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Are You a Starter or a Finisher?

Making dance and skate costumes can be a long and stressful ordeal.  Knowing why you love some aspects of dressmaking and despise others can help ease your emotional response to entire process. 

Read on to discover how well you cope with the different aspects of sewing costumes.  Also, find out how Starter Finisher tendencies affect the way you learn and perform your dance or skate routines.

Know your strengths and weaknesses to maximize your dressmaking skills plus your Dancesport, Country, and Figure Skating performances.


Many personal development and business coaches tackle this “starter finisher” topic.

Not one of them addresses how being a starter or a finisher affects your dressmaking as well as your dance or skating performances…. Until now.

costume sketch, glue rhinestones, starter finisher blog post

Why Is It Important to Know Whether You Are a Starter or a Finisher?

Because knowing your work habits also means knowing your strengths and weaknesses.  Knowing whether you’re a starter or finisher helps you identify…

  • How your mind approaches work so you can better handle those emotional triggers that slow you down.
  • What you can do to increase your efficiency.
  • During what stages of a project you are most, and least, productive.
  • What your strengths and weaknesses are so you know in what areas you excel, and when to ask for help.


What is a “Starter” versus a “Finisher”?

Classic “Starters” love to begin new projects, often having several ideas going at once. Starters are usually the ones who have a lot of fresh ideas. They work well on creative teams or in think tanks because coming up with new solutions is part of a Starter’s assets.

On the down side, Starters may have a difficult time completing projects.  It is common for Starters to take longer to finish a project than what is physically necessary.  That’s okay.

starter finisher, Sew Like A Pro™ members takes 6 months hiatus on making ballroom dance dressIn my post about finishing a ballgown, I feature one of my Sew Like A Pro™ members Teri, who took a six-month break on the dress she was sewing before coming back and viewing the project with a fresh view.

Entrepreneurs, choreographers and dress designers are often Starters.  They can create a thriving business if they bring on a “Finisher” - or if they are logical and disciplined enough to weed out weak ideas and follow through with solid ones.


Classic “Finishers” are often slow beginning new or small tasks.  They commonly delay starting large projects until the very last minute, or until threat of death or divorce. 😉

Thankfully, Finishers tend to be detail-oriented and are great at accomplishing things on the to-do list.   Finishers can focus on the task at hand like nobody's business.  However, they usually do not like getting pulled off the current project and thrust into the middle of another one.

Keep in mind that some folks are well-rounded and can successfully both the beginning and ending phases of projects.  If you're one of those lucky folks, feel free to speed read through the article.  If you're like the majority of us who have a strong and a weak suit, pay close attention to the following information about dressmaking and performance routines.

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  1. LOVES researching inspiration photos and the design process (though finalizing the sketch is often difficult for a Starter since it finishes this phase.)
  2. ENJOYS choosing colors and looking for fabrics.
  3. LIKES cutting out fabrics. Maybe???  (Some Starters do not like the precision and focus involved in cutting.)
  4. ENJOYS a creative challenge when part of the dress does not fit well and a fresh fitting solution is needed.
  5. LOATHES final sewing steps such as finishing off neckline and legs, hand-sewing bra cups and hook & eyes.
  6. DISLIKES rhinestoning… Though rhinestoning has a beginning, middle and end so a Starter may find the early stages of stoning fun, but will likely lose interest about half way through and wish the dress was finished already.


  1. DESPISES the design process. Finds it extremely difficult to convert the inspiration dresses into viable sketches.
  2. ENJOYS pattern making and cutting fabrics since both tasks require focus and precision and are not long-term tasks with a creative beginning.
  3. LOVES most sewing tasks because a lot of items can be checked off the to-do list!
  4. DISLIKES doing fittings since it can be highly creative and imaginative.
  5. ENJOYS detail hand sewing that completes the dress.
  6. LIKES rhinestoning because it’s detail-oriented and truly is the finishing touch on the dress.


Confession: For the 25+ years that I made competition-ready dance and skate costumes, I despised the last steps of the process.

Sometimes I felt like my skin crawled while doing the final hand sewing or rhinestoning on a costume.  It just seemed to drag on forever.  I had no idea why I disliked it so much and that made the situation even worse!  I'd sit there trying to finish the dress, being miserable, and then chastise myself for not liking it when it was a very beautiful dress the client loved.

Meanwhile, I loved the beginning process:  I enjoyed chatting with my client to discuss which colors and shapes would look best on them.  I liked making the patterns and getting everything cut out and ready to be sewn.  Of course, these are all beginning or Starter steps.

Luckily, I hired a talented seamstress and Country dancer, Rhonda Shotts, (now a director of Colorado Country Classic),  who loved doing all the finishing details and rhinestoning that stressed me to no end!

When I started making the Sew Like a Pro™ online sewing school, I ran into the same problem. I wanted every video I edited and every webpage I created to be perfect.  I was like a hamster in a wheel, going over and over the same projects, getting nothing accomplished.

How frustrating and demoralizing! I had so many things on my to-do list. Why couldn’t I get more done?  I keep beating myself up about not being productive and efficient with my time. 

Why was I an agitated hamster in the wheel?

In a liberating moment of clarity, one of my coaches told me I was a starter, not a finisher. 

She said I must get help completing tasks so I can do what I’m best at and stop berating myself for not being able to wrap up a project.

Can you say, ahhhhhh?


Do you perform or compete in Dancesport, Country or Skating?

Whether you're a Starter or a Finisher can determine how you learn your routines and at what points in the process you are most frustrated.

After looking at the chart below, which style best suits your tendencies?


  1. LOVES thinking about ideas for a new routine: music, new choreography and mood the music sets.
  2. LIKES listening to the music to find where the crescendos are and where highlighted steps should be.
  3. CAN’T WAIT to get started designing a new costume.
  4. ENJOYS learning the new routine and usually picks it up very quickly.
  5. BEGINS TO DISLIKE the routine as it comes time to implement technique and arm styling.
  6. LOATHES the last few weeks of rehearsal. Gets easily bored or distracted and often tries to stall performing or competing since the routine doesn’t feel ready. … Starters may even suggest changing choreography or starting a new routine since the current one just “isn’t good enough”. 🙂


  1. DISLIKES the thought of beginning a new routine. Finishers often prefer to keep doing the old routine until they’re so sick of the music they can’t stand to hear it one more time.
  2. DISLIKES / HAS DIFFICULTY learning or remembering the routine. The lack of retention is most often due to so much internal resistance to starting the project, not because there is a learning deficiency.
  3. MAY LIKE OR DISLIKE deciding on costuming. If this task is discussed later in the routine’s learning curve, a Finisher is most likely to be engaged since it will be part of “finishing” the routine instead of being part of the creative beginning.
  4. ENJOYS implementing technique and arm styling and most other detail steps involved in rehearsing and perfecting the routine.
  5. FEELS READY TO PERFORM when the time comes. Says, “Let’s do it and check it off the list!”

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Once you knows your strengths and weakness, you can be more kind to yourself when things don't go the way they "should".

Or, create a well-rounded, highly productive team by calling on someone who has opposite strengths as you.

Now that you know if you are a Starter or a Finisher, how can you make your work more productive?

The starter-finisher mentality works for any sort of project, whether it’s a dress, a dance routine—or something totally unrelated like a landscaping project.

Whenever you start a new project, follow these four simple steps:

1. List what parts of the project make you excited. 

2. List what parts of the project you really don’t want to do.

3. Determine whether you are a starter or finisher on that particular project (or if you think you can do most of it with ease.)

4. Try to bring someone on board who is the opposite of you. If you are a starter, find a finisher to help you with your project.


Personal example #1:  I got lucky when I made costumes full-time.  At the time, I didn't know I was a Starter.  I hired Rhonda, an unknown Finisher, to help me with dresses.  I did the designs and fittings.   She did the tedious sewing: humming happily doing what would have put a serious scowl on my face.  It worked perfectly!  Thank goodness.

Personal example #2:  After two years of traveling around the country, I decided to settle down in one place.  That meant I was faced with a bazillion boxes of organized chaos newly escaped from my storage unit.  I caught myself opening a box, taking out most of the items, and leaving a few stragglers in the bottom.

Duh... can you say "Starter"?

These days I laugh at myself when I realize what I'm doing.  Knowing my tendency to leave the boxes partially unpacked makes it easier to remove those last few items and break down the cardboard for recycling.  That seems counterintuitive, doesn't it?

Not really.

When you can recognize your patterns and habits, it's easier to be patient with yourself and change what doesn't work.

In other words, once you knows your strengths and weakness you can be more kind to yourself when things don't go the way they "should". Whatever happens, try not to be frustrated with your weaknesses. I love how Steve Jobs' quote puts strengths and weaknesses into perspective:

In most cases, strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin.  A strength in one situation is a weakness in another, yet often the person can't switch gears.  It's a very subtle thing to talk about strengths and weaknesses because almost always they're the same thing.”

-Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple Inc.

Watch the video for more Starter Finisher details and explanations ... plus my confession about laundry.

As always, I appreciate you sharing this post with all your dancing, skating, sewing friends!



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WATCH NEXT:   It's sew  easy to get overwhelmed with choices when buying a ready-made costume or have a dress custom made.  Avoid the Overwhelm!  Get my top five tips to tame your shopping stress levels and choose more wisely.






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    2 replies to "Are You a Starter or a Finisher?"

    • Lynn

      Thank you sew much for the article “Are you a starter or finisher?”. You would think after 66 years I would know but I didn’t realize til now. I am a finisher! I could not believe how difficult it was to even come with a design, I started with the pattern instead….that was a breeze until I had to transfer my design to the fabric, what design!!! ughhh It was amazing to see how this affects all that I do. I wanted to know how to apply the rhinestones before I cut out the pattern!
      Just calm down, take one step at a time and step away from the fabric!!! Thank you again, it was very timely and greatly appreciated.

      Lynn Pulley

      • Teresa Sigmon

        My pleasure, Lynn.

        Thanks for your personal story about the topic. I’m glad you liked this post!

        Once we understand why and how we work, we can be more gracious with ourselves and feel better about taking responsibility for completely our “weak” areas without berating ourselves for it taking a long time.

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