faux-liberty x anabela

A few months ago, I lost all confidence in my ability to sew. I had always been a little self-conscious about the fact that I was self-taught, but suddenly I became unhappy with everything I made. I was getting better at stitching neckties since they are mostly hand-stitched, but I would feel discouraged making even a basic tote. Everything was all wrong, I thought. I had no new ideas, and when I did, everything stalled. I thought that having a dedicated sewing room would increase my productivity, and I looked into buying a new machine. Of course, it wasn't that simple.

On top of this, I wanted to make a skirt for a friend as a Christmas present. Christmas 2008. I still haven't finished the skirt. I always had an excuse: my serger needs to be tuned up, the automatic buttonholer on my machine is unreliable, etc. I couldn't make any garments for myself because I would feel too guilty. Of course, it didn't matter, because I thought that everything I made was garbage anyhow. I would start things and never finish them (cf. here and here). I would look at the perfect things that other people had made and focus on the perfect stitches holding the perfect bias binding perfectly in place. I felt like a fraud.

Earlier this week I decided that barring myself from making any new garments for myself was the wrong approach. I needed to get my confidence back somehow. I pulled out the Stylish Dress Book and chose pattern 'K' for a new blouse. It was the perfect project to remind me that, oh, yes! I might not be an expert, but I can still make things with my hands.

I like my little blouse. It has a nice loose fit (I especially like the dropped shoulders), and even if Cacharel or A.P.C. X Liberty or even authentic Liberty fabric is beyond my means at the moment, at least I can have a floral cotton lawn blouse of my own.

(I still have to put on a few more buttons -- that automatic buttonholer excuse is valid! I had to turn the knob by hand to get the second buttonhole made.)


  1. i know what you mean! i feel like such an inadequate knitter, so various projects sit in a drawer unfinished. i guess that's why i put all my energy into finding handmade things to buy.

    the one thing i've started doing lately is cooking and baking. turns out, it isn't too hard after all. and even if it doesn't look fancy, at least it's nutritious and tastes good (well, most of the time)!

    i'm glad to see that you're sewing again!

  2. Anonymous17.7.09

    Oh, Anabela, way to go!
    I'm in Toronto too, and there's a shop on queen st. that has a limited selection of liberty prints for $10 per metre!!!
    It's called LA fabrics and its not far west of spadina.
    It makes it a doable addiction ;)

  3. yup sending you an email right now...

  4. This is exactly why I adore your blog! -Your utter honestly. I completely identify with this angst. I heap praise on everyone but myself and can second guess anything I create till kingdom come. But, for what it's worth, you are brilliant. Don't stop.

  5. so so pretty, i love anything liberty-esque. you should definitely make more of these!

  6. it looks great, really good. i find it so inspiring that you are self taught, as am i, but not quite as well self taught as you! i hope to be better one day, when i have more time, (how's that for an excuse?), there are so many skills i want to learn and perfect, so it's good to see you tackling your own sewing demons and winning!

  7. It looks so cute! I always tell myself that it's better to have something with little flaws than nothing, I tend to be quite a perfectionist as well.

  8. this is stunningly good. please keep sewing, you are wonderful! xxx

  9. really? you!?! but you are so talented! and look at that super cute blouse. And I don't even see the point of getting Liberty fabric..it's so expensive that it makes it not fun!

  10. your top looks beautiful!
    and completely beautifully made! you make stuff really well!

    where do you get hold of the beautiful pattern books you have.
    i can never find really nice patterns and my pattern cutting skills are just not good enough

    asher x

  11. I think all creative people go through temporary bouts of having the mojo ebb away for a time. But hang in there, and it comes back! Just getting over a bout myself of having briefly lost the Quilting Mojo. I switched to cross stitch until I found the ideal border fabric for a quilt I had stalled on, and that was enough to get me going again.
    And, yes, we are all our own worst critics. Try not to talk yourself out of your great ideas!

  12. Ditto to the above comments! This is one of the reasons I love your blog so much - you're honest about the struggles you sometimes encounter while creating. This simultaneously *blows my mind* because you are SO TALENTED - and it also makes me feel better, because I realize that even really talented people sometimes doubt their abilities. (Which in turn encourages me to keep creating stuff!) So, I guess what I'm saying is: Thanks for being awesome, and keep up the incredible work! (That blouse is a total winner!)

  13. your blouse is beautiful.
    so much of sewing is a learning process and by doing one just gets better.
    this post is wonderful

  14. I think your blouse turned out so well. Happy for you that you tried again!

    If you ever feel like everyone is posting perfectly completed sewing projects, you can cure yourself by looking at my blog (*snicker*). I also keep trying, though. It is good to persevere.

  15. Blouse=beautiful!

    And definitely don't get down on your fabulous work - just keep plugging away, and one day you'll look back and realize how much you've learned. :)

    Most of all, no matter what you make, people will know how much time and care you put into it and will love it all the more. Liberty fabric or not - love is the secret ingredient!

  16. Anabela, I have been the recipient of some of your handiwork and so I know for a FACT that your work is FLAWLESS! Seriously. If there are any "mistakes" they are INVISIBLE! Don't get down on yourself. You do good work! You are so talented. The proof is in the pudding.

    Also, I think every sewer has a pile of discarded sewing projects. I myself lugged a few across the country six years ago and I STILL haven't finished them!!! How's that for lack of motivation! There's a skirt in my box of unfinished projects that I started back in the 90s while watching reruns of My So Called Life.
    So there.

  17. you make beautiful things :) and you know if are also working full time, give yourself a break. that's a huge amount of energy to ask from yourself. but it's why i like to see my Flickr sets and blog, i always think i am getting nowhere, but then i look back at all these photos and realize how much i have done. maybe, it's stress about perfection and failure. we're brought up to strive for the 1st and not allow for the 2nd. but neither are the end all and be all. something like that. i think you are more than a little bit of alright. and i love that blouse.

  18. I love your honesty! I think everyone feels this way sometimes...especially since we really put ourselves out there with our making of things. Keep up the good work! I don't think I could sew a blouse!

  19. Oh my that blouse is just so pretty and I can't wait to see you wear it in person! In regards to insecurities, I get them too. I have had so many flops(knitting flops, sewing flops, baking flops) not to mention I'm terrified of buttonholes. I'm so glad you were able to push the evil voices away and make a wonderful blouse that restored your confidence in your abilities.
    Ps. My Dad still loves his tie. And wow, it's hand-sewn? See I'm so oblivious to tie-making I didn't even know you had to hand sew them. That's amazing!

  20. i'm anxious for the day i can buy some anabela/fieldguided clothes in your etsy shop,, keepign my fingers crossed!xo

  21. Well done!!! It looks great. I love it!!!!

  22. oh how lovely!

    my friend loved the tie! it was great!

    and everything you make is darling!
    i wish i could own it all, really!

  23. That little blouse looks fantastic! I know what you mean though about confidence with sewing. I have so many things I want to adjust and sew but I keep making excuses because I know I'm not going to make a very good job of it. Practice makes perfect though I guess..

  24. anabela, i feel the same as you! except i'm not really self-taught. i've taken classes before and i still manage to make the same mistakes over and over again. i have patterns that i've never made anything out of, i have started projects that i have a hard time finishing off, and all i can really do "well" are zipped up pouches.

    but anyway, i think you are doing such a good job and have always looked up to you (and karyn!) as the crafting gurus. your creations are always so impressive (like the blair cape, the neckties, your halloween costume!!!).

    your blouse is really lovely! :)

  25. Anonymous20.7.09

    I love this blouse, and would totally buy it! It's lovely and sweet and perfect. xoxo

  26. you did it! that simple, just do. thats how i get through sometimes, even through tears. just this one thing right now...

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  28. oh lady! we all feel like that, at least some of the time.
    you can only do the best you can do- machines be damned! and learn to be happy with that.

  29. good for you! sewing can be so discouraging. the more you practice, the more fun it gets though. i have trouble with perfectionism, and sometimes i think i really suck too. but just so you know, we all think you're fabulous! the needlebook i bought from you was perfect.

  30. p.s. thanks for your honesty!

  31. ok, sorry, i swear this is my last comment! i forgot to say i love the top you made! that fabric is really pretty. i've been thinking about making a dress with some fake liberty. the real stuff is so freaking expensive that i've never bought it. i always wimp out at the last second.

  32. i love the top you made....and i am completely in love with your etsy shop!

  33. Thank you all for your amazing comments! You are the best!

    Erica: I think home cooking definitely tastes best! If it were up to me I would probably eat out every day, but when Geoff whips something up with a few ingredients that tastes really good, I always have to think, wow, this is much better than eating out. Also, when we bake cookies at home I am always amazed at how delicious they are, without all those horrendous ingredients companies put in packaged cookies.

    ifihadalittlelamb: Wow, thanks for the tip! I bought the fabric for my prom dress at LA Fabrics, haha! That was 12 years ago!

    Caitlin: <3

    Jane: Aw, thanks. I just try to be me! This was actually a bit of therapy for myself. I tried to turn something negative into something positive -- I hope that came through!

    PinkBow: Thank you! I am pretty happy with it!

    Nath: Thank you! I have taken a few classes here and there, but I never studied construction or pattern drafting or any of that kind of thing, and sometimes I wish I had! When I first tried to sew I thought for sure I would abandon it, but I enjoyed it so much that I want to get better and better... at the time I had that beginner's fearlessness -- I didn't mind making huge mistakes because at least I could get away with "Oh well, I just started!" Now that fearlessness is gone and I'm just a silly little perfectionist.

    Parapluie: It's true! I don't mind a few flaws but sometimes I just can't get past them.

    Kerri: Aw, thank you so much.

    Claudia: Thank you! Liberty is so expensive, I know! But honestly, cotton lawn is my favourite type of cotton these days. It sews so nicely. It's amazing! It's hard to go back to regular cotton.

    Asher: Thank you! The pattern books all tend to come from an Etsy seller called pomadour24. There are a few Etsy sellers in Japan who make these books available to us! They can track down all the books you could ever want, as well. Good luck!

    Johanna: You too? Wow! I would never have guessed. The word "mojo" has been popping into my head quite a bit. Mojo is so essential!

    Neon: Thank you! You are too kind.

    Nancy: Thanks for the encouragement!

    SDG: No way, I would never criticize anyone but myself! I'm glad to hear that you keep trying!

    Mariel: Aw, you're right! There is a lot of love.

    April: I <3 you. Haha! My So-Called Life! Whoa, you just got hella cred for mentioning that.

    Tara: Thank you so much -- it means a lot from you!

    Summer: It's true -- with this blouse I just wanted to make something that was only for me, I didn't even want to post pictures of it. But then I realized that I learned a lesson in making it and wanted to share!

    Erica: Thank you so much! Only a few more weeks now!

    Tara-Lynn: Aw, well, I've got some things up my sleeve!

    Catherine: Thank you!

    Melissa: I'm glad to hear it! You are very sweet.

    Hannah: It's a cliche but it is true. We just need to encourage each other!

    Melissa: I've taken a few classes but most of what I know comes from making one million mistakes and ruining hundreds of dollars of fabric! I keep buying fabric and patterns and then I feel anxious because of all the money I've spent. And thank you, you are too sweet!

    Mieletcannelle: Aw, thank you!

    Jessica: Yay! It's true! No more tears.

    Claire: It is reassuring to know that I'm not alone... thank you!

    Jenny: I can't believe that you ever think for one second that you suck! You're so amazing at what you do. You should totally make a dress with some fake Liberty! As I mentioned above, cotton lawn is, like, the best fabric to sew with. I just love it.

    blue moss: Thank you so much!

  34. Oh my, how often I get stalled out. You wouldn't believe the number of re-worked projects in my sewing room. I try to be honest when I talk about a project coming to fruition (I think I used the phrase 'punch myself in the face' for one) because I think, even after I've been sewing for 12 years and not just 2, there are still going to be plenty of moments of frustration and I want to be transparent about that.