OK, firstly I need to explain the massive sacrifice I’m making in order to write this post for you. I am currently sitting in a library and there’s a lake outside the window with ducklings in it.
Seriously, half a dozen little ducklings paddling about.
And yet, here I am, valiantly dragging my eyes away from them to write these words to you. I know you can feel the pain of this sacrifice. I also hope you will understand if my eyes keep straying from the screen because: ducklings.
Obviously, I didn’t come here to discuss ducklings as the post isn’t entitled My struggle with writing a blog post while ducklings paddled about in a lake outside the window. No, it’s yet another in my series of blog posts aimed at getting you to take up knitting and sewing because it turns out there are always more ways to entice you to join the crafty side!
This story starts on the first day of my new job as I sat in the theatre and listened to the principal talk about the theme for the year.
“We’re going to get better at getting better,” she said.
The aim was to keep improving ourselves. Learn new things. Make new mistakes. Drink gallons of consoling cups of tea.
I had no problem with this (especially the bit about tea); learning new things is pretty much my favourite pastime. And as I sat there, daydreaming about learning and tea, I realised that sewing and knitting are responsible for most of my attempts to get better at getting better.
Let me show you how it works.
Crafting builds your confidence
Want a quick way to boost your confidence? Learn a new crafting skill! Forget climbing your nearest high peaks – mastering French seams in your next garment will give you a much quicker buzz. Or you could tackle cable knitting for the first time. Try knitting with smaller needles. Get your overlocker out of the box it’s been in the for the past five years. (Just me with that last one? Yes?)
The only real side-effect of this is a tendency to go around showing people the insides of your garment so they can see your gorgeous French seams. At best, people might show polite interest. On the other hand, it’s a great way to meet fellow seamstresses!
In the case of the photo above, I learned all about the strange ways some vintage knitting patterns went together. There were so many steps involved in making those ruffled sections on the cardigan (and one of those steps almost drove me insane), but it all looked amazing when it came together. Every time I wear that cardigan, I think of the effort I went to and the skills I learnt and I feel fabulous.
It’s a confidence booster that can happen in the comfort of your own home.
You will learn to overcome obstacles
One of my biggest flaws as a knitter is that I plough ahead of the instructions and it inevitably ends in me unravelling hours of work. Take the lilac jumper above. I assumed I’d need to cast on the same amount for the back as the front, so I went ahead and cast on a whole bunch of stitches and knitted about one third of the piece…
And then I discovered I should have read the instructions and cast on a completely different amount of stitches.
Cue me wailing with despair as I pull out row after row of knitting.
The crafting world is full of obstacles like this and it would be tempting to just throw your project in a corner and decide to take up making ice-cream instead. But no. You keep going. You discover that you can make it past the obstacle and you know it’s going to be worth the effort…
…even if you’re muttering It’s going to be a gorgeous jumper over and over between gritted teeth as you watch your knitting unravel. It will be worth it.
I’d love to report that these self-made obstacles taught me a lesson for my future knitting projects, but it’s not true. I still plough ahead and I still unravel, although I do try to branch out and make new mistakes from time to time. So it turns out I can’t promise that knitting or sewing will fix any character flaws.
A safe place to make mistakes
I’ve always enjoyed the security of CTRL-Z. When I was at school, I’d muck around with whatever programs we were using in class, confident that I was a CTRL-Z away from fixing anything I happened to break.
It’s the same with sewing. If I decide to learn a new skill – such as the all-in-one-facing in the photo above – I do so in the confidence that I have the sewing equivalent of CTRL-Z. In this case, the dress was a toile (a practice version of a garment), so I was allowed to make mistakes on it.
Even if I did make a mistake, I could always un-pick it and start again.
And if I happened to ruin the garment entirely, then I have a whole bunch of rags for cleaning or pieces I can use for pockets in future garments. Plus, no-one ever needs to know about any massive mistakes; that’s between me and my sewing machine.
It helps that there’s a sort of magic with sewing: no-one will ever notice any of your mistakes unless you point them out. Except if you’ve sewn your trouser leg to your dress bodice; in that case, you might need to go back to the section on obstacles above.
There’s always something new to learn
I touched on this in the first topic, but there are so many new skills to learn if you’re into sewing or knitting and that means plenty of opportunities to open up your brain and create some new neural pathways. (Or so I assume – it sounds like a thing to me.)
You can learn how to sew your own shoes. You can knit dishcloths to stop throwing sponges in landfill. And you can make your own underwear in Minion pattern fabric while learning whole bunches of new skills that will transfer to other sewing projects.
Sewing and knitting help us to improve our skills and gain the courage to make mistakes. And when we keep getting better, we keep wanting to find new skills to learn; new mistakes to make. We never stop learning!
Of course, sometimes our challenges come in the form of ‘helpful’ cats rather than the next level of skill, but it’s all part of the process.
You might think you’re merely knitting a jumper or sewing a skirt, but you’re actually growing in confidence, learning how to fail, building your resilience, and keeping your mind active. There’s no down side to any of that!
Have you ever stopped to think about the other benefits of crafting? Are you tempted to take up knitting or sewing now? Let me know in the comments below.
(Now I’ll go back to watching those ducklings. It’s not as good for me as knitting or sewing, but it’s too cute to ignore!)