Finally finishing graduate school this year was the hardest thing that I have done in my life. Working through the challenge, I learned so much about myself. Part of that was learning how important it is to me to sew – to work with my hands, to design, and to create. Sewing is my rock that gets me through hard times. Curious to see if others have had similar experiences, I asked some other sewists to share their personal connections between sewing and making it through graduate school. I’m excited to introduce Ph.D. molecular biologist and seamstress Kat of The Couture Academic.
I was so delighted to see an invitation from the lovely and talented Seamstress Erin to do a guest post on the relationship between sewing and the academic life. I also wanted to say a hearty CONGRATUATIONS to Erin on her substantial accomplishment – it’s no small feat completing a PhD and much of your heart and soul goes into it, so it’s deserving of a few solid pats on the back.
As for myself, I really didn’t start up sewing again until after my PhD when I was doing my postdoctoral work* in Australia – but I always crafted. During my PhD much of my crafting life was devoted to knitting, which was promptly followed by beading during my first postdoc at UBC.
My love of sewing was rekindled when my wonderful husband bought me a Brother for Christmas a few years ago. I sewed on my mother’s old cast iron “built like a rock” Singer during my teenage years back in Canada, but couldn’t take it with me to Australia because of its weight. Then I discovered Gertie and then Craftsy and then it was ALL over :)
I even sewed my own wedding dress. But, getting back to answering Erin’s questions:
How did sewing keep you sane through your postdoc?
It fed the aesthetic side of my brain; that part of me that loves colour, style, design and texture. It also connected me with a community of like minded sewists whose eyes didn’t glaze over when I spoke about interfacing :) It was and still is very inspiring to me to see the result of everyone’s creative efforts – it fed a part of my soul that science couldn’t.
How have the skills you learned in grad school help you as a sewist?
The number one way was feeling fine with failure. Being a molecular biologist meant that failure was probably 85% of your daily activities. But this is to be expected when one is innovating – they wouldn’t call it research if we knew the end result. Science does a great job in quashing fear of failure right away, and that has been of massive benefit to many aspects of my life, not least of which is my sewing.
Did you give up sewing in grad school but were able to make the time for it after graduating?
Yes and yes. I didn’t sew thorough grad school, but not because I didn’t have time. I knitted instead. I suppose I’ve always crafted in some shape or form. I have a miniature version of Michaels or Spotlight in my sewing room with a wide range of crafting supplies from scrapbooking to watercolour painting to knitting to sewing (which dominates). Crafting and especially sewing has been a huge part of my life and has taken me though many stages of my life and will continue to do so. It waxes and wanes and evolves, but it’s always been there.
Relax and Enjoy,
*A postdoc is similar to a medical internship in that you do a few 2-3 year stints in various labs after you get your PhD to gain practical experience to move onto the next stage in your career.