I and all of my fellow students have been working away on getting our 5 outfits completed before the middle of March. The lead photo on this entry is one I took of a beautiful top that one of the students has made out of…wait for it…fabric woven from a fiber made from pineapple leaves. Amazing! It was so beautiful I had to share.
So a week ago I had to bring my 3rd finished outfit to class. It was complete except for the hem which was just basted. I spent an entire day a few weeks ago on a tulle ruffle that I decided to add for more structure to hold the bottom of the skirt out to display its fullness and the appliqué better. I had bought many meters of black tulle and Sunday morning cut it and gathered it and attached it to the lining – the weight of the tulle was not heavy enough to hold out the outer skirt. So I removed it went back to the store and bought many more meters of a stiffer heavier tulle and did it all again. By 10 pm. Sunday night it was finished and ready to bring to class. I know that other students in the class have had similar experiences where they had the wrong material, or had to rethink the construction, or could not easily achieve what they could see in their mind. The whole process is one that involves experimentation, trial and error and an ability to stick with the work despite periods of intense frustration. Here is the dress hanging in my office the day of the class that it was due.
I am now working on outfit #4 which is a pair of tailored shorts and a shirt with a large coloured appliqué medallion on the back. This is where all the time consuming work in this outfit lies. Here is a picture of this work in progress as it is laid out on my dining room table right now. Outfit #5, the last one, is due a week after this outfit #4 and I haven’t even cut it out yet, but I am starting to see the finish line on the horizon.
I learned something about our students’ experience this week…it really is something I always knew from my own university experience but had forgotten. Students take more than one class and each class has different demands – some have less work than others, some have different kinds of work than others. But it is rare that a student has the time and ability to give 100% of the work and effort required to do their very best in every single assignment in every single class. I know that instructors expect that their students are focusing fully on the work that they have assigned. But for most students they can’t do it all. Some things will get more time and attention than others…there are trade offs and choices to be made.
Some might focus more on the things that are hardest for them because they will take more time. Some might focus more on the things that interest or excite them the most. Some might focus more on the things that are worth more in terms of grades. Some might focus more on the things that they are really good at or come easy.
In the last month I have given every spare moment that I am not doing my day job to sewing these garments as well as I can…the quality of the workmanship really matters to me. I realized last night, as I was sitting at the dining room table meticulously placing pieces of the appliqué medallion on the back of the outfit #4 shirt, that I have not thought about or made any progress at all on my communication project for weeks. First I felt panic. Then I felt shame and concern that I would let my instructor down. Then I started to think about whether I could manage on much less sleep for the next month. Then I reminded myself that I am not actually enrolled in the courses, will not get any credits or grades and that I am attempting to do parts of two capstone courses while working full time. I also reminded myself that I have had some big projects on my plate – it is the middle of budget season, I have a review of the university’s sexual assault policies and practices to complete and a report to write that I and many stakeholders are anxious to see done well.
The point of the In Their Shoes project was to understand better what our students are experiencing by sharing some of those experiences. I certainly feel like I have achieved some of that understanding…or reminders of what I kind of already knew. My garments will be as well made as I can make them and then I will complete a communications project that will be much less than I would be capable of if it was the only project I had to do. Like our students, there are trade offs and choices to make. Unlike some of our students however, I am still choosing to sleep…maybe if I were younger I would have made a different choice.