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Voila, it is done! After months of on-again-off-again toil, I finally finished the two-piece suit I started last spring—perhaps one of the most empowering things I’ve done all year. Lined and everything! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sliding into something you’ve made yourself. I may be hooked.

Here’s what I learned on my months long journey back to the world of garment sewing. Almost every part of it applies to life in general.

  1. Use the right tools. I purchased a serger last spring and this is the first garment I’ve ever made with it. Honestly, I can’t imagine sewing without one.
  2. Ask for help. The vintage-inspired jacket was filled with challenging details. I could never have done it without my friend and tutor Susan. The skirt had a vent in the back AND I wanted to line it. Unfortunately, the pattern offered no directions for lining. One of my Twitter friends (@lbreton) shared a tutorial that coached me through that part.
  3. Improvise. Despite the lining tutorial, I botched it and had to figure out a workaround. As in life, things go wrong in sewing, but there’s usually a fix. You’ll figure it out.
  4. Be persistent. I thought I’d never finish this project. But I kept plugging away, committed to the idea that it would not become just another unfulfilled ambition. There were a million distractions from start to finish. I just kept plowing away, determined not to give up.
  5. Accept imperfection. There are numerous errors on this project, but I’ll be dipped if I’m going to point them out to you. If I threw the project aside the moment it became marred by imperfections, think of all the lessons I might have missed. It takes practice to become good at something. You can’t expect to be perfect coming right out of the gate. The real learning comes after you make a mistake.
  6. Take a chance. I tried a new finishing technique I’ve never used before—stitching in the ditch. I gulped a little as I put the needle in, realizing my almost-finished project could end up at Goodwill with one wrong move. It wasn’t as difficult as I imagined and the result was worth the risk.

For the curious, the pattern was Simpicity 2154, a retro 1960s pattern with a skirt I was dubious about for myself. Hey, I guess I can wear a pencil skirt, after all! Both pieces fit me perfectly—another reason to consider custom sewing. For some reason, it seems that patterns are made for real bodies in a way that off-the-rack clothes sometimes aren’t. What’s next? The skirt fits so well, I may do it all over again in a different fabric.

What’s the most empowering thing you’ve done all year?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.