Reflections on the Summer of Making

My husband informed me a few hours ago that, essentially, summer is almost over–2.5 more weeks, and then it’s done.  This has been the fastest summer in history, but also the most fun, so I can live with that.  It will be good to be back amongst the kids and try to bring some of what I’ve learned this summer into the life of the library.

I’ve spent the last several days mostly working on sewing projects–first, this LilyTwinkle pillow (the LilyTwinkle makes the lights blink randomly):

And then today I went to the fabric store and bought some sherpa fabric and I am attempting to make a very simple teddy bear with it.  I’m still in the sewing/inside-out phase, so I have no idea how it will turn out, but I can tell you this: sherpa sheds like mad and is kind of a pain to work with, but omg, so SOFT!  I also bought some dark gray felt and a little gray felt purse-like thing that I hope will be good for an etextile project.  I’m hoping the conductive thread will kind of blend in with the gray.

But anyway, my husband’s comment got me thinking about what I’ve learned this summer (not specific things, which I have already posted about, but just in general) about making.

1.  Everything (EVERYthing) takes longer than you think it will, and there are always (ALWAYS) unexpected hiccups along the way.  I laugh when I look at my goals for the summer and what I considered the absolute minimum of what I would accomplish.  I was CRAZY over-optimistic, but I thought I was being conservatively realistic!  And I have spent a lot more time than I expected to spend on making!

2.  Directions (including, by the way, ones written by yours truly) that say “easy” or “simple” are LIES, ALL LIES.  Okay, not lies, but if you are new to making like I am, nothing is simple or easy.  It’s all relative.  Every single thing I’ve done this summer is simple/easy in the grand scheme of things, but none of it was truly simple or easy for me.  Some things got much easier as I went along, of course, and by the time I got around to documenting my eventual success, some of the problems/challenges seemed distant and insignificant.  But when you are doing a project you have never done before or working with new materials/technology, what seems easy or straightforward in either the directions or your mental vision is hardly ever that way in real life.  At least not if you are me.  (I’m sure some of this is because of my weakness when it comes to spatial thinking.  But not all of it.)

3. Sometimes there are no directions for what you want to do.  When you are on the 4th page of Google results and there is nothing that even remotely resembles what you are searching for, you have to either do something else (tempting), or see if you can figure it out, sometimes with the help of others and sometimes on your own.

4. 1-3 above are features of making, not bugs.  These are the most important things I’ve experienced this summer, more valuable than the specific things I have learned:  frustration; a desire to give up and do something different (which sometimes meant switching gears for a while and then coming back with fresh eyes/brain); a mixture of ultimate success and ultimate failure and a lot of in between.  The process is kind of like this:  vision (pure awesomeness!); wrestling with reality (oh wow, my vision was insane); adjustment of vision to something actually attainable; wrestling more with reality (my vision is now attainable but still way harder than I thought it would be); back and forth between adjusting vision and overcoming frustrations/challenges–vision gets simpler and then possibly goes back to being a bit more complicated once a hurdle is crossed (“if I can do that, maybe I can do that other thing that seemed impossible a few hours ago”); and eventually, some product that, because of all you went through in the process, feels AMAZING! even if it is just a pale imitation of the original vision.  Because you DID IT!

5. Sharing is an essential part of making.  Sharing the product but also sharing the process.  This is the educator part of me, I guess, but I think kids need to see and know that all of the messy parts of making are good and normal and worthwhile and important.

Those are my thoughts for now.  It’s late; I should sleep.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Reflections on the Summer of Making

  1. Collette J.

    I think you and I have been taking the same self-taught “classes” this summer, and I agree whole-heartedly with everything in this post! Especially the part about everything taking *much* longer than you think. It took all summer long to do 7 nursery rhymes in paper circuits, and I’m also a beginner. I really admire that you’re also doing Scratch, WeDo, and littleBits all at the same time! I haven’t gotten into coding yet, but that’s next on my maker to-learn list.

  2. Pingback: Summer Making and Learning | A Wrinkle in Tech

  3. Pingback: Summer Making and Learning | A Wrinkle in Tech

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