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Friday, September 13, 2013

Are You Getting Too Comfortable?

I was sitting in a department meeting this week (I teach at a local university) and we were discussing the fact that our classes often push students to think in ways that make them uncomfortable. The specific class we were talking about was one on how the media shapes our reality. It got a little heated when one of my colleagues said that he lets students know that they can leave if they aren't comfortable with the topic...and about five of us (me included) interrupted by exclaiming, "We teach college! It's our job to challenge them and to make them uncomfortable!"

I don't teach media-related courses, but I do teach the class that no college student wants to take: public speaking. So yes, the nature of the course is to be uncomfortable, to recognize that feeling, and to get through it. I'm fun but stern - and my students know that I will guide them through it. When they say, "I'm nervous." I reply, "You and everyone else. You can start now." It's amazing to see them transform over the course of the semester. And when we are done, most exclaim, "It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be!" So being uncomfortable forces them to grow. Welcome to life.

So what does this have to do with sewing? How many of us out there are getting too comfortable with our sewing? We make 100 versions of the same thing. We stick with what we know. We avoid trying new fabric or a new technique. We are totally comfortable with being comfortable.

I can's say that I ever been described as "comfortable." I've lived in five states and traveled to fourteen countries. So yes, I push myself out of my comfort zone. I've done the same with my sewing. A few years ago I proclaimed that I wasn't a quilter. I now quilt. And there's been a pay-off - every time I sew, I use techniques I've learned from my quilting friends. I wasn't into making clothes...until...I took a class on sewing knit fabric. It's transformed my sewing. And a few weeks ago I made a tote bag out of Shannon Cuddle (plush fabric) and faux leather - two completely different fabrics. The tote is awesome (the free pattern will be available for download sometime in the next few weeks) and I learned a lot about those two fabrics!

Here's my take - don't be afraid to try something new and possibly screw up. In higher ed, we refer to mistakes as "teaching moments." Something can be learned from every adventure; so explore all that sewing and quilting has to offer. You might like it and you might not, but I truly believe that we all get something wonderful out of being uncomfortable!

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