• No Products in the Cart

Fast Fashion and Fast Sewing: Part 2

fast fashion fast sewing 2 (2 of 2)

The male baboon divides other males into two groups – those who rank higher than he does and those who rank lower than he does. What does this mean? That humans aren’t the only animals stuck on status. Even if it is abstract and unrelated to us, we crave knowing other people’s ranking, and we endlessly keep track who’s more or less important. Be real, how many of you check who “likes” a photo or a status on Facebook and/or Instagram? Status is so meaningful to us that when we don’t know someone or something’s position in the universe, we get anxious and uncomfortable. The Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov once said, “I hate arriving in a new town. I have no idea who I tip my hat to and who I can kick into the gutter.”

Last week, I wrote about the what I called “fast sewing.” Briefly put, if fast fashion is an urge to keep up with the newest trends, designers and retailers, which is ever-accelerating, then fast sewing is an urge to keep up with the newest fabrics, sewing patterns and bloggers, which has also increased its speed. I received a lot of thoughtful responses to what I wrote, and a few sparked a new conversation. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to go off on another tangent.

In many replies, people confessed that the reason they became a “fast sewer” was because they felt pressured to make what everyone else was making. Going back to my first analogy, they evaluated the current sewing scene and realized that everyone ranked above them, and they were at the bottom. I have fallen victim to this too. After seeing Sophie and Lizzy’s Gabriola skirt, I changed my sewing plans, which I rarely do, and made my own.

I’m going to speak candidly – I think status is a good thing. Comparing oneself to others, another good thing. Seeing someone else succeed while you don’t, also a good thing. Jealousy, yep, that can be a good thing too. I wish motivation was solely self-inflicted, but in my experience, it has come from seeing what others have and I don’t, and then pushing myself to achieve the same.

You may not agree with me at this point.

fast fashion fast sewing 2 (1 of 2)

In one of the best articles I’ve read in the Wall Street Journal lately, which was actually a commencement speech, Admiral William H. McRaven said to the senior class at the University of Texas at Austin:

“During SEAL training the students are broken down into boat crews. Each crew is seven students—three on each side of a small rubber boat and one coxswain to help guide the dingy. Every day, your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surfzone and paddle several miles down the coast.

In the winter, the surf off San Diego can get to be 8 to 10 feet high and it is exceedingly difficult to paddle through the plunging surf unless everyone digs in. Every paddle must be synchronized to the stroke count of the coxswain. Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously tossed back on the beach.

For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.

You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help—and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the goodwill of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.”

We’re all in the same boat, seamstresses and seamsters, paddling to arrive at our destination, wherever that may be. If we act alone, not considering what our teammates are doing, our boat wouldn’t make it. It would capsize and we would drown. We need each other, and we need to look at what the other is doing, because that pushes us to do our own part. Seeing Tilly publish a book, I want to do the same, and that’s what is keeping me going as I search for publishers. Also, watching Heather release The Bombshell and then The Nettie is inspiring me to get the ball rolling on a Madalynne line.

My point? Comparison isn’t always a bad thing. We’re all in competition with each other, but it’s a healthy competition. There will be no winner in this game, we’re all just out to have fun.


  1. Reply


    This certainly rings true for me. I see all these fabulous things people and making and doing and I always want to get in on the act too. But the sewing/craft world is so friendly that you are right – it is competition but in a nice way.

  2. Reply

    Victoria Beppler

    You hit the nail on the head AGAIN! I really, really agree with you. The reason I’ve been sewing up so many Lane Raglan sweatshirts? I saw another blogger’s instagram and HAD to have one (or four) for my wardrobe. The best part is they all have a place and I still thought about it before I sewed them up–it was just in a different way.

    And I might never have sewn them up and continued to develop my skills if I didn’t see it somewhere else. Yes, comparison can be a good thing, especially in the sewing blog world.

    I would most certainly buy your book/pattern line, and I’m happy to see you’ve been inspired by other bloggers as we all paddle along!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I will always continue to paddle. ALWAYS.

  3. Reply

    Heather Lou

    God, I love Nabokov. What a great quote! Couldn’t agree more here Maddie – and I will admit that I am very competitive. Not in a throw people under the boss/stinkeye/bitchface way – more of a push myself to be as good as humanly possible. It’s not ALWAYS healthy and being too obsessed with status and likes is dangerous. It’s hard to find a balance, but keeping kind and compassionate is half the battle. Recognize the ego and try not to let it rule everything.

    and ps – if anyone has the work ethic needed to get in the pattern biz, its you!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Thank you. I’m pushing myself to get there. Hopefully I can join you and others and be an indie pattern maker.

  4. Reply


    this is really thoughtful, maddie, and, as seems to be happening so much lately, could be a response to a conversation i’ve been having in my own head. thanks for sharing your perspective.

  5. Reply


    Obviously the mob mentally inherent in human nature is alive and well in the social media sewing community. I’m not saying that this is a good or bad thing. I’ve just simply noted that sewing then does not become a way to combat “fast fashion” when individuals are sewing in quantity and for necessarily striving for excellent craftsmanship.

    • Reply

      Natasha Estrada

      I think they don’t know any better. They sew to match their previous level of consumption. Self taught sewers also don’t have that person (remember homec) looking over their shoulder and telling them to rip it out and do it again.

  6. Reply

    Ally Mariko

    I am a super uncompetitive person! I will say that RIGHT OFF THE BAT!! For me all the things you’re saying totally ring true, but perhaps just with a different light! I guess for me I see all the amazing projects around and just feel so inspired! Filled to the brim with excitement that I am surrounded by such a diverse and bubbling community, that produces an effervescence I just feed off of. As someone who has in the past struggled with mental well-being, I very much shy away from self antagonism (not to say you do! Just sharing my process 🙂 ) I really try not to give things like status, as in other people’s perceptions of me and my success (or lack there of haha), too much weight. I find it bogs down my creative process as I end up blaming myself for any perceived shortcomings, instead of investing in recognizing how awesome everything around me is. That there is intrinsic beauty in what other people accomplish, and that’s something I want for myself; that I am worthy of that beauty in my life. I feel so indebted to the people that create around me for that reason, and am totally digging that paddle analogy. I think as I progress through my own twisted cloud of life, I will very much reach a point where I can engage in a bit of competitive spirit; but for now, I am just glad to be in the boat!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      You have great willpower if you are an uncompetitive person! That is a great feature, so hang onto that!

    • Reply

      Natasha Estrada

      I think I’m the same. I’m intrinsically motivated and I usually I get what I want. But what others do doesn’t really have much impact on my drive.

  7. Reply


    I can be a very competitive person…but not with sewing. I LOVE to draw inspiration from wherever I can find it- Pinterest, browsing stores, people on the street, movies, magazines, and of course sewing blogs! But I guess because I am not seeking to make a business out of it, I don’t feel competitive at all. I’ve had a career (very different than sewing) and now I am a stay at home mom, and sewing is my passion and my creative outlet and I just love everything about it 🙂

  8. Reply

    juliana calado

    What I get from this is kind of a suggestion, maybe, of taking what could go a bad way – like jealousy and competition – and using it as fuel to push ourselves to achieve what we value.
    This is a great way to put it!
    And when your book comes out I hope you can put your pearls of wisdom together with your sewing/pattern making knowledge. You really have a great perspective about things, it’s being so helpful!

Leave a Reply