I’ve been fortunate in my music education to have had many great teachers who have taught me how to go about practicing.  Early on, when I had practice cards forced on me, I wish someone had taught me that the practice of all music is not something that you just phone in just to get through it.  It is something to do slowly, and reflectively, so that your mind is prepared for when you’re performing.  The more thoughtfully you’ve gone through everything, the sharper your mind, and the more prepared your hands will be to play when the lights are bright.  The harder you make your practice, the deeper you think while you’re practicing, the less you allow your mind to wander as you practice, you’ll find that you walk into a pressure situation more at calm, with your game face on, ready to tear it up.

I’ve started to think about applying this excellent training to my sewing.  I want to give my mind and hands time to fully absorb things before I’m walking into a project.  The impetuous side of me is fighting wanting to speed my way through a project, but really, projects should be a culmination of practice, not the practice itself.  Lord help me if I were to walk into a recital hall to sightread Bach, and it’d be nice to have some prior knowledge of what’s coming next before things are under my presser foot.

So, I’m instituting a practice of etudes in my sewing.  If you’re not familiar with the word, etude is a piece designed for musical study…a more interesting version of a scale.  One might work on a particular skill–say arpeggios, chords, dynamics, etc.  They create fluency in your playing, so that when you encounter whatever skill Etude X is working on, you’re ready to go when you encounter it in normal music.  My goal in these sewing etudes is not perfection, but fluency, and careful thinking done through stages of repetition.

Sewing Etude no. 1

2 piece polo style button placket

As I said in my last post, I did quite a bit of practice on the placket for the shirtdress because it confused the crud out of me when I first saw it, and I wanted it to look really nice in my final product, and not like I just phoned it in.  For my practice, I cut 10 copies of each side of the placket and the neckline edge up to the shoulder + a couple of inches below where the placket hits CF just for perspective.  I only sewed 5 because after 5 my fingers knew what to do, but I will return to this exercise to clean things up and keep this construction in my mind.  I’ve summed up my progress via this slideshow.  You can click on any image and it will take you to my Flickr stream and give you notes on each picture.

[vodpod id=Video.3601512&w=425&h=350&fv=offsite%3Dtrue%26lang%3Den-us%26page_show_url%3D%252Fphotos%252F11678873%2540N05%252Fsets%252F72157624006122062%252Fshow%252F%26page_show_back_url%3D%252Fphotos%252F11678873%2540N05%252Fsets%252F72157624006122062%252F%26set_id%3D72157624006122062%26jump_to%3D]

more about “Polo Placket Practice“, posted with vodpod


I shouldn’t be amazed that repetition is making things easier, but it is awesome to go from where I started–staring at the pieces, crying, feeling kind of dumb, to being able to press and go without much effort.  And on the final product:


  1. A couple Bible verses come to mind. Colossians 3:17, 23

    And whatever you do in word or deed , do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
    And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not to men.

    In the second verse Paul was talking to slaves, but it all comes down to the character of a person. Quite frankly, I have not done any sewing in this thoughtful manner. I probably don’t actually do very many things “in the name of the Lord.” So, you have challenged me and I appreciate it. 🙂

  2. That is such a great analogy. I really like the idea of sewing “etudes”. It is an extension of making a binder of techniques, and develops that muscle memory, in addition to the brain work of learning the steps. Thanks for this!

    • elizabethmadethis Reply

      Thank you! I just picked up Claire Schaeffer’s Sewing for the Apparel Industry. It’s a remarkably helpful book and has exercises just like this to help you develop as you say the muscle memory to help you be accurate and efficient in your sewing.

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