One of the ways we can make ourselves smarter is by learning and practicing new skills and enjoying the rewards that often comes with them. Earlier in the year I was inspired by the work of the choir club at university to learn how to sew. I had done some very basic sewing once or twice in school and at home, and could still remember how to thread a needle and what a back stitch was, but that was about all I could remember.

I had recently bought a pair of trousers that needed to be hemmed so that seemed like an ideal first project. As it turns out, it isn’t all that easy to measure your own hem length while wearing the trousers in question. Eventually, I managed to pin up the ends to roughly where I wanted them and so I set about sewing the hem. Badly. Since the trousers were so long to begin with, the end flapped down under my new hem, which looked more than a bit silly. After that, the end of one of my hems cam undone and I ended up having to redo a lot of stitching after cutting off the excess. To the trained eye, I fully expect my hem is a load of rubbish, but to me it looks passable and it hasn’t fallen apart since when I fixed it. I am satisfied that I can now sew a basic hem and make a reasonable, if amateurish job of it.

Not content with merely hemming a pair of trousers, I set my sights a little higher. I wanted to make something that I could wear, something real and usable in my day-to-day life. The simplest item of clothing I could think of was a sash for kung fu. I’d only just made it to black sash so I needed a new one anyway. I went down to the local fabric shop, found some thick satin and set to work. It took me all morning to put it together but it wasn’t at all difficult. In fact, I daresay my sash is better quality than the ones they sell at most martial arts suppliers, despite my sewing. I guess that shows how good the average supplier is.

The point isn’t the sewing, of course. By exposing ourselves to new ideas and learning different skills that we don’t normally think about, we become smarter by one measure or another. Getting good at learning things can’t be bad and making yourself more well-rounded is always beneficial.