What do you know how to do — IRL?

By Caitlin Kelly


For those of you who don’t have one — and I’m guessing that’s most of you — here’s my current sewing box: needles, thread, ribbon, vintage and new buttons, a bit of vintage cotton, my beloved and very un-PC pincushion of Chinamen (wrong phrase, yes I know) holding hands. My thimble appears to have gone missing, but I rarely used it anyway.

I pulled it out the other day to repair a cotton rug whose edging, after only a few washings, had begun to come apart and fray. I think there are people who would have kept it looking crappy and others who might have simply thrown it away. Not me.

I also have some mending on my to-do list, old cashmere with a few holes.

I love using my hands to make and repair things.

Some of the things I can do, or have done, very happily far away from a touch-screen:

— cook a good meal, with sauces or nicely plated

— bake quick breads, cookies, cakes, pies

— sew and mend

— take photos, draw and paint, (both artistically and walls/furniture, etc.)

curry a horse

— play acoustic guitar

— set and trim sails: jib, spinnaker, mainsail

— paddle, steer and portage a canoe

— fence saber (nationally ranked for four years)

— prune a (very small) tree

Here’s a recent story from The Guardian about a guy who learn how to butcher.

Inspired by this post, from Kentucky high school teacher Paul Barnwell:

Here’s what I take pride in being able to do:

1.  I can drive a 5-speed.

2.  I can–at least most years–kill a deer with a bow and arrow, gut it, butcher it, and stockpile various cuts of meat for the year.

3.  I can build simple furniture like bookshelves and coffee tables.

4.  I can make my own beer.

5.  I can make a variety of home improvements or repairs, from refinishing hardwood floors to constructing rain barrels.

6.  I can make bread from scratch.

Being able to do these things is part of my identify and fulfillment; I don’t desire to buy everything I consume, nor do I desire to save time in order to free up more internet browsing or Tweeting.  

I often challenge my students to disconnect and find a hobby that does not require them to be glued to a screen. Many remain glued to their screens while I tell them this.

How about you?

What are some your handy skills, in real life?

What are some you wish you had, or hope to acquire? (I’d like to learn to knit.)






15 thoughts on “What do you know how to do — IRL?

  1. Hello Caitlin Kelly!
    Interesting text! I too, fix up my frayed carpets, blankets towels; am totally against the throw away/instant gratification society…I also make lots of other things and have become good at using concrete to make all kinds of stuff. Keep up the good work!

  2. All sorts of things:
    – My own simple plumbing
    – Paint a house
    – Drive a stick shift (convinced this is a big deal because girls are encouraged to develop unnecessary anxiety about it)
    – 4 wheel drive
    – Ride a motorcycle
    – Draw, make photos, write
    – Make beautiful things on screen with HTML and CSS.

    I would like learn to:
    – Ride a horse. I was horse crazy as a kid. Still am to some degree.
    – Carpentry. I would LOVE to build furniture, shelving
    – Sail
    – code Javascript, it’s a slow, ongoing struggle
    – be fluent in Spanish and Danish. It’s a slow, though fun, struggle

    I think there’s lots to be said for doing stuff on screen. There’s mindlessly trawling the web and actually making stuff on computers. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not all bad!

  3. i can speak spanish and french at a confident kindergarten level, make cards for every occasion, write song lyrics, cook soups, and bake cupcakes. i would love to learn to speak italian and to ride a bike well.

  4. Pingback: What Can You Do? | If I had a minute to spare...

  5. Your post actually reminded me of things I know how to do, but haven’t done in a really long time:
    – ride a horse (English & Western)
    – curry a horse (I used to drive a horse & buggy back in Philadelphia)
    – knit
    – sew & mend clothes
    – parle un peu de francais
    – ride a motorcycle
    – check the oil in my car
    – change a flat tire
    – design Power Point demos
    – bake (cookies, cakes, pies)
    – speak and read a little Hebrew
    – ride a camel (no need to ever do that again)
    – swim every stroke (always amazed when people don’t know how to swim)
    – sing and act
    – play drums (did so in an all girl rock n roll band from age 14-19)
    – play the viola

    I’d love to speak better Hebrew, French and Spanish. I’d also love to learn how to surf one day, scuba dive, and play the piano!

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