Sewing and the beginner’s mindset

As a result of my daily journaling reflections I recently bought myself a sewing machine. My intent was that I would like to have an activity in my life that allows me to get creative with my hands, produce something valuable and at the same time transisiton my brain in a different-from-work-mode from time to time.

Additionally I have a quite clear vision what I want to achieve soon: copy my favorite shirt with its outstanding cut which is just not produced anymore.

Beginner’s mind

When the sewing machine arrived, my very first challenge was fiddling with the thread. Or in other words: practising patience!

At that time I was still unaware what kind of perfect opportunity for practising a mindful beginner’s mindset this sewing topic would offer.

Learning the craft

It was almost like with starting off as a software developer 15 years ago: before I could get involved in real customer projects I had to get my hands dirty with the first learning- and exercise projects.

In the sewing case my first warmup-learning-project idea was: creating some nice mini-bags for paper handkerchiefs.

As the very first step I went straight to the local sewing store and bought me some equipment.

Oh boy, I was so damn clueless! And I loved the patience which the store owner demonstrated: she took time to explain all the necessary things to me and with that she helped me to get proper equipment for the first sewing endeavor.

Asking (all the) questions

Also, because I was a bloody beginner, I did not hold back any of the questions I had in my mind. I just asked her anything I was curious about.

Lesson Learned Nr. 1: Knowing that you know nothing (and being okay with that!) helps with freely and openly asking questions of any kind.

Lean sewing?

Back at home I started preparing the tissue and cutting it.

As a first step I created a paper mockup which then could be used to cut the two layers of tissue I needed for a single instance of the planned handkerchief-bag.

I can tell you: it was SO VERY HARD to resist the urge to cut “just another pair of tissue” for the 2nd mini-bag instance. Why? Yeah, because I was right into cutting… and why shouldn’t I quickly prepare the material for a second one? But wait! What if the first product prototype would need some improvement? Then I would have created waste with the pre-cut material. So I resisted the urge and only cut material for one single instance of the mini-bag.

Lesson Learned Nr. 2: Resist the urge to produce half-ready things “on stock” – just because you can. It’ll most likely be (some) waste and furthermore half-ready isn’t producing any value.

Feels like debugging

Back at the sewing machine it took me some time to actually start sewing (even if I already created some test-sewing before). This was mainly because I had to familiarize myself with the different stitching modes and how to properly prepare the machine in-between the different sewing parts so that it doesn’t tell me with red flashing lights that “something is wrong”.

It felt like debugging software in the very beginning of my career: things didn’t work. Red lights flash… things break… you wonder why… you change ONE THING AT A TIME… you try again… things break again… you wonder… you research a bit… you ask for help… you change another thing… try again… things work a bit better… until the whole piece of code runs is sewed smoothly.

Celebrate, inspect & adapt

In the end the first instance of the product was ready. It doesn’t look that bad, does it? In fact I was quite proud!

And at the same time I thought right after finishing the last stitches: oh boy, if my first piece of production code I ever crafted as a beginner software engineer looked like this… .

Also it turned out that there is so much room for improvement for the next instance of the mini-bag that I am very happy that I only cut ONE set of tissue at a time.

Can you relate?

Which hobby do you have where you can see parallels to your work or a different area in your life? I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Take care,