Criticism is Good (Or BitchFest 2013)

No, I haven’t sewn anything since my last post, and right now I have zero intention of sewing. I need to sort out my summer clothes first and see if I still have too many before I add more to my wardrobe. I also have a dead washing machine in the middle of my kitchen and it will be a week before a new one is delivered. The dead one is in the middle of my kitchen because I want to make sure that the £9.00 extra I paid to have it taken away was worthwhile (the £9.00 only covers a “professionally disconnected” machine – Huh – how will they know? :)).

Now, on to the title of this post.  I think the sewing blogosphere is just too nice and needs to be bitchier (or, if you prefer – more honest).  The following is just my opinion and, as everything I post, feel free to ignore – or criticise, or bitch about.

I think everyone is either too nice or just not posting what they are thinking.  I occasionally want to comment “I don’t know if you realise, but that’s a bad look on you.” but can’t because everyone else who’s commented says it is wonderful.  I cannot believe that I am the only person who thinks that a particular garment is not a good look – I just have to presume that no-one is saying it.  I tried it once with Gertie’s coat – I asked if the actual garment would have the awful drag lines in the sleeves that her muslin had, and was told off! Perhaps if I hadn’t used the word “awful” I might have got away with it.

If I sew something and then blog about it, I’d like it if my online “friends” would tell me if it’s not good. I can’t trust Mr RTS to tell me because he thinks I look great in almost everything. On the rare occasion he thinks something is not a good look, I already know it and I post about it on those terms.

I’m writing this because I read a post today by a blogger I love reading and I thought there was a problem with the garment that she was so happy about.  It was a great garment, but there was a fit issue that I know another blogger deals with so I pointed her towards that blog. I almost hated doing that because I was saying “that garment doesn’t fit you correctly”, but if I didn’t say anything then she might have made the same garment again, with the same fit issue, that I think could be easily corrected.  The garment, as made, was lovely and as nice as any RTW (actually far better than RTW because of a bit of sewing magic), but I could see that a simple (I think) fit change could have made it perfect.  However, I hesitated for ages before sending the comment because I was worried about appearing bitchy.

The paragraph above wasn’t the whole reason I thought about posting this – it was a post from Peter at MalePatternBoldness that made me realise how stupid not being honest was. Nearly everyone in the comments (not all) picked one of the five styles even though none of them really suited him.

I believe, in general, that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything – but I don’t think should be true when someone is going to make the same mistake again, or it’s going to cost them money.

So BitchFest13, or perhaps BestFriend13 – BF13 at the beginning of a comment could simply mean “I’m not going to be part of the cheering team – I’m going to be honest”. Best Friend or Bitch Fest – they could mean the same.

BF13 – Pinnafore dresses don’t look good on any grown woman. Stop making them. That includes Colette Parfait.  There are a couple of good versions out there, but my guess is that they don’t ever get worn because you feel like you are twelve years old when you get dressed. If you have made one and feel good in it, remove the buttons and sew the straps down – it’ll still be the same dress, but for an adult.

BF13 – Mullet hems – just bad, bad, bad.

BF13 – Tilly is teaching a sewing class even though every single thing she sewed in the Great British Sewing Bee had faults (even her own self-drafted blouse that she should know like the back of her hand). If I were paying for a class I would prefer it if the teacher had actually been successful at something.

OK – all of those were Bitch Fest and I can’t think of any Best Friend right now, but I still like the idea (because it’s mine :)).  I might be all by myself on this (and then, obviously, I won’t use BF13 before comments because that would be stupid.)



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75 Responses to Criticism is Good (Or BitchFest 2013)

  1. Bring it on the BF any day when you comment on my blog. I’d rather somebody tell me the shape is all wrong on me and what I should go for instead… than say, ‘good job’ and move on.. While I hate it when people are obnoxious in blog comments, some of them being down right derogatory , I’m all for constructive criticism.. We are all work in progresses..some of us are much ahead of the rest …. not just in sewing skills but also in having an eye for shape or color or fashion… I’d rather learn from a helpful friend’s critique than fall flat on my face or be the naked emperor with unvisible clothes …

    As for Tilly, as much as I love that chicka and her blog and as much as I want her to succeed, I do think she need to work on her fitting skills first and then teach others… I shudder to think What happens when people who don’t have her body shape or size tries her patterns and she can’t help with the fit! 😦 They will end up cursing their body and might even lose interest in sewing altogether…

    • Thank you so much for this comment. I wondered if I was going completely “out there” with my post, but I guess I wasn’t. I made a comment on another blog today about how much I admire writers and “… the naked emperor with uninvisble clothes” is one of those lines I wish I could write. Am I allowed to hate you because of that one line? 🙂

  2. mrsmole says:

    I may not say lovely things about the current garments shown by sewers but I do write to them (you know who you are) offline and tell them the 3 words “Drop your crotch” many times. I see real crap out there…lots of Louise Cutting patterns with no darts pulling up in the front and drags lines up the wazoo but then everyone chimes in “HOW LOVELY”…look in the mirror sweetie…is it flattering…Hell no. Why women over the age of 50 want to wear baggy tops and baggy bottoms with no shape is a mystery to me…and linen…crap…wear it if you like wrinkles and bulk…have at it…but don’t expect all your readers to go ga-ga over it…they are lying if they say you look good. Nothing beats a good fitting blouse with darts and a proper sitting collar…forget this stuff with uneven hems, swinging out from the body hems…who needs that…it says “I don’t know what I was doing in the sewing room today”. Enough said….make something that fits, skims the body and doesn’t wrinkle just standing still…everything else is a waste of sewing time.

    • Ahhh, Mrs Mole, I love you 🙂 I will have to disagree with you about a collar – I looked crap in one when I was 15 and I look crap in one now I’m 45. A low v-neck looked good on me then and looks good on me now. A little less low, now. I totally agree with the “…fits, skims the body, and doesn’t wrinkle standing still …”.

  3. Molly says:

    I agree, I usually just don’t comment when I don’t like something/see a flaw (I usually don’t comment in general though…). I did recently point out to someone that they might need an FBA, but I made sure to state that I was only trying to give constructive criticism. I’m not sure how anyone else took it because I didn’t go back to check (I don’t usually read other peoples comments)

  4. Hi,
    ,This was a very interesting post. I do understand what your saying.. Bloggers seem to be very nice and concerned about hurting anyone’s feelings. This is to be commended , in my opinion.
    I thought awhile before writing this . Let me list a couple things that I try to consider , when
    posting on someone’s blog:
    1- The garment is something special to that person.. They used their “special -picked by them”
    fabric. they are happy about the look. And in new sewers.. so happy they made something.. Only wanting to be complimented to try for the next garment and add to their learning experience.

    2- Each person has different levels of experiences. And I would never want to discourage
    any one from wanting to sew and learn.. [and the more you sew ,the more you learn].

    3-Fitting— this is such a hard issue for so many people [including myself]. We each have
    different body types/and are all different ages. [I am 58]. and we each struggle to learn
    fitting techniques.. I have sewed for nearly 40 yrs, however, only the last few years , have
    I sewed for me, and sewing for an adult is much harder to fit, than sewing for children.
    and especially this “old 58 yr old body”,ha.

    4-I would like to add to the above comment: [mrsmole] If an older lady feels comfortable in a loose fitting
    top/pants or wearing linen, and she is happy with her look.. That is ok.. God made us all and
    made our looks, our wants, and our ideas all different. I would hope , we as friendly bloggers
    would be compassionate and caring for all bloggers and let them know that the idea of sewing
    is to make what you like, your comfortable in. And we as friends… would be caring with our comments, and offer friendly advice.. if that person ask for it. As for the style of garments we make or wear? or the type of fabric we pick ? We should never be told what decisions to make, no matter what your age, or what you think would look better on a person.. please remember, God made us
    all different and our likes are all different.

    I have been blogging for a couple years now.. I have met some wonderful people. Some new to sewing, some who are so talented that they should be tailors. Their garments are perfect. But, of all the comments I have received or given, I feel so encouraged and want to try harder to learn
    and improve.. I thank God for the wonderful/caring friends that I have met.

    And I would like to say, I think Tilly is a very talented girl. she was wonderful on the British Sewing Bee, and I love her top.. She has only been sewing a few years, and has accomplished so much in the few years.,. I really admire her talent.

    I enjoy your blog, and have followed you for quite awhile.. Happy sewing.

    • First of all, I have to say that I don’t believe in any god. Your god didn’t make any woman choose to hide herself in unflattering clothing – if it did then you would wear unflattering clothing -and you don’t – you sew lots of pretty dresses for yourself and your family. Mrs Mole sees women of a certain age hiding themselves unnecessarily in unflattering clothing. They should all be wearing purple (with red hats that don’t suit them).

      Tilly isn’t at all talented – she drafted a pattern based on an old pattern and then couldn’t sew a single version of it in four (or was it six) hours when she had sewn the pattern many times before.

      • Marsha says:

        Tilly is VERY talented–at blogging and self-promotion. She’s just not particularly good at sewing or pattern design. She’s all style and no substance.
        I have no problem with new sewists blogging and enthusiastically sharing their creations. But they need to be open to criticism and use it to improve their craft.

  5. amaryllislog says:

    Wow, now this is an interesting topic!

    Such a hard call, how do you tell someone that you feel they have made a mistake, you don’t really know the person beyond what you see on their blog. Does ” in my opinion” hold enough weight? Actually do you really care what I think? Or have I totally offended you?

    I guess if I feel the person seriously wants insight on other people’s point of view then I’ll say what’s on my mind but that’s a really tough call. And who’s to say my opinion or even your opinion holds any water? It’s just an opinion so I guess it comes down to delivery. Damn I sound really indecisive!

    And as far as Tilly, she is darling and I give her a lot of credit for putting it out there and trying, but she could only go as far as she was capable of right now. I think she is very determined and will continue to grow. She loves the retro look and clearly not everyone can pull it off, including her model who is rather large breasted and would do better with a lower neckline (in my very humble opinion).

    You know, some days I feel really bloated and some of those less attractive baggy outfits get me through my darker long days. But I promise I have better days too.

    Regarding what I think you are referring to, dresses and skirts with a longer hem in the back. It’s just a trend that will fade soon enough.

    Anyway, I’m way to long winded, feel free to give me your honest opinion, anytime.

  6. mrsmole says:

    After sewing for women for over 40+ years, I encourage any woman/client to use a pattern that flatters her, works well with her favorite fabric and colors and I suggest taking in side seams, ditching the collar (ha ha) and making it look more modern but always always flattering with her body shape. I pin out the ugly and keep the parts we want…if they want clothes big enough to stuff their sister in there with them…then that is what they get but they can buy that stuff in RTW…Eileen Fisher and J. Crew fill that need…baggy lifeless clothes that don’t look good on anyone and with high prices and cute catalogs. How many pair of grey lifeless pants does one woman need? My clients always leave happy and say “I depend on you to make me look my best even when I didn’t know I could”…it is all about fit and fabric choice and a load of patience…and a rum and Diet Pepsi at the end of my sewing workday….ahhhh On my blog, I pin paper patterns to my own duct tape dummy (not a pretty sight) just so others can see what kinds of rubbish independent patterns are on the market. We all could make patterns right out of the envelope when we were 20 in the 70’s…but those days are gone. Now it takes lots of imagination and work and muslins to make cutting into really good fabric worthwhile. I’d rather trash a muslin knowing there was no hope than dare to start on a new “designer” pattern and think that it will fit me…what a joke. Someone else this week was saying women like to blame the “designer” they met at a trade show for telling them they were a such and such size and then they went home, cut out the size she told them and it didn’t fit…they didn’t bother to measure themselves or the paper. Unless designers have x-ray vision or are psychic or psychotic they cannot eyeball your size…it depends on the age of your bra and boobs, tightness of your underpants or no undies, lots of things have to be considered and wearing ease….wearing something you spend the whole day pulling at the center front buttons is not comfortable or wearable no matter what “celebrity” designed it. Every day is an adventure and I learn something new from every garment I rip open or complete.

  7. Cynthia says:

    BF – you seem to have an unreasonable problem with anyone with an opinion that differs from your own. What the heck happened to all that “let’s be honest” talk. And what’s your problem with Tilly? Live your life girl and let Tilly live hers. Life is too short to carry crap around.

  8. T. Sedai says:

    I have to admit I pretty much agree with a lot you said in your post. Though I don’t know if I live by it. Generally I try to be positive in blog comments, because I have to deal with enough negativity in real life. If something is really really bad I tend to not comment, or leave constructive criticism in as nice a way as possible. Especially if the blogger is really thrilled with the thing. Because sometimes I am thrilled with a thing. Then the pictures look like sh*t. Or I want to burn it, and the pictures look amazing. I have come to expect that the way I feel about blog photos will usually be inversely related to how much I love a garment in real life. So I try not to rain on too many parades.

    As far as getting comments on my own blog… Sometimes I wish I would get a little bit more constructive feedback, but then again I often feel like I know the flaws of my own sewing before I post any photos at all. Though sometimes I look back and realize there were problems I hadn’t noticed before. I have a pair of grey pants I sewed last year, and at the time I thought they were perfect. At this point I can see that the crotch is a bit too low, and the fit is definitely not perfect. But they are really comfortable, they make my backside look nice, and they make my legs look long and slender-ish (well, as slender as skater thighs are going to look at any rate), so I wear them a lot anyway. There are other times where I want to make something because I think it *might* look cool but it ends up looking dowdy. Or, at least I feel dowdy at any rate. Even with encouragement from the peanut gallery I end up not wearing those pieces much. I am still experimenting with style, and sometimes there are fails. It does seem like I am more willing to admit my fails then my readers are a lot of the time though.

    Also, as far as fit goes – it is a difficult thing to get right. I have been sewing for nearly all the adults at my skating club lately. No one else really wants to sew for them, because it is a lot easier to sew for the young kids. I draft a pattern for each person I sew for. Everyone else thinks I am nuts. But then they also think it is a miracle that my stuff fits right away for the most part. The funny thing is I think on the whole everyone else is easier to fit than I am. But fitting is complicated, so I try not to be too harsh in my criticism of others. Though I do try to offer advice if I have any.

    And, as far as the Tilly thing goes… Well, I guess I have to say I don’t know if I could have done as well as she did given the time constraints, the cameras, and the pressure. On the other hand, I am not trying to teach a sewing class or explain technique or fit to others. I am sewing for hire, but I have been sewing skating costumes since I bought a machine nearly four years ago, and designing and decorating them for nearly a decade before that. And I don’t charge as much as the more experienced seamstresses in the area. Most of my stuff has been turning out, but some of it is a little less precise. So I guess I feel like I am in a little bit of a glass house on this one, and I don’t feel comfortable casting stones…

  9. stefpulls says:

    Thanks for taking some thoughts of mine to the interwebs! The temptation to say “That does nothing for your figure” is one I have to fight on a daily basis on and offline. I have recently dropped several sewing blogs from my reader because I spent too much time thinking critical thoughts along those lines and wasn’t learning anything.
    As for Tilly I cannot say. I do not watch GBSB as I feel it does very little for the public image I’d like sewing to have.

  10. Helen says:

    man if I had a new pattern for everytime I’ve looked at a blog and thought to myself that’s a godawful garment, I’d have every pattern ever produced. But I never say it, I just go visit another blog. I can’t hate on you if you’ve worn your new dress and announce how pleased you are with it!!! I cannot! and another thing. all those bright young things who make two items and then start selling and teaching and then producing books…….arghhhhh!! makes me real grumpy. I want to show them the work of the women who grew old stitching and knitting and sewing for their families, who were humble and modest with mad skills who added a bit of beautiful to the everyday without the tools or the choices we take for granted. Thanks to you for providing this chance to tell the truth!

  11. SewingElle says:

    BF: I recently made a mullet hem dress and blogged about it and you didn’t comment! Lift your game!!

    Seriously though, you make an excellent point. Giving criticism that will be constructively received is not easy in person. Even more difficult through writing, specially when you only ‘know’ the person through blog posts.

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who started to worry about how Tilly’s patterns would fit anyone not Tilly’s shape after the GBSB. It just goes to show that experience and formal training can help with something like pattern drafting for the general public rather than just for yourself.

    • OK, I’ll be honest here – although I possibly should have commented at the time. The dress you made is gorgeous – the fabric is amazing – the only problem with it was the mullet hem. I think I was hoping to see a future post where you’d changed it to a straight hem :). Then again, it’s fashion and we can’t all like everything.

      • SewingElle says:

        Thank you. And of course you don’t have to comment on every one of everyone’s blog posts.

        I’m on the fence on mullet hems still. That dress got one because it was drafted that way and I am lazy. There might be a future post where I change it…but I am lazy and I don’t hate it.

        Style/fashion is a personnel thing and probably doesn’t warrant a comment unless solicited. Poor fit and unflattery (is that a word?!) is an altogether different matter. I am a little frustrated when I write that I’m concerned about the fit of one of my garments and comments are positive about the colour or something else but silent on the fit issue. Or people say its fine. Argh! Tell me what to do to fix it!

  12. eumoronorio says:

    Yes criticism is good! I started reading blogs to learn, and then I started blogging for the same reason. I am so glad you pointed out the fabric puddles on my new top and led me in the right direction for how to fix it. I greatly appreciated the comment!
    As for Gertie and Tilly, I think Gertie’s been so successful because her look, her style, etc. was deemed highly marketable by someone, she had built a fan base (who are a touch rabid) and *bam* she gets a book deal, craftsy classes (though her knowledge gaps show) and a pattern line from Butterick even though Susan Khalji is a more knowledgeable seamstress. Gertie’s blog hasn’t had a new project from her Vogue sewing book in how long? She’s always selling her products now. I think Tilly wins that over say someone like Ann who impressed the Seville Row Tailor with her skills. I would rather take a class with Ann or the female judge any day. Gertie and Tilly are just far more “commercial” and “visually appealing” for marketing.
    As for Parfait, haha! I think we should add baby doll dresses to that category as well!

    • Rachel says:

      I’ve often wondered if I was the only one who has noticed the halt in projects from the Vogue book. That was what I really liked about Gertie’s blog so when they stopped I kind of stopped looking.

      I agree with the BF idea in theory, but to be successful it assumes a set of parameters that we, as random people making comments, have no way of controlling. Such as what the person blogging is honestly looking for, what their skill level is, whether they care about getting a good fit etc etc. I wonder if one of the reasons why people provide 130% positive comments (aside from faintly negative ones being vilified) is to ensure return traffic to their blog? This ties in to the circle/clique idea another person mentioned. Personally? There are days when I’d like honest criticism and others I’d rather be told I look ah-maze-balls and should have my entire future fabric requirements sponsored by channel because I am that hot shit. These could be in relation to the same garment. My poor husband – there is no guide book to my mind 😉

  13. eumoronorio says:

    ps where is Ms Mole’s blog? I would like to take a peak!

  14. birdmommy says:

    BF – if you can offer constructive details about fit and finish, go ahead. If you think a different colour would be flattering, try a comment like ‘I hope your next make of this is in …’. If you don’t like the style, keep yourself to yourself (as my nana used to say).
    Would I look much thinner in more fitted tops? Yes, I would. But I have a g-tube (abdominal feeding tube) that I’m often self-concious about. And I can’t imagine wanting to explain that every time I’d do a post.

    • I have to admit that I hadn’t considered medical reasons for style choices. I will definitely bear that in mind. I hope that I would never suggest that anyone would look “thinner” in anything though. I might consider suggesting a more fitted style would suit better, but that would have an IMHO attached.

  15. eumoronorio says:

    PPS I couldn’t help it! I made a badge for BitchFest 2013 or BF’13 or jump over to my blog and I have it in the right column. That way no one has to worry about whether or not constructive criticism is welcome or not.

  16. teaweed says:

    I mostly agree with your BF observations. Tilly & Gertie are marketable amateurs, not experts. Pinafores are for little girls & house dresses. Mullet hems are a questionable trend.

    However, I disagree with your main point that there is not enough honest, constructive criticism in the sewing blog community. Criticism is only constructive with the right tone in a teachable moment. Inhibitory perfectionism keeps a lot, if not most newbies (and not-so-newbies), from even starting projects or attempting challenging ones. An unsolicited bit of advice about a baggy-crotch-or-whatever, which ignores the triumph of starting, or finishing, or handling the specific challenges of the project, might be helpful but is much more likely to be discouraging.

    Your point has something to it, though. I’ve seen some wonky projects rake in bogus praise too. It kind of annoys me and makes me think of the sewing blog community as less cool/talented/skilled and more circle-jerk-popularity-cliquish. I have a suggestion which will make very little difference in the community if you’re the only one who does it, but you have a pretty popular blog, so it might catch on: add a little ‘please give me constructive criticism’ disclaimer to every post in which you present a new project to us.

    • I have that in mycomments box right now….. Ever since I read the original post, I have it in my agenda to explicitly requesting for honest constructive opinions after I post any picture. Now that would also mean I wear those clothes in those pictures and not let my mannequin model for me. Sigh!! I need to work on that part..

      I like your idea …. If a few people start asking for constructive critique then maybe it will catch on… Surely we all want to better out game and have better clothes!

      • I have the same problem – I let Dolly do far too much of my modelling because I hate having my photo taken.

      • teaweed says:

        Photography isn’t as easy as it looks. I take pictures rarely and every time I attempt it, I get an attitude adjustment. Lighting, focus, background, perspective, pose, facial expression – maybe the last two are vain, but I don’t want to look as stiff as Lawrence Welk.

  17. Pingback: BF’13 | Sewing for Me!

  18. Salma says:

    I think this is one of the reasons why I prefer the big 4 to independent pattern designers, although some designs are nice I don’t think they’re all very well drafted for body types other than the one of the actual designer themselves. As for constructive criticism, I think it’s the pressure to fit in with all the sew-alongs and niceness especially if you’re a new blogger looking to make a connection with other bloggers, I usually say nothing at all if I can’t find something nice to say although I think it’s okay if someone asks for it, which I think I’ll do more of on my own blog.

  19. Elle C says:

    Interesting post. To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about complete honesty when it comes to blog comments.

    I suffer from depression and anxiety and if someone were to comment negatively on a garment I had made, it could possibly send me into an emotional tailspin. This happens enough IRL, I don’t want/need it to happen in the virtual world. I started my blog to encourage me to sew more and to feel connected to the online sewing world. I assume everyone is as ridiculously sensitive as I am, so if I comment, I will find something positive to say about the garment.

    So, count mine as a vote for niceness, unless honest criticism is specifically requested.

    • I don’t know if you’re going to believe me, but anxiety and depression – I totally understand. I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog that I don’t work, but I’ve never said why – the why is anxiety and depression. That’s one of the main reasons I rarely post photos of myself in my garments. I may have played up the bitchiness idea, and not mentioned “constructive criticism” enough. I apologise if I have made you feel in any way uncomfortable about blogging – that was never my intention. I have a follow up post to this one currently spinning in my head; and I think you’ve also given me the impetus to write the post I’ve kept meaning to write about my own mental health issues. Thank you so much for commenting.

      • Elle C says:

        OH NO NO NO, You didn’t make me feel uncomfortable at all. I was just throwing another idea into the mix. And of course, sharing my feelings on the subject. Although after rereading what I wrote, I came across as having a bit of a stick up the butt. Sorry about that. What is a blog for than to share your opinions, you certainly have the right to say whatever you want. It was strange timing though, before I read your post, I read another blog and although the garment in question was beautifully made, it did nothing for the maker. I really wanted to tell the sewist, but I just couldn`t do it.

  20. Thank you for writing this. I found you by reading Mrs. Mole who I love because she’s so honest about things. I love looking at other’s clothes on blogs, but so frequently I want to scream because they fit so badly. USUALLY I don’t say anything and don’t leave any comments because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It took me many years of sewing to even realize that patterns could be altered to fit wherever you didn’t fit in them. For my first 30+ years of sewing, I figured if I made something and it fit, good. If not, it went to Goodwill. If the pattern wasn’t flattering to my body, it went to Goodwill generally after staying in my closet for a long time. Finally, I started taking fashion classes at a local community college and found out you could alter things. My 60+ year old body requires LOTS of alterations that my 20 year old body didn’t. I so want to say to so many people, “have you ever seen a sway back adjustment,” or an FBA, or, or, or. Hopefully we will all be nice and give a compliment before the constructive critism, even if it’s just… I’ve never seen anyone else wear that color, so you are unique!” I for one, most definitely want someone to comment if they see something that could fit better. Like you, my husband always thinks everything looks fine. When frequently, it doesn’t. So hooray for you! I’m putting the little BF ’13 sticker on my blog!
    Lynda Sewing

  21. the "Sewist" says:

    This is amazing. I am an amateur “sewist” who after a 25 year hiatus, teaching full time and having no life, has jumped back in to sewing for myself, not just for the kids and now grandkids. My first reaction was wow, there are so many more resources available. Walking foot? Who knew! Sewkeyse? What’s that? But back in the 80s I did take sewing classes, Stretch and Sew was my middle name, and by the way, Anne’s patterns are still great. Nancy Zieman is another great resource I hope people know about. These people are tried and true “sewists” who have real credentials and can help us all become better. I have even decided it’s time to take the plunge and start making some slopers for myself, since the big pattern companies are so unpredictable and I hate making alterations to new clothes I sew. So thank you to those of you who I have reached out to for guidance with them. It was yesterday that I commented to my husband that there was a lot of clothes posted that looked like they needed Mrs. Mole ( I love your blog!). So this was an amazing coincidence! But I guess it confirms my observation. I admire those of you who post your projects. It is a big deal to take the time to learn a time honored skill, and kudos to those who do it. I love the new ideas and it’s fun to see what’s out there. And yes, some of them look as amateurish as they are. Since the blogs are not sewing class, as such, we must assume these ladies are not being graded. But I agree that there is room for improvement. Perhaps Mrs. Mole, my personal hero, would be one with the credentials who could tell the truth and be valued for her constructive criticism. Her comments remind me of “What not to wear”, when she says that you should find what looks good on you, and sew that. If you haven’t read every single post on her blog you need to. She is amazing, and knows about what she speaks. What bothers me, as a semi-trained “sewist”, who invented that word in the last 25 years?, is when bloggers whose skills clearly are not professional sell patterns and write directions, I buy them, and then realized I can sew better than they can. I did that and gained a lot more confidence in my own skills, when I found myself saying, when you sew a cuff on a long sleeve t-shirt, you can’t make the cuff the same width as the sleeve! Even I know that. Anne Person knows that too. So maybe I should stick with her patterns and skip ones from online pdfs. I would love to buy them, but I’m skilled enough to know too much, I guess. That’s not to say that there may be some great pattern makers out there, I just haven’t wanted to take the chance again that I know more than the pattern maker. I think what needs to be remembered is that sewers of all skill abilities are out there blogging and posting. It would be a lot more beneficial to many of us if “suggestions” were made by those who have the skills to do so. I agree otherwise you just keep making the same mistakes. If you got back a paper from your English teacher and she never made any corrections, how would you become a better writer? So we all learn when someone’s work receives constructive criticism. How else do people learn? Otherwise the newbies think that nasty looking boxy top is good work, when some of us are thinking, “Is it me, or is that just not good sewing?” So why can’t the pros who hang out in the blogosphere do the rest of us a favor and help us become better? If you just post and don’t want to hear how you could improve yourself, state that and the rest of us will know. One of these days I may start posting a blog and become fair game for others. But this is year one of my retirement and I’m just thrilled to have the time to take up sewing again, and I love having the internet this time around to look for answers to my questions, like how do I make a sloper?????? Keep sewing, all of you.

    • mrsmole says:

      Hey Girl, welcome back to the land of sewing…you certainly have your facts straight about folks selling patterns who have no clue as to notches or matching sections etc. I try to highlight those crappy features all the time. When poor unsuspecting sewers choose these misshapen “original” patterns from the designer’s own line and they don’t work…I want to hold their hand and say “It’s not your fault” and “quit buying that line”.

  22. Lynley says:

    My personal peeve are bloggers who only ever take photos that are shot from certain angles/pulling certain poses – ususally designed to make them look extra cutsely or retro. I recently saw a blogger on video and was suprised at how different they appeared from the photos on their blog.

    • piakdy says:

      LOL. Guilty as charged. I do pimp up my projects on my blog. But I always include mug shots as well. Then you see how maybe that top isn’t as flattering from the side. Or maybe the fit here and there is a bit dodgy.

      Constructive criticism is good. But it’s frustrating if someone just criticize without leaving any tip on how to improve the fit. Sometimes it’s also a matter of subjective taste. So would be nice if the commentators phrase their criticisms nicely. I always find it interesting to see how other people might approach the same project, fitting issue, etc, even if it doesn’t quite suit my taste or needs. Sometimes you do discover better ways of doing things or styles that you didn’t think to try yourself which turns out to suit you quite well. But judging by TV makeovers sometimes other people’s idea of Fabulousness is one’s idea of not very convincing drag queen styling! 😉

      As for mullet hem & pinnafore dresses, all I’m going to say is never say never. I’m sure amongst my piles of clippings there’s some inspiring examples of these. In fact I have one RTW skirt with mullet hem that I love to death! But have to agree that most of them out there are a bit meh. I’d add long transparent hem over short opaque hem to the list too.

      • Lynley says:

        I’ve just checked out your blog, and I don’t think you’re guilty of the dodgy photo poses thing I was bitching about. You show yourself from a whole range of angles and in a range of poses!

  23. This is so refreshing to read! Mrs Mole is my heroine and I have learnt lots from reading her blog!! I have been sewing for 40 years and only now feel that my sewing skills are up to a standard to produce a well fitted garment. This summer has been the first where I have made most of my clothes that I wear; they were mostly fitted tops and dresses from Style Arc ( I love this pattern company, they fit my body well and I can make them straight from the packet), Simplicity, Vogue and Burda. I don’t want to have a smack down on Independants but am glad to read others have similar opinions to myself about these lines. My experience making a downloadable pattern is that it is better to take the design details I like and adjust a TNT rather than waste time with the pattern.

    Readythreadsew a brave move to propose the BF13 but I look forward to some constructive comments on my future projects.

  24. theresa says:

    Great post, thank you! I often see things made and think, OMG, that’s awful and then I see 6 comments about it that people love it. I’m so happy to know I’m not the only one. Constructive comments are so helpful and hey, if you like something and someone else doesn’t, you don’t have to do as they suggest. And Jacqui, I’m just getting to that point of modifying my TNT patterns to some other something I love as much, SO MUCH EASIER!

  25. Rosemary says:

    I lurk here and at other blogs. This bitchfest was too good an opportunity to pass up. The comment that I most often want to leave is press the damned thing before you post your photo, better yet, press as you sew.

  26. ClareInStitches says:

    Hurrah! What a breath of fresh air ‘BF’ could be. IMHO I would love someone to make constructive suggestions to improve my garments. It’s so dissapointing when something doesn’t suit and I don’t really know where I went wrong and therefore how to fix it next time around. I seem to be ok recreating bought jersey tops, but I’ve been put right off making dresses; I look like Queen Victoria in drag. So bring on the BF, say I.

  27. Carolyn says:

    This was a very interesting post with even more interesting comments. I’m pretty much of the school that if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all…just keep moving. Especially because fit is subjective (what you think fits good may not be what I think fits well) and style is also subjective…I understand that Peter Pan collars don’t necessarily look good on a woman of a certain age but maybe she doesn’t think so. Also I’m of the mind that every time you visit someone’s blog, it’s like you’ve entered someone’s home. Would you be unkind to someone in their home? Wouldn’t you try to find a nicer way to offer that criticism maybe sweetened with a little praise? Also, everyone honestly doesn’t want criticism…they just want a little praise that they were able to take that flat folded fabric and turn it into something three dimensional.

    I’ve been blogging for over 8 years and have found that there is no good way to offer criticism on a blog post unless you know the person – and not just from reading their blog daily. There has to be some physical interaction, a real friendship and a degree of trust. Just because you read someone’s blog daily, weekly, etc doesn’t make you their friend. And therein lies another problem since you don’t really know the person, do you know how if your “helpful criticism” will actually help them or send them spiraling down into depression or as someone said earlier offend them because of a medical condition you are unaware of. Everyone doesn’t share their entire life on their “sewing” blog.

    Newbies are in a class by themselves…you want to encourage them to continue in this art we love but you also want them to gain the experience they need before promoting the heck out of themselves. My solution to this challenge is not to endorse them with my dollars or continue to visit their blogs. Maybe they won’t miss me, but eventually the truth will come out about their skills or lack thereof.

    Finally, I always know when I’ve made something that my readers don’t like or don’t think fits, they don’t comment. And truthfully that speaks very loudly and very clearly that my new beloved by me garment is not beloved by the sewing community. Oh one more thing, even though I don’t always agree with negative comments, if you leave one on my blog, it’s left there. I don’t remove them and I don’t argue with you for leaving it because I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion even if it does make my blood boil! *LOL*

    This is a topic that’s been discussed for years in the blogosphere and probably will continue to be. Personally I realize that there are all levels of sewists, some excellent, some good, some poor and some with amazing promotional skills… To me the point is to continue to advance, highlight and treasure this craft that we all love.

  28. Ngoc says:

    I’m actually looking forward to making a t-shirt with a mullet hem. I think it’s fine to disagree on style choices – you like this, I like that, the world keeps revolving. I like hearing strong opinions regardless.

    Your comments on Tilly’s work based solely on her performance on the sewing bee are unfair though, IMO. Most of us won’t sew our best under those circumstances (time pressure, cameras in your face, etc).

  29. Shel says:

    I’m new here..what’s a mullet hem? Point a link to an example if it’s easier.
    My take on show and tells is I keep my mouth shut if something seems off unless the person is actually asking for help..not Thanx for the idea about sewing down the straps on the Colette dress too. I’m just making a toile of it for my daughter who’s just stepped over her mid 20’s, but kept thinking something about this seemed a tad too ‘cute’. I’ll see if she cares about the buttons.

  30. Very interesting post!

    Mullet hems should be taken out back and shot. End of that conversation.

    As far as critiques go, I am always very careful to not leave negative (or what could be perceived as negative) commentary on a blog. I’ve found that doing so invites one or both of two things: pigpiling on of criticism by others, or hatin’ on me for being a “know-it-all”. If I know the blogger personally, I will send a gently worded private email to him or her, giving my suggestions for what I might do differently, and invite them to talk over the phone, which takes the edge off any critique, since they can hear my voice. But in the vast majority of cases I just don’t comment, even if the blogger asks for honest critique.

    Regards Tilly, you have to give the girl credit – she certainly is getting her name out there!

  31. What a thought provoking post. Often when I see glowing praise for a hideously sewn garment, I choose to assume that the commenter is *really* saying, “Nice Try!” Personally, I don’t mind at all when a commenter says something like, “This shirt you designed is *OK*, but I liked the pocket on the blue one better”..after all, I do allow comments on my blog…if I didn’t really want them, I wouldn’t ask for them 😉

  32. Erinn says:

    I have seen many items that look, IMO, like the dog’s breakfast from a technical aspect. Do I comment? No. When I teach, do I comment? Yes, because that is my job – to help people improve their sewing skills. Do I ever comment on style preference? No. No no no no no. Not in or out of class. Eye of the beholder and all that. Why be a little black cloud? I am not so naive to think that my eye is any better than someone elses. I believe when you start to think like that, you start to look like Karl Lagerfeld.

  33. robindrush says:

    I agree–people are very sensitive to suggestions and helpful criticism, not mean, hateful comments–but skill building. Sometimes the skills are on target but it’s a bad fabric choice, or style choice. When I see something that doesn’t seem to work for the blogger, I just don’t comment. Not that I comment on every good choice. Around the globe, everyone wants approval and kudos for their efforts –but how can the sewist continue to learn if they refuse to see criticism as ‘an opportunity for growth’?

  34. Liz Kay says:

    I’m not a blogger, but am obsessed with sewing blogs. I’m a relatively new sewer, with a 2 1/2 year community college dressmaking certificate, (honours no less!) on my wall. I in no way feel I have the knowledge to inspire others or teach others with my fledgling abilities. I’ve had non-sewing friends say I should start a sewing blog. My sewing class friend and I have come up with some possible blog names – or maybe So I’m of two minds regarding possibly hurtful comments on blogs, and people blogging who perhaps shouldn’t be. I was shocked last week when I visited a new-to-me blog to see someone proudly posting, and giving a “tute” on making a tshirt with a wonky neck binding that must have had an1″ difference in its width, at various spots … ??? I guess it bothers me to see others teaching others badly. I made no comment, as she was clearly tickled pink, and I guess it is a bit of “buyers beware” if someone wants to try to follow her instructions. On the other hand, wow, she has the balls to put her stuff out there for the world to see. Ideally there would be “levels buttons” of sewing blogs … the beginners we could cheer on and the experts we could learn from, and both types would be enjoyable to read. I guess I worry that those with very little sewing knowledge pick up other’s bad mistakes due to raving comments on their blogs, and not having enough of the own knowledge to know better. Often the garments look swell due to great photo settings … the bloggers’ photography & writing skills exceeding their sewing skills. I think you have to be careful with any constructive criticism one tries to leave via blog comments or emails … when you can’t see someone or hear the tone in their voice, to “hear” that the comment is meant to be friendly, well, the remarks can be taken the wrong way. I guess it just blows my mind that so many think their projects are grand to begin with … what’s that old Scottish saying that means ” to see oneself as others see you”. Happy sewing and blog reading everyone!

    • Don’t be afraid to start a blog because of what others might say. I love the name itsharderthanitlooks. I was unsure about blogging until I started, and now I’m glad I did. Unless you want it to be a business you don’t need to blog on any schedule and the photography can be as good (or bad) as you can afford.

  35. Pingback: BF’13: Criticism is good | He Cooks… She Sews!

  36. sylvamae says:

    Great topic. It’s interesting to read a variety of opinions. My pet peeve is when a blogger posts a “learn from my mistakes” garment, describing what went wrong, and then a flood of comments follows saying “but I think it looks great”.

  37. sylvamae says:

    In defense of linen- I love the wrinkles. Looks like linen, yum! I live in the tropics and linen is so cool, maybe that is why the wrinkles look chic here. I can’t think of a defense for Tilly or Gertie, sorry.

  38. sewruth says:

    A breathe of fresh air is what BF13 is! Hopefully I already know when something is not right and I mention my concerns in the blog post, hoping others will confirm my view. I think this is a brill idea ( not just being nice BTW). Usually I don’t comment if I can’t think of anything good to say but I also want to point out that just because I don’t comment doesn’t mean I think a garment is bad. Sometimes I just don’t get round to writing. I’ll try to be constructive in future and not just bitchy

  39. Maggie says:

    I have recently been working to get back to garment sewing for me after a hiatus that lasted about 20 years. When last I sewed clothes for me, they were maternity clothes, and my baby is 18 now. I am plus sized, tall, middle aged- which seems to be a deadly trio as far as finding clothes in a store, and also even when I read sewing blogs- so many sewing bloggers are young and fit. I think there has been so much body shaming, that now people are reluctant to post photos, so if someone does, I really don’t want to tell them anything negative. Also, I think figuring out fit is a learning process. I am trying a combination of drafting my own patterns and adjusting published patterns, but essentially I need adjustments at just about every step of the process. I think my fit will improve with each item I make, but in the meantime, I am likely to make some hot messes. Is there an “I’m not ready for the truth, please be gentle with me” badge?

  40. Pingback: Sunday Reading #4 | Crafting my own style

  41. Clare says:

    Hear, hear! I’m so pleased that someone has finally got the b*lls to say it!

  42. Pingback: What Do YOU Think? | corecouture

  43. cperezporras says:

    Just being always nice conveys lying a lot. Did anybody notice that? Of course there are polite and positiva ways to say things, but ey, mullet hems don´t even deserve that. I totally agree with you and as soon as I begin posting I will grab that badge from you. Thanks!

  44. cperez says:

    Hello there, new to blogging, how can I grab the badge?

  45. nathalie says:

    Well that is a refreshing thread. I guess it’s each to their own but having just gone back to sewing after a 12 year hiatus , I feel a bit queasy about the very same blogs that are mentioned here.

    On the one hand I find it awkward to criticize them because it’s their own personal record of their achievements, like an open diary of their creativity if you will. It smacks of cruelty to attack people over something they obviously feel passionate about and that they are willing to share . But on the other hand I can’t help but feel the way some of these blogs have evolved with the hype surrounding them, have laid the road open for criticism.
    Let’s be blunt : Gertie and Tilly’s blogs are very close to becoming shameless self promotion vehicles .
    Every other day Gertie is either plugging her patterns, book, or etsy shop fabrics; I used to follow her blog updates but I’ve unsubscribed as i got irritated with receiving yet another ‘look about what I’ve added to my shop’. It’s a pity really.

    Then there’s Tilly and her Miette skirt and Mathilde blouse emporium with accompanying courses, which I’m sure would be nice patterns for children but grown up women I am not so sure.
    I know you can’t really discuss ‘taste’ in a logical way; but Tilly’s blog seem to cater for the overgrown woman-child aesthetic that is currently the trend in the UK, from ‘Mollie Makes Crap’ magazine to Cath Kidston…which I find both depressing and worrying. Only last week she was enthusing about making a dress with a deer and elk printed fabric which looked suitable for a nursery and her followers were in rapture at the idea.

    I ‘m not hung on the fact she’s got little experience as we all have to start somewhere or even of the standard of her sewing good or bad; but rather that she’s been so in your face so very quickly with promoting her teaching classes and her expertise when it’s in fact limited. I guess if people want to buy into this then it’s a case of you take your money , you make your choices.
    I also don’t feel for her experience on the GBSB because she chose to go on this show and as she is in the UK she must have been fully aware of the show’s format with its time limitations from the long running baking series equivalent. Nobody forced her to take part in it.

    So now I think I’ve dug my own internet grave and I should go and lie in it while the faithful throw rocks at me.

  46. Jolien says:

    I loved reading this, thanks for writing it. I’m late, but am a new follower. Just recently I started to venture out more to the less known blogs and find so much more true sewing, stuff you can actuallly learn from. Especially since last year the whole “me-sewing” and “selfcare sewing” and whatever became popular. Everyone’s becoming a pattern designer lately, they all have a “perfect fit” according to blog-testers and rarely I like the patterns… Yes, knits are forgiving, but I guess there’s a reason there are only few patterns out there that dare to use cotton, darts & princess seams…

    No way I’m a perfect sewist by the way, I just do something and try to learn from it. If I sew for my kids I feel it’s way easier to slap it on them anyway, but for myself I’m knitpicky, one reason I still have a few items on a pile, unhemmed…

    On the other hand, personally, I’m in dire need of a finish become a motivated sewist again, but even with the one dress I thought was going to be perfect, I see flaws. Many, the bodice is far from being as fitted as I’d like. I think I still could wear my dress with a belt, but I don’t have a sewing community to cheer me on and say I’m pretty, lol. I think that posting and getting “you look awesome” posts do give everyone a confidence boost, which isn’t that bad nowadays, but perhaps sewing shouldn’t be the main focus of the blog in that case…

    Post is getting way too long, I’m rambling and I’ll just blame it on a lack of coffee…

    • Thanks for commenting on my horribly neglected blog. Definitely don’t go for perfection on everything. Hem those things and wear them if you like them 🙂 On that note, I machine hem nearly everything I ever make – I hate hand-hemming so very, very rarely do it.

      (Huge apologies for not approving your comment sooner – my old laptop died and it used to automatically log into my blog account.)

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