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was about doing it over. If I didn’t do it right – if I didn’t topstitch perfectly or I didn’t edit a photo how I wanted – I ripped it out or I started over again. I wrote last week that I was frustrated at the pace and output of my current projects. Amy finished an entire sew-along and I’m still fine tuning patterns and construction. We all know who’s the tortoise and who’s the hare in that race! Ironically, and it’s funny how things pop into your life at just the right moment, I watched the movie Midnight in Paris (it’s cheesy but it’s Woody Allen). If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a screenwriter who on a trip to Paris with his fiance, mysteriously travels back to the 1920s every night at midnight. He meets Gertrude Stein, hangs with Dali and Hemingway, and almost has a fling with Adriana, Hemingway and Picasso’s love interests. The movie had me thinking about the artists of the time and their work. Do you know how many sketches Picasso drew before painting Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon? Hundreds! It wasn’t until he hashed out all the details that he started painting the final piece in the summer of 1907. Can you imagine a seamstress sewing a hundred muslins before sewing the final garment? That would be a huge no-no in today’s blogging world. But maybe that’s not a bad thing; maybe that’s something to look up to. I follow so many seamstresses who jump from making a top to a skirt, jacket, or undergarments. When they post a finished project and are unhappy with the results, they move onto another project. Why move on? Why not think of the project as a sketch, one of many preliminary sketches (not just one) that if corrected, will lead up to a masterpiece.

This had me thinking about how long it takes to get good at anything. Do you know I’ve been blogging for six years and for five of those years, I was bad… really bad. I was a cheesy fashion blogger who wrote about runway shows and it designer handbags. You can barf now. Also, you may or may not think that I am high and mighty for working in technical design but did you know that for the first year, I was awful and got yelled at? A lot too. There were so many incorrect tech packs that I sent out and looking back at some of my old work (I have it save on my computer), I think “what the hell was I thinking?” But everyone has to be bad before getting good. Even experts started off as bad. What differentiates novices from experts is that experts kept taking what they messed up on and fixed it.

So, I’m still in the sketching phase but I finally feel like my mistakes – my doing-it-over-again – and my efforts to fix them are inching me closer to something good. It doesn’t matter if it takes me five or fifteen bras before I become “skilled” because with each bra, my construction gets cleaner and I tighten up the fit and that’s all that matters to me. Just look at the makings of my current bra below (it’s not finished). Not too bad, right? Would I make you even more excited if I told you it is lined with something polka dotted!?

more snapshots



  1. Reply

    Meris Mullaley

    I am curious, where did you get your dress form (or where would you recommend for finding a *good* professional level dress form). I currently have an entry-level adjustable one that has helped in so many projects. However, I am looking forward to diving deeper into pattern drafting and I would love to eventually get a muslin-covered dress form that is my size. Thanks!

    • Reply


      I’ve never tried this method, but it’s something I’ve been planning to do for a while: http://jezebel.com/5803791/how-to-make-a-custom-dress-form-part-one . There’s also a company that sells a kit and can send someone out to plaster cast your body, but I don’t remember what it was called (however it shouldn’t be difficult to find). Those are just a few I can remember off the top of my head, thought I’d share.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I bought my dress form at Superior Model Form in NYC and I highly recommend them. They’re on the pricey side but you pay for quality (FYI – the dress form in the picture above is not mine).

      If you want to know more about the tools I use (sewing machine, dress forms, camera), check out my ‘I Am’ page. I answer this question and many more!

  2. Reply


    I know what you mean, of course you’ve seen my work in progress painting GIFs, so I hardly have to explain myself in this case XD. I also make at least one or two muslins for each sewing project I do, and for what it’s worth, I’m also struggling with my self drafted bra (although I just realized that I was sent much smaller underwires than I was expecting). So is that going to be a strapless bra? If so, are you going to add boning?

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      No, the bra is not strapless – it is not finished (the straps are sewn on last). But if I was making a strapless bra, I would…
      1. Add boning at side seam and seam under cup
      2. Undercut the top edge on EACH pattern piece 1/16-1/8″ so that it ‘hugs’ my chest (that doesn’t seam like a lot but 1/16-1/8″ on each pattern piece equals about 3/4″ total)
      3. Use elastic that has a silicone gripper (sticky side) to help it from slipping

  3. Reply


    ooh, a long-line lovely! Great fabric choice too 🙂 And yes… we all have to start somewhere. I tell the girls I sew with who have been it for a little less time than myself that when they freak out about comparing skill levels. I’m no couturist, but I made I LOT of crap things before I got half decently good. But you learn the most from your mistakes!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Amen, sister!

  4. Reply

    Heather Lou

    I’m on muslin 3 of my bra pattern (better late then never, right?) and that’s just for my modification to the Elan. God help me when I start messing with vertical cup seaming….. so yes Maddie, sometimes you gotta work it work it work it. Have you read the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers? It’s great, and he theorizes that it takes 10,000 hrs of practice to master anything truly. So you’re on your way.

  5. Reply


    Ooooh, even if it needed a re-do, it’s looking cute as heck! Can’t wait to see your next pattern. Take your time. You won’t regret it later!

  6. Reply


    I always told my painting students that for every 10 paintings you make, you might get one, just MAYBE one that isn’t entirely shitty. Not exactly confidence boosting, but it’s more about the process and the learning. I think that generally holds true for sewing too. But I also don’t believe in “masters” of anything. No one is impervious to mistakes, so why not lighten up and just keep viewing it all, everything, as a process! Your bra is looking luscious – I love it!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Luscious. Ooo, that’s my new favorite word.

      You’re absolutely right about what you said you your painting students. Do you know how many photos were taken during any one of my photo shoots? Hundreds! And out of those hundreds, we only like a handful – maybe twenty.

  7. Reply

    Carlee McTavish

    Your new bra looks amazing! Please do take your time, we are in no rush, we’d rather see something that looks beautiful when finished (not that anything I’ve ever seen you finish has *not* looked beautiful). Also: if that is your dog, he/she is adorable!

  8. Reply

    Anna Depew

    Awesome, I love the bra! You’re completely right about muslins. I stress again and again to the people who buy my patterns, make a muslin! Test the fit! That’s the whole point of sewing your own, so that it’s better than everyone-else’s, and it only get’s better by being perfected 🙂 i sewed about 20 versions of French Knickers before I got my “Ma Cherie” pattern just how I wanted it, and it was worth it! Keep up the good work, you’re making art, after all!

  9. Reply


    I agree with you about taking your time and getting it right! I only wish I had more patients with muslin. You are going to be such and expert bra maker at the end of this process! I love the one pictured, so far it’s looking beautiful!

  10. Reply


    Thanks for sharing this; it’s exactly what I needed to read this evening 🙂

  11. Reply


    I’m so glad I read this tonight. Finding one thing and perfecting it has been on my mind lately and is also responsible for my lack of output. I know it’s all a matter of taking one step at a time but the idea of perfection can be overwhelming

  12. Reply

    Sarah Norwood

    Great Post! People who are really good at something are usually good at that thing because they have practiced the art a million times. I’m also a firm believe that no matter how good you are, there is always room for improvement 🙂 I sew a lot of lingerie, I’m getting pretty good at it. I still have areas to improve upon!

  13. Reply

    Beth Kaukl

    I think many of us get stuck into the ‘it’s got to be perfect the first time” mentality. And it is harder to overcome when we are bombarded by the beautiful and exceptional projects found in the blogsphere. I have to keep reminding myself that many of the bloggers that I follow have been doing this for years and most likely, their failed projects are not publicly advertised.

    With each project (well done or not) I learn more about my craft and about myself. If the project speaks to me and needs tweaking, then I will work on perfecting the fit etc. If I have learned that it really does not represent me; then I move on to something else.

    I have really become inspired by the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi. I love that imperfect things are celebrated for what they are.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

  14. Reply


    Hey, I have that fabric! Someday mine will be a simple blouse, but what a beautiful bra it makes… I *know* it’s always worth it to take your time, practice, and fix mistakes, but lately I’ve been rushing and feeling pressured, so thanks for the reminder 🙂

  15. Reply


    Getting it right is more important than getting it out. That can mean a lot of practice, tests and do-overs.

    Incidentally, I never use the term “seamstress.” That’s a term for a low level worker in a sewing factory. I don’t find its use quaint or cute. If I have to refer to myself as anything, I call myself a “sewer” or “self-sewer.”

  16. Reply


    I love this post and the message. Thanks for this! 🙂

  17. Reply

    Melanie Yarbrough

    Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have a song, “10,000 hours” about following your passions and working hard. My favorite line, by far, is this one: “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint/ the greats are great because they paint a lot.” There’s a reason for the saying, “Practice makes perfect.”

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