Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Creativity VS Perfectionism -A Poll

I have a question for you all. 

What do you think is more important in teaching young sewists how to sew?

I put up a poll on the right hand side of the blog and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Here is the deal....

When it comes to sewing, I am a perfectionist.

The insides of my creations have to be just as perfect and beautiful as the outsides.

Well, that is how I am now.

When I first learned to sew, I was NOT this way.

Look at those NASTY unfinished, improperly pressed seams!!!!

Yeah, this was the inside of the first dress I ever sewed for myself.
I was 14 years old and chose the hardest pattern I could think of.

But that is me. 
That is how I think.

But I want to foster a love of
creativity AND excellence in my children.....
in everything they do.
But I REALLY want them to enjoy sewing 
and be confident AND competent.

So, for this summer, I decided that each of my girls
was going to learn some basic skills in sewing. 

India is 18 and had her own sewing machine for 3 years.
She has rarely touched it and has NO IDEA where the power
cable or presser foot are. She has never really been interested
in sewing for herself because she knew that I would gladly 
recreate anything she wanted. 

Yeah, I have spoiled her with my sewing, but in essence I have handicapped
her because I have not made her do it for herself.

Ahnalin LOVES to sew.

She sews whenever she can, but she has some perfectionist struggles 
herself, so when I try to correct some of her sewing mistakes,
she freaks out and bemoans that she will never be good at it. 

She does not take instruction well, or like to go slow.

So, I struggle. 

How much should I emphasize correct sewing techniques?

Should I make them rip out their mistakes or just let them 
keep going so they can complete something, even if it is imperfect?

God is the only perfect creator.

None of us can ever compete with His perfection,
but I know I try pretty hard!

India is sewing on my machine while we wait for a new power cord
to arrive for her Brother SE 270D.

So,  because I want them both to learn, and have some 
simple sewing successes, we are working on some projects together.

The first project, and don't laugh all you REAL quilters out there,
is a simple mini quilt made from Moda Charm packs.

Each girl picked out a Charm pack and is sewing together her 
squares to make a little quilt.

India is blazing through hers and seems to actually be enjoying her enforced sewing.

Ahnalin, on the other hand, has broken 4 needles on her sewing machine from pulling 
her fabric too hard (yes, she is THAT strong!) and has
had a few screaming fits over her crooked stitches. 

A few times, I have helped her to use the seam ripper to rip out
crooked seams. And a few times, yes, I admit it(!!!), I have 
ripped out some seams and corrected them.

This is the charm pack all sewn together, and she is pointing out
to me where there are some puckers in the green piece. 
I am tempted to take them out myself to avoid her freaking out again.

But I remember seeing an Amish quilt exhibit at the DeYoung Museum and
the docent told us that the Amish women sew an intentional flaw into every quilt
they make. This flaw serves as a reminder that "Only God is perfect."

I hope the girls will enjoy sewing their quilts and I think we will
have some finished quilts to show off in a day or so.

But really, 
I would love to hear your thoughts on creativity vs. perfectionism.
How do you think children should be taught to sew? 
Please share your thoughts with me.
Even if you have never commented before, I would love to hear from you.
Oh, and if you want me to respond, please include your email in the post.

Love to you all!!!!!


Anonymous said...

Sivje, I tried to vote but it's not recording it so if it looks like folks aren't voting, it may be a problem with the mechanism. As for the girls, I think that since they are just starting out, you don't want to throw water on the fledling fire. As they advance, then it would be good to show them how to improve with excellence so they can use these skills to bless themselves and others.

Just my two cents!
Karen in FL

organicmommy said...

I too struggle with this as well. My oldest is almost 6 and she wants to learn to sew and I have been hesitant to get her a machine out of fear that she will not understand it, won't like what she does etc. I want her to enjoy it. For her bday or Christmas this year she will be getting her machine. If I can find her a featherlite that is my preference but otherwise I will get her a basic adult machine and help her with it.
Myself personally in your situation would not rip them out. I may point them out and tell them that this is something that they can work on next time. I still have times when I am in a hurry that my seams are not as perfect as I would like and I know that they can be better. But in the end it is made with love and that is what matters in my book!

Amy said...

Wow, those are some tough questions. It's important to correct our mistakes but also to make those mistakes - that's how most of us learn.

I really don't think that perfectionism has it place with beginners. It ultimately leads to frustration and an unwillingness to sew (or whatever they're doing).

I tried to teach my oldest DD - I finally signed her up for summer camp at the quilt store. My middle DD just does what she thinks looks good and all she needs is a that looks great to keep going.

Boy, am I helpful or what? NOT! :)

Tina said...

From my experience as a sewing teacher, it was difficult to teach anyone under age 8 (and even 8 was pushing it) as very few seemed to have the patience, eye-hand coordination, and perception it takes to "understand" sewing machine methods and functions. My son was 7 when I was teaching, and very interested. I taught him free motion sewing this got his creative juices flowing and made him very comfortable in front of a sewing machine. I think that is the first and most important step. I used to tell students that a sewing machine is like any other new appliance- remember when the mircowave oven first came out? We all read the instructions! Now, we don't even have to think about how to operate the thing... Same will go for your sewing machine once you get to know it...

I now sew for a custom boat canvas fabricator and in the beginning, I was shocked at how many sewing "rules" had to be broken in order to create a quality product. My fingers are always right next to the presser foot. I stop the machine by grabbing the hand wheel WHILE my foot is on the foot pedal if I want to stop abruptly or briefly. I put the needle as far down as I can and pull the fabric HARD against the needle so that I can create perfect pucker-free corners. I can imagine all the students I taught years ago bordering on outrage over this!

Sandi said...

I said freedom to make mistakes. Mainly because I have to have that freedom. I'll be honest though, I'm a perfectionist too. I've made about 10 quilts for my little guy (and future little ones) to use. They are full of mistakes. I had to really let go of my perfectionism, or I never would have made one, much less 10. I am a self taught sewist, but with that means, I don't know how to do a lot of things. Good Luck with your projects!!! I LOVE to read your blog (BTW I'm a BB friend)

Sew Pretty Dresses said...

Well I have done both with my kids. With my son when he was 5 I just gave him my scraps and turned him loose on my machine. He's not a rowdy child so I knew I could trust him. And he came up with the coolest mini quilt thingy. It's not really anything we could put in a category but he loves it and so do I. He did not even sew with right sides together, just one piece over another. Then he started changing the stitching and putting long strips of decorative stitching on top. Then he got out a pigma pen and wrote words on it. I cannot remember what they say. It was arty and pretty cool for a 5 year old. And so he has a great attitude about the machine.
I have let Kelsey help me run the machine but she is so impulsive still, I don't trust her enough to just turn her loose on the machine. She will stitch through her finger for sure! We did the little pin cushion party kit from Marie Madeline studio and by nature the seam accuracy needed to be pretty good. So I let her help me guide the fabric. She seemed fine with that. But really she herself is just not ready to be turned loose on the machine so that is my only example with her. I personally prefer what I did with my son. I want them both to see the joy in sewing and just using your imagination to create something with fabric. But that's just what I want for my kiddos. Now eventually I do want them to learn a proper seam and all that. I am just talking about just starting out. Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

lovie, look how you turned out (perfect) and you know I never corrected anything you did in your sewing or design work. Maybe that is because you have always been better than your mother:)!! I just let you be as creative as you wanted to be and I think with the girls that is the best. Let them develop better skills as they grow. Just excited with them over their accomplishments. I love each of you mucho

Bunny said...

Once, I was this child. I was given free reign to my creativity. Not once did my parents ever say it needed to be better. Instead, they provided me with classes, encouraged my fabric choices financially, and basically gave me the full steam ahead sign. You never want to squelch creativity. Perfection will come on its own in its own sweet time. Give them the skills, let them make mistakes, and support their creativity.

Anonymous said...

For me, the most important thing to teach them in the beginning is to love sewing. If it is something that they love doing, then they will want to get better at it. If it is frustrating and has too many rules, then they won't like it and they'l quit before they have a chance to get better.

This summer I have been teaching Braden, 6, and my nieces 10 and 12 to sew. I have also had a cousin a boy 13 and another cousin, girl 10 over to sew. It has been a lot of fun.

I help them different amounts depending on their level. I let their finished projects be imperfect and only rip out seems that need to be redone in order to actually finish the project.

Kathy (Kreolemom)

Anonymous said...

I teach children to sew, and before they are about jr high age they really just want to create things and they don't care how "finished" it looks. My 7yo dd sews on her own machine by herself and she does a lot of funky layering and makes art/pictures with it. She hates to clip threads and she really doesn't care if the seams are on the inside or the outside. I taught her the proper way to use the sewing machine and how to troubleshoot simple problems. I think that's way more important at her age. There's plenty of time later on to teach proper technique.

Sonia said...

I am so glad you posed this question. Last night I was online looking for machines for Delaney and Claire, probably for Christmas. They will both be 6 then. Claire will be almost 7. I debated on what to get them, but also how I would teach them. I am not the sewer you are, not by far, but I have some perfectionist tendencies that make sewing be unenjoyable for me at times. I don't want to pass that to them. I want to learn, and correctly, but right now I think a love for it is more important than rules about what's right. Sometimes, from spinning, I know the prettiest things can come from my "mistakes". I know sewing is not the same, but having a mind that can "see" the possibilities in a fabric requires a mind free enough to think that way. So I think, having never done it yet myself, that that is how I hope to approach it. As they ask me how to fix their problems, I can show them. But if they ok with the look, I will let them go with it (within reason).

All that from someone who hasn't tried it yet. So take it for what it's worth. Lol.

Just remember, some of us look at your things and wish we could do what you do. But if I held myself to that standard, I'd have to quit. It would drive me crazy, because I just don't have the skills you have. Sewing is a learned skill, but I really believe talent plays into it a lot. And some of us just have more than others. JMO... But even those of us who don't have as much ability yet need to enjoy what we can do so we can move to the next level.

Natalie said...

As someone who has a major perfectionism problem - I literally freak myself out about everything, I would say to go with what you think for each student. For Ahnalin, I wouldn't worry too much - I think she will be the type that as she gets older will correct herself and do a perfect job eventually. I would concentrate on the positives with her. And as you teach her, before she does stuff, you could make sure at that point to tell her the perfect way and then let her do what she can, not pointing out too many imperfections afterwards unless it is pretty important.

With India, I'd do pretty much the same, but maybe be a tiny bit pickier if there is something she really needs to rip out or something, depending on what you think. I'd say the most important thing is for them to enjoy it and not stress too much. Good luck! It sounds like fun!!

~Regina~ said...

You have some very good comments so far! :)

I myself have been and still am a perfectionist. I have had to learn to let things go. Not worry about things being so perfect. In fact, some of my most creative things that I have made have been because of a mistake I made in the process. I looked at the mistake. Didn't take it out. Just thought of a way to make it look like it was intentional. Does that make sense? :)

I think it's good to teach children to look at their project and let them find the mistakes they made. In other words, my youngest child wouldn't see the same mistakes in a project that my eldest would. Maybe let them decide what to fix or not fix in the beginning. For me, I have to see my mistakes myself. I don't like them being pointed out to me! :) I learn better by seeing myself what I did wrong and then working at making it better the next time around. I know, I would have been extremely frustrated if I would have had to constantly rip out things and do them over when starting out sewing. The more you sew, the more you enjoy it and the better you become at it. I want sewing to be a fun hobby for me and my kids to enjoy!!! :)

Have fun teaching your girls how to sew! I can't wait to see their first quilts!!! :)

Blessedmom's Simple Home said...

I'm not a perfectionist, but my mom was still wise in not correcting me too much when I was learning to sew. I can't remember ripping out many seams, unless they were really off or the wrong pieces were sewn together. I'm a bit pickier now, but I still wouldn't want anyone checking my seams. I enjoy sewing though, and that counts for alot :-)

rosylady said...

Hi, just wanted to stop by and say thanks for visiting my blog :) But, now I want to add my penny's worth to this conversation. I'm thinking back to the way my mum taught me to sew. I had the freedom to make mistakes, which she would then point out (in a nice way), make me undo it and teach me how to make it better. I learned from my mistakes and am glad that I was taught how to sew properly from the start so that I didn't get frustrated with items that didn't look right. This way I have always preferred handmade over shop bought. This also leave less 'bad habits' to unlearn. So, in a nutshell, freedom to make mistakes but, then the opportunity to learn from those mistakes and improve.

IHaveANotion ~ Kelly Jackson said...

My 2 cents - just let them do what ever they want to do and let the mistakes fall where they may. When they come to you and say, Momma, how come this fell apart or someting like can then say, well sweetie....sometimes that happens when you (fill in the blank) and this might be another way to try it. Afterall, there are no awards for pleasure and joy....we torture ourselves with perfectionism....quite a heavy burdon for two precious young ladies.


Sweet Baby Jamie said...

I strongly believe you should give them the gift of sewing, and let them choose perfection!! Now for your little one, she is already a perfectionist, so I would greatly encourage her...tell her how beautiful her quilt it, because it IS!!! And remind her what you told us, GOD is the only perfect one. Who are we to think we should be perfect? Strive for greatness...but have fun too...oh to find the balance!! Once again, I strongly encourage you to praise their work! I already know you are :)

Jan said...

I wrestle with these same questions all the time -- not with any children, but with many of my customers.
Maybe we will both discover the answer!
Enjoy your summer sewing with the girls. Those are some of my fondest memories with my mother.

Stephanie said...

I think there is something to be said for doing things with excellence, which honors the Lord, without stressing about being perfect (which we will never be). I love the mention about the Amish practice of intentionally sewing a flaw into every quilt. I admire the humble spirit behind the practice.

goosiegirls said...

I'm not a perfectionist and think that if I was expected to be I probably just wouldn't do it. The Process is what I love..the planning and picking out and the hours of thought that goes into a work. The finished product is important but, it's not why I sew. I think you should let your kids create and allow their finished products to be what they want them to be. If they want perfection then by all means help them.. but if they're good with a few puckers what does that hurt. It's the memories your creating.. not the dress or quilt.

Awesome post by the way!

Sewing Geek said...

Done is better than perfect! I read that somewhere and it has removed a lot of stress for me. If I kept striving for perfection (which is completely unobtainable) I would never finish anything or ever be proud of something I have done. Most people will never look at something closely enough to see any errors and if they do, so what? The world will not come to a crashing halt. Just as you allow your girls errors in school, allow them errors in sewing. A love of sewing is far more important than to be perfect and hate it.