Would you talk about sewing in a job interview?
I’ve done a couple of interviews recently, and I always bring up my role in Sewcialists. It is one of my examples of leadership, communication, and equity work. That got me thinking: Are there other transferable skills that we gain from sewing?
As I was prepping for an interview, I revisited the 21st Century Global Competencies that my province suggests will “help ensure that all students develop the knowledge, skills and characteristics to become personally successful, economically productive and actively engaged citizens.” (I’m side-eying the part about being economically productive, but yeah, sure, let’s go with it. They are currently rewriting to be more culturally responsive and hopefully also cognizant of folks with disabilities that preclude working, or our intrinsic value regardless of economic contribution.)
Here are the ways that I think sewing teaches every single one of the six skills!
1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
If you sew, you know that this is probably the number one skill required! “What does that instruction mean? How do I make the adjustment I want? Oh bugger, I messed that up.” We think critically about what fabrics will work with a pattern, why something it not fitting as hoped, and we always come up with a solution. As the global competencies say, “Students will solve meaningful, real-life, complex problems by taking concrete steps to address issues and design and manage projects.”
2. Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship
This category is not just about creative ideas, but about innovative solutions for issues in the world. Obviously sewing is creative as an art form, but I think it also addresses issues such as unethical clothing production, environmental waste, and gendered concepts of work. In our community we are constantly exploring sizeism, ageism, ableism and so much more. “Students demonstrate leadership, initiative, imagination, creativity, spontaneity, and ingenuity in a range of creative processes and motivate others with an ethical entrepreneurial spirit.” The proliferation of online fabric stores and indie pattern companies show that we are both consumers and entrepreneurs, and certainly ethics are at the core of what we value with our dollars.
3. Self-Directed Learning
“Self-directed learning means: becoming aware and demonstrating agency in one’s process of learning, including the development of dispositions that support motivation, perseverance, resilience, and self-regulation. Belief in one’s ability to learn (growth mindset), combined with strategies for planning, monitoring and reflecting.” I mean, really, we are the definition of all of this.
Sewing is often a solitary task, but the mere fact that you are here reading blogs or interacting on social media means that you are part of a collaborative community. The name “Sewcialist” came from “people who sew and like to talk about it on social media” – the “sewcial” part of sewing! As a community we not only co-construct new language, but we build understandings of new ideas, core values, and knowledge. Through years of online dialogue, we have come to understand the importance of calling people in or out when they show unconscious bias, and learned to stand in solidarity with folks whose needs are not being met in the community. As well, we joyously share knowledge and information, helping each other out with tips and advice, generous compliments, and trust in each other.
We excel at communication! YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, blogs, magazines, podcasts and so much more – and don’t even get me started on in-person meetups! The global competencies also say that students need “understanding both local and global perspectives, societal and cultural contexts”, and certainly the international nature of the sewing community means we are all learning from folks who range in language, nationality, ethnicity, size, age, faith, technical skill and so much more. We hear each other’s stories and we learn to understand the world more deeply.
Which leads perfectly into…
“Citizenship involves understanding diverse worldviews and perspectives in order to address political, ecological, social, and economic issues that are crucial to living in a contemporary, connected, interdependent, and sustainable world.” My dad always says that in an interview, you are doing well if you feel like you’ve answered the same question many times, and at this point, I think I’ve covered citizenship already! Sewing is a lens to understanding the diversity in the world, and approaching transformative change with compassion, righteous rage, and a sense of urgency. We are engaged citizens not just of the sewing community, but of our wider communities as well.
What do you think are the core skills that we learn as sewists? What has participating in the sewing community changed or reinforced about yourself? This particular list of global competencies is of course not global, but in fact tied to the particular culture and history of Ontario where I live and teach. I do think it is a neat way to codify and value the skills we learn in sewing. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts in the comments!