Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Zen of Crafting, following directions and gender

Last night I was working on a purse that I want to give my sister for her birthday when I noticed that I had messed up something that couldn't be hidden. So I moved on to another part that I could work on before fixing that mistake. And messed it up. At that, I put the fabric down, turned off my sewing machine and had an ice cream sandwich. "This purse doesn't want me to work on it right now." How very Zen of you, Tom tells me. Is it? I hadn't realized, but I do it with all my craft projects. If things start to go wrong, something about the project is telling me to take a break. Most likely, my brain is processing the abstract and turning it into instructions on what I need to do to fix whatever I messed up earlier. It's funny - if I can't figure something out, I know that I just need to put it down, do something else and come back to it later. Meanwhile, I've been sort of thinking about it, but not consciously and it all comes out a bit easier. Not always, but usually.

I'm not typically a picture learner. I need to read the words on how to do something. Sometimes, for the very complicated, a picture helps, but I still require words to make me understand. Tom is the opposite, as is our son. We were watching him put a Lego model together and he just looked at the pictures and picked up the right parts. In no time, he'd made the model exactly as it looked on the box. Tom thinks the same way and suggests that it's learned from putting Lego together. I claim that Lego directions are made that way because the people who like to put them together think in pictures.

This is why me and Ikea don't always get along. Their oh-so-detailed images of gender-free figures picking up board A just don't click in my head. So in that case, I have to do it along with the picture and - get this - actually follow directions. So not me. In this, Tom and I are the opposites of our gender stereotypes. I don't even read the directions, or if I do, it's more as a general guideline or to get me started. Tom? He reads every direction before he starts and then rereads them as he goes along. Now, I admit this his way is probably better. He gets all the tools he needs out ahead of time where I have to stop and go find a flat-head screwdriver instead of a Phillips-head. And he has a perfect finished product, where mine has probably been fudged once or twice. But that whole organized, read the directions thing? Let's face it. Boring.

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