My friend Suzanne called the other day and read me some pattern instructions for a skirt she was making. She hadn’t done much sewing since her son was small, and was having trouble understanding the instructions. She thought I might be able to interpret them because back when the earth was still cooling, I had a dressmaking business. But what she read didn’t make any sense to me, so she brought her machine, the fabric, and the pattern to my house and we pored over it together.
A skirt should be the easiest thing in the world to make, but the Simplicity pattern people had outwitted themselves and made a skirt pattern with five or six different variations. The variations came about by pairing a waistband of varying widths with skirts of varying styles. To add to their cleverness, they had written instructions in several languages. Unfortunately, the English-language instructions had not been written by an English-speaking person. I suspect they hadn’t been written by a person who sewed, either, because the steps weren’t given in numerical order, but sort of tossed out for people to sort through and find the right one for their particular skirt style. The most confusing thing was that they referred to different skirt pieces by the same label. They called both the waistband and the pocket front a “yoke,” for example, which made me crazy. Following the instructions was like deciphering hieroglyphics carved on a rock.
True to our personalities, Suzanne took pleasure in the fact that she was learning something new, while I whipped out a red pen and edited the instructions and relabeled pattern pieces. It took three sessions of sewing to get it right, but we ended up with a nifty one-of-a-kind skirt. By the time we finished, Suzanne was already planning the next one, and I was considering applying for a job with the Simplicity pattern people as editor of their English-speaking sewing instructions.