Over the last few weeks I've been refreshing myself on some skills I haven't used in about a decade. (Has it really been that long? Surely my math is off somewhere...) And over the last 15 years, the way I learn has changed so much.
When I started sewing as a kid I set up my mom's machine in the basement (I wonder if she knew I was using it) and I just started sewing things together. I played around with the different dials and then took a look at how it changed my sewn swatch. I started to draft simple patterns like pillows and bags and while my proportions were more or less correct, I didn't know anything about pressing seams or finishing edges. So when it comes to that kind of thing today I still feel like I can sew, but more for function than for form.
Over the years (and without the aid of the internet), I continued to draft patterns based on my own clothes as I wasn't sure where to find patterns in our town and felt intimidated by the ladies at the fabric stores (which really only carried quilting fabrics to my knowledge anyway). I didn't know what these fabrics were listed on the back of the patterns in my mom's sewing box. (I still don't know many today and find it intimidating both to go to the store to touch them and wonder what they are and to go online and see them clearly labeled but wondering what they feel like.) So I sewed with what I had and most of it wasn't great, but I didn't really care. The fit might be off a bit or the drape of the fabric was all wrong for the pattern, but it was something I created and each time I made another piece, I learned something.
When I started to knit I used the book Stitch N Bitch to help guide me. We did have the internet (and horseless carriages were in regular use, thank you very much) but there wasn't the vast knowledge that is out there today. My friend and I vowed to learn to knit together. She took professional lessons, while I did my best to copy her form. She made me sign up for Ravelry under duress (sleepless and ragged mother of twin babies that I was, lol), but I did not see the point beyond the extensive collection of organized patterns.
How could I know how much Ravelry would add to my learning? Ravelry led me to a local knitters guild in a new town, which eventually led me to my friend Susie, who led me to podcasts and then podcasting, which introduced me to knitters from around the world with varying levels of experience and all with a great deal of imagination. While I don't have any aunties that knit, I do have an online community of people that I call friends and we share information eagerly. If someone suggests a technique I've never heard of before to solve a problem, I can also count upon many people who post videos on YouTube for the education of others.
When I got my first wheel and was learning to spin, I didn't know anyone else that I felt comfortable asking for help. I spent countless hours on YouTube trying to figure out how to draft. A local fiber festival had a beginning spinner's class and I eagerly signed up. Here was my chance to be a novice and look like I didn't know what I was doing, but ask all the questions I wanted. I came back with a lot more knowledge and confidence. I also signed up for Craftsy classes to extend my knowledge. Today I meet with a group of spinners each week and just as with knitting, I find their friendships so valuable that spinning is really just an excuse to visit.
I don't think the dying arts are dying any longer. We are all just starting to find each other across the world to share information. It takes a while, but we are growing every year and I am honored to be a part of the movement.