Baby Steps

This post originally appeared on my main blog.

I’ve started sewing. Like, really sewing. Like, downloading a whole bunch of patterns of the Internet sewing. Like longingly browsing through the pages of Mood online sewing. Like braving a pandemic to head to a local fabric store (who were very kind but enforced very strict social distancing and capacity rules) sewing.

This, as a rule, isn’t uncommon for me. Go big or GO HOME by ADHD brain tells me. BUY! ALL! THE! THINGS! It cried out, only to be left unused on some shelf somewhere once the novelty wears off. But not this time, and I think I figured out why.

Usually when I want to do ALL THE THINGS, I literally want to do all the things right now and get it done from start to finish, and then when it doesn’t work that way, my ADHD brain gets SUPER FRUSTRATED and shuts down and gives up. The project is no longer associated with pleasure, but instead with frustration and disappointment.

Take these first forays into making a dress. I wanted to complete two dresses in one afternoon. They were the same basic pattern, and I ahd already done one and thought I had worked out all the kinks.

(That that first one got done at all was a minor miracle. I had no idea how to finish a neckline and the tutorials I found online were confusing, driving me to tears. Thankfully I had a friend who could talk me through it over Zoom and it got done.)

Anyway, turns out I didn’t sew it with the proper side of the fabric facing out so I sat there for more than an hour trying to un-stitch the side seam I had just made on a midi-length dress. I was frustrated but determined to get the dress DONE. And I did. But the second dress would have to wait until another day.

Now…now I’m getting ready to make an entirely new dress. This involves printing and putting together patterns, then cutting them out, pinning them, and then cutting the fabric. And then assembling and sewing. I chose two simple dress patterns, ones that have detailed written instructions as well as YouTube tutorials as to how to do them. I am determined not to get ahead of myself and think that this is all going to happen in one rainy afternoon.

I am already feeling the anxiety rise in me. As I am assembling the printed sheets into one large patterns to be cut out, I start to notice the notes on the patterns, notes that I don’t (yet) understand. Notes that I know are important but I might overlook because of my ADHD. Directions that are written in sewing shorthand that I have nowhere near mastered.

So I’m trying to focus instead on just completing this (somewhat frustrating) task of lining everything up and taping it together. And then worry about cutting it properly. And then, THEN, I can worry about what I had to do with each piece of the pattern, what each piece of the fabric is supposed to do.

Baby steps. If I try to do it all at once (which is kinda my thing), I’m just setting myself up for failure. I’m trying to approach sewing the way I approach writing: one chunk at a time. Part of the challenge is that with writing, I can write whatever chunk strikes me at the time, while sewing a dress requires me to actually, you know, read the directions and follow the steps in the right order.

But I’ve made three dresses that I’m pretty happy with. One of them I think I’m going to bring in a little. The other, I think I’m going to try something else with the neckline. That I even had enough confidence to try these adjustments out is a huge step forward.

Although I’m still not quite ready to tackle a full bust adjustment. Again, watched a video, it made me cry. But then I remembered I had the same reaction to finishing necklines and here I am in a half-decent one on the dress I’m currently wearing and think, yeah, might not be today, but I’ll get there.

Baby steps. It’s hard for me to slow down. When your brain runs a million miles a minute, it’s hard to slow yourself down, ever. It’s either up to 11 or pushed down to zero. It’s one of the reasons why people with ADHD are often mistaken for being lazy. It’s either we’ve burned ourselves our or are so overwhelmed as to be unable to move.

But sewing…a fiddly, fine-motor-skill-needing, patience-sapping, exacting, but also forgiving hobby. It satisfies my need for both sameness (I WILL HAVE THIS DRESS IN EVERY COLOR) and the new (BEHOLD HERE IS ANOTHER DRESS TO WEAR). There is something also really tactile about the fabric, soothing when the sewing machine is humming along and you can just sew in a (somewhat) straight line. I do mine while “watching” TV or listening to a podcast (yes, I now listen to one or two) – even with the noise of the sewing machine, I still can’t stand silence.

Maybe I’ll never ascend beyond beginner patterns (because really, I just like a good dress), and that’s fine by me. I can’t tell yet if it’s the process or the product I like best. Probably both. Whatever it is, I’m glad to have found it right now.

I needed it.

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