Instant Gratification Vs Slow Burn

This week I became the proud owner of sweet new sewing goodies. There’s the world’s largest cutting mat (second hand freebie saving me $110 retail- BOOYAH!), a rotary cutter, sewing pencils, a seam measurer thingy and Gertie’s new sewing book. Quite the haul I must say…

As I paged through Gertie’s book for the first time I noticed an emphasis upon taking things slow. Focusing on detail. Making each piece of clothing you sew a work of art and love. And for some reason the message really struck home in my tiny bear brain.

I am all about the fast job. I work and train long hours and, like so many of my fellow bloggers, find my sewing hours are restricted. I’ll be honest here- when a project is taking ages it grinds me down. I start taking shortcuts and get frustrated. But is it worth it? I mean, my pieces are still well finished thought not to the standard they could be. Put it this way- they’re not total hot messes, I wear them in public and whatnot… But then I think about the projects I am most proud of…

My Chantilly dress. 

This sucker took me almost a month to complete. I learnt so many new skills and pushed my intro level skills to the brink to get this done.

My Cambie summer is almost here sundress.

I spent two weeks working on this, modifying, altering, changing pattern pieces for the first time. While the fabric stretched in the end (curse you suspiciously sourced mystery gingham!) I am still so proud of the level of polish and finish I brought to this garment.

And then there is my epic Milano cape of rad pinkness. 

I have never been so careful and considerate with a garment. It took me about a month to get this piece done and may I say I can welt pocket like a boss now. Bam!

The common thread between these pieces is the attention to detail. The joy of learning new skills. Of testing myself and trying something new. This was especially apparent today as I finally learned how to slip stitch properly. I’m almost finished on a new frock that I am absolutely itching to share with everyone. The second last step is to slip stitch the bottom of the bodice closed to the skirt. Regular Amanda was all up in my head doing her usual “Come on, lady. Let’s get this sucker finished through some saucy machine stitch in the ditch action. You know you want to! You also know you want cake… Give in to both!”. But I ignored that voice. Instead, I took myself outside and with a dog in my lap, my Colette handbook by my side I tried slip stitching. Get ready for some early fail work…

That sucker was not happening at first. But I kept working at it. An hour passed and I was only a third of the way through. Instead of throwing my needle down in frustration I looked at my work and was so very chuffed at how much neater and easier these stitches were becoming…

I think there is a joy to be found in slow and steady. While I still love the idea of having easy to knock over garments with instant gratification I’m going to start focusing on the slow burn as. Maybe one day my skillz will be mad enough to produce super rad and technical pieces in shirt time frames but until then I’m planning to dip my toes in both pools.

Does anyone else find they come up against the instant gratification vs slow burn dilemma? Is there a way to find a middle ground or do you just favour one type of sewing over the other? I’m keen to hear peep’s thoughts on the matter!


  1. oh, me, me, me — i was ALWAYS one to rush through something just to wear it. I scorned handsewing. and also never wore anything i made.

    i’ve recently started taking more care and i’m not only enjoying the results more, but i’m even enjoying the process more. i don’t hate handsewing even it turns out.

  2. I do! Totally. I rushed through a couple of projects and both turned out rubbish… so now I’m on a break while I figure out what I want to sew next and come up with a proper plan to get it done!

  3. Nyssa- Were you totally surprised to discover hand sewing doesn’t suck? I was gobsmacked today. It is really quite peaceful… Glad you’ve found your slow burn groove. Super inspiring!

  4. I agree wholeheartedly. I love a quick little project and being able to say I churned something out in a short period of time but the more I sew the more I want really quality finished garments that speak volumes about me as a person and a seamstress.

    Lately I’ve been thinking of bridging the gap between the two on some skill nights. One night a week I shall sit down at my machine and learn a new technique until it becomes something I find easier to do. I think this will give me a little extra confidence with the slowburn thing so I don’t have to learn new techniques in the process of dealing with a new pattern/design all at the one time.

  5. Ellent- I so get the dreaded post rushed project malaise! It’s sometimes essential to have a breather after things don’t work out as well and work out where to go from there. Or a delicious cupcake. That can help too ;P

  6. Jodie- that is such an epic idea! I love this so so much- mayhaps we should join forces and come up with themes per week to work on? I’d love to get confident in some skills that I can find a happy medium. You, my dear, are an ideas lady! (Bit of The Castle reference for you there)

  7. I thought I liked the idea of taking more time and care (and signed up for the couture dress course for just that reason) but have since discovered that I just like quick and dirty (snigger!). Maybe, just maybe, after reading this I might slip-stitch the bodice lining in my cherry print dress onto the inside waistband. Or maybe I’ll just use the fact I currently have black cotton on my machine to stitch in the ditch 🙂

    The nicest thing about sewing, out of school, is that we can all do as much, or as little, as we want. That’s what makes it fun.

    I love that photo of you in your Chantilly dress – the dress looks great and you look like you are having a great time.

  8. Stitch in the ditch is one of the best quick and dirty sewing techniques I know of, RTS! I do agree- we can take things at our own pace now which is quite a sigh of relief. I think my problem is still trying to find what gives me the greatest joy from sewing. I’ll get there someday…

    And thanks! It’s my favourite chantilly dress photo. It’s from our US trip outside Medieval Times theatre restaurant. Tackily awesome!

  9. I completely agree – i try to mix up the slow and steady projects with the ‘quick fix’ ones to try and get the best of both worlds (choosing appropriate patterns for each of course).

  10. Oh I know what you mean! But i do find that taking it slow and making things you are really proud of by the end are so worth it!
    And look at what you have made! that cape is amazing and the lining skills you have got! wanna come round and finish my dresses!? lol
    But i just completed a LBD version of the macaron I have wanted to make since i first bought the pattern (april) but wasnt good enough to tackle tricky fabric or adjust patterns yet. the wait was so worth it. i love my dress.

  11. Rahcel- I’m thinking that may be the approach. I want to focus on some more techniquey stuff but some fast and dirty projects would be a big confidence booster!

  12. Kim- nice work on the macaron! It’s always awesome when your skills get awesome enough to tackle something that you weren’t certain on beforehand. There are definite benefits to the slow and steady approach for sure!

  13. I am definitely a slow and steady type! If I finished a garment in a month from I would be amazed at my lightening speed. Perfectionist teamed with time poor does not equal fast! Every now and then I want to do a ‘quick and dirty’ make, but I always find a way to complicate things – stripes, total pattern overhaul, beading… I am so amazed at the fast sewing types output, I do get jealous I must admit 🙂

  14. All hail the slow burn, Zo! Once you add fancy finishes everything does seem to slow down and stealthy attention to detail is required. Stripes and plaids I’m looking in your direction… (I sometimes get jealous too of peeps awesome output and then inspired… And then hungry. It’s an odd cycle…)

  15. I’ve found t-shirts great as a fast and dirty project. And my jenny skirt was, as I’d made 4 or 5 before and knew the fit was good so just stitched it up.

  16. I suggest ignoring their waistband and making a 3 piece one of your own (one front piece, two back. That also allows you to alter the side seams if you need to (whereas it’s a PITA if you have a one piece waistband)

  17. I’m definitely a slow burn kinda girl! This became especially clear to me during my Bombshell making experience; that puppy was mostly hand stitching, including the zipper (which I CHOSE to hand pick! lol)

    Don’t get me wrong; it’s utterly amazing to me when I can bang off a project in a week but those are definitely the exception, not the rule 🙂

  18. That cape is awesome. I’m interested in seeing what you make from the Gertie book-it’s not my style and pics around the blogosphere don’t have me convinced but I would like to see pattern reviews from sewists on the fit, sizing etc. Re the cutting mat-Carl got me one of those last Christmas-I can lie down and roll around on it (but I haven’t yet) so awesome for cutting things out-all my cutting has been rotary-cutter-based since XD

  19. Thanks so much! I am super proud of my cape and who can say no to a pink and grey combo? Glad to hear others love their cutting mat too! I may have to give the roll around on the floor a go (the dogs would love that!) Thanks for popping by! 😀

  20. I had you bookmarked ages ago, and then my laptop died and I lost everything. So it was pretty cool to find you again today-got your rss feed now so I won’t lose track again XD

  21. Im so impressed I am actually speechless, I can’t believe you sewed those items. I can crochet but I am very jealous of those who can sew. My husbands boss actually gave me a sewing machine for a wedding gift two years ago and its still in this box on my craft table (unopened)

  22. Thanks, Jess! I’m really happy with these pieces (there are quite a few duds I didn’t link!) Pull that machine out of the wrapper and have a bash- it’s super fun for sure!

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