Written by Laura Chaney, daughter I’ve been crafting and sewing since I was a small child, thanks to Mom’s own interests and dedication to teaching her children sewing and crafting skills. Trying new things and learning new skills wasn’t just for one gender in our house (nor should it be anywhere), but both my brother and I were encouraged to try all kinds of different crafts and projects that ignored traditional gender lines. As an adult I can look back on over 30 years of crafting, DIY and sewing adventures and appreciate the lessons that I’ve learned from crafting and creating. These lessons aren’t just how to sew an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance (although I think I’m pretty good at that one by now, too), but LIFE lessons.
Lesson 1: Patience is important, even (especially) when it’s something that’s challenging or new.
- You start a new project and you are OMG SO EXCITED. And then you realize how hard it is to try a new technique. It’s easy to give up or feel defeated when you feel like you’re not learning or improving fast enough, but you need to fight that feeling.
- Learning a new skill, whether it’s a new sewing technique like English Paper Piecing, learning to drive a manual transmission or memorizing your piece for the piano recital takes time. No matter how many life hacks, tricks or tips that you might try, you’re still going to need to practice the skill of patience as you learn.
Lesson 2: Sometimes you just have to rip something out and try it again.
- You’re sewing rows of a quilt together and when you pull it out of your machine you realize your seams are just not matching up at all. You have a choice to either ignore the seams and keep going, or ripping the stitching out, re-pinning your seams and giving it another go. Most of the time, this is the right option. Take a deep breath, frog (undo) your stitches and try again.
|Even Kermit has to frog his stitches sometimes.|
- You won’t get everything right on your first try, just like you probably didn’t perfectly parallel park your car the first time you tried. But you don’t give up and leave your car in the middle of the street; you realign your car and try again.
Lesson 3: But sometimes you need to move on from something.
- Despite Lessons 1 and 2, there will likely come a time when you just need to give up and move on. This might be giving up on a project that no longer brings you joy, and getting it out of your house. It might also be the realization that you’ve ripped a seam apart so many times that the fabric is now frayed and pulled out of shape. At that point it’s better cut fresh fabric and start over with the sewing on that block.
- Things that I’ve moved on from in my life: studying German, figure skating, backpacking trips, jello shots, and bad relationships.
Lesson 4: Don’t be afraid to try new things.
- You never know what new adventure might lead to your next great project or skill. Mom was hesitate to try English paper-piecing and only went to a lecture on it because I wanted to go (and she’s a great Mom). Turns out she liked the technique and it inspired a whole new world of creativity for her. This led to developing the English Paper-Piecing style technique that we use to make our 3-D fabric containers, which in turn led to our first published book! (Contain It! English Paper-Pieced Style Accessories).
- New adventures that have rewarded me 100x fold: studying Russian, moving to California, taking my first Spin class and making an appointment to speak with a publishing editor at a quilt show!
Lesson 5: Practice is important; develop that muscle memory.
- The first time I used English paper-piecing to sew a Grandmother’s Flower Garden block it took forever. It felt like I was all thumbs as I tried to correctly position the paper template, fabric and needle to sew the seams together; all while attempting to avoid getting blood on my block by stabbing the needle into my thumb. But how I’ve made hundreds of these blocks, so when I start a new one my fingers move into position automatically.
- It took me a loooong time to learn how to ride a bike. I’m not sure what my hold-up was, but it really was a struggle to me. Now, of course, I can just hop on a bike and ride off without any thought, but that’s only because my muscle memory is firmly in place for me.
We’d love to hear any life lessons you’ve learned from crafting! Share your experiences in the comments below.