What helps you learn ?

This time some thoughts on personal learning style. (Earlier posts on our differences in Sewing style and Fitting style).

Sewing involves many skills. Each is complex and can be done many different ways.
So it helps to know what helps us learn 😀

What is the best format for you to learn from ?

There are different ways of dealing with the world, which we have different amounts of talent for.
Which of the ‘multiple intelligences’ come most easily to you ?
– writing,
– reading,
– hands-on work,
– artwork,
– self-evaluation,
– group discussion,
– maths calculations,
– music.

What does this tell you about the best way for you to learn ?

Many years ago a gifted teacher made us learn Latin verbs by singing them to a folk tune. I can still sing them 60 years later. Not sure how I could apply that method to sewing 😀

I like to see, read, write summaries, and do exercises. I’m most relaxed about learning sewing when I have both video demos and written materials. A video so I’m secure about exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Detailed written step-by-step instructions so I haven’t got to remember every detail. And I definitely prefer physical books to e-books and on-line courses you can’t download and print !

I gave up on a quilt course with teachers who insisted you do a painting of what you were going to make before ever starting to sew. Not for me. But perhaps you find making design sketches of clothes helps you understand what you’re making and the processes needed.

My facility with practical maths probably relates to my enjoyment of pattern making.

If you’re mainly a hands-on learner, you probably don’t often look at this wordy blog 😀 But see the right hand menu for links to sewing DVDs, on-line video demos, and on-line written tutorials with photos.

Details or concepts

I also find an aspect of personality in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is very important in my learning – S/N. Are you happy with specific items (S), or do you prefer concepts and only understand details fully when you see how they fit into an overall scheme (N). I’m the second type of person (there are fewer of us), and teaching materials prepared by the first type of person can be difficult to cope with. If there’s no structure provided, I need to work out my own before I’m comfortable.

Specific example : here’s a list of sewing machine parts, from a teachers’ guide that has been available for some time, so presumably many teachers and students are happy with it.
Presser foot.
Feed teeth.
Balance wheel.
Thread take-up.
Upper tension control.
Stitch length selector.
Stitch width selector.
Spool pin.
Bobbin winder.
Reverse button/ lever.

Er. A list like that dances before my eyes.
I spent a while thinking out how to get it to make sense for me, and came up with :

Upper thread :
– Spool pin.
– Upper tension control.
– Thread take-up.
– Needle.
Lower thread :
– Bobbin.
– Bobbin winder.
Fabric control :
– Presser foot.
– Feed teeth.
Stitch formation :
– Stitch length selector.
– Stitch width selector.
– Reverse button/ lever.
– Balance wheel.

Ah, now I get it, of course, that’s obvious. . .

There are so many different techniques and tools used in making a garment, I can find it overwhelming. I need a brief overview of the process, which I can relate the details to.
Some Japanese pattern books summarise the sequence of sewing steps in a numbered diagram. I like to have a written list as well.


– – –

Other dimensions of the MBTI

Another dimension in the MBTI personality scheme is whether you like (J) or avoid (P) plans. This may affect whether you like to follow a formal learning scheme. I like to have a learning plan framework to give structure to the process, but in real life I rarely follow it!

Introversion (I) and extraversion (E) are probably linked to how much you learn from self evaluation or group discussion.

The final MBTI dimension is whether you react primarily by thinking (T) or by feeling (F). Not sure how that would relate to your preferred learning style. Perhaps Ts like to read all about it first, while Fs prefer to learn by doing.

Challenges or baby steps

How much difficulty do you enjoy coping with ? I like to be guided through a carefully planned sequence of learning steps with detailed instructions. Starting from the very easiest and increasing the difficulty in very small amounts. But many people like the challenge of jumping in, having a go at making something complex right from the start, and working out how to make it as they go along.

My preferences depend on where I am in the learning sequence. I prefer very detailed guidance when I’m first learning something. But once I know how to do it then I can be very creative with thinking what to do with the process, without any further instruction.

I need the outcome of each sewing step firmly fixed in my mind, to feel confident that I can do it again. If I just sew through without pausing to acknowledge that each step is completed, I sort of lose contact with what I’m doing. It’s helpful for me to stop and take stock after each step – recognise the universal skills, what other things I can do with each process I’ve learned, and where I’ve got to in the overall construction process.

Some other pointers

I need to make multiple samples until I feel secure with a method, rather than always pushing on to something new. If I’m really nervous about a process, I set myself to make a ridiculous number of samples – 10, 20, 50 😀 So I prefer to learn by myself with my own pacing. But many people are at their best if they can get to a class and learn with others. And all the repetition which calms me would infuriate others.

I also prefer to learn a new technique within a project specifically chosen for that technique, rather than being given a list of techniques and a list of projects, and having to combine them together myself. But some people passionately dislike having techniques explained within projects rather than separately. Some books and DVDs do it one way, some the other, and it’s good to find ones with the right style for you.

Sometimes learning involves a boring stage. Rewards are good to get you through them. What type of rewards do you enjoy 😀

– – –

Some of us enjoy a lifetime of learning new skills. And some of us are happy creating with a few simple techniques.
Each to their own.

Which of all these intelligences and personality dimensions are your natural gifts ?

(Do read the comments below, as people make many interesting points about their own learning style.)

Best Wishes for finding the type of sewing, fitting, learning that will give you the greatest pleasure and support and relaxation.
And plan to spend your sewing time that way 😀

– – –

Links available February 2013

= = =

Explore posts in the same categories: learning to sew, personal style

9 Comments on “What helps you learn ?”

  1. sara Says:

    I love the drawings in the japanese sewing books! They are so pretty and so clear at the same time. Much better than most photographs.
    I am a visual learner. I love drawings and diagrams. I also like to write things out, because writing words on paper helps imprint them in my mind, much more than simply reading them.
    I also like to plan things out, though I don’t always follow through 🙂
    When starting out on a complex project, I like to think through the sequence in sewing before I begin, and if it’s really complex, I’ll write it all down, so I can follow my plan, and also take notes and modify it as I go along.

    You’ve put so much thought into different methods of learning, you really should write a book!

  2. Mary Says:

    INFP here. I think out the steps of a sewing project in my head first, but then I continually check written guidance as I go through the physical task of it. Coming back to sewing after many years away, I am only now moving past pattern instructions and deciding what makes sense for me when constructing a garment as opposed to what the pattern company may have in mind (especially considering they think everyone still only has a straight stitch on their machine).

  3. Vildy Says:

    What an amazing analysis! I knew all about learning styles as well as Meyer-Briggs but never thought about applying them. 🙂 I found the Japanese diagram you pictured to be wonderful. This is just how I think, wanting to get an overview and then be mentally and physically able to check off the steps. And of course change things once I know what it’s supposed to encompass.

    I started taxes yesterday. Done it for years, even survived an audit. Knew at the time I took a deduction for having to carpet the downstairs because the hematologist ordered it for the crawling baby, that it would be challenged. Had a Rx for it plus opinions of realtors that it didn’t necessarily add to value of house since many people preferred the hardwood floors.

    Anyway, my method was to check the What’s New section of instructions and then I proceeded with the stuff that was easiest.
    Got all the way through, on scratch paper first, to figure out worst case scenario and then started research into any possible way to take tax credits. Need to locate some info on when a few payments were made and realize that most people would probably have collected that up first!

    When I used to cook a lot, I had loads of cookbooks and I would pull many of them out and open them to a page with the recipe I wanted. I would skim through them for the obligatory points, see what they had in common, see which variations sounded like what I wanted to eat and then make up my own recipe.

    Probably exactly the way I sew. I want to see the conventional/recommended methods first. I much prefer drawings to anything else. I tend to avoid videos unless desperate. I don’t want my info moving around!!!

    I think my greatest skill/talent, btw, is synthesis. I like to take disparate ideas and use them to build something related but new and “better” /more apt.

  4. Vildy Says:

    I’d mentioned before that I mostly do alterations on ready to wear.
    Husband laughingly says that I “remanufacture” everything to suit me.

  5. sdbev Says:

    I’m not sure where I fit. I tend to fall asleep through long discussions and posts.

  6. Ruth D Says:

    I find I learn the best from you. Your style of writing, the level of detail and your drawings give me “aha” moments everytime I read a day’s entries. I almost feel like you’ve targeted me. If you ever write a book, I’ll pre-order it. Thanks so much for all you share. My aethetic and sewing prowess has improved immensely since I started following Sewingplums.

  7. Louisa Says:

    Thanks for another great post that makes me ponder! I’m never quite sure where I fit. I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs tests several times and each time with different results! I think now that I’m over 60, my thinking has changed. I’m more introverted yet better at seeing the larger picture than I used to be.

    I never do very good work in a group situation – guess that’s the introvert there. Too distracted. I learn well from reading but also love the Japanese-style diagrams, especially for a complex or unusual construction where I can’t always understand it in words. (That might be related to how well it was written!) I hate most live or video demonstrations because I just want to get to the part I need and the extraneous stuff drives me nuts. Books or other written and well-illustrated tutorials are better because I can skim the parts I already understand to get to what I need to know. I’m actually a very patient person, but I’m already very experienced in a lot of things and life is just too short to repeat them ad nauseum!

    Like Vildy, I think my best skill is taking pieces from various sources and putting them together my own way. I do like her term for this: synthesis! I’m going to appropriate it. 😉

  8. ejvc Says:

    I am so N on the scale it’s hard to measure! I *must* have a schema or I can’t work. So the “parts” method of sewing works for me — ie assemble the fronts, then the backs, then the sleeves, then join, etc. But for some reason I can also put that on hold for just following the instructions, then making sense of them later. I’m not typically an “S” learner, so that’s unusual for me.

    Of course my real skill is making these groups and analysing to make them – hence why I sew garments in groups.

  9. sewingplums Says:

    Many thanks for all your interesting comments – a lot of useful extra points here 😀

    I’m not thinking of writing a book as I like the freedom of blog writing. The new ‘index’ is the nearest I’m going to get to integrating all this material !

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: