Monday, April 1, 2013

Do challenges and contests inspire sewing innovation?

You will have no doubt seen the many sewing challenges and contest happening around the blogosphere in the last couple of months?  From Mad Men to 1940s to the newest sewing contest from Colette patterns, among many others.

My question is whether these challenges and contests inspire sewing innovation?  Case in point, I saw the release of Colette's newest pattern, Laurel and I wasn't super inspired.  Shift dresses don't look good on my figure and I probably have a gazillion vintage 60s patterns with the exact same silhouette.  Then Sarai announced the sewing contest.  Readers, I couldn't get the Laurel pattern off my mind.  The 'contest' started to get me thinking outside of the box.  How could I make the Laurel pattern into something I would wear and love?  How could I play with the silhouette so that it looked better on my figure?  Um, and the amazing prizes didn't hurt my creative thinking either...lol...


So my question is do challenges and contests inspire sewing innovation?  I've been loving the Sew for Victory flickr pool with all the challenge participants in Rochelle's 1940s sewalong.  I am absolutely blown away by the coolness and the innovative designs and ideas.  I mean, check out what Tasha embroidered in her amazing 1940s jacket:

So, I'm curious...  Do these sewing challenges and contests spur you onto new sewing heights?  Or do they actually create stress and stifle your creativity?  I suppose it's how you handle the concept of competition when it comes to sewing.  

If I'm in the mood, sewing challenges and contests definitely make me think outside of my comfort zone and help me take more sewing risks.  If I'm not in the mood, then I can start to feel overwhelmed by all the creativity and lose sight of my own.  Does that make sense?

Lately, I've been in the mood* :-)  What about you?


*disclaimer: I, in no way, promise that I'll actually enter any of these sewing challenges and contests...lol.....

47 comments:

  1. Although I love to see the wonderful items that contests inspire, I have never entered one! Even when I have created a garment that fits right in with the contest theme and in the required time frame, I just don't seem to fancy it.

    Btw, I had the same thoughts as you about the Colette Laurel dress. I hope it will be very successful for Colette, but I just don't think it's anything new under the sun.

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  2. These sorts of challenges ABSOLUTELY push me to try things I might not be motivated to do left to my own devices. Plus, I think the community aspect of a well organized SAL gives a lot of us the opportunity to be in contact with each other in a very approachable and embracing environment, which doesn't hurt.

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  3. I have to say, for me, it's a little of both. A lot of times I'm not super inspired when the contest is announced. It's only when I'm seeing everyone else's results that I want to participate (or wish I had). Similarly, I'm in a sewing group that does challenges, and it causes a lot of stress for me because I don't always like what they choose. However, after a few days of worrying about it (what I should sew, how I can dodge the rules, if I should even participate), I'm struck by inspiration - something I never would have thought of before - and so in that case, I think they're very, very useful.

    And just to add to the above comment (and your post), I don't really care for the Laurel dress either. Everyone I know is participating, which makes me feel like I should as well, but... I would really only be doing it for a shot at winning the prizes, and perhaps someone more inspired should win.

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  4. I've never entered a contest, and I think I would be too critical of my own sewing to do one. I love to see other people's though.

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  5. I think I initially get really excited, then over think it, then stress and struggle! I'm happy with my craft swap makes because I kept them simple. I like my Mad men dress but I don't love it (I may change my mind once it's finished) and crucially, I don't know where or when I'll wear it. I think for me that's the issue. As a new blogger I'm torn between wanting to join in/get more exposure for my blog and actually being able to make the garments I want/need.

    I will be joining in with the Laurel comp but only because I have promised myself it will be the last for a while, and that I will make something that will fill a gap in my wardrobe. Oh, and I'll keep it simple!

    Interesting question though, it's got me thinking!

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  6. I am always inspired by other people's contributions to these challenges, and the variety of ways to visualise a project is incredible. So I thought entering one or two would be a good creative exercise for me, but found that in real life they were just pressure, worry and guilt (I didn't make a recent deadline).
    Like your other commenters, I too find the Laurel too plain for both my figure and my style. Canny idea to run a competition though - get everybody else to make creative, inspired sample versions!
    Still, I am always be interested in seeing all the final dresses!

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  7. Good question. I was considering running a challenge of my own recently, but hesitated because I wondered whether adding an element of competition would take the fun out of sewing and set people against each other a little. On the other hand, I think it does motivate people to push themselves and get creative, so I'm looking forward to seeing the Laurels that people make. I guess it depends how seriously people take a challenge - but that's something you can't predict!

    I was just racking my brains to think of an example of a sewing challenge I participated in recently... hmm... oh yes, sewing to a crazy deadline, on no sleep, 50 TV cameras in your face, producers constantly asking you if you've messed up yet, and judges ready to scrutinise your work. Definitely not my most creative work!!!

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    1. Tilly--I think you did the supreme challenge! I can't even imagine!! You must be on pins and needles waiting to see tomorrow's episode??? We are all rooting you on!!!

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    2. Oh yeah Tilly that must have been intense to say the least!! I'm sure you did an incredible job regardless. Can't wait to see :)

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  8. I set up Sew For Victory as a group sew along and not a competition because I didn't want anyone to feel pressure or stress to sew something "better" than someone else. Or, even worse, feel like they couldn't make anything "worthy" of the contest. I like sew alongs because they encourage me to stay on task and ask for help when I might not know who to ask other wise. I wanted to create a place where people could branch out and try something new, but always with help and encouragement. I feel like there was a lot of that going on in the SFV Flickr group and I'm so proud to have been a part of it. I'm not saying I don't like sewing contests, because they absolutely do spark innovation and creativity, and that's awesome. But not everyone is into that kind of pressure. I love that there are both sew alongs and contests in the online sewing world. There's something for everyone out there! With that said, I'm kinda freaking out about being a judge for the Laurel contest because I'll have to subjectify everyone's projects. Sometimes people deserve to win based on effort and not skill! We'll see how that goes...

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    1. I agree...I like that there are both sewalongs and contests!! Judging the Laurel contest will probably be really tough--there's already some amazing stuff popping up in the flickr group!!

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  9. I kind of like the idea of a competition as it can help you to think a lot more about an item. This has certainly happened with the Laurel pattern. I didn't like it at first and wanted just for the blouse option. But then the competition was announced and I looked again. I am planning to enter, if I can finish on time. To me, it isn't about being competitive but creative and there is no harm in entering. I've yet to do a sewalong so can't compare the two but the latter is more appealing.

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  10. I love reading them! But have never participated. It's the deadlines. I work to CRAZY deadlines at my day job. It's constant. So when I get home and do some sewing, the last thing I want is another deadline!

    I think they do inspire creativity in others but they don't get me as excited. Its the same reason I don't dig Pinterest. The wealth of inspiration is overwhelming and it makes things easier to decide if I don't have any of that influencing me.

    :-D

    (BTW what happened to your Disqus comment system? I liked that!)

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    1. I agree...sometimes the deadlines are too much!

      Disqus got messed up when I went to my own domain name...I haven't yet spent the time to figure out how to fix it! I also wanted to see if there was a big different without it (and there is!) so I will definitely be bringing it back!!

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    2. hahaha this is exactly why i avoid pintrest...and lots of other things. to over whelming and potentially time consumeing of the time i dont have!!

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    3. Its a bummer about Disqus! I hope you can sort it soon if you are wanting to go back.

      Ruffles, yes very much agreed on Pinterest!

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  11. Debi, you completely summed up how I felt about Laurel before seeing the competition. Shifts don't suit me either, so I wasn't moved...but then the all the prizes got me thinking! I do think competitions and sew-alongs can inspire sewing innovation, but I also agree that they can add stress. For example, I've often jumped on the bandwagon, put myself under load of pressure to meet the deadline and then fell behind on my own schedule/list of things to make. But it really is down to each individual to pick and choose the challenges that suit them best. Hard to do though sometimes, as you feel you're missing out if you don't take part ;o)

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  12. OOh great question!
    I think both sewalongs and contests bring you a sense of community, and give you a deadline both of which we sometime need or crave as Sewists. Depending on your personality or what's going on in your life one is going to have more appeal than another. For me its all about where the stress levels are at. Running the Stashbusting Sewalong is enough for me right now and I wouldn't want to join something I had to be judged. The Tiramisu sewalong was a great push to fit the pattern correctly and I know I wouldn't have done all the work I did on the pattern if I hadn't of had that great group to encourage and push me to do my best. Seeing everyone else try and try again to get good results really helped me to keep going.
    I think both have their place and can encourage creativity if the creator has the proper mindset.

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  13. I participated in SFV and am so happy I did! I never would have thought to make 1940s style pants and it was so awesome to be part of an amazing community.

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  14. Interesting questions! I've never participated in a sewing competition or contest before as I tend to wilt like a shrinking violet at the first hint of competition. But I always enjoy sewalongs. There's something really fun to me about seeing the different spin that people put on the same pattern or theme, and it helps li'l scatterbrained me stay focused and on track with a schedule and deadline. I may actually join in on the Laurel competition, not for the sake of competition, but because it's a shape and pattern that I love and wanted to stitch up immediately anyway. :)

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  15. Sewing challenges have to capture my imagination, which then leads to enthusiasm about the project I set myself. Sew for Victory was the first sew-along I had participating in for a long time and I have loved it! I still have to finish up a few details and then photograph my outfit but it has been really enjoyable. Like you, I love seeing all the fantastic finished items in the SFV Flickr group - amazing!! For the Laurel contest, I am honored to have been asked to be a judge and I am totally thrilled! Belted, Laurel will flatter my figure and I plan on making at least a couple of versions for my wardrobe.

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  16. I haven't entered any as yet, because I think I would feel rushed and whatever I'm making would just turn out like shite.. but it's interesting to see other's creativity and the different outfits they create that don't normally suit their style etc..

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  17. I like challenges, I don't like competitons. There's something nice about challenges like the Sew Weekly themes or sew alongs to get me thinking about how I can fit my style to them and vice versa. We're all in it together. Competitions rub me up the wrong way from schooldays. I don't want to compete with other sewers because we're all at different levels and we should be encouraging each other not trying to beat each other. I also don't like letting my team down if I'm failing with a challenge.

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  18. I think that sewing challenges and contests do challenge your creativity and inspire inspiration. However, for me, I will only take part in one that really interests me and is something I would probably sew anyway and just need the little push to get me going. The idea is not to take it too seriously, if life gets in the way and you can't finish, then so be it, finish at your own pace and enjoy the end product. Don't compete against others, just challenge yourself each time and hone your skills in the process.

    And yes, I am going to take part in the Laurel challenge, the moment I saw the pattern I knew that I liked the dress so would be making it anyway!

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  19. Thanks for the shoutout on my embroidery! I have really loved the SFV challenge so much! I can't believe all of the creative and amazing projects people have come up with, it's been so inspiring to see them, read about what people are up to and share in all that. It really made me push myself (obviously, lol). It might have been months before I sewed a jacket were it got for the challenge, so that's really saying something! I haven't done many sew alongs and it's really made me want to participate in more. Not to go as crazy all out, lol, but just to have fun and that great sense of community while doing it. That's a great feeling when you're sewing at home, you know?

    I'm not generally into contests as I'm not that competitive in nature, so in that way I'd rather do an -along/challenge, especially for the camaraderie aspect without competition. Of course that being said like you I was still tempted by the Laurel contest! ;)

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  20. I did a lot more when I was just starting to learn to sew. Now my sewing time is so limited that I just want to sew what I want and not sew something just for a challenge.

    I'm totally uninspired by the Laurel contest because it's the WORST shape for me and I really hate 60s fashion. I've been rather underwhelmed by Colette patterns lately despite how much I adore their earlier patterns.

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    1. That's a big challenge for me too--the limited sewing time. I need to really ask myself...is this something I really want to sew? Because I've got a whole sewing queue of things I REALLY WANT to sew...and I have to be realistic with myself about how much I can really accomplish in my free time (when I'm often already tired from the day, etc.) That said, I agree with folks that a deadline can be a great incentive for me (depending on how many other deadlines I've got going on!!) :-)

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  21. hmmm i entered the tessuti awards last year. it did give me a chance to make a pattern that i wanted to try for a while and give me the motivation to do so....but at the same time i spent a fair bit on fabric and as soon as i finished it i was like...hmmm....would i even wear this now??

    i think i might enter the collete one. i do agree its not crazy exciting, but i was going to make a dress almost the same anyway....so!

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    1. also. the next tessuti comp closes tomorrow. i bought fabric for that too haha....didnt do it...but at least it was half price and i do actually like it!

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  22. Hi Debi! Miss you!

    I have been inspired to sew the Laurel because of the crazy prizes, but also I think challenges & competitions need to hit me at the right time. I set my own sewing goals (I'm still sewing 100 Things, with an open deadline, for example) but I do like joining in when my life allows it. For example the MMM or SSS that Zoe runs suits me best in September instead of May (just from a work deadline/timeframe) and hopefully the Laurel/Colette competition will encourage me to get my sewing room in order (and it's halfway there now!) because it's been HECTIC & messy at my house thanks to my Baby Darling!

    xoxo to you!

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    1. Hi Veronica!!!
      I love the MMM and SSS that Zoe does as well because I feel like I can take part without too much effort and it gets me thinking outside of the box on how I style what I've already made (and where the gaps are!)
      xoxoxoxo

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  23. I like to see the results of sewing contests and sew along blog hops. I think I'm too much of a newby to enter a contest, myself.

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  24. Well...Accepting a challenge is fun.
    Working on new skills is stressful.
    Making mistakes along the way is draining but then I learn or relearn.
    And by the time I finish, I'm happy that I got involved and made something that I had wanted to for a while but never got around to it.
    But more importantly, I've met a swag of new sewers and seen the breadth of the ideas so I keep taking on new challenges.

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  25. I find challenges really inspiring, I love a good deadline and they often make me really plan before sewing, which is something I'm trying to do more. I also love the community that comes from challenges, and seeing what a whole bunch of talented people can do within a set of guidelines/rules/timeframes is fascinating.

    I prefer to be a spectator for the competitions though. The ideas start flowing and the the self doubt starts, my ideas and skills that i usually have great confidence in start to seem insignificant and before I know it I've talked myself out of it.

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  26. I have never thought about that before, but now that you mention it, yes, I do get challenged by competition and sewalongs! Like you and many others, I felt pretty underwhelmed by the Laurel dress, but now I want to make it work. And even things like MMM make me think more creatively about how I can rework my wardrobe pieces into different looks.

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  27. Yay, that's a big 'it depends.' I think seeing all the creativity out in the world is inspiring in general but I don't really like the competition aspect.

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  28. I enjoy seeing what other people make in sewalongs and competitions but I learnt very early on when studying fashion at college that I can't sew to a deadline. It takes the fun right out of it for me. Plus like everyone has been saying I end up making things I don't want/ need in my wardrobe. I'm all about things like Me Made May because its about using what you've made for yourself and styling it your way. I feel that stress stifles my creativity. I would probably never make laurel but I can see why people are moving towards it with all the fab prizes.
    I'd like to throw pattern testing in though as a positive thing. You can make it in your own style but with small constraints of making the pattern as it is.
    x

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  29. I've only just finished my first ever challenge and LOVED it! SFV had me trying something I never had before, and learning a lot about new techniques and design (including from time to time how NOT to do things...) I don't think I would have been as excited about a competition; for me that would almost certainly become more about sewing for other people's satisfaction rather than my own, if that makes sense. Plus, though of course there's a place for contests, I can't see how they would have the same elements of support, encouragement and affirmation that sewalongs and challenges have. I've been blown away (and even slightly teary!) at the lovely comments people have written to me via Flickr, which has made the whole experience even more meaningful. (I just wish I'd figured out how to "do" Flickr prior to the the deadline - I missed out on the whole "cheering people on" during the process....Next time!)

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  30. I love a contest to get my creativity going, but often don't have the time as the timescales are so short and I can't fit it in with work. this can leave me feeling a little demoralised. The last contest I took part in was one by the sewing directory and Abakhan fabrics last summer, in which I was a runner up. it was great fun, and i'm constantly looking for the opportunity to take part in contests/challenges that don't require a specific pattern.

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  31. Funnily enough, I'm working on two sew alongs/challenges this month, but it's my first time ever joining any of these. I usually prefer doing my own thing, but couldn't resist joining a couple. One's going really well, the other is just epic fail after epic fail, which is starting to stress me out a little because I really don't want to drop out. Hmmm...

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  32. I really don't like deadlines, and the only challenge I've completed was MM-june a couple of years ago (and the world will have to take my word for it, as I only managed to document the first half). Deadlines and competitions tend to stress me rather than inspire me - the only one's that fruitful are the one's I set up for myself. That said, I'm considering entering MMM this year, but with garments I'll already have made. I like the idea behind this challenge, and the warm online atmosphere surrounding it!

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  33. I participated in a competition exactly once : when the dress I'd planned to sew anyway happened to fit into the rules. Most competitions don't inspire me and I haven't the organisation (or maybe the time) to keep up with sewalongs, but I do enjoy reading them. Certainly wouldn't want this sort of thing to disappear.

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  34. Well I like the sew-alongs, because they ARE inspiring- even if only to watch ;) Unlike Tilly though, I don't think I could go all out and do it on TV lol

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  35. Personally, I usually can't handle the stress of sewing along and I never feel that I can think outside of the box enough to really compete in a competition.

    I, too, almost bought the Laurel pattern just on the contest announcement high, lol. Even though I'm like you in that I don't really wear this silhouette very often and I have a pattern or two that is quite like it. In the end, I didn't get it, but I'm still regretting it....

    Having said that, I am properly following along with the Grainline Archer sew along and I'm really enjoying it! For a garment like a tailored shirt, I love the extra help! But without the stress of daily posts or the judging looming in the future.

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  36. I'm loving the Sew Alongs because it gives me a theme and a deadline. The competitions are ok, again a theme and a deadline and I feel the same way you did about the Laurel pattern initially. Then I figured what the heck! let's try to make it work and give it my own style : ) Yes, the prizes are an added incentive but what I like best about the Sew Alongs is the community and support. I might not have 'met' Rochelle at Lucky Lucille if not for SFV, and what an amazing time! Then again, if not for a chance meeting at the flea market I wouldn't have met Mena and been a part of the Sew Weekly gang : ) If not for ALL of this I might not have started sewing again and found a whole new wonderful world! Thanks for being part of it.

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  37. I think it's both for me. I'm a very slow seamstress, so it's mostly frustrating me when I'm not able to finish anything in time to enter (or any time, for that matter). On the other hand, it does give me inspiration, makes me lok at pieces from my stash with new eyes (seeing as The Stash is seriously conquering my own living space now, that's a very good thing), makes me think "how can I make that work for me?" in precisely the way you're describing. And that's the good part.

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  38. I am new to the sewing/ blogging world and have participated in several sew-a-longs... SFV.. the Bowie Sew-Along... and Jungle January was my first. I loved them all because they made me feel part of a group and challenged me to sew something outside the box. Sewing with animal print never crossed my mind but I LOVE my silky robe and pjs! And getting to the end of the deadline, not having any spare cash for fabric and making a blouse from a 40's pattern out of a sheet? Well, that for me was definitely a challenge but I feel I accomplished something in the make do and mend spirit of the 40's! Contests? I am not sure about. I don't think I am good enough for one or creative enough! And I hate to "compete!" I just want to sew great clothes and improve and challenge myself to more difficult projects. Sew-A-Longs do that for me- contests don't. (YET anyway!) But that's just ME! ~Laurie

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I read each and every comment--thank you so much!

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