I don’t want to do things, I want to not do things

Anxiety is a total fucker. It comes out of nowhere, refuses to listen to reason, and can make even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable.

Case in point: I finally went to the hairdresser yesterday after putting it off for months. I was a badly-needed visit. My fringe had grown past the end of my nose, the ends of my hair were starting to resemble rat tails, and the grey hairs I started to grow at 17 have been pushing their way through with a vengeance.

I’ve hated my hair lately and it’s made me feel terrible about myself everytime I’ve looked in the mirror or left the house. So why did it take me more than two months to just go and get it sorted?

Anxiety. That’s why.

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Certain things can trigger my anxiety and once that happens, everything makes me anxious and then I get trapped in endless cycles. For example, feel anxious and miserable because of physical appearance, fail at going to the hairdressers, feel even more anxious and miserable.

I put it off for so long because it’s something I find hard to face. I’m aware that probably sounds ridiculous but it’s true. First I have to actually pick up the phone and talk to someone to make an appointment. Get through that and the only reward is having to actually visit the salon.

I’m usually convinced that the stylists are judging me harshly for letting my hair get into such a terrible state in the first place. They’re always perfectly friendly and give no indication that they’re thinking any such thing but my brain insists that they’re just very good at acting and hiding their true disgust. I feel the need to apologise for my hair and have been known to invent reasons why I’ve left so much time pass between appointments.

And then they ask me what I want done with my hair. I usually mumble for a bit while internally I’m screaming “I don’t know, I have no idea, I’m not a proper person, please just make me look like a human woman”.  In the end, we just agree that I’ll have the same cut and colour as my previous visit.

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Now that all the logistics are sorted, it’s onto the small talk. It won’t come as a surprise that I struggle with this bit. I’m usually determined to try my best but I inevitably turn monosyllabic, like I’ve got a daily quota of words I can say and I’m scared I’ll reach my limit too soon. The stylist usually gives up after a while and we lapse into uncomfortable silence instead.

There’s a brief reprieve when I’m left alone to read while waiting for the colour to take. Once that’s over and my hair has been rinsed, it’s time for the actual haircut and more questions about what I want. How long do I want my fringe? Where should my parting be? When is this going to end so I can go home and drink tea? There’s usually another failed attempt at small talk and then it’s done. I’ve got my glasses off during all this so, when asked if I’m happy with it at various stages, I just smile and nod at the head-shaped blur in the mirror.

And that’s pretty much it. That’s my usual trip to the hairdresser. Sometimes it goes ok, other times my anxiety kicks in and it goes like I’ve just described above. When it’s the latter, I get annoyed at myself for letting anxiety get to me so much and I berate myself for not being stronger, more sensible, more, well, normal.I channel all my feelings into anger at myself for not just getting on with things. And, next thing you know, we’re back in that endless cycle of anxiety again.

I’m going to try something new though. I’m not going to berate myself, I’m going to tell myself that I achieved something yesterday. I’m going to ignore the fact that mental processes made it the experience more difficult than it should have been and choose to focus instead on the fact that I went and did it and got through it.

If you’re reading this and have never suffered social anxiety, you’re probably thinking that I’m nuts and shouldn’t be spilling my crazy all over the internet. Tough. This is my tiny part of the internet and I’ll do what I want with it. That’s why there are so many Dean Winchester gifs and photos of my cat on here. Writing this has been pleasingly cathartic and is helping nudge me towards seeing yesterday as an achievement rather than evidence of inability to function.

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Screw anxiety. This level of chill is what I should be aiming for.

It’s like I said at the beginning of this, anxiety is a total fucker. It turns rationality on its head and makes simple activities and interactions feel like major challenges. I haven’t learned how to banish it yet but I think I’m making a good start by learning to occasionally acknowledge personal achievements rather than failures.

When good skirts go bad: A cautionary tale

This make had so much potential. Pretty new fabric and a chance to try the Hollyburn skirt pattern from Sewaholic. I had lots of free time over the weekend and assumed I’d be able to get the skirt finished reasonably quickly and with minimal swearing.

I’d clearly forgotten that Jess + sewing confidence usually adds up to a disaster.

Sewing gods throwing a spanner in the works to punish my mortal hubris? Not so much. Most of the blame lies at the fact that I get insanely complacent the second I even suspect that I know what I’m doing.

As this was a beginners pattern and seemed straightforward, I took this as licence to ignore all instructions and just do whatever the hell I felt like.

Here are just some of the things that went wrong:

  • The pattern pieces for the front and back of the skirt did not specify that they needed to be placed on a fold line. I therefore cut out the two front pieces and the two back pieces on unfolded fabric. Now this might not have been too bad, it could have resulted in nothing more than having to spend twice as much time cutting out pieces. But, no. No. It never occurred to me to actually flip the pattern pieces over for the second cut so that I’d end up with two mirrored pieces of fabric. Instead I ended up (both times) with absolutely identical and utterly useless pieces.
  • Discovering this mistake and correcting it by re-cutting meant a struggle to cut the pockets and waistband pieces from the remaining fabric.

    Figuring out my various cutting errors was made even more difficult by someone deciding to plant herself on my fabric

    Figuring out my various cutting errors was made even more difficult by someone deciding to plant herself on my fabric

  • In the course of this struggle, I somehow managed to cut the pockets completely wrong. I still have no idea how this happened. But they were just…wrong. Wrong size, wrong shape, things going the wrong way. You know what, this one is just a bit too weird for me to take all the blame. The sewing gods need to own part of this one.
  • It took me far too long to figure out the problem with the pockets. At least 30 minutes of messing with the incorrect pieces and generally going a bit nuts because I couldn’t figure out how to attach them.
  • Once I accepted the pocket error, I realised that I didn’t have enough fabric left to cut new pieces. I did however have enough left to cut bizarrely shaped fabric lumps to attach to the skirt front pieces to make up for the lack of pockets. Again, much fiddling and generally going nuts.
  • My machine needle snapped in half while I was in the middle of splicing in these pieces. Note that I was not sewing layers of heavy material. I was simply attaching one piece of thin cotton to another. This one is definitely on the sewing gods.
  • Managed to attach the zip relatively neatly (by my standards) and then promptly realised that it’s too low down on the skirt. Humph. Have yet to sort this out.
  • Forgot to interface the waistband.

On the plus side, my cat likes to sit on the skirt and looks remarkably sweet whilst doing so.

"What do you mean this isn't a new kitteh rug?"

“What do you mean this isn’t a new kitteh rug?”

So, yeah. There’s still quite a bit of remedial work to do  on this skirt. It can be salvaged but I’m not sure when I’ll have the motivation for all the necessary unpicking and restitching.

Once enough time has passed, I would like to try this pattern again. Except, you know, I’ll actually pay attention and stuff.

Confession time

I’ve been sewing on and off for about two years but still feel very much like an absolute beginner at times. In an attempt to improve this situation I have decided that I need to start being strict with myself.

However, being strict with myself is not something that comes easily to me. Just like I can’t turn down biscuits or an opportunity to add more unread books to my existing stacks, I will invariably accept chances to cut corners when sewing. This is where my sudden New Year’s urge to start a blog stems from. I’m much more likely to balance out the biscuits with some exercise if I declare to my intentions to somebody else. That way it’s embarrassing later if I try and wriggle out of exercising with a string of tenuous excuses.

Organising my tea press. One of the many things I have been doing when I should have been sewing.

Organising my tea press. One of the many things I have been doing when I should have been sewing.

So I’m putting my sewing intentions on the Internet to hopefully shame me into acting like a well-behaved seamstress should.  Before I can start doing things properly, I feel like I need to confess to the sins that are holding back my sewing. Maybe it’s  an Irish Catholic guilt thing. Who knows? Anyway, here goes:

  • I have an ingrained but entirely unwarranted tendency to believe that I know best. Follow instructions? Pah! That’s for losers who need to be told what to do.
  • Interfacings, linings and the like? Don’t need ’em, won’t use ’em.
  • Press my seams? I struggle to iron the outside of my clothes let alone find time to iron the inner workings.
  • I make terrible fabric choices. Acknowledging my sewing ineptitude, I’m always reluctant to spend a lot of money on fabric for fear that I will make a terrible mistake (or, more likely, a series of terrible mistakes) and end up having to consign it to my rubbish pile. I’m also far too taken with the type of polycottons that are much more suited to crafting projects than dressmaking. They’re just so darn cute and hard to resist though!
  • Procrastinating. I think about sewing, I read countless sewing blogs, I trail around fabric shops, I do just about everything other than actually sewing.
  • I have no idea what my measurements are. Nor do I know how to accurately measure myself. As a result, I tend to guess what size I need to cut and I hope for the best. The best rarely happens.
  • Related to that last bullet point is the fact that, so far, I have absolutely refused point blank to make muslins. I’ve gotten away with this when making skirts but it has resulted in some very bizarre-fitting dresses…although that is admittedly a best case scenario. More often than not, it’s resulted in some very bizarre-fitting heaps of fabric consigned to my guilt-inducing scraps pile.

I’m beginning to accept that I have many problems with my sewing and that I actually cause the majority of these problems myself. So, what’s my next step?

  • LEARN TO BEHAVE MYSELF WHEN SEWING

This pretty much covers all aspects of my sewing behaviour. It means having to pull on my big girl pants and start doing things properly. It means actually reading instructions, checking online for solutions to things I don’t understand instead of just tearing into things, taking my time, paying attention, choosing fabric and patterns carefully, and pressing my goddamn seams.

First up for 2014?

I’m starting off 2014 with my first Renfrew from Sewaholic Patterns. Using a knit fabric means that I can still avoid having to make a muslin or worry about my seams but I’m determined to at least figure out my correct measurements and follow instructions properly. I’m also going to make good use of all the Sewaholic blog posts on sewing Renfrews.

Let’s see how it goes…