I have a love-hate relationship with my sewing machine that brings out the best and worst in me. I am not one to swear, but if my mother heard me while sewing, she would want to wash my mouth out with soap. I am not one to give up or throw in the towel easily, but sewing makes me wonder why I even started in the first place.
I have never excelled at domestic activities like sewing on buttons, ironing or baking, but I could do an OK job since, growing up, I was taught all of these ‘necessary’ skills by my mother and grandmothers.
Why I decided (on a whim) that I would tackle sewing as my next hobby is beyond me, but I am so glad I did. I kept hearing about how good a ‘life skill’ it is to learn how to sew.
To me, sewing has taught me more than how to stitch pieces of material together to make clothes. It has opened my eyes to things I didn’t know about myself and has given me a greater appreciation for the things I used to take for granted.
Instead of thinking up a different resolution to make at the turn of the New Year, I instead vow to try something new each year. This has typically involved trying a new sport or activity, such as dragon boating, volleyball or outdoor adventure races, to name a few—likely because sport and physical activity are where my interest and comfort level resides.
I love the thrill and challenge of trying something new—adding new experiences and memories to the toolbox of life. This year, I was inspired by a friend of mine who was posting pictures on Facebook of the clothes she made for herself and her kids. I could always feel the proud energy she shared when showing off her work, as if she was saying, “Heck yes, I did this!”
I was inspired, and like anyone with naive excitement about trying something new, I thought—if she could do it, I could too! So, with no other knowledge or research put into what was required to begin to sew, I signed up for my first four-week sewing class.
As I walked into my first lesson with my sewing machine in hand, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. The hours spent in lessons during the following weeks reminded me of the valuable lessons and simple reminders that trying something new can teach you.
Good things come from efforts that take time
As a results-oriented person, I find I am often fascinated with the end result and don’t always think about the steps needed to get there. I have a need for speed, but sewing certainly reminded me that good things take time.
I am not sure how I expected the metre of fabric I brought into the studio to magically turn into a pair of pajama shorts, and I did not know there would be so much pinning and cutting, and pinning some more, before I could even begin.
By the time I was done prepping the pieces of material I needed to sew together, I wondered how many hours these shorts would require—and they were just shorts! What would it take to make a long dress, a blouse or a blazer?
This step reminded me that the journey towards where you want to be is just as important as getting there. No Olympic athlete woke up one day, to stand on the podium, without countless hours of dedication behind them. The time spent learning the sport, practicing skills and drills, and participating recreationally before advancing to a more competitive level are all equally valuable when you consider the success of an athlete’s medal.
Although I wasn’t going to win any medal with sewing, I was going to proudly wear a pair of Canadian-print pajama shorts, and the time spent with all of the prep work would be well worth the wait!
Have patience and learn from mistakes
The well-known phrase, “If you don’t succeed the first time, try, try again,” is my motto during sewing. I can’t count the number of times I have sat down with much excitement, to sew together the pieces of material I have just cut—which has already taken much of my patience—to thread my needle (and then rethread it) or sew a line and then rip it out … again … and again.
Although it is angering to do something and then redo it several times over, I did see incremental improvements each time I had to make a correction—practice does make perfect!
Trying something new isn’t easy, and being a superstar at anything you try the first time is a lofty expectation.
That isn’t to say that feeling frustration, anger, or disappointment isn’t OK when you’re working on a new skill. It is a perfectly normal part of the process. Even though I often just want to power through and get it done during times of frustration, I have learned that stepping away to take a breath is far more effective, as I come back with a clear mindset and fresh hands.
Trying something new isn’t easy, and being a superstar at anything you try the first time is a lofty expectation. I like to think about it as the heartbeat of life—there will be ups and downs when mastering a new skill, but the rhythm keeps beating if you stick to it.
Just as taking a slow, deep breath can slow our heartbeat, sewing during times of calmness produced my best results. Stress made everything go too quickly, which led to a lack of attention to detail and little patience, and produced the complete opposite result. As I said earlier, good things take time!
It is fascinating how our day-to-day activities can teach us so much, if we pay attention to them. I think that is why I love trying new things—it opens my eyes to a new perspective, while challenging my mental and physical abilities, and I gain a greater appreciation for the things and activities in our lives that are often taken for granted.
When I first decided to sit down in front of a sewing machine, I didn’t realize how much time, energy, care and attention to detail must be poured into the fabric before it achieves its ultimate design.
Because of this, I now look at and care for my clothes differently. I also have a greater appreciation for artisan-made clothes that cost an arm and a leg more than something similar that could be purchased at a mainstream retail shop.
There is more to be learned from sewing than how to sew a button on pants—although my husband thinks lessons like these are the best ones I brought back to our household! Who knew that a sewing machine could provide reminders of so many life lessons? I wouldn’t have known unless I tried!
What I will try my hand at next is still unknown, but I am looking forward to it already.