Thursday, March 8, 2012

Competitive sewing

I love Project Runway All Stars, but not in my daily life.   I started sewing after slowing way down on riding, especially competitive riding.  I wanted to learn some new ways to soothe myself, to enhance some areas in my life that I had neglected, and save some money.  (insert snort sound here)  At this time, I was at the end of my career, my husband was retired and probably bored, and I was drinking quite a lot.  Fast forward through some physical and emotional drama...and you will find me first sober, then sober and retired, and finally, obsessed with sewing.

I cannot imagine anyone unfamiliar with the idea of 12 step programs.  You know,  Step One - admitted we are powerless over some addiction, etc...Fill this in with chardonnay, cocaine, chocolate...or competition.

Yep, competition.

I love a good contest.  I love to enter a contest with some hope of winning, and put as much effort as I can into getting to the finish line with a good time, or a good garment, or a beautiful garden.  I find a lot of joy in looking at other contestants and seeing what they are doing, and how they are doing it.  What makes them winners?  What do they do to achieve something I am still struggling with?

Competition described like this is healthy.  A group consciousness underlies it and each contestant benefits from the other.  People might share information, or help one another on the trail, or compliment your horse or admire your well sewn dress.  The danger to us is that in any contest, we can start to focus so much on the prize that we begin ranking everyone.  There will be those at the top, wearing their Olympic medals, and then those just starting in an endeavor.  Most of us muddle along somewhere in the middle, working to improve.  I think this describes me perfectly...muddling along in the middle, working to improve.  At my best, I am happy and content and celebrate other's successes.  At my worst, I am filled with envy for those who are more talented, or have more resources, or more experience.

This affects not only riding, but my sewing, cooking, home care, interactions with others, on and on.  I compare myself to everybody and everything when in this envious state.  I blame Pinterest, in part, for inundating me with images so beautiful and so unattainable...that I had to limit what how long I stayed on.  Then, I noticed that I had a hankering to join a PR contest.  I didn't even want to sew the item for the contest...I just wanted to engage in a contest.  I wanted to have some feedback about my standing/ranking/ability/talent.  This is so wrong in so many ways.

Creativity is killed by the need for approval.  Personal growth is thwarted when our behavior is managed by our need for approval.  The fun pretty much gets sucked out of life when we need validation, because it is NEVER enough.  For a scholarly analysis of my statements, visit for a jumping off place to explore these ideas.

So, here I am, struggling to rise above this need for approval and access my creative drive again.  I'm closer than I was at the start of this post, and will be closer still with some sewing of V8684.  This drop waist dress is not really popular on PatternReview, is not a sexy style, has a shape which is perhaps too comfy...but all of this doesn't matter to me because I love it.  It makes me happy and seeing it on my dressform in a B/W plaid causes little frissons of pleasure.  I see it with a red sweater, and tights, or a slouchy sea blue bag.

Creativity?  Yes, I think so.


  1. What a wonderfully soul-baring, thought-provoking post, thank you :)

    I've spent much of my adult life recognizing, and working with many of the issues you speak of, and I know I've grown tremendously, and am much more forgiving and less judgmental (of both myself and others)...and I know there will always be room for more growth :)

    I could write an entire post of my own in response, but I think that's best left for a more appropriate time & place...suffice it to say that I can relate to much of what you say, and I hope you already know that I admire and adore everything about you that I know of :)

  2. This post is probably really close to home for ALL of us. It's so nice to know that others struggle with the same feeling of wondering why the hell we are doing what we do.
    I guess the need for validation is always there, but sometimes it overtakes all of our better impulses, turning a joyful, creative process into an ugly monster. Happily, it seems you are aware and thus you will not be thwarted. Rev up the machine!

  3. Oh excellent post. And certainly thought producing. Thank YOU!
    And that dress is going to be wonderful!

  4. I think that we have to consciously choose not to be competitive in certain areas of our life. Competition is natural because it leads to progress. It is not just the sewing that gets competitive...but also the blogging about sewing, which is even sillier. We need to remind ourselves that some activities are just for fun or relaxation.

    I received your patterns yesterday...thanks so much. The styles will completment my existing collection nicely.

    Good luck with your 8684!

  5. Mary, I suffer from the same exact need for validation through competition. I am glad that PR removed the random reward, as it has driven me to sew more for what really needs sewing(and what I really want to do), instead of for show. But I've also suffered a loss of creative inspiration since the contest change, so I know what you mean about trying to get it back.

    I love your pattern, I think it will look great! I'm sure you will find your creative drive again. I always love to see your work, and I can see that you do it because you love it, and not JUST for approval.
    All the best!

  6. What a thought provoking post, Mary. I read it earlier today and then mulled it over while cutting veggies for soup. I actually spend very little time on Pinterest or Facebook and maybe that's part of the reason. I find both can be overwhelming.

    Anyway, I do relate to what you have written. Maybe we need a support group. :)

  7. Yes, very thought provoking. I really enjoyed reading this post Mary, and I resonated with your thoughts on competition. I agree completely that one should not enter a contest merely with the thought of winning. I entered a contest at PR recently, but I like my garment, and that is all that counts. Plus I already had the fabric earmarked for it, so entering something fitted in with my plans anyway!
    Sometimes I feel like blogging leads to a whole lot of conformist blogs doing exactly the same things as each other in an effort to "fit in", or worse, outdo each other. I prefer for people's own unique passions and personalities to shine through on their blogs, including mine on my own blog!
    I think you have achieved this balance beautifully on your blog, and I admire you for overcoming the doldrums at the close of your career and rediscovering the joy in your chosen hobbies.

  8. And I am glad you got a laugh out of my new top :)

  9. What a wonderful post, Mary! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, it made me start to think about how different we all can respond to the same events and activities.
    You could say that I am in the opposite scale from you when it comes to competition. I rarely feel a drive to do things more or better than others. And in it´s own way, that can be harmful as well, especially when it comes to work. I have been known to pass up on opportunities because I can´t bear the thought of competing with others. But I am learning to become more driven, so you could say we are reaching for the same goal, but from opposite directions! :-)

  10. This is a wonderful piece of writing. I don't do competitions mostly 'cause I couldn't be bothered but I would also have that "choose me, choose me" thing going round and round in my head. I like sewing for sewing sake - not to please anyone else. I shall be thinking further on your topic, thanks for being honest.

  11. Great post. I love seeing the marvellous creativity around the internet but of course can't help but compare my skills and achievements and sometimes feel like I want to live up to some imaginary standard.
    Competition can be quite destructive in some way, can't it, even though it aims to raise standards.

  12. It is quite thought provoking and a relief to hear such normal thoughts spelled out. My need to please keeps me from being a very good competitor, because although I would like to win, I would hate for someone to be very upset about losing. When I did some horse showing my first desire was to not screw up anybody else's ride with my amateur attempts. My biggest competition is always myself and I generally enter contests to provide a deadline. I am not sure I am being completely honest with myself on that score though.....because I do like the attention. I do like to share my experiences with others. I think the more self confidence you have with any particular endeavor the less you feel the need to compare yourself, but as an adult when you learn a new skill you fret over lost time, and the "what ifs" set in.
    Always a treat checking in with you Mary, thanks again for sharing

  13. Hear hear to being true to ourselves . It is natural to want approval and to try improve ourselves but you are right that competition can be detrimental . Thankyou so much for this thought provoking post.

  14. Mary, thanks for the comment on my shirt. Lust is good.

    Just read your post on competition. Whoa. Outstanding personal observation that I, and obviously many others, identify with. I think the key element and the gift to walk away with is this quote from the tail end:

    "This drop waist dress is not really popular on PatternReview, is not a sexy style, has a shape which is perhaps too comfy...but all of this doesn't matter to me because I love it. It makes me happy and seeing it on my dressform in a B/W plaid causes little frissons of pleasure. I see it with a red sweater, and tights, or a slouchy sea blue bag."

    It doesn't matter to me because I love it...great mantra. Thanks...dorcas

  15. Mary I really wanted to comment on this blog post - it is so thoughtful and as everyone else has said thought provoking . ( I thought I had commented but perhaps my internet was playing up - does that alot - or perhaps but I hope not that I had offended you with my comment and it was deleted?) ANyway I feel it is very important to be true to yourself.

    1. Hi Janine, No I didn't see it and didn't delete it. Now I am really interested to hear what you said-it must have been spot on. Please never worry about giving offense here-I taught junior high!

    2. Oh gosh I commented several days ago but the gist was as above being true to yourself, that a little bit of competition can spur you on to try improve yourself and now I can`t remember what else - so obviously not very important. When I was in high school I did get competitive because the uni course I wanted to do needed high scores so this really spurred me on to study very hard so in this way competition can be good but otherwise I can see it is destructive. Anyway not so deep and not put so eloquently as you have. Again this was a fantastic post - I love your honest blog.


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