Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How to learn a new skill

Person cutting fabric near sewing equipment

I am someone who enjoys challenging herself, to take on something new and see how it works, both for my lifestyle choices and if I enjoy it. Only a few years ago, gardening encompassed getting more trees planted and putting in some perennials around my foundation. Now I grow some of my food and preserve them. Deciding to try a u-pick strawberry farm encouraged me to make my own freezer jam with all the berries I brought home. I only have limited freezer space so I soon learn how to can my jams and other preserves in a hot-water bath canner. I needed a bookshelf to fit a certain space in my bedroom and could not find one that fit my requirements. So, I made one myself with adjustable shelves and stained and varnished it to my liking. All of these are new skills I acquired were fueled by interest and curiosity. However, one needs a bit more than that to tackle most projects. Here are a few ways to expand your skill set and become more self-sufficient:

Take a class. I have been using this method for decades. I learned sewing in high school, a course taken during summer school. However, I was taught quilting from continuing education class ten years later. For many people, a more structured environment like a classroom is a great way to learn a new skill. Classes are more social than other learning methods and feedback from an instructor can really help you. Having someone critique my fabric choices for my quilting project gave me a better eye the next time I bought fabric.

Read a book. For those who like to do things at her own pace, a book is a great way to read and absorb information. Drawings and illustrations are quite useful in learning new skills and many books are available for different levels of skill and interest. You might not want to build a bookshelf, but maybe a bird feeder or small table is more your style. And as you progress with your learning and enjoy the experience, you have find more challenging projects to try. Libraries are a great resource for checking out a book and seeing if there is something you want to try.

Ask a friend, family member or neighbor. There is always something to learn from someone else. My niece is learning how to crochet from her grandmother, I learned how to sort and do laundry from my mother and one of my coworkers learned how to knit from another friend. Most people enjoy sharing their skills so ask if he or she knows how to do something you are interested in. You enjoy some time with them or get to know them better and add to your skill set. That is a win-win situation!

Join a group. I know of knitting, quilting and sewing circles, places to play games and book clubs for reading a variety of genres. These can be private groups or sponsored by a library or retail shop. Many welcome beginners or offer instruction on the subject. Check your local paper or ask if there is a group others know about that may serve your needs. Plus, this adds some social interaction and is less structured than a class.

Research online. If you have access to the internet, explore away. However, be cautious with the information you find. Anyone can post anything and be sure to sort out if the information and source are credible. This method is another way to learn at your own pace and to find something that offers you the best learning style. YouTube has a host of video instructions, great for visual learners while others might want a static web page or a podcast for better understanding. I read how to plant a tree on the Web and have five successfully growing trees to show for it.

Just do it. There is something to be said for just diving in and trying it. Presumably, you have some idea of how your desired item is created or performed and you have the right tools. There is likely more trial and error involved with this method of learning, but I understand some find action preferable to reading or watching someone else. Although I did read about composting when I purchased my compost bin, just do it applied to throwing in biodegradable items, and my organic material did decompose. And planting my rhubarb three weeks after digging it out of ground from another location was a experiment that was successful through no intention of my own.

Will you be learning a new skill this year?

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