Considering trying to make quiche practically sent me into a mental breakdown, how in the world is it that I can deal with sewing, which everyone agrees is frustrating and where I am equally as ignorant?

A few things:

The first try in sewing is done in cheap fabric to identify potential problems, not in an attempt to get something edible that night (sometimes under the pressure of hunger). Unsuccessful projects can be recycled, or at least added to the scrap bag for eventual re-use, not just tossed in the trash or choked down.

Sewing takes longer, yes—but at the end I have something that will last, that I can use more than once. And I’m happier to repeat a skirt/dress pattern in three different fabrics than to eat varieties of quiche for three solid weeks.

After cooking, I have something that is edible, but I know would have tasted better if I had gone out to a restaurant and ordered it. Sewing only since February, I’ve managed to produce about 10 skirts and 1 dress that don’t fit me any worse than the clothes I buy, and are in colors and fabrics that I picked because I really liked them.

It’s much easier to move between sewing and my computer than cooking and my computer, since I don’t have to be washing hands or moving into another room. So both research and taking notes for next time are quicker and less annoying and less of an interruption to the process.

Sewing instructions take less for granted than cookbooks. There is a LOT less decision-making required, at least at the novice level. Patterns are very specific about the things you need and what you should do, including how much fabric you need at 45″ wide and how much if the fabric is 60″ wide (as opposed to basil being sold in ounces but measured in cups, and so forth). There’s none of this assumption that you know what difference it makes to throw in a quarter-cup of dill or basil or thyme—I learned the difference between a regular zipper and an invisible zipper by April, and that’s about the main choice I need to make.

Sewing turns out right. Yeah, it seems weird and crazy along the way, just like cooking, but when it’s done, I see how it works. It’s not as complicated. I see where I need to add a dart to fine-tune the fit on the next one or lengthen the skirt. When I finish cooking, I’m left with “this tastes bland, but I have no clue which spices or herbs it needs to improve.” Or I don’t like the texture, but don’t know which ingredient will change it.

If I can’t figure it out, I can take it to my weekly sewing studio to ask for advice. I can’t describe tastes over the phone to my mother or sister.

Learning to fit clothes teaches me to accept my body, to know it better, to conquer its flaws. Trying to eat healthy—um, doesn’t. Just doesn’t. At all.

Cookbooks say “this is easier than you think!” and they lie. Sewists say “yes, this is tricky, but you can do it!” and they are right.

Sewists remember their own frustration in learning something for the first time, and try to pre-empt it in tutorials. The catchphrase is “ask me how I know” (that doing X will fail. Because they tried it, and it failed). They say things like “okay, this is going to look really weird, but trust me, it works.” Cookbooks do not. I am very reluctant to cook something unfamiliar, when I don’t know how it’s supposed to turn out. I can look in my closet to see how some things are supposed to turn out.

(It’s possible that I am just reading the right sewists online, and not the right cookbooks or cooking blogs. The one sewing book I bought, Sew What! Skirts, I did occasionally find frustrating in the same way as cookbooks. There’s a sense of betrayed trust in my quiche post, and that’s a situation I tend to overreact to—for one reason or another, I don’t feel like I encounter it as much in sewing.)

Because sewing is not an expected skill, every functional achievement deserves pride, even if it didn’t come out exactly the way I wanted. Cooking always provokes a sense of trailing behind, desperately trying to catch up to where a 34-year-old woman ought to be.

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