Over the past few weeks I have been realizing more and more the similarities between sewing and Engineering.
Sewing as a basic skill is not difficult but a lot of the skills that are important engineering are also very transferrable to sewing, and can really facilitate any sewing project. I'm no engineer though... my background is more in the biological and social sciences with some statistics thrown in.
My boyfriend is an engineer and over the years I've really come to respect the skills that engineers have, and the special skills and knowledge that he specifically has. I'm speaking to more the logic, spatial design, precision, machine-operating, and hands-on skills that at least some engineers have.
Here are a few select Engineering-characteristics(Primarily what I have observed from Mechanical Engineering) that are very useful for sewing projects:
Spatial visualization/Thinking in 3D:
Understanding how pieces exactly fit together towards the final product is crucial in not only sewing but Engineering. CAD(computer aided design) programs are a prime example of the need to think in 3D as that skill is required to even use the program effectively.
This is required because you can really tell a difference when there is not much precision used... lines get crooked, things end up not even, thread unravels, lumps, etc... can definitely happen in sewing projects when one is not precise. Even cutting the fabric with a rotary cutter requires careful precision.. If you cut the curves and lines crooked, the sewing ends up crooked and your arm might not fit through the sleeves you made (Thankfully this has not happened to me yet... knock on wood).
Order of operations:
Going through the sewing process and building a car both require proper order of putting pieces together. One cannot ignore the various steps to come because that will really show in the project. In quilting, you can't expect the batting to be placed easily between pieces of fabric after the fabric has been sewn together, sewing the pocket on as an afterthought just isn't quite the same as building that into the process, etc.
CAD programs can also be used in pattern making, especially in industrial pattern making fields in the fashion industry. I've watched my guy draft sketches of house plans, homework, and other forms of "pattern making" over the years and can really see how that can benefit me to think more in that way when it comes to my sewing projects.
Characteristic of Materials:
This is very important in both fields. In sewing, whether or not a fabric is knitted or woven makes a big difference in how it should be cut and sewn, especially given how much stretch a fabric has directionally. Thread content is important too because if it is not appropriate for the fabric it is sewn onto it can simply break because it cannot stretch enough with the fabric when worn. The type of fabric and thread also affect the kind of tension required on the machine. In engineering, very similar principals apply ... I mean they have entire courses devoted simply to the characteristics of materials...different material properties affect their how they behave under various circumstances like heat, tension, etc.
Fine motor skills:
It would be to one's advantage to not be clumsy (I don't think it would be fun to sew a finger by accident and it would not good to weld metal to a table by accident). Operating machinery (sewing MACHINE, soldering metal, utilizing tools, etc.) requires good fine motor skills.
Knowledge of Machinery:
This is especially useful in troubleshooting. If you know what pieces are present in a machine and how they interact with each other it is much easier to be able to apply deductive reasoning, logic, etc. to fixing the problem.
Some examples of how he might be better at sewing than me:
1) Based simply on how the top thread and bottom thread work to keep fabric together... he has shown me a much more effective and efficient way of seam ripping.
2) He sews in a straighter line than me.
3) Showed me how the free arm of my sewing machine exists (I obviously did NOT read the manual very well)
4) Knew immediately that the machine did not sound as it should while I would let it continue that way for a few moments...
5) Looks at the sewed hem and can identify immediately if the tension was wrong.
6) He showed me the wonders of Google Sketchup. He has sketched up many 3-D houses on it and the one time I attempted to, he could see immediately that I did a horrible job because my "walls" weren't even real walls because the lines didn't even connect for it to have been more than toothpicks strung together.
This is not to say he is actually better at sewing than me, he's had years of engineering learnings and experiences from growing up a carpenters son, building furniture and bridges, engineering courses, and his job... and I'm just getting started...
Engineering and Sewing aren't too different. The methodology is the same though the medium may be different. You make some sort of plan for that specific project, then you go and build it.
I'm doing pretty well though...He enjoyed telling the cashier that the dress she was complimenting me on was one I had recently sewn :).
I feel like I'm going back to school! Need to study up on some sewing!
My Alma Mater: Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
Love and Honor!