It's not always so bad being a beginner

Or Eve gets a sewing machine

There’s a concept I learned from meditation called Beginner’s Mind. In a way, it’s about seeing things with fresh eyes but it’s also about approaching whatever you’re doing as if you were a beginner. Even when you’re an expert or you’re at an advanced level in that topic.

I’ve been putting off making something I’ve wanted for a long time because I didn’t have a sewing machine and didn’t have any experience using one. After lots of research and watching videos, I finally got my sewing machine this week. I used the Quick Guide to set it up, cut a piece of scrap, and sewed a 2.5 inch long seam. It mostly went great.

Beginner’s Luck, it turned out.

I set up the sewing machine today and ran into nothing but issues. The first stitch fed back into the bobbin and the fabric got fed into the machine. Whoops. Can’t all go right the first time every time. I tried again and the same thing happened. Took everything back out and started over.

And as soon as I had the bobbin thread up and went to sew again, I knew I still had issues. I backed out everything again … and watched a YouTube video. It turned out the thread wasn’t on the uptake arm thing (the one that goes up and down inside the machine while you sew) anymore (I still don’t know how it got off), and I had completely misunderstood how the bobbin thread tail was supposed to come to the top plate of the machine so I had no idea what I was supposed to be accomplishing by holding the thread tail up.

Finally got all that together and went to sew. But I didn’t pin my fabric so the edges didn’t match up and I had another tragedy on my hands.

Since I pick up hobbies pretty regular, I’m used to this kind of thing. I pick up a totally new thing and put all my spare effort into it probably about every two or three years. There aren’t too many topics I’m an expert at. There are a few things I’m pretty good at but only one thing I’m advanced at.

I guess I have gotten pretty practiced at being a beginner though. A few hobbies ago, I might have tried to sew a full dress on my first time out. Now I’m starting with small projects that can help me learn the skills I need in small pieces so I can work toward the big projects.

Another thing I’ve picked up about Beginner’s Mind from always being a beginner … chunking. In the past, I might have tried to sew an entire project from start to finish in one afternoon when I hadn’t even threaded the machine more than once. Today, I wanted to sew exactly one seam (three sides, but a single seam). It took me 90 minutes to sew that one seam for all the mistakes I made (lessons learned) along the way.

I got done exactly what I planned to get done, though. I set a small goal I knew might be challenging. It was challenging on points I didn’t know I was going to have challenges with. I learned a lot. And I got that one thing done.

The next time I sew one seam, I’ll have those lessons to fall back on. The time after that, maybe I’ll get two seams in (both involving elastic D: ) or maybe it’ll still be just one. Because I didn’t have my heart set on doing the huge project in six months, I’ll be able to pick up again whenever I get 90 minutes to myself and enough energy.

I’ve also learned one other thing being a perpetual beginner.

After I was done, I put up my sewing machine and put my office back together.

It’s a lot less daunting to go back into the fray (harhar) if I don’t see a huge mess around my work area. A fresh start each time with fresh new lessons, goals, and messes.

About Eve Ingoldsby
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