Coding and Sewing

Not having to work this weekend, I spent some time doing things around the house. One of those things was repairing the deck tent. The tent, which we got last spring, was damaged in some recent strong winds. Eight Velcro straps sewn into the tent ripped off during the wind storm. They weren’t sew on well to begin with. But rather than go through the trouble of finding another tent, I decided to fix this one.

The challenge was: I’d never really sewed anything before. Determined to fix this myself, however, Kelly pulled out a sewing kit she has and proceeded to show me how to sew. This included threading the needle, tying it off, and the actually process of sewing. I then set about sewing back on the eight Velcro straps that had been pulled off.

Very quickly, I noticed something. Sitting there, threading the needle in-and-out in what sewing experts probably would likely frown upon, a calm focus settled in over me. It was a time-consuming process, in part because it was new for me, and in part because I was determined to sew them on better than the factory had. But it was also hypnotic. Time seemed to disappear as I focused on each strap, and the feeling I had when I finished one an emerged from that focus was familiar.

It was, I realized, the same feeling I have when writing computer code. All of my concentration goes into it to exclusion of everything else. When writing code, the focus is often the concentration that comes from trying to contain the whole program in my head, how all of the pieces fit together, and how one change impacts something else. With sewing, the concentration stemmed from the physical aspects: the dexterity (or lack thereof) involved in handling the needle and thread; the focusing on my vision on my target. In both cases, the word fades away and only comes back once the task in completed.

When I finished the job–it took some time–I was pleased with the result. I immediately went out to the deck and reinstalled the tent, fastening the newly resewn straps into place. It was the perfect afternoon to test out my work, breezy enough to shake the tent about once I had it up. It seemed to hold. I guess time will tell. In any case, the tent is back in place, which is good, because the weather calls for much more time on the deck. I ate my lunch on the deck today, instead of at my desk. And now we can use the tent again, too.

The repaired deck tent
The repaired deck tent.


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