I hated Home Economics with a passion. Of all the high school subjects I was forced to study, Home Ec. was the one I despised most. There was something odd about ‘learning’ how to set a table correctly, make a pizza and my personal favourite – sewing a very loud and rather daggy pair of shorts.
I complained bitterly with the realisation that Home Ec. was non-negotiable. “I don’t need to know how to cook or sew,” I bluntly told my mum. “I’m going to be a career girl.”
Two decades later those words came back to bite me.
You see, I tried that ‘career girl’ thing. It was fun, for a while, but deep down I knew something was missing. Not long after my husband and I married, our thoughts turned to raising a family. I’m a bit of a hippy at heart and wanted to explore reusable nappy options. The idea of modern cloth nappies strongly appealed but I couldn’t find ready-made options anywhere! What’s a girl to do, hey, but make her own?
Big problem: I didn’t know how to sew. Damn.
Now I’m not one to let a little lack of skill get in the way so I bought a sewing machine. I proudly brought that big, clumsy box home. I opened it up, admired it and then … then I quietly put it back. It stayed in its box in the living room for months because I was scared. Scared that I would sew over my fingers, and kinda scared that I would suck at sewing. (Yup, fear of failure – did you spot that old chestnut?)
I released that sewing machine from its box one weekend afternoon. Slowly, shakily … I stitched my first row … and I was HOOKED! I must have appeared a bit crazy as I raced out to my husband, swatch in hand, screaming with joy “LOOK! Look what I just did!” I was giggling and overflowing with joy and creativity and I knew that even if I did sew over my fingers it actually wouldn’t be that bad.
Those first tentative stitches led to slightly more confident ones, and then a full-on addiction to all things fabric. Even now, a few years after that joyous day, I still get a frisson of excitement when my sewing machine comes out to play. It’s meditation, creativity, problem-solving and playtime all rolled into one happy bundle of needles, thread, machine oil and fabric – metres and metres of lovely fabric!
Completing a project gives me an indescribable sense of achievement that my career never did. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still love my paid work but now I have something that is creative and all mine. I often think about my teenaged beliefs and how different they are to my current ones and I’m so very grateful.
I’m grateful because I was willing to let go of the person I thought I was so I could become the person I was meant to be. Sure, it might only be sewing but it still took courage.
And that, my friends, is a useful skill to have indeed.