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I have been sewing since I was a young girl and have evolved into a pretty good seamstress over the years. When my kids were young I was famous for making them the best Halloween costumes around. I have sewn everything from doll clothes to wedding gowns, altered suits, and completely dismantled garments to create patterns. In the world of sewing, I have done it all.
I once had a rather heated discussion with a carpenter with whom I worked at a technical school regarding the similarities between anything he constructed and the act of constructing a complex article of clothing. He was utterly appalled at my supposition that they were very much the same thing, and became quite indignant at the mere thought that I possessed skills similar to his own.
“Nonsense,” I told him. “Building a house or making a cabinet is simply a matter of construction as is sewing a tailored suit or a formal gown.”
“There is no similarity whatsoever,” he denied forcefully.
I responded to this with one artfully raised eyebrow and a slight smirk. “Really? What is the first thing you do when you are building a house?”
“Read the architect's plans, of course,” he responded, his tone implying that I was somewhat dim.
“Well, what a coincidence,” I said sweetly, “the first thing I do is read the sewing patterns, which are, just like your drawings, a schematic of the finished product.”
This statement really made him huffy. “There is a huge difference between architectural drawings and what you're talking about.”
“Have you ever seen a sewing pattern?” I asked. He hadn't, but he was certain that a sewing pattern had to be so simple that a reasonably intelligent lower primate could read it.
Of course, you guessed it, I was compelled to bring in a very complicated pattern and directions the very next day. The instructions were 4 pages long and included maximum terminology that I knew would be just so much Greek to a carpenter. I laid the pages out on the work table on top of his drawings and suggested he take a look at them. He either read the directions and looked at the drawings with great concentration or pretended he was, I'm not sure which, but in the end he chose to comment that he was certain that he would be able to understand them fully with a little training.
“And I could build a house with a little training,” I said confidently. “In fact,” I said with confidence, “I rather suspect that it would be easier to teach me to build a house than it would be to teach you to sew.”
He responded with one of those annoying little ha-ha-ha laughs that was meant to convey his amused contempt for my silly ideas. It irritated me...a lot.
“When you build a house you have to read the plans and decide on the materials you need, right?”
He agreed that was the case.
“Well, so do I”, I told him. I went on to point out that construction required careful measurement, precise cutting, and knowing how to join together parts to ensure maximum stability, as did sewing. I also drew his attention to the fact that anything he constructed required that he do so in a strict sequence of tasks, (you can't build a pyramid from the top down or a house from the inside out), and that sewing was the same. I even went so far as to discuss the dangers of cutting corners and weakening the entire product, which are inherent in both construction and sewing. I went on to further discuss the importance of having the right tool for each aspect of the job and how not having the right tool costs time and threatens the integrity of the project. By the time I had finished illuminating the similar aspects of both skill sets with iron-clad logic, he was putty in my hands and the chauvinism was pretty much wrung right out of him.
In the end he was forced to admit that both endeavors required training, experience, and the necessity of unique skills. What else could he do? The poor guy was beaten. All his life he had believed that what he considered the doings of women could not possibly equal a skill level anywhere near what he was doing. He finally admitted that he found the pattern instructions for sewing a wedding gown absolutely beyond his ability to understand and utterly confusing. He assumed that I found his drawings equally impossible to decipher, which I didn't, but I let him believe whatever he needed to believe to save face. I asked him if he wanted to learn to sew and he rejected the offer with horror. He asked me if I wanted to learn to build a house.
“Absolutely,” I said. “When do we start?”
I almost felt sorry for the poor sap. Almost. But not really. I wanted to learn how to build a house.
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