As a young girl, I remember going with my mother to the fabric store. We would sit side by side flipping through the thick pattern catalogs and I could imagine myself in every dress—from poodle skirt to wedding gown. As we walked through the aisles I would drag my hand across the bolts like speed bumps down a highway. Each one a different color, a different texture, a different possibility.
But sewing is not just an act of imagination. It is a craft in the highest sense of the word. To construct a garment requires a set of skills that is one part architect, one part engineer and one part sweatshop factory worker. While the act of sewing can be as simple and pedestrian as replacing a button, it can be as intricate and demanding as designing a haute couture gown. You gain mastery in sewing by adding techniques of ever-increasing complexity to your arsenal. The process of acquiring these skills is cumulative, experiential and, often, punitive. You learn, mostly, by making mistakes.
One day while sitting at my sewing machine, I was struck by what a rich metaphor sewing is for problem-solving. As a marketing strategist, I relish the opportunity to create a solution out of whole cloth—it is the business equivalent of spending a day at the fabric store looking through the patterns. But more often than not, clients show up with pieces of the solution that vaguely resemble a Picasso painting. You can see what they were trying to do, but somewhere along the way, the original vision got pieced together incorrectly. Regardless of how the client got themselves to this point in the project, there’s really only one way to begin to solve the problem.
You need a way to open the seams without tearing the fabric. A way to deconstruct all the pieces without being completely destructive. A chance to start over that doesn’t start all the way back at square one.
What you need is a seamripper.
A seamripper is a tool used in sewing to “rip” a seam that has been sewn together incorrectly. It consists of three components: a point that helps you lift the threads you need to cut, a curved blade that slices through the thread and a ball that keeps you from cutting the fabric.
When we seamrip, we use precision to figure out exactly where it all went wrong and pick out every stitch that’s contributing to the issue, we use courage to make the hard choices to “kill our darlings” and create new mental models that lead to creative solutions and we use care so we don’t ruin the fabric of the original vision (or cut our fellow team members).
Seamripping sounds destructive. And it is, sort of. But the difference seamripping and ripping things apart is the intent. When you’re seamripping you are deconstructing something with the goal of putting it all back together. It’s a means to an elegant and more effective end.