Saturday, March 14, 2009 gotta have them!

I am not Superwoman.
As far as I know, no such person exists.

I DO have a lot of primitive and basic skills.
These skills were acquired through three different reasons.

1) Necessity.
With a houseful of kids, I HAD to learn to cook and house-keep frugally. With little money for new clothes, I had to learn to sew. When I lived in the country when my children were small, I had to learn to slaughter and butcher out livestock and wild game for the table. (and yes, you would be totally justified in feeling sorry for those first few animals that made it to the table)

2) Curiosity. I may have not NEEDED a particular skill, but I was curious as to whether I could become proficient at it. Could I start a fire without matches or a lighter? Could I make a snare to catch a rabbit?

3) The knowledge that I would (or will) need the skills in the future.
Making my own vinegar mother. Making a *starter* for breads. Carding and hand-spinning wool and weaving. First aid.

All of this took time. Years. Decades (Hey, I'm old!)
There are skills I still want to learn.
Some I know a wee bit about already (small engine repair, harness making, using draft animals, knitting and crocheting)
Some I know NOTHING about (turning flax into linen thread, block and tackle lifting of heavy items, grey water (waste-water) systems and water purification and several other things.

I have found the best way to learn a new skill is to work on ONE at a time.
I start by looking online for information. (I used to hang out at the library to do this before computers entered the scene!)
Then I read up on it as much as possible. I will read online, then get a couple of library books and finally, buy a good book on the subject.
For me, there is something so *tangible* about a book in hand. It makes the subject more accessible to me. If I wake up at 2 am and am unable to fall back asleep, I will frequently get out the book and read and re-read various details on the subject.
Youtube is an excellent resource for seeing skill tutorials. Just put in the search bar the particular skill (how to milk a goat, for example) and watch it over and over.

Then I pick a technique or a small detail from what I have mentally learned and try it physically.
I never tackle a whole project first try! That can be so discouraging!
For example, if you want to learn quilting, don't try to make a whole quilt--not even a baby quilt--first time you try. Make a mug coaster. Make several. Then try a tote bag or a purse.
Work your way up to a large project.

Now, a pause here to talk about "physical memory" or "body memory". Not just our brain, but our body remembers.
When you practice a skill, over and over, you are *embedding* that memory and knowledge into your body's memory. You are programming yourself to do a task automatically.
If you engage in any sport or massively physical skill, you already know this.
It's the reason coaches make players practice so many repetitions of the same action over and over.
It's the reason the military is the champion at repetitions! Visit a military firing range some day.
You want certain skills to be automatic.
Even with a creative skill, such as quilting, you want your hands to have the *memory* of doing stitch after stitch. It becomes automatic.
That may sound a bit robotic, but it will actually free you to be MORE creative. Once you don't have to worry about getting every stitch right, your body knows how!---you can introduce more variations and inject more of *you* .

Back to learning a new skill. As I said, pick a small project first and work your way up to a large project. Many of my friends got mug coasters and tote bags until I got confident at my quilting!

Make projects that will be useful to you or to give as gifts, if possible.
Some skills may come without the ability to do this.
Fire starting. Using draft animals. Small engine repair. Stuff like that.
Nevertheless, practice.
When you feel you have *got it*, move on to the next skill, but continue to get practice at the one you just learned. (Gotta nudge that *body memory* every once in a while to keep it fresh!)

I generally try to pick 4 skills per year. Of course, I may pick up something pretty quickly. In that case, I go down to the next one on my list and start on that one. If a skill is taking me an impossibly long time, I will put it aside temporarily and go to the next one on my list, but I WILL come back to it!
There are some skills I have intentionally not tried to gain, due to the expense, time or nature of the skill.
I used to work on cars. My own and others. I let this fall by the wayside years ago when they started putting computers and other high-tech features in. I am pretty confident I can work on a 1967 Ford pick-up, but I am also pretty confident that I cannot work on a 2008 Escalade.

Some skills you have to update at pretty regular intervals, due to technological changes.
If you were taught to sew on an electric sewing machine and move off-grid and then have a treadle sewing machine, you WILL need to learn sewing all over again!
I generally like to learn the most *primitive* technique of doing a skill first.
My first few sewing projects were completely hand done. Tedious, yes, but very instructive as I learned rapidly the *bones* of apparel construction.

So, pick a skill. ONE skill you wish to learn.
Start gradually, but keep plowing on through it.
Eventually, you WILL get it!


  1. I watched a news article on CBC last night. They interviewed a home economics instructor who said that her heart went out to all the young people in major urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver because they lacked the life skills to cope with life during a recession. She went on to say that those least affected would be from provinces like Nova Scotia and Newfoundland because we are used to doing for ourselves and basic things like repairing or making clothing, baking, and gardening are still part of daily life.

    After all the years of being treated like some backwater hick because I'm from Cape Breton, I've got people banging on my door because I can knit and use a sewing machine. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

  2. Well, knitting, crocheting and nalbinding are three things I am determined to learn within the next year. I can handspin yarn :) so I know I have that skill and I can weave, but I really need the other 3 skills to get full value from my yarn!
    I have also been viewed as a hick or somewhat freakish because of my skills.Now people are asking me how to do things...or wanting to buy the things I make!
    Kind of funny how all those *oh-so-sophisticated* city (all their lives) dwellers are suddenly embracing the hand made and the home made...heh....and the *hicks* are making 'em pay through the nose for it...

  3. I am going to buy an antique human-powered Singer next payday. Thanks to the Hutterites here in Manitoba, antique home appliances that are not dependent upon electricity proliferate at cheap prices in the antique stores. I just got plans in the mail to build a spinning wheel, although I don't know how well that will go may be a sad looking wheel. I still have my hand-spinner:D


Because of a couple of rude people that left comments that included links to porn pages and such, I have been forced to start moderating comments again.