Carolyn, of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, wrote a post the other day, inspired by Erin, of A Dress a day. The basic premise of Erin's post was that to attain true sewing expert status, you have to devote copious amounts of time (upwards of 10 000 hours) to sewing. Carloyn, after reading Erin's post, asked the following questions:
Are you the best of the best in this craft? Are you just good enough? Or are you mediocre and working on improving? And finally, do you believe this theory to be justified? Can you really be the best of the best without some talent, or is it just about the time put into the process?
I have been mulling this over for a few days now and purposefully avoiding reading the comments to Carolyn's post, so as not to be swayed by other viewpoints.
Of course, the first thing I did was to calculate my hours-logged tally. I first began sewing when I was 17 years old and continued to sew until mid-university, then I took a break until 2005, at which time I dove back into sewing with a vengeance. This leads to two distinct periods of regular sewing activity during my lifetime (I am ignoring my sort quilting phase):
t = (5 y)(12 mth/y)(15 h/mth) + (3 y)(12 mth/y)(85 h/mth) = 3 960 h
According to Erin, her time logged is approximately 4 500 h, which she claims puts her in the mediocre category (far below the 10 000 h expert status). So, using my calculation above, I fare even worse - what is a step down from mediocre? abysmal?
Well, all humility aside, I don't think I'm abysmal or even mediocre at my craft, but I also don't think I'm expert. If asked to honestly evaluate my skills prior to this calculation, I would have claimed to be exceptional at some things and pretty good at others. I feel have conquered what many claim to be the holy grails of garment sewing: bound buttonholes, welt pockets, zipper insertion and appropriately combining pattern with fabric, to name a few. I have a good handle on tailoring techniques (although I have never sewn a completely hand tailored jacket - however, it is on the to-do list). The only areas that come to mind where I long for improvement is in fitting (I can fit myself well, but I have yet to acquire the skills to consistently fit others) and in draping (something with which I have only dabbled).
So, I strongly disagree that time spent is an adequate measure of sewing skill. Like the accomplishments of a virtuoso, a star athlete or a scientific genius, I truly believe that sewing prowess is an innate gift, that is honed and developed through practice and research. Study and repetition alone however, can only take you so far - you need an intuitive grasp of your art to transcend the ordinary. For example, quite often I am blown away by the work of beginners, while I am left cold by the work of sewists that have logged countless hours. I also think that having a willingness to experiment and the fortitude to take risks is necessary for entry into the sewing hall of fame. Too many sewists allow fear or uncertainty to squelch their evolution and it really is a shame.
So, in conclusion, I look around and see a range of sewists, from those that have the "gift" all way to the other extreme. But, in the end, whether you are a born sewing savant or still struggling to master simple techniques, the most important factor is to enjoy the process. For instance, I have a decent voice, but I'm certainly no Ann - however, that doesn't stop me from belting out a tune when the inclination hits...