mwotw most of sewing

Most of Sewing Isn’t Sewing

I learned to use a sewing machine when I was about 5 years old.  (Thanks, mom!)

Over the years I’ve sewn pants, quilts, costumes, skirts… even my homecoming dress one year. I can do buttons. I can do zippers. I can follow a pattern, or make up my own.

So when I decided to shorten the blackout curtains that hang in my bedroom, the idea of hemming two panels of fabric seemed pretty trivial.

It requires literally two straight lines.

“It’ll take me 30 minutes, tops!” I told a friend.

Except… It’s been 5+  years since I did a sewing project.

And I forgot one really important thing:

Most of sewing isn’t sewing.

As I got into the project, ALL the steps involved, which I’d conveniently erased from my brain, started to come back to me.

I found the sewing machine.

I cleared space on the table.

I went looking for an extension cord.

I set up the iron and ironing board.

I made sure my godson wasn’t going to get burned by the iron.

I found a ruler.

I measured.

I ironed.

I filled the iron with more water.

I pinned.

I found scissors.

I cut.

I ironed again.

I pinned again.

I untangled white thread from another color.

I made sure the bobbin was loaded.

I threaded the machine.

Finally, at least 45 minutes after starting the project, I was ready to sew my “simple two straight lines.”

And as I did so, it occurred to me: This is just like running a service business.

So many of us start (or imagine) a business in order to DO THE THING we love and are great at. (Massage, copywriting, coaching, therapy, etc.)

That’s the “sewing.”

But then when we get started, we realize there’s SO MUCH ELSE required to create the conditions that allow us to do the “sewing.”

Setting up tech systems.

Creating contracts and onboarding documents.

Pricing our offers.

Money management and bookkeeping.

And of course that dreaded monster…  👹marketing. 👹

All of this can get easier over time, of course. 

If I were sewing regularly, about half of those steps — which were really about set up and equipment — would go away as I got my systems dialed in.

But if you’re dreaming of starting a business, do yourself a favor and get real with yourself about how much you’ll need to do besides just THE THING ITSELF.

Then take a deep breath and do it anyway.

Intrepidly yours,


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This post was originally sent as an email to the Magic Words of the Week newsletter list. Every week, I share reflections on a word, quote, or phrase I think will help you thrive in your life’s work.

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