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Making for the Sake of Making

The husband tells me that I think too much. I don't believe he means that as a criticism—we could use a lot more people in this world who actually do think. Rather, he sees how much I get myself tied up in knots sometimes. I am not blessed with his capacity for just letting go and moving on to the next thing. I have to analyze the living daylights out of the last thing, first.

I've been this way for 52 years. I don't see that changing any time soon. 

There hasn't been any sewing since I finished that Hayden bag. Part of that has been this week's schedule. Part of that has been a total lack of desire to start something else, so of course I have to ask myself, "Why don't you feel like starting anything else? What is it about that last project that seems to have killed your desire to sew?"

And then I came down and read John Thomas's comment on my last blog post, where he says,

I like the bag okay, I guess, but I would have to have a specific use in mind before going through the effort. I would not want to just put it aside after making it and try to invent a reason for using it.

(I hope you don't mind me quoting you.)

That resonated with me, especially the part about "going through the effort." Have you heard the saying that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become proficient at something? I am at that point in my life where I have put those 10,000 hours in and then some. I can sit down at the piano and sight-read most things I am asked to play, or be given a lead sheet with nothing but chords written on it and come up with an accompaniment part. I can take a bunch of string and two pointy sticks and create an original sweater design. I can assess the ingredients I have available and come up with a nourishing meal without having to follow a recipe. I know the difference between "ilium" and "ileum" and "perineal" and "peroneal" and I can make an accurate and coherent medical report out of what sounds like gibberish to most people. 

I don't think I have yet put in 10,000 hours with sewing, but a lot of those skills transfer laterally from other fiber arts. In my more optimistic moments (ha!), I expect that I should be able to get by with about half the effort. Of course, that mastery is not linear; it's not 10,000 hours of perfect effort that leads to proficiency. It's 10,000 hours of trying and failing and trying and failing again and finally failing less and succeeding more. I've made my share of meals that even the dogs wouldn't eat. I have had some failed knitting projects. The older I get, though, the less tolerance I have for that failing part. I don't have as much time left now as I did when I was eight and learning to play the piano. If I am going to put forth the effort on something, I want something tangible and useful to show for it. 

And therein is the problem. I feel like I spent more than a few hours of my precious free time on something I don't really like and probably won't use. I may not even go through the effort of finishing that Hayden bag. I could cut the D-rings and zipper out and repurpose them. I can chalk that project up as a learning experince, because I did learn some things, and those things will go into the body of knowledge that gets carried forward to the next project. At this point, though, I am not into making just for the sake of making. I am not into effort just for the sake of building up my set of skills. Is that a function of age? Lack of patience? Both? 

I am trying to be honest in my assessment of that project (this is the "thinking too much" part). Maybe I could have made better design choices. I really do like that poplin, but maybe I should have used a more subtle print for the lining. I don't think the lining is awful, but perhaps the bag wouldn't have looked quite so cheesy with a navy blue zipper instead of a yellow one. However, the navy blue zipper I was instructed to purchase by the pattern was the wrong size and I didn't have a navy blue nylon one on hand. I am also trying to be charitable, because I have been on the other side of this equation as the designer, but that pattern wasn't ready for prime time. It needed a good technical editing at the very least. 

I wasn't kidding when I said I might have to make another Noodlehead bag just to make myself feel better. I think I am going to knock out a couple of Wool + Wax Totes. I do love working with that waxed canvas on my industrial machine and there are a few people I haven't yet gifted tote bags to. Or I could do a blog giveaway. We'll see. At least I feel like sewing again. At some point the pendulum is going to swing in the direction of something else, like back to quilts or—more likely—making some T-shirts for this summer, but for now I still want to make bags. 


We have another eighteen pints of beans for the pantry. This time, I did white beans:

I am going to have to do more black beans in the next couple of weeks, but we have a few pints left. 

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Reader Comments (9)

One of the things that has changed over the last 40 years in education is that students do not see the need for practice. If they do not get it quickly then that's it. Even when you ask about sports or music, they see the need there but not for other activities. If I don't have a purpose or reason to do something I don't....makes any professional development hard with only a year to go. I find housework the the clean house but it gets dirty and you need to do it again. Overthinking is not a bad thing unless it keeps you from moving forward. We introverts tend to live in our minds so we do tend to overthink, tear things apart, beat a dead horse and have a hard time letting things go. As Monk's a blessing and a curse.

January 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDoreen

I like the yellow zipper. Just because the bag doesn't turn your crank doesn't mean it's a total loss.

January 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJC Briar

Doreen, I wonder how much of that mindset of kids nowadays is tied to "I just need to learn this for the test and then I can forget it." The system doesn't really incentivize the long view like it used to.

JC, you're right--that's probably why I would never be successful, though, as a production bagmaker. :-/

January 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Szabo

Maybe you can make me an eyeglass case. Hint hint.

January 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMom

I keep forgetting because I still have mine. I'll work on that this week.

January 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Szabo

I liked that bag and the yellow zipper. You know my address....

January 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHusband's mom

Okay, the mothers have spoken.

January 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Szabo

I see it as a problem with people letting themselves be beginners again. My husband is taking a pottery class (second time-he didn't fire anything the first time). He tends to imagine a project and then doesn't do the actual work because it won't measure up. I told him that you can't learn anything without failing a few times. He's better off to make something and learn from the experience than never actually try. I've seen this so many times. I even posted a picture of my first attempt at FMQ on a Facebook group because I wanted people to think they can do it better. I don't care if it looked good. I made potholders out of it and they work just fine.

Have you seen this video?

I've watched it several times and just love her machine. I keep wanting to tell her to put those scissors somewhere else!

January 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTeri Pittman

Teri, thanks--what a cute video I love the music in the background! You do bring up a good point about people not wanting to be beginners.

January 29, 2018 | Registered CommenterJanet Szabo

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