Operation Christmas Child: Learning to Sew the Real Way


A growth mindset is crucial for learning a new skill. One must give oneself permission to learn.

God Himself gives us permission to learn. It would be mighty unfair of Him to say, “Know this” and not give us the tools and time to learn it.

The growth mindset is also helpful in unlearning certain – well, we shall say skills, but more like – bad habits ingrained through repetitive hearing and internal agreeing.

All that to say: I am learning to sew the real way! And along the way, I’m facing some fears, old and new.

Ripped to Shreds by a Stray Seam Ripper

When Joan told me we were going to begin Crafting Workshops for Operation Christmas Child at church I was over the moon!

When she told me we were going to start by sewing dresses for little girls – with a pattern! – my moon crash landed on my sewing kit, got stabbed by a thousand needles and ripped to shreds by a stray seam ripper.

“This is it,” I told myself.

This is where my heartbeat for Operation Christmas Child meets my sewing machine temperament and my sewing vocabulary.

And let’s just say, my sewing vocabulary isn’t exactly something I want published.

Failure seemed imminent.

Risking Failure in Public

I had made it through making a pillowcase dress without a word needed in apology to my Unseen Sewing Partner, with the prayer support of online Operation Christmas Child friends (thank you Mary and Cheryl!) but how would I respond to errors – and tangles with my sewing machine! – with an audience.

Ok, so it wasn’t going to be an audience since they’d all be working on their dresses, too, but still, there would be people in the room.

Could I risk failing not only sewing but in my sewing thought process – in public??

There was only one way to find out:

Go in with 2 yards of fabric, sewing scissors and a box of pins.

And Grandma’s pin cushion.

Grandma Pin Cushion

Photo Tutorial of Our Workshop Day

Instead of walking you through with words, I thought I’d show the process in pink …

The Pattern-Using Concept began pretty easily.

After asking a bazillion questions, that is.

The Cathy Dress_Pattern

Pleats were next.

Oh boy, the tremors begin.

The past slaps me in the face.

The Cathy Dress_Measuring Pleats

Hmmmm. This doesn’t seem so hard.

The Cathy Dress_First Pleats Ever Sewn

It was between taking these two pics,

that I broke down in tears.

A Row of Pleats_My First

And it was about here,

after I dried my tears,

finished ironing my pleats,

and just a moment or two after I Ta Da’d my pleats,

that Joan began sharing the next step.

But I’m basking, Joan! I made pleats! I’m basking!”

“Very good! Ok, bask,” she encouraged,

as she (at least in my imagination) looked at her watch.

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 seconds later:

“Ok, enough basking.  The next step is …”

I told ya she’s tough, but she’s a lovin’ kind of tough!

Joan My Sewing Teacher

Joan’s wisdom, repeated in my brain and often

mumbled out loud like a Gregorian chant,

got me through the seams:

“If you are riding a horse and you can’t see the error on the fence post, it’s good enough.”

The Cathy Dress_It's Beginning to Look Like a Dress

With side seams sewn, it was looking like a real dress!

A lining?  I’m making a lining?  Oh, that’s why I cut out a lining?!
Are you sure I can do this, Joan?

“If you are riding a horse and you can’t see the error on the fence post, it’s good enough.”

The Cathy Dress_Lining and Dress Pleated

Hmmm, that making a lining stuff wasn’t so bad.

Now it’s time to:

The Cathy Dress_Edge of Lining Pinked

Joan’s Pinking Tip: Pink out

If you are right-handed place the fabric on the left of the pinking shears and pink out. That way you can see where you are cutting; the scissors won’t be in the way of your field of vision.

And then she made me top stitch.

“If you are riding a horse and you can’t see the error on the fence post, it’s good enough.”

The Cathy Dress_My First Top Stitching Ever

But, oooh, top stitching does make it come out nice!

Joan made my button holes for me.

And yes, I gulped a panic when she said, “Oops.”
But all was well!

The Cathy Dress_CloseUp

With the classroom clearing out, I saved the buttons and hemming the bottom of the dress for when I got home.

Which I did as soon as I got home.

Before my chicken heart came back clucking.

Ta da!

The finished dress!

The Cathy Dress_Operation Christmas Child

A dress!  With pleats!  And a lining!

For a little girl somewhere in the world!

The Vocabulary Report

How did I verbally get through oopses, tangles, and not-sure-what-I’m-doings?

Joan gave me thoughts to replace the thoughts that were trying to worm their way back into my swimming-with-emotions sewing world.

I must have repeated that line about the horse a gazillion times.

“If you are riding a horse and you can’t see the error on the fence post, it’s good enough.”

Did the ladies look at me like I was nuts for chanting about horses and fence posts?

If they thought it, they sure had good control of their facial features because I never saw it nor felt it.

They knew that I was working on my sewing vocabulary as much as I was on my sewing skills.

And they gave me time – and a place – to learn.  Smile

It’s Your Turn

  • Have you ever felt stumped or stuck in learning a new skill, or re-learning a previously unrefined skill?
  • How do you use your interests to face your fears?


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