Denim Challenge was a fun way to meet the requirement for an interesting pocket.
What challenges do you give yourself? Remember when you are issuing yourself a challenge or entering a contest that you should take on a project that is difficult enough to stretch your skills in a new way, but not so hard that you might fail. In your process of designing and sewing the garment, include only one or two new and difficult tasks to keep your adrenaline high as you make samples and master something new.
If you need some support, join an ASG group to meet up with like-minded sewers. You can begin to challenge each other to move in new directions.
If you are a sewing pro, or wish to be, extend yourself by joining ASDP and participating in the Threads Challenge. Or gift yourself with the opportunity to master the art of fitting pants at our rigorous Eureka! Pants Professional licensing workshop in September.
Happy Sewing, RAE