My husband, The Bearded One, brought me some flowers while I was teaching last weekend, he’s kinda nice like that. And they made me smile. One gerbera was a quarter orange. A weird quirk of nature and something that should have made it fail quality control, but he picked it out. For me.
I posted the picture on Instagram and some of the comments made me think further on the perfectly imperfect.
Isn’t it the imperfections, the quirks that make each one of us unique? That makes the garments or quilts or whatever we make part of our story? What we do, what we make, where we are right now with our skills, the tools we use, it’s all part of the continuing story of our life.
So why do we strive for perfection? What is “perfect” anyway? The perfect wife, the perfect mother, colleague, boss. The perfectly made garment or sewing project. The perfect face or body. The perfect life!
Who actually decides the definition or sets the standards for perfect? How do we measure ourselves and what we produce?
I was having a conversation with the mum of one of my friends the other day who was admiring the rise in popularity of all things sewing and crafty and how she used to enjoy making things herself but that her friends shunned it as it was seen as not being quite good enough. If you could afford it you bought brand new. Brand new meant factory produced, homogenized quality control, no imperfections. A complete break from the ‘Make Do and Mend’ philosophy from the post war era.
Are we measuring ourselves against “factory made”? If so perhaps we are our own worst critics?
Factory produced garments are made in a totally different way to how we sew at home. Each garment is broken down into a series of processes and assigned to an individual that usually only completes that particular process before passing that part of the garment on to the next person to complete the next process. And so on and so on.
Imagine how immaculate your zips would be if you only sewed zips all day. Or how straight and even your seams would be. I have worked with people who do and sew these kinds processes and although they may enjoy their work there is little or no love there.
Do we as domestic sewers even want to be held to those standards? I don’t think so. Although I have lost count of the times I have passed an appreciative comment on something someone has made only to have the smallest of mistakes pointed out by the maker, that I really wouldn’t have noticed, let alone comment upon.
It is these small imperfections that make me love ‘handmade’. Handmade objects are given qualities that come from where we are right now with our skills, time and creativity. It is the time and love we invest in each of our projects that really counts not the perfectly finished piece. So we really should not berate ourselves for the slip-ups we make. Or forgo the pleasure of acquiring a new skill or learning a new technique because we have a fear of it not being “quite right”.
Trying isn’t failing – failing to try is.
Maybe we need to embrace the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi – the art of appreciating the beauty in an imperfect world, flaws and all. When we see a flaw we can be reminded of how it got there and why. The reason it exists is what happened in that moment of creation.
Does it really matter that there is a wobble in that seam, if you got distracted by what’s happening in the Archers as you were sewing? Did you enjoy the story? Or if there is a blip in the pattern you’re busy knitting as you watched your cat chase a feather? Were you laughing at what the cat was doing? Both of which have happened to me and then I agonised over whether to unpick and correct my mistakes.
Neither of them were major errors and who would really notice apart from me so I left them. It was good enough and I had enjoyed the process of making. It doesn’t undermine or reduce the pleasure I get from wearing the dress or jumper that I’d made.
So although unpicking is good for the soul, sometimes maybe we should give ourselves a break and leave the un-picker in the sewing box.