I first discovered the online sewing community when I decided to finally give in and open an account on Twitter. Until then I had no idea that there were so many people out there who shared a love of sewing, particularly as everyone I knew in real life thought it a bit weird that I wanted to learn to sew. Twitter led to the discovery of many of the blogs I love, then Instagram and now I actually have real life sewing friends as a result.
Chances are, you’ve had a similar experience and the internet is fantastic for connecting people through a shared passion who otherwise wouldn’t have crossed paths.
After a few years online, I’m to notice things about the sewing community. Is it just a little too positive? Now I’m all for positivity; we certainly need some light relief and something to uplift us with everything currently happening around the world, and for some of us in our own lives too. I’m not knocking that at all, but I do think this overload of positivity comes with a lack of any real criticism.
Generalising, I assume that you sew because you make clothes either for yourself or someone else. I’m also going to assume that over time you’ve improved your skills and want to continue to do so.
How can anyone improve their skills if they are told that everything they make is wonderful?
I’ve posted photos on Instagram and asked for advice on fitting issues and people have responded very helpfully to that. I’ve learnt something and tried to put that into practice. Isn’t that the way it should be? I’d rather post a photo and have a few comments of “that’s a great colour, but have you thought about doing a full bust adjustment?” rather than someone telling me what I’ve made is perfect.
I’ve seen the argument made that telling someone they’ve made a mistake might put them off trying again. I disagree. It’s how you tell them that makes the difference. When I was teaching, we had system of marking the children’s work where we’d give them two things we loved about their work and give them one thing to improve on. It worked. They had the confidence boost of knowing their work had some great parts and then they had something to work towards as well. I think giving constructive criticism well is all about how you frame it. I’d never look at something a beginner sewist has made and point out all the flaws, but I would give them one thing to maybe look at for next time.
Why is criticism even important? Why can’t we leave everyone alone and let them get on with it? Ok, I see your point here; people are posting their photos and blog posts online, receiving lots of lovely comments and they go away feeling pretty good about themselves. I have no problem with that. However, if you start to believe your own hype (for want of a better phrase) and believe everything you’ve made is wonderful, I think you’re heading for a crash of self-esteem eventually. That’s not good for anyone is it?
For example, when I started getting involved in Etsy teams, I met a few people who are good at whatever craft they do, but honestly need to make some improvements to their techniques to be able to sell things. They feel sad that their Etsy shop gets no attention and they genuinely don’t understand why, because everyone they know has told them that they’re brilliant. I’d guess that most of the online sewing community don’t want to turn their sewing into a business. But surely you want to make your sewing the best that it can be for yourself?
What do you think? Should we give advice and constructive criticism only when it’s asked for? Should the sewing community remain a completely positive space?