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6 Invaluable Life Lessons from Three Wildly Different Sewing Heroes

Apr 06, 2017
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The needle and thread are one of humankind’s most powerful tools. They’re not only a staple of necessity, they’re an implement of art. Throughout history, a wide variety of people have picked up the needle. Each individual impacted the world in some way, and their stories inspired my many life lessons. Learn with me the life lessons shared by these three master sewers. 

1. Campbell Remess: Generosity and Persistence

It’s difficult for some parents to tear their kids away from video games or their bikes, but Campbell “Bumble” Remess is “wired differently,” according to his mom. This middle school kid was looking for ways to give toys to the kids in his local hospital when he happened upon his favorite hobby: sewing. 

Remess was only nine when he asked his mother to buy Christmas toys for sick kids. When his parents told him that it would be too difficult financially for their large family, Remess got creative. He looked up a pattern for a toy bear, hopped on the sewing machine, and taught himself how to sew.

Remess decided to make a bear a day, dubbing his quest Project 365 by Campbell. He makes bears for children all over the world, and dedicates time each week to deliver toys to the Royal Hobart Hospital in Tasmania. Each bear is personalized, and Remess says they carry a little bit of magic.  

Persistence: Remess didn’t stopped when he was told “no, you can’t do it, it’s financially impossible.” Instead, he found a way around the problem and work hard. His goal was to sew a bear. So he did! Remess is an inspiring example of the power of persistence. After working hard to sew so many stuffed animals, he can now sew a bear in about an hour. Each bear brings endless joy to the sickest of the world.

Imagine what you could do if you had the dedication and persistence of this young man. 

Turn sadness upside-down: Remess’s story is also one of deep kindness in the face of the greatest adversity in life. Remess tries to improve a horrible situation with a tangible gesture of love and solidarity. As his mother put it, “he looks at sadness and tries to turn it upside down.” He’s so inspiring!

One way to improve a tough situation is gratitude, which has more benefits than possible to name here. Another way is kindness. Reaching out to others amid a time of turmoil would bring you closer together and comfort everyone, as Remess teaches us all.  

Coco Chanel: Simplicity and Comfort  

Coco Chanel was a pioneer of the fashion industry. She brought us the little black dress, the Chanel suit, and even made tanning popular! Yet she started out very humbly, taught to sew by nuns in an orphanage. It was practically by mistake that she began a fashion empire.

After moving to Paris to open a hat shop, she stepped out of the house in a dress made an old jersey. The dress was made from necessity: it was chilly and jersey was a comfy, warm fabric. Others admired the outfit, and Chanel began her fashion business by offering to make one for them. 

Two of the principles behind Chanel’s success are also life lessons that bring happiness and contentment.  

Simplify: Possibly Chanel’s most famous legacy is the little black dress. Its key principle was to simplify your outfit and use costume jewelry to add glamor. Too often, simplicity is associated with plainness. But simplicity is beneficial. 

From Marie Kondo’s simplicity in decreasing clutter, to Coco Chanel’s timeless little black dress, simplicity is one more step towards a happier life. 

Innovate: The twenties marked a shift in women’s fashion away from the restrictive corsets of the previous century, and Chanel was at the forefront. She was a staunch believer in making oneself comfortable so she had to find a new idea.

Her very first requested piece, the old jersey dress, was born out of a desire to be comfortable on a chilly day! Chanel once said, “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.”The truth is, if you are found in a perceived position of luxury but are uncomfortable and unhappy, you are truly not living luxuriously.

Chanel’s words reveal that material wealth is nothing unless you are happy. What a business woman, innovator, and trend setter! 

Meredith Woolnough: Beauty and Connections

Embroidery is generally an addition to fabric. But Meredith Woolnough took a different approach to this definition. She created beautiful sculptures through an ingenious method of embroidery.

Each delicate stitch is embroidered on a water-soluble fabric that washes away to reveal a skeleton of stitches. The true magic of Woolnough’s art, however, stems from her subject: the natural world. Words can’t do Woolnough’s art justice. Intricate, bright stitches reveal patterns and structures that are both familiar and supernatural, like her red cabbage piece.

Woolnough draws inspiration from diving and hiking around Australia. 

Take a closer look: Woolnough looks beyond initial impressions to the internal patterns of nature, sometimes using the microscope. This principle of examining the world closely is what makes Woolnough’s work so compelling. It’s also an important life lesson that should never be forgotten. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

We don’t need a microscope to take a closer look, though. Foster your curiosity every day by asking questions, and rediscover your sense of wonder. Then, beauty will reveal itself.  

Connect your stitches: The key to the strength and intricacy of Woolnough’s work is her method.

Over the years, she revealed, she discovered “make sure that all [her] stitches are connected so… it doesn’t just all unravel and turn into a big mess.”

Connection is vital to ensuring a happy, beautiful, and strong life. Aim to build connections with other people in your community by volunteering or showing kindness to a stranger.

Humans are hardwired to be connecting. Without each other, we unravel – just like Woolnough’s embroidery.  

Final thoughts

All of these sewing heroes have one thing in common: their creativity. It’s the final life lesson. If you think you have nothing new to show the world or need to get out of your way to leave your mark, check your motivation and don’t miss out. 

Nothing is new under the sun, said once a wise man, but we’re all unique and owe ourselves to share this uniqueness with the rest of the world. So, what are you waiting for? Get creative! 

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