Talent vs Skill

I have a friend who, when I update him on my projects, always says “you’re so talented!”

And that always baffles me a little bit, because there is a big difference between talent, skill, and just having the patience to do something that seems outrageous to other people.

I truly believe that anyone can sew.  In a Ratatouille, optimistic, encouraging sort of way.  Not everyone has to, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, and those of us who do do thread crafts are interested in or motivated to do different things within that field.  But fundamentally, thread goes in needle, needle goes in and out of fabric.  If you don’t have the fine motor skills for hand sewing operating a machine is a lot easier than operating a car or a laptop, and most people do that every day!

So I don’t think sewing requires talent.  It requires patience.  It requires a certain kind of logic to mull through “ok, there are five different ways to do this, what makes the most sense?” But mostly it requires one to put in the time that it needs.  Not just to do any individual project, but to build up a skill set.

Take blackwork.  At first it is intimidating.  It requires attention to detail, and accuracy, and you have to like to count things.  Thus, it is not for everyone, and not even every embroiderer!  The first time I did it I did not use double running because I found it mind boggling.  The next piece I did, and it took me 7 tries to do a pomegranate, but then I understood the logic.  The next piece got easier, and then I added in LACS and voiding, and now I’m making my own motifs and doing a full LACS piece.  Maybe in 30 years I’ll be as good as Kim Salazar, who can whip up a full set of napkins in about a month.

But I bet you she did not sit down and immediately be able to stitch at the speed and accuracy she does now.  She’s been sewing since before kindergarten, and she’s a fair bit older than I am.

Also, while I have an affinity for thread crafts, I’m not super creative with them.  I’m not a couturier– I don’t have the vision or the skills.  I’m not a tailor– that requires an entirely different way of working with layers of materials in three dimensional shapes that actually rather scares me. I’m a seamstress, and not a very experienced one.  But the only way to get better is to try.  I wasn’t born being able to knit or sew, I just happened to find the art early and I’m not afraid to just jump in and try things.  Sometimes it doesn’t work, but fabric is forgiving.  Thread can be re-wound and re-used.  Just try something new.  Put the time in.


Obviously I’m focusing on sewing and embroidery here, because, well, this is mostly a costuming blog, but this applies to a lot of things.  People often have affinities for various arts, and maybe they do have natural talents that are helpful, but no one is born with a talent for woodworking, or calligraphy, or cooking.  But maybe they have a good spatial awareness, or very steady hands, or a good sense of smell and timing, and while those things help, they are no substitute for sitting down and doing.

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