The Power Of Naivety

For Valentine’s Day this year, I wanted to go a bit fancier than my usual shop-bought present, deciding instead that I would handmake a cushion and embroider our names on the front. My grandma taught me to sew many years ago and even though I’d not really used those skills much in the intervening time, I figured that it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Oh how naive of me.

If I’m going to be honest, my original plans were probably about as detailed as:

  1. Buy cushion
  2. Embroider names on the front
  3. Success

As you might imagine, this wasn’t really sufficient planning on my part. By the time I was finished, my original plans had ballooned out to a frankly ridiculous number of individual points that I hadn’t even realised would be relevant at the start. As well as that, I began a couple of weeks before Valentine’s Day, worked on it whenever I had any spare time and still only finished it late in the evening the day before. In all, it probably took me about 15-20 hours of work to go from an initial idea to a finished project (what can I say, I’m apparently incredibly slow at sewing).

The good news is that, despite all of the above, I finished it!

A white square cushion with "Matthew & Josephine" embroidered on the front in black thread along with two hearts in red

Now this blog post isn’t just an excuse to show off a sweet handmade cushion (although that is absolutely part of it), it’s also a chance to reflect on what I learned from the project.

If I had realised at the start how much effort and time it would take, I probably wouldn’t have even tried in the first place, deeming it “beyond my skills”. Yet because I was awfully naive about the whole thing, I gave it a go and figured everything out as I went along. I’ll just buy a cushion and embroider that! Ah, that’ll make it hard to sew on the front. I’ll get a big piece of fabric instead. What kind of fabric do I need? This one is good, but I need to stiffen it so that it doesn’t bunch up when I’m sewing. Wait, you can get this iron on backing that…

The point here is that being naive to the required effort was almost fundamental to me completing the project. It didn’t have to be that way though. The core of what allowed me to succeed was that I broke the task up into smaller sub-tasks and worked on them one at a time, breaking the sub-task down further if I needed to. It’s exactly the same way that I built my first website; I didn’t go in knowing everything about web development, I just pointed myself in a vaguely correct direction, figured out what I needed to know as I went along and just kept going until I was finished. One foot in front of the other.

Now it’s worth pointing out that naivety certainly isn’t the end goal here since it’s much better to go into a project with an accurate understanding of the effort involved, the resources required etc. But it does have its uses if you try to learn from it and use it to realise that what you can achieve is often more than you might have originally thought.

Separate your tasks into smaller chunks. Don’t be scared of learning as you go. Don’t get disheartened if you feel a long way from your end goal. Realise that some tasks that seem impossible are actually built out of many individual parts that are each very achievable.

And finally: remember that cushions take ages to make.

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