This is part of an occasional series on learning a new skill as an adult.
Who has time to learn something new these days? Most adults don’t have time to dedicate to learning a brand-new skill but there are so many good reasons to try. For me, doing something new renews my empathy. I feel my thought patterns shifting from “not good enough” to “better than last time.”
I’ve been trying to take intentional time to learn new skills. I notice if I come back to something time and time again, it’s easier for me to remember how hard it used to be and notice slight improvements.
It’s hard for me to quantify this feeling. Tangibly, I can understand all the jargon when my partner tells me about her ceramics practice because I completed a class at Baltimore Clayworks; intangibly, I’m nicer to myself because I tapped into my creativity.
The neuroscience on this is complex. In the Scientific American, Anna Abraham, author of ”The Neuroscience of Creativity,” says it’s hard for scientists to create an inclusive working definition of creativity. In ”The Source: The Secrets of the Universe, the Science of the Brain” by Dr. Tara Swart, the author asserts that “creativity is freedom.”
Both Abraham and Swart agree that the definition of creativity, broadly, is implementing ideas in unexpected ways. Swart cited a Harvard study in which participants were asked to use everyday objects in unusual ways. The study used brain imaging to determine there is a neural network that can reliably predict the “creative quality of ideas generated.”
Long story short, creativity lights up the brain. As a young person who hopes to grow old, I’m constantly trying to find realistic and sustainable ways to take care of my mind and body.
I’m writing this series with the hopes of inspiring more adults to take up a new creative skill to enrich their minds. Life is hard, and it’s nice to tap back into the childlike excitement of a new skill.
The latest skill I tapped into — or in this case, reconnected with — was sewing.
I first learned to sew in Parkville when I was home-schooled and my mother joined a co-op of other moms who taught us and enrolled their kids in various classes. I started with basics: pajamas, tote bag, pillow/pillowcases.
I didn’t love my work, and neglected the skill for years. But then, a few years ago, I began craving a hobby. I convinced my grandmother to give me her computerized sewing machine. When the world shut down, I made a beautiful linen rayon blend jumpsuit.
I wore that jumpsuit to my first Sew Some Garments class at Domesticity.
Located on Harford Road, Domesticity is a fabric shop that hosts classes and events to foster creative community. They’re far from the only place that offers classes. I was swayed into taking the class I chose after following the instructor Mikayla Turner on Instagram.
I paid $250 for five weeks of instruction. Classes took place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. I spent another $200 in the store on fabric, notions — tools such as needles and thread — and impulse buys. That included the book ($25) that I’m still using to sew new garments. Luckily, I got a 10% discount when I was a student in the class.
For the cost, I learned a lot. Turner would send weekly email recaps that contained so many online resources. I learned about the ”Check Your Thread” podcast, the Seamwork magazine subscription, the ”Love to Sew” podcast and all of the sewing hashtags that keep the sewing world connected. Turner taught us tips and tricks to measure ourselves for comfort and ease, and not just to fit into a certain size or stereotype.
But I am not a visual person. I write for a reason. It’s hard for me to look at a pattern piece and judge where it connects with another piece. A few times I found myself, and sometimes my classmates, ripping seams out to repair a mistake.
The class was all women who came to sewing in different ways. One of my classmates, Lisa Robey, has been a knitter for years but wanted to try something new. Several of my classmates turned to sewing to make clothes that fit and flatter their bodies. I took the class to write about it for this series, but I also was acutely aware that sewing is a skill that will continuously pay off.
I didn’t realize how much math was involved with sewing. I had a parent-teacher conference when I was in third grade that was all about how I didn’t understand fractions; sewing is all fractions. I’m glad Turner taught us the value of rulers. She has a self-admitted addiction to rulers — and I get it, because seeing an inch laid out with ticks helps me to understand the relationship between fractions. After a few weeks of class, I began to actually see the difference between a three-fourths inch and half inch hem allowance.
I have never been a visual person, so noticing where hems fall feels like a win. During class, I started to grasp the value of proportions and silhouettes in my clothing. Where a hem falls matters. Watching my classmates’ preferences encouraged me to have more vision for what I want to wear, and how I want to wear it.
While constructing the class garments, I started to assess all of the clothing I own differently. I have always hated shopping, and I live in a T-shirt and jeans — but now I know that even a T-shirt and jeans can be made higher quality if I make it myself.
During the class, I made a full outfit, top and trousers. My garments don’t match and the trousers barely fit, but they are better than my last try at sewing. It was when I was 11 and made fluorescent-felt sweatpants that got me laughed out of jazz class.
Have an idea for another class series? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.