Making Alterations

The last couple weeks, most of my creative time has been spent working on alterations for my cousin’s wedding. I love the fact that I can contribute with a valuable commodity and skill that would otherwise be expensive and extremely hard for those traveling in out of the country to do in a timely manner. To be perfectly honest, alterations are not my favorite creative outlet, in fact, I don’t do any outside of close family and friends any more. But, there is something so rewarding about taking a dress that looks awkward and misfitting and turning it into a dress that was made for them, a fit like Cinderella headed to the ball.

I have been sewing since before I could read or write. My mom tells me I taught myself when I was four years old. Nothing daunted me, I saw things in my head, got out scraps of fabric and sewed away, buttons and button holes included. I made blankets, quilts, clothes, costumes for my brother, I even made him a novelty hat with a stuffed moose head attached, and a baseball mitt. I have always seen in 3D, virtually any piece of clothing or thing made of fabric I could deconstruct in my mind and make for myself.

Little Seamstress

In high school, I mostly sewed in secret. A couple of my teachers discovered my hidden talent and would utilize my inner passion for costumes in plays. But inside I had this internal wrestle. How could creating clothing and beauty and home décor make a difference in the world?

So I went to Bible college, for a year, but as a lot of college freshman end up, I couldn’t decide what I really wanted to be when I grew up. And I certainly couldn’t be honest about what all of my passions were and what I wanted to be, because I thought creating material beauty truly couldn’t make a difference in people’s lives. But, who are we to judge what gift is good and beneficial?

In the land of life, we so often become our own self-appointed judge, and determine whether He make a difference in the world through our gift.

So I flopped around majors and colleges, like a fish who didn’t know if it belonged in salt or fresh water. There is one semester that would have otherwise felt like a waste, except for one class: Garment Construction. While most of the ladies were in the class as a pre-rec for Interior Design or Fashion Merchandising and didn’t have a clue about basic garment construction, my professor saw my skills and gifts, and rather than teaching me the basics with the rest of the class, she pushed me further than I could have learned in 10 years on my own. She took my natural talent and helped me to fine tune it into a valuable and marketable skill. I learned construction, seams, flat pattern alterations, and because of what she did, she talked about alterations being the most economical way to use the skill as a seamstress in the U.S. Most people don’t understand the hours involved in creating a garment from scratch, plus the cost of materials. Custom made clothing ends up being more expensive than a $200 dress plus its $80 alterations.

alterations 1

After my husband and I had children, we still needed the added income, but I wanted to stay home with the boys. I taught sewing lessons to some girls, and I did alterations. Six years ago, I was a referral at a local bridal dress shop and took bride and bridesmaids clients all summer long. I loved the reward of making the client go from feeling like a mis-fit to a princess. I loved the challenge, and often wondered how I would accomplish a complicated alteration, and in the process, I always figured it out, and it would look better in the end. Women would walk out glowing, excited, and thankful. All except for the one, the one who walked in like a storm cloud, told me how she wanted the alteration done (not the proper way).  I did it her way, and then cloud came back and stormed on me. There’s always that one.

I let that storm cloud get to me, tell me I wasn’t good at what I did, and between believing the storm cloud and a spiral of other lies, my health caved for 4 years. I quit creating. The one little storm cloud literally threatened who I was at the core. I became so wrapped up in fear, I could no longer see to create.

alterations 2

In the midst of the creative process, there’s a daunting point every time, usually at about 50-75% completion where I truly believe what I’m creating will not turn out.  All the time and money I’ve invested to this point, I conclude must be a waste, another failure to tally.  I have an artist friend who shared with me, “You mean you only feel that once? I battle that the whole time I’m painting.”  So many voices in our lives, in the things that matters most, we’re told that if it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out, just bail. And in my earlier years, I would do just that, throw in the bag. I had several projects that were ¾ of the way finished that became a permanent investment in the garbage bin, because I was convinced it wouldn’t turn out.  So I just quit.

Then there was one day, I just decided to start finishing the projects anyway. And probably 98.5% of the time, they did turn out, and most of the time even better than I had imagined.  The creative process has to embrace the ugly, awkward stage and persist with vision to the destination.  It will always look worse before it gets better, always.

In my life, the storm threatened to capsize the very core of who I was. Suddenly the creative part of me wasn’t even able to function. Not only did I not want to sew, I physically could not.

Somewhere, in the midst of my physical pain, emotional turmoil, and the threatening of my very destiny, God breathed truth, and I started creating again. The alterations He was doing in my life weren’t done, we can’t judge an alteration or any creation ¼ or ½ or ¾ of the way through. And He is never abandoning His greatest creation. The creative stuff in my life, it’s a good work, and He’s completing it. I honestly don’t know what it will turn out looking like. This week it was alterations for my cousin’s wedding, next week it may be furniture, or just being faithful to this blog adventure. This blog is a step of obedience, I don’t know where it will lead. Sure I have goals and dreams, until I see those come to pass, He is testing my character, making alterations, getting one seam closer to perfection. (Ps 103:19) But I’m trusting that this blog or doing the alterations, or the things I learned in college are not wasted, but another seam closer to the proper fitting of what God is doing in and through me.

alterations 3

God can take a broken, ill-fitting life and weave it into a beautiful story, every time. If the thing you were made to do has been capsized, hold on to Him, set your eyes on the vision, the goal, the Author and Perfector of our faith. We may give up, but He never gives up the alterations He’s doing. He’s only partially finished with you, and He’s not throwing in the towel on this one.

Thank you for stopping by.

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