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A New Brain Activity

So I recently saw a blog that featured handmade tote bags to replace plastic bags. They were so darn cute, that I thought, “I can make that!” I mean, I ‘m sorta crafty, I have a sewing machine, I can sew a straight line, I have some fabric around here from some other unfilled projects. All the comments on the blog talked about how the bags were so easy, and how they were beginners and it was a really good pattern, blah, blah, blah, so I figured “what the heck! I’ll give it a try!”

Well part of me must have known what was to come because I also saw a comment where one lady had to used this blog’s instructions plus the instructions from the blog’s source. So I had the thought to go ahead and print them both. “I will use the one that works best for me. Because really, how stupid can you be? The instructions have pictures and details. It can’t be that hard.” Well, let me tell you…

I am proud of the fact that I’m good at a lot of things, and I catch on to things quickly. Keep in mind, I am a special education teacher, and I don’t like to use the “r” word, so I will just say that during the process of making the first bag, I felt like I needed my own special education teacher (or at least an instructional assistant) to get through the instructions. Then I started using both sets of instructions. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me! I read the instructions. I understood the instructions. At least I thought I understood the instructions.  But I kept doing things wrong anyway!

First, I wanted to blame it on the pictures. The lighting in the pictures made it hard to distinguish the right and wrong sides of the fabrics. Then it was the instructions. They weren’t detailed enough. Then I thought it was because I was sleepy. I couldn’t concentrate. Then I got pissed. I was determined to finish this “super-easy” bag before going to bed. Then the worst thing happened. I realized that it was me! I could not follow pattern instructions to save my friggin’ life! Apparently, I am pattern-impaired.

After numerous corrections, amendments and modifications, I was finally able to produce a bag. It was supposed to be reversible, alas white thread on red fabric is not always what you want to see, especially since they weren’t exactly attractive, straight white stitches. They were crooked and criss-crossed, with loops and other craziness.

So when I got to work the next morning with my crazy bag, someone wanted to place an order for one! So I waited a day and attempted another bag. It was a lot neater, and not as frustrating, but I still kept making mistakes! What is that about? The SpEd teacher in me thought about writing a task analysis… When I was done, I actually had a bag neat enough to use both sides!

This was an incredibly humbling experience.  You always read about how you should do new things or do things differently to keep your brain agile.  Things like writing with your non-dominant hand, or doing sudoku or taking a cake decorating class.  I chose trying to sew.  What I learned about about myself is that I’m not good at everything that I try, and it’s okay.  I learned that I read too fast, and I try to make things mean what I want them to mean instead of taking the time to comprehend what they actually mean. (Like, “cut along the lines and push all the fabric through the hole” does not mean push part of the fabric through the hole, and “right sides together” means right sides together no matter how poorly lit the photograph appears and makes one of the fabrics appear to be on the wrong side.) And, just because I can breeze through the instructions to assemble a bookshelf does not mean that the same applies to sewing or cooking instructions.   I have a healthy new respect for folks who can sew, follow a pattern, make a pattern or sew without a pattern.  My brain got a good workout in patience, skill acquisition, following directions, and humility. (If you’re interested in a bag, drop me an email. I may have to set up an etsy account!)

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