How I Taught Myself to Sew: Becoming a Lifelong Learner

Something that I don’t love about our culture is that there seems to be this pressure to know exactly what you want to do and to have it all figured out by the time you are 18. It’s as if you go to school for all of those years and then you pick something and focus on it and learn it really well and then you’re too old to learn anything else. And yes, I know that was a horrible run-on sentence, but you get the point.

Something that I really admire about both of my parents is that they are committed to lifelong learning. My dad completed several Ironmans with not much prior swimming or biking experience and is constantly reading books by a diverse group of authors to expand his knowledge and understanding. My mom went back to school a few years ago to get her doctorate in Educational Leadership and is always picking up new skills from how to start a saltwater aquarium to how to run a 3D printer and teach elementary students how to use it. I’m thankful that they instilled this insatiable love for learning in me at an early age, and taught me—through their example—that it is never too late to learn something new.

When Lincoln was first born, I found myself with a lot of time during the day. Now that he’s a toddler, I have to get a little more creative with my time. During those early months of his life, I started to pursue the process of learning some new skills that I had been too afraid to try before. Although there are definitely downsides to social media and platforms such as Youtube, I believe that they are also great tools for education and connecting with like-minded people through these resources. I was able to teach myself some new skills with the help of Youtube and the advice of some more experienced family and friends.

My grandma gave me a sewing machine when I was in college, and I think I tried using it once and then let it sit in my closet for years. I always wanted to learn, but never sat down to take the time to try it. It just kept sitting in my closet… staring at me… every time I opened the door. When Lincoln was born, I found myself spending way too much time looking at adorable baby bonnets and organic clothing that was way out of our budget. So, when he went to bed or napped, I watched tutorials, called my mom and grandma, and spent hours learning how to thread my machine and make basic stitches. Now, I do understand that we don’t all have hours of free time while our newborn sleeps. It was a luxury and a privilege to have this time. However, I do believe that if you want to learn something enough, you can carve out small increments of time to learn. Sometimes the hardest part is telling yourself that you are capable and it’s not too late.

Sewing quickly became a passion of mine as I learned more about the fast-fashion industry and unfair labor practices across the world. I ended up starting a small shop on Etsy and eventually my own website in order to pay for the sewing machines, tools, and ethically-sourced fabric. I had to close my business for our move, but I have plans to reopen in the next few months when the weeds stop growing faster than I can pull them on our property! There has been so much trial, error, failure, and frustration along the way, but I do believe that we are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. Through my shop, I have had to pick up a variety of skills such as basic business knowledge, minor accounting information, photography, customer service, marketing, and design. I’m not an expert in ANY of these fields and still have so much to learn. I honestly have no idea where I will be with my business in the next five years and how it will grow and change and shift with me; however, I am thankful for the different skills I have had to learn along the way. Now that Lincoln is older, I often have to squeeze in this learning during 15 minute time-slots, late at night, or on the weekends, but little by little, the learning comes together and a new skill begins to form.

So, I share this—not as an expert in any of the fields mentioned above—but as a mom of a toddler who believes it is important for us to take time to try new things and fail and discover new passions. My husband even encouraged me to take some adult figure skating classes a few years back because it had always been a dream of mine. Will I ever be an Olympian figure skater? Definitely not. Will I fall down and embarrass myself more times than not? Absolutely. Will I live with regret for never trying something that I always wanted to learn? Not a chance.

I share this to encourage you to take some time to think about one thing that you have always been interested in but have always been too scared to try. Perhaps it is sewing. Competing in a race. Learning to garden. Baking bread. Fixing things around your home. Photography. An instrument. It doesn’t have to be something big or flamboyant or something that the whole world has to know about. It just has to be something that you have a desire to try and the grit to keep going even if you fail. It won’t happen overnight. You might try it and hate it. You might try it and try it again 500 more times before you get the hang of it. You might have to squeeze the learning in to five minutes here and five minutes there, but I fully believe that you are capable of learning something new—no matter what it is, no matter your age, and no matter how many times you have to try and try again.

Keep learning, friends! You are oh so capable.

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