Can’t See the End: Sewing with ADHD

This post was cross-listed on my new sewing blog, Comedy of Errors.

A twitter-story for a few years ago was making the rounds again, on working memory and people with ADHD.

I’m terrible at ending my writing. Always have been. I rarely plan out very far, because, well, I have literally no idea what the end “looks” like, but I have been writing for so long, that I know the steps well enough to be able to get started. That, and writing is one of my hyper-focuses, plus a distraction from writing I *should* be doing…

Anyway, one of the things that attracted me to sewing was that there was a clear beginning, middle, and end. It was frustrating at first because my brain was like, YOU JUST START SEWING, and the pattern was like lol nah, that’s not actually how it works. But now that I know the routine and ritual (printing the pattern, assembling the pattern, cutting the fabric, THEN sewing), it’s not hard for me to get started because my brain knows what to expect.

What struck me about the tweet was that I cannot imagine the pattern in any other way than what is shown on the pattern envelope or marketing. If it’s a solid blue dress, then I cannot picture it in almost any other color or pattern. The exception is “close” colors, like I can see a solid dark blue dress being black or red, or light blue being pink or a lemon yellow. But a dress that I have only seen as a solid? LOL, forget me ever thinking I could make it in, say, a floral print. Or a dress that I am introduced to that used a pattern? Can’t imagine it as a solid.


Take for example the pattern I am working on right now, the Hannah Dress from Victory Patterns. The only reason I have been able to picture making this dress is because I have a similar black-and-white patterned fabric and a white fabric for the overlay on the back, like what one of the images shows. And, of course, the pattern HAS to be geometrical, it CANNOT be abstract or flowers or stripes or anything else BECAUSE THAT IS NOT WHAT IS SHOWN.

When I think back to all of the outfits I have made so far, they have all been made in a fabric color/pattern that closely resembles the fabric used for marketing or promoting the pattern. Every. Damn. One. The only exceptions are the DVF wrap dress and the shirtdress, and that’s only because I’ve a) seen enough wrap dresses in my life (particularly from the 1970s and 1980s) and b) enough shirtdresses that I can call up other images of those styles of dresses.

Although I still really want to make that green version of the Kalle Shirtdress. Or maybe I just think that if I made the green dress, I’ll look like the model wearing it. I mean, we’re both blond…

When I finally got around to organizing my fabric and patterns, I only included the line drawings (if available) for each pattern. That was a mistake because I could not for the life of me ever remember what the final product looked like – I couldn’t picture it. So I added a screenshot of the “cover” of the patterns, to see what each finished garment would look like. But now, I’m thinking that I need to find MORE pictures, more examples, to add…somewhere (OH GOD AM I GOING TO START USING PINTEREST?). That way, I can see the garment sewn in multiple fabrics, colors, and prints. And then maybe MAYBE my ADHD brain will let me start to imagine different finished garments using the fabric that I have, rather than hunting down the exact same fabric/pattern someone else used.

The down side of this is that my ADHD brain LOVES whatever “new” version of the dress it has last seen, so I keep discarding dress/fabric pairings because I saw something “better” and by better I mean more recent.

Why did I even start sewing? lol.

I also think, though, that this inability to picture the finished garment in my head is why I’m ok with mistakes. I have no idea what a perfect dress is supposed to look like! That mistake? Well, it’s part of the dress now because I can’t imagine it NOT having the mistake! Certainly, I have a vague image in my mind, but it’s always off because I don’t look like any of the models who usually are shown wearing the finished garment. And even those that do provide models wearing different sizes, I can’t tell which size I would be (like, I literally forget what my body looks like). So it’s always surprising what the garment and I look like when I finally put it on.

I never really understood this whole thing about working memory struggles until I thought about sewing and how I can’t make patterns in anything other than what has already been shown to me.

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