Perfection is Not Perfect

Ruth posted a most excellent rant about factory made vs. handmade clothes.

Why should home-made try to emulate factory production, mass market, RTW garments? What’s wrong with taking time in sewing something? A bit of tacking and basting here and there, listening to the radio and daydreaming; sitting in the sunshine with needle and thread in hand, then drifting off; getting round to finishing it off later…. dreaming of fabrics and patterns and designs and lifestyle suitability. Time – take your time… what’s the rush? Rush is RTW and commercialisation. Why should a garment have mm perfect topstitching? – Know what? That says to me computer/machine – laser guided did it, not a human.


There’s something out there that says if your sewing doesn’t look like this, then it’s crap! THAT IS CRAP. Oh the starter sewers and beginners and the novices and the nubes – you will be tempted by perfection. This is not a bad thing, but do not even try to make your skirt look like Primark made it. They didn’t make your skirt – YOU did. Take pride in that alone.

For all of my sewing life people have been saying things like, “It looks as good as store bought,” usually in rather amazed tones. I accept the compliment as it is intended but this really means two things to me: 1. That people don’t pay attention to details. If they did they would notice that the topstitching is not machine perfect, that the pattern is not matched at the side seams, and a dozen other minor things that are glaringly obvious to me. 2. That our culture has a twisted notion of quality.

I’m going to do something I never do. I’m going to talk about God for a minute but don’t worry; it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe. I’m just talking about the universal definition of God as perfection or, at the very least, as a being superior to mere humans. Look closely at nature. There is symmetry, yes, but there are also thousands of tiny irregularities. There is unevenness, crookedness, and wonkiness. So, if God’s creations are superior and those creations are irregular why do we consider things that are made so as to eliminate all irregularities to be superior?

Ready-to-wear is not the standard by which clothes should be judged and therefore “as good as store-bought” does not make sense as a compliment. There are several photos in Ruth’s post of the insides of actual haute couture garments – really expensive designer clothes. And you know what? They are hand made! They look like the insides of any hand-made garment. The stitching is not machine perfect.

I’m not saying we should embrace wonkiness, not worry about matching plaids or trying to make our topstitching as straight as possible. Oh no! We should always strive to do our best. But we should realize that not only is machine perfection impossible, it is not even a worthwhile goal.

3 thoughts on “Perfection is Not Perfect

  1. CGHill

    If mass production were always perfect, you wouldn’t find those Slightly Irregulars at [name of store] for 30 percent off.

    Come to think of it, I once bought a Slightly Irregular laptop for 30 percent off. (Small case dent; floppy door occasionally sticks.) Still works fine after 12 years.

  2. Hippie

    Mass production is almost always imperfect. The difference is, the common consumer doesn’t notice the imperfections. People who see thousands (or millions) of the product in question every day will notice things you will never, ever see. Some defects are things you wouldn’t even know are bad.

    I sometimes see bad focus lines in laser cut parts.

    I still cannot look at a freestanding range without all the BIG OBVIOUS defects popping out at me.

    I see paint covering up imperfect welds and imperfectly cleaned surfaces on new cars.

  3. Lynn Post author

    I guess that’s sort of the same thing as people not seeing the imperfections in clothes I made. I see them because I made them but other people just see the product or garment as a whole.

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