Day 57. How Dale Carnegie helped me see the forest for the stitches… err trees….


365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 57.  Saturday, May 21, 2011
I had mixed feelings as I walked into my first art class today.  Did I bring the right supplies?  Can I fool my talented classmates into thinking I’m an artist like them? And the really important concern—can I bring my Starbucks Frappuccino into the classroom?

I asked hesitantly if I could bring my drink in.  The instructor and other students replied, “Of course!  We did!”

Class unfolded in such a wonderful way.  The instructor explained she’s rather laid back and there are few rules.  She encouraged us to learn her basic techniques then run with them.  Those were magic words. 

I approach paint with enthusiasm

We began by designing our own fabric using acrylic paints, watercolor pencils, markers and paintbrushes in various sizes.  The instructor explained not to get too attached to the piece of fabric—as we’d be cutting it up into small pieces, layering it and sewing it together in the second half of the class. 

I let loose on the fabric.  I even skipped lunch so that I could paint more yardage of fabric.  I was out of control.  My hands were covered in paint.  I was blissfully happy.

Surprisingly, most of the paint ended up on my hands instead of the fabric

When the second half of the class began, the instructor taught us the sewing techniques we needed. 

While I’m not an expert at sewing or with all the different machines—it’s not my first rodeo.  I was chomping at the bit to begin.  I was certain the second half of the class was going to be just as thrilling as the first half.

I sat down at the machine.  The machine technically worked.  But there is an art and science to setting up the machine.  My stitches were not turning out right.  I know they weren’t based on my experience proofing countless articles on the subject.  But I’m not an expert at this particular model of machine.  And it’s not my place to try to fix it. 

So as a student, I asked for help correcting the tension setting on the machine.  One of the assistants came over and explained it was fine.  I explained—“no—look at the stitches.”  She tried a setting continued to insist it was fine and she walked off.  I mumbled to myself.

I was irritated.  My machine, while it technically was ‘sewing’ it was sewing incorrectly.  It wasn’t user error.  It was machine error.  I started to shut down.  My wonderful little project was turning out horribly by my standards.  All I could see were the horrible stitches.  (white bobbin thread was visible on the top—in sewing terms this is a big offense).

I continued to struggle with the machine. I switched machines.  I even called my friend in another state to see if she could walk me through the tension problem on the machine. 

Nothing I did fixed the problem. 

I was irritated.  My feeling toward this blissfully wonderful class was turning into a bad experience.  Stupid machine.  Stupid thread.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!

I started talking to a student next to me.  I admired the progress she was making on her project.    Mainly—I wanted to see if she had nasty white bobbin thread on top of her fabric.  She had a little but not too bad.  And she wasn’t concerned about it.  She mentioned she was having a hard time quilting because she has rheumatoid arthritis.  She also said she wished she had painted more fabric like I did.  I gave her some of my prized painted fabric and encouraged her to cut up more if she’d like. 

Somehow talking to her diffused my tension.  I decided to accept the inevitable.  My art piece was going to have white bobbin thread on top.  I did everything I could to fix the problem—to no avail.  So the best option was to just take a deep breath and surrender to fun.  I put the foot pedal to the metal on the sewing machine and stitched aimlessly, carelessly through my layers of fabric. 

My fabric. My art. So there!

A few minutes into this process—I was having ridiculous fun again.  Another student walked by and she asked me if I’m a quilter.  I laughed and asked if someone paid her to say that.  (What I really wanted to say was— did Dale Carnegie put you up to that question?). 

The irony is that I wasted valuable time getting worked up about the thread.  I couldn’t see the forest from the trees—or in this case—the stitches from the art piece.  I was so caught up with the detail of the thread that I couldn’t recognize this experience for what it is—a very liberating, fun, artistic class with absolutely no rules and no criticism.

The Dale Carnegie lesson used is from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Cooperate with the inevitable.
Create happiness for others.
Don’t fuss about trifles.

No matter how hard we try, sometimes there are circumstances we cannot change or improve upon in the exact way we want to fix them.  In these instances, take a deep breath and accept the inevitable.  Do what you can to make the best of a situation.  When you do this—you’ll find it’s a lot more bearable and in my scenario, I was able to end the class on a positive note.  Taking this approach is far more relaxing and a better way to end the day than fixating on trifles like slight imperfections in stitches.

(As a side note, the swirly, curvy, stitches were intentional.  It’s known as “stippling.”  I really do know how to stitch a straight stitch, but wasn’t trying)

Housekeeping / Notes:
Smiling Daffodil’s blog posts don’t fade!   Be sure to visit past blog posts you may have missed: 
Day 56.  How I let art supplies occupy too much of my time and what I did about it…
Pictorial of blog posts

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