Monday, March 14, 2011

Are You Right Brained or Left Brained?

Image via etsy
I've been writing instructions for drafting a full circle, half circle, and 3/4 circle skirt to go in my book. Readers, this involves math. And not just any math: this is algebra and stuff. In a particularly frustrating moment, I tweeted, "Don't you hate it when sewing involves math?" Interestingly enough, the responses were generally 50/50. Some of you hate math too, some of you love it. And one of you (thanks, Tatiana!) was particularly practical about sewing intersecting with math: "It always does."

Indeed, sewing always involves some sort of math. It can be simple, like adding 2" to a skirt to make it knee length. Or it can be pretty involved, like figuring out the radius of a 3/4 circle skirt.

I've always had a bad relationship with math. And I was sort of the black sheep in my family: my mother was an accountant. My father was an engineer, and my brother followed in his footsteps. I was the stereotypically artsy one; I loved theater and music and arts and crafts. One of my most vivid memories of learning math is pretty depressing. We moved around a bit when I was growing up, and when I entered second grade in a new school I was really behind in math. My new classmates were already subtracting a 3 digit number from another three digit number. (Like 543 minus 256, for instance.) My first night of school, my accountant mom stayed up late with me, trying to help me understand the homework. She really had her work cut out for her. I remember getting teary, looking at the numbers and thinking: these numbers mean absolutely nothing to me. Seriously, my brain would just sort of shut down when I tried to make sense of the 6 digits stacked in rows of 3 on top of each other.

My math career continued along this dismal trajectory. In high school, a D in algebra was the blight on my otherwise A-average report card. Geometry, however, was a bright spot. I easily earned an A, and it made perfect sense to me. What did it all mean?

There's a pretty simple term for this affliction: right-brained. It's been figured out at this point that there are two types of people in this world, those who are predominately right-brained and those who are left-brained. The right brain controls creative functions, while the left brain is analytical. Geometry tends to be easier for right-brained people since it involves visual learning and 3D thinking.

The cool thing about sewing is that it attracts both the right-brained and the left-brained. There's pretty  much something for everyone! The engineering and mathematics of sewing will attract left-brained types, while right-brainers enjoy the intuitive and creative parts of the craft. But I would argue that a bigger plus of the hobby is that we get to flex our non-dominant brain. When else would I voluntarily do algebra, for goodness sake? Just like doing crosswords or other puzzles can keep us young and sharp, I would imagine that getting out of our comfort zone intellectually can do us a world of good.

I'm curious if sewing folks are really generally 50/50 left or right brained. What's your experience?

91 comments:

  1. I would say I am an equal mix. I did terrible in math, but I do like it (however that might work). I also use math for my work everyday...which is designing houses...so I definitely fit into both sides. I'm quite creative, but very analytical at the same time. -Kath

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  2. I'm definetly a mathsy person (studying engineering) and have recently discovered that I love drafting - it still baffles my brain that the 2D drawing actually works on my body though.

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  3. I am much like you (in fact, reading this post was much like revisiting my school-age math history! lol.). More abstract mathematics has never been my strong point, and I've struggled a lot with that. But, geometry is something I adore, which has come in mighty handy with sewing! I do find though, that when it comes to it, I can figure something out--even using the "dreaded" Algebra to figure out things as needed. Though math has never been and will never be my area of expertise, I am glad that I have to flex that side of my brain regularly thanks to sewing--keeps my grey matter nimble! ;) lol.

    ♥ Casey

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  4. I'm very right-brained, and my school experiences with math sound almost exactly like yours, down to the long teary evenings with the frustrated parent/tutor. I went on to get a fine arts degree. But later I went back for a degree in computer science, and found that while I still hate "mathy" math, I enjoy stuff like algorithms. There are a lot of engineering-like aspects to sewing. Like knowing when and how to change the shape of a dart, for example -- there's certainly an algorithm for that!

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  5. I actually love the part of sewing that involves maths. It makes my whole brain work at a time. Unfortunately, it also more time-intensive, and that's why I still haven't made up anything from my Pattern magic books...

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  6. You're so right! I often find myself thinking "this hurts my brain!" when I'm trying to do pattern alterations or figure out ways of attaching things that need to be flipped inside out, upside-down etc. I was very good at maths in school but I disliked it, and have since moved very much in a creative direction. I think my 'maths brain' has kind of dried up. But if there was no challenge to sewing, I wouldn't enjoy it half as much. I think it's very healthy for my brain to have to oil up its maths cogs now and then... however much I might curse the work at the time.
    Since I work in a 'creative' sector, people often say to me "oh I could never do that, I'm not creative". Yes I do believe people are born with certain tendencies, but I generally reply that it takes practice, and the more you 'work out' the creative side of your brain, the stronger it becomes.
    Thanks for mentioning the geometry-3D-visual thinking part. I didn't realise that was linked to the right brain. That explains a lot about one of my kids!

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  7. i'm definitely right-brained... geometry was always very easy and clear to me, but all other math stuff was just a soup of numbers that exited my head again as soon as the test was over. i now study illustration and sometimes have to calculate the number of pages in a book or how large the page has to be to fit a certain paper size after all the printer's marks have been added... it's not even that hard, but i still don't like it!

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  8. I'm with you on the math, I shut down completely whenever numbers come up, theres a dial tone in my brain whenever I have to add. But then the maths that I've been using when drafting patterns is giving me an 'I can do this' that I've never had before. Makes me wish I was drafting instead of staring blankly at maths books at school!

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  9. I dont think I am particularly either sided brain. I love math and science, I'm good at artsy things. I dont think of myself as a lefted or righted.

    I think also a lot of times people aren't bad at math, but more afraid of it. I went to alternative school with a lot of kids who were doing poorly in math. Once they got over the anxiety and fear of testing a lot of people did better in math, and other things!

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  10. Actually, as I understand it, credible neurologists/neurophysicists think the right brained/left brained dichotomy is a total myth. The split-brain research of the 60s that birthed this myth has been largely rejected, after brain-scanning technologies came into play which showed both hemispheres working hard on tasks which were supposed to be right or left brained.

    That's not to say there's not some lateralization to the brain, but it is a whole lot more subtle and complex than "left=math, right=creative".

    I'm a scientist (currently working as a lab tech in the medical field), with all the logic and analytical skills that implies. I'm also hugely creative. Take from that what you will.

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  11. I think I tend to both. I really enjoyed math, am an analytical type, but I like the creative aspects of sewing etc too.

    BTW, musical talent is on the same side as math, and is the opposite side as spoken language.

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  12. I'm the same way. Geometry was easy for me because it is visual and "real". Algebra was hard because it was theoretical and didn't apply to anything physical. Even now, if I can see and touch something I learn it very easily. If it is all theory...zzzzzzzz.

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  13. corvustristis, you're definitely right when you say it's a lot more subtle/complexthis than this. I'm a neuroscience major who just did a semester long course in laterality, so I'm just gonna back right outta this thread while people try to decide which hemisphere is their 'dominant' one, haha.

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  14. I too hated math in school, and I'm convinced that memorizing songs from Multiplication Rock is the sole reason I got through my times tables. In high school I was thrilled and amazed at doing well in geometry and decided to end my scholastic math career immediately following.

    I never mind sewing math through, and pattern drafting just seems more like drawing to me. My preference for flat pattern over draping is frankly surprising to me, but it's definitely the case. Years of work in retail has definitely made me adept at everyday math, as well as no teacher expectation that all your work needs to be shown in longhand. It makes me lame at helping my kids with their math woes however, and my oldest is as left brained as can be.

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  15. We don't even have to give it a name...each of us has a unique brain with its own quirky traits. I have always 'considered' myself very right brained. Many things that are very easy for those with an analytical brain are hard for me. It is also a question of HOW we learn. Are we visual learners? Or auditory learners? or a mixture. It is very complicated. I can do math sort of...but spelling. Ugh!!! I read constantly...put no matter how often I see certain words, when it comes to spelling them on paper I can't. Just writing this comment, I have had to go to google 3 times to get correct spelling.

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  16. Contrary to popular belief, accountants can't do the math you're talking about. All we know are how to make the best of reporting laws and memorize tax calculations. Pi? What's that?

    Personally I like theoretical math better so geometry was my worst subject while algebra was pretty good. Sewing is both fabulous and dreadful because of that.

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  17. I'm actually naturally ambidextrous, but learned more and more as a kid to be right handed because the school system thought you should be just one or the other, not both. But my brain still held on to that so I'm a very visual person, but I am also very good at math and science. I am getting a degree in engineering after all.

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  18. algebra is the devil. My downfall was actually keeping track of the negatives and decimals and little fiddly things.

    Geometry and trig are fabulous. You know what else is nice? Calculus.

    Seriously.
    I had to take calculus in high school. And while it was one of the hardest classes ever, I actually enjoyed it. The numbers go away, and you play with concepts. Once I got my brain around the concepts (that was the hard part) things started to flow in ways they never did in algebra.

    I almost took calculus in college.

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  19. I'm glad to hear from some scientist commenters that this dicotomy it might be a myth because I've always been a 'middle brained' person. I'm a programmer/web designer and work with the arty web design and the mathy programing. But I don't really like hardcore back-end coding, I'm purely a object oriented girl, for web pages and Flash games. I'm also not a huge fan of serious art. I like looking at it but can't manage to paint/draw something that is really 'high art'. I just like drawing flowers and puppies and stuff.

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  20. I love math! Normally, I see myself as a more left brain typed person, but I also love reading and writing. I really appreciate art (even if I have no talent what so ever in drawing, painting, etc.) I also tend to be quite emotional, which is usually right brain associated.

    Physics is always the bit that gets me and there are definitely some physics-y bits in sewing. I have issues visualizing how all of the shapes of fabrics I just cut out are going to combine into something meaningful.

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  21. I loooove this post. It hits on so many of my favorite ideas. I have always done well in Math, but I am also reasonably adept and comfortable in right-brained activities. I have spent my life (48 years and counting) dabbling in all sorts of things. I find creative ways to function in the scientific world (and am misunderstood), and scientific ways to function in the arts (which seems far more acceptable).
    I did, however, experience a similar 2nd grade Math trauma. My Dad was sent to Management Training for IBM. This involved 2-3 months in Rochester, MN. So the whole family took an apt. there, a long way from Mass. My new class did math by recitation, the old-fashioned way, where you had to stand next to your desk and recite the equations. I was terrified. And on top of it, the teacher's method of correcting you, was to have you repeat it over and over, while your classmates snickered behind their hands. I remember waiting my turn, and giving myself a public-speaking pep talk, but at least confident of my math skills. Imagine my horror, to hear teacher say, "No, try again." over and over and over, while I gave the same wrong answer over and over and over. I thought I would die. As it turned out, my math was indeed correct. My error was in using the term "take away" (which I was then told was for babies). Apparently, sophisticated Minnesotan second-graders were expected to use the term "minus". (Gah! This experience is permanently embedded in my brain as an example of why not to use humiliation as a teaching tool!)
    And finally, I really applaud your attitude of challenging yourself to use all of your intellect as a hedge against losing it! I heartily agree!

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  22. The math versus creativity stereotype always makes me a bit sad. In my experience, mathematicians tend to be very creative, also visually. Most of friends from when I studied math at university either sews or knits. Several considered dropping out to do art or design, but stayed on because they also loved math. One girl later got accepted at the Danish school of design and another changed to history of art.

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  23. Mixed.

    I'm mildly learning disabled: I understand math concepts easily but have a very difficult time with the arithmetic needed to express them in mathematical terms. If I were allowed to write out the process of solving them, in paragraphs, I would have done fine. But that's not how school works, of course. I like both geometry and algebra, and I liked physics, even though I stink at them.

    I did, however, inherit my mother's spatial skills. I was absolutely wicked in drafting class, where we had to draw an object at different angles. Everybody else had wrong lines connecting to wrong lines, and I could do it standing on my head. That definitely makes sewing easier!

    I'm moderately artistic, at best. I appear to be more artistic than I am because I'm confident enough to try things even if I'm not at all sure I'll succeed. I'm always shocked by people--some of my quilting friends come to mind--who need commercial patterns for everything. Somebody tried to sell me a commercial template for a tumbler quilt once. Like I can't cut a cardboard tumbler?? Or draw a primitive chicken appliqué?

    But I am not extraordinarily creative. I don't come up with really outrageous artistic ideas. The most frustrating thing is my almost complete lack of ability to improvise music. People who can be told a key signature and then go hog wild improvising amaze me. I am far too mathematical for that.

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  24. Yay for neuroscience majors!

    I agree with Gry, I think maths can very creative and, as your post describes, creative pursuits can involve a lot of maths. So maybe there is not so much difference?

    I was always much better at, I guess, more abstract mathematics than ones that involved things in the real world, like geometry. Which is strange because I have really good spatial reasoning skills and imagining how patterns fit together is not a problem for me.

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  25. The right/left brained dichotomy sends me into a bit of identity crisis. I am left handed and was very good at drawing & painting from a very early age, so I grew up thinking that I was "creative" and right-brained. But in college (in art school, no less!) I began to suspect that I'm not so creative after all and noticed that I had strengths in a lot of left-brained areas. I had been pretty good at math in high school, especially geometry, but wasn't interested in it.

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  26. I think this is true in the knitting world too...I'm a lefty who knits and crochets with my right hand (sheer necessity really I'd have to redo the instructions otherwise. Pain, pain!). Now I think it's cool that I can 'drive' the machine the way I would drive a car - with my right foot!

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  27. I always HATED math class growing up, especially word problems, uggh! But I find when it comes to figuring out tasks I want to accomplish (ex: grading a pattern), I don't hate math nearly as much.

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  28. Another who knows about brains (studed neuropysch at uni) who agrees that the dichotomy is not nearly so clearcut.

    I can do maths, but only really enjoy it when it's applied. Pure mathematics just doesn't work for me, but I'm a stats geek and I love drafting patterns using both a good eye and a mathematical brain.

    A lot of the whole "Oh, I can't do maths/I'm not creative" malarkey is down to how you were taught and supported as a child. I had good maths teachers but also lots of support to be creative, so I'm quite happy in both fields. I know I'm lucky in this, though.

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  29. I always liked calculus and algebra FAR more than geometry---yet actually enjoy the pattern drafting and construction part of sewing quite a bit.

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  30. I think I might be no-brained. Geometry made no sense to me in high school. Neither, however, did algebra or precalculus.
    Give me languages, or physics.
    My seamstress mother is continually baffled by the fact that I have a photographic memory, but can't figure out what she's talking about when she tries to describe how an article of clothing goes together. She starts talking, and my brain shuts down. I can make bread from scratch, I can knit a hat in under 3 hours, and I cannot picture how a sleeve fits into a shoulder seam when someone tries to explain it to me.

    But once I see it, I'll always be able to do it.

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  31. I am right brained for sure. Math drives me crazy. Although in some areas I feel I am left brained, just not when it comes to math. I've been planning on brushing up a bit on it, though. It would be very helpful.

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  32. I was pretty good at math until I got to parts where you really need to be creative, people who do high level math are some of the most creative around, and I just didn't have that sort of brain, I could follow explainations; but not forge new ground.

    I wonder if a lot of this dichotomy is either in learning styles (visual, auditory, kinetic etc.) or differences in whether you're a detail person (who loves algebra) or a whole object person (who loves geometry).

    My method for teaching multiplication tables was to use car trips and start with the easy ones. 2x3=6 3x2=6 6/2=3 6/3=2 so that they could get the dance steps started, that multiplication and division are partners. Starting low and going to the twelves. It didn't take long until they felt it was too simple; and the ten minutes per trip was about right for learning.

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  33. My story is 100% the inverse of yours. I was a math major and my current job is designing math software. I remember sobbing over homework, but only when it involved drawing. My least favorite math class was geometry, though. It wasn't until I started sewing that I discovered that I could be "creative" and "artsy" without having to be able to draw.

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  34. I have the same issue-- can't do complex arithmetic, can't handle algebra, OK at geometry. It's not actually left- or right-brainedness, it's actually a learning disorder called dyscalculia. It's similar to dyslexia, only with mathematical concepts instead of words.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyscalculia
    http://www.ldonline.org/article/Dyscalculia
    It's a very poorly-studied and under-diagnosed learning disability, but it's gaining currency as a concept. I mean, lots of people are bad at math; some people's brains just can't accept it at all as it's generally taught.

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  35. I love sewing because the math is easy: it usually involves multiplication or division which is simply a matter of folding a tape measure to get the results!

    p.s. I get circle skirt waistlines by finding the waistline length on a tape measure and folding it to get 1/4 then I arrange this length in a quarter circle on my folded fabric where the waistline should be before I chalk it--see? no math, and it works great!

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  36. I think this dichotomy is way too loosey-goosey to be worth bickering with. But I come to sewing as a former math major and I think it's a perfect fit as sewing regularly offers lovely little puzzles. Anecdotally it almost seems more people come to sewing from this background. I've even suspected that women with math/science aptitude were expressing themselves somewhere in domestic arts before academic fields were open to them and I figured garment sewing was a likely outlet. Anyway I can't stand hearing creativity balanced against math skills. After all math gives access to the most fundamental ideas and there is no better foundation for creativity.

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  37. ha! i LOVE math - i'm one of those people who mentally calculates their total (including the 9.25% sales tax) while waiting in line at the cashier :) everyone told me during high school that i would either love algebra or geometry, but i loved them both equally & did very well in each.

    anyway, as far as sewing goes, i do enjoy the mathematical part that tends to pop up every now and again. not to say i don't occasionally get lazy - my little brother lived with me for a while a few years ago, and as he's a math major i definitely asked him the answers to some sewing math problems because i knew he would be quicker & more accurate.

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  38. I loved math and had straight A's in it. Algebra was a favorite in high school, I just loved getting to the "X = ..." =) However, I've also found that I'm very fond of pattern drafting. I just get the geometrical aspect of it, as well as the algebra part.

    In all else in school I shone in the humanistic disciplines and struggled with chemestry etc. I'm generally an "artsy" person, but I seem to get both sides of math (on a lower level). I'm an analytic person, but I prefer to apply it history rather than physics. Maybe both my brain-halfs work half-well? =)

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  39. I am totally not a math person. Could not do algebra to save my life...in my head, letters and numbers do not go together!!!! The only time I was able to squeek by in math, is if it had a $ in front of the numbers. I am much better at grammer and literature. give me classic books and a sentence to diagram and I'm in heaven.

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  40. I love sewing for two reasons:

    First, I get to be creative. I love working with color and texture.

    Second, I get to be analytical. I love rectangular construction with means I get to work with graph paper and calculate measurements.

    Kathleen

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  41. I remember trying so hard to study math in high school thinking if I just sat down and worked at it I could do better but it always ended in tears of frustration. But, I'm also not one of those people who sees a lamp and runs to their dress form to drape a dress inspired by the lamp. I need instructions. I guess I'm a Type A right brainer?

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  42. I'm very much like you as well! Oh goodness, I'm such a fail when it comes to math. Being a music major in college didn't help either. Me and counting rhythms did not work. I was the emotional diva, not the precise technician. Sigh....

    That sad story of your younger years brought me back. When I was in second grade, I had to be taken aside by the teacher everyday for math. I was on the brink of going into a resource class for it. And it didn't help that I would write in the corner of all of my assignments in very tiny letters "I hate math." Oh my gosh! I got in so much trouble. She really stuck it to me one day. Told me I couldn't write that anymore and made me erase all it off of all of my previous assignments. So sad.

    xoxo,
    Sunni

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  43. I have both math and engineering degrees so that pretty much says a lot. I was not the best student in both of these degrees. I had to work and study...they were both a challenge. But I love to sew and craft. And both sewing and crafting are because of the creative aspect. I would say the ratio (yeah, I totally talk math) is 70/30.

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  44. I'm good at math and have very good visual spacial relations both of which help with sewing. I'm not sure that I love the math so much as that I don't really notice it/it doesn't bother me. I very much enjoy the creative part as well but am more of a cook then a chef. I'm great at using patterns and making knockoffs but can't start from scratch easily.

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  45. I'm a biologist who deals with statistics a lot, so the math side comes fairly easily to me. I always enjoy the math/geometrical side of sewing - it's like flexible architecture. I think I sew because it gives me a chance to combine the physicality of working with my hands with the mental exercise of figuring out how it all goes together. Plus you often get a cute garment out of it. :) --Beth

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  46. My math story is very similar to yours (I loved geometry and hated everything else). I always have to have my physicist fiancé double check my math, though I love the geometry of changing dart positions and such on patterns. I really wish someone had used sewing, knitting, and cooking to teach me math when I was a kid. I think I would have learned it much more quickly and easily if someone had shown me how useful math would be to change a sewing or knitting pattern!

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  47. I think I am a mix. I love math, and I love to create.

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  48. I love math good thing for an engineering major :) I like Lizzie recently discovered drafting...what joy. My bodice sloper isn't perfect but I'm having a whole lotta fun with it :) It's funny that you did well with geometry because that was the one math subject that gave me fits. I could visualize any of it.

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  49. I had a similar high school track record - nearly all A's except math (and gym). But I was also really good at geometry. My biggest problem with sewing is the math bit...and the spatial relationships (which I think might be math related, or at any rate a left brain thing). I'm glad to know I'm not alone, and sucky math skills do not necessarily mean inability to sew.

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  50. I'm slightly more right-brained than left. I got decent grades in math, but it's easier when it's for something practical and preferably either tangible or visually represented. Sixteen years out of high school, I could no longer tell you the point of a sine, cosine, or tangent. Ask me to figure out area or volume, however, or how to alter seam width or draft a circle skirt, and I'm your woman.

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  51. GOD BLESS GEOMETRY!! I had an amazingly similar experience to yours. Subtraction (particularly 'borrowing') left me guessing on tests. I would mask the fact that I was guessing by squinting, tapping my pencil a few times, and then saying a random number.

    Later in college we had to take an entrance exam for math, to place us in the right class. With the idea that I should always 'do my best' on tests, I placed myself neatly in a class full of people who had already taken calculus and just wanted a refresher before moving on to vectors. Me and a girl who went to a special art school were the only ones who didn't know what the eff was goign on.
    BUT that teacher was so good he made me think for about a year that I WAS good at math, and that I COULD understand it and be good at it.
    To this day I really respect the kind of teacher who can change your mindset to that extent.

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  52. On the surface I'm a math and science person, but I've always been drawn to arts and crafts, and it has been so gratifying to realize how much my methodical analytical brain can help with knitting and sewing.

    Here's to balance!

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  53. I'm a bit of both. I'm a CPA, but I'm pretty creative, enjoying a myriad of crafting hobbies (sewing, drawing, photography, etc.). I actually enjoy drafting patterns, because it allows me to use my analytical side along with my creative side.

    Oh, and yes, accountants don't do complicated math anymore. That is what Excel is for LOL!

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  54. I'm a left-brained math loving engineer. I find math being really helpful in sewing.

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  55. Haha, I like to think of myself as right-brained, but as my Bachelors degree is going to be in algebra, I thiiiiink I might reconsider that! hahaha.

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  56. I rejected the whole right brain/left brain theory at an early age. I hated it, because my siblings would tease me by calling me "left brain", thus implying that I was not creative. And I *am* a very creative person, always heavily involved in some artistic endeavor.

    I did well in math when I had a good math teacher, and badly when I had a bad math teacher.

    I also did well in music theory (the mathematical aspect of music), and learning pattern-drafting was something I considered fun. But these things never made me less creative.

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  57. I am 100% right brained. My experiences learning math and algebra (even chemistry) were exactly like yours, Gertie. Anxiety, confusion, tears, screams of frustration. Well, maybe yours didn't involve the screaming. But math--anything besides the basics and geometry--makes no sense to me. It's a religion. You have to BELIEVE that adding x and y will yield z (whatever those numbers represent). I could do the same problem/calculation five times and get a different answer every time. And don't get me started on trig! I'm never more anxious and my belief in my own stupidity is never more sure than when I'm confronting my complete inability to comprehend higher math.

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  58. I hate math and math in school was pure torture. I really don't understand it and when ever someone talks numbers at me (like when we were buying our house) I turn into a Homer Simpson type person and start thinking about a unicorn jumping over a rainbow. However, lately I have made a real effort to focus, driven by my need to get my small business book-keeping under control. Sewing too is great because it does challenge me and make me use the dried up other side of my brain!

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  59. I like to call myself mathtarded. I spent so much time hopping from one math class to failing and starting an even more basic math class, that I collected my needed math credits in HS without advancing beyond algebra. A sad story really...

    It wasn't until starting Fashion Design at AIS that adding fractions became second nature, which is also helpful in baking. I find fractions work for me, though sometimes I'd like to try the metric system, as some people have said in fashion designing. I'm quite happy working with my sometimes impossible fraction dividing.

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  60. This is a GREAT question, and I have to say that I am 50/50. I did terrible in math in high school except for geometry - just like you! Ironically, I have a degree in accounting, and I use algebra quite often in sewing and dollmaking. Crazy fun if you ask me.

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  61. I don't understand math. I don't think its funny or anything to say, I honestly, when I start to do a problem, see a black wall in my head blocking any sort of calculations. In sewing, I have to ask my husband for help because I make stupid mistakes when measuring. It's embarrassing. I can spot a typo in an instant in one thousand plus words but if I add a column of numbers five times I'll get five different answers. Even using a calculator!

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  62. I totally understand! Give me a paint brush, thread and needle, fabric, any craft and I'm a happy camper. Give me math? No Way! LOL

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  63. I am right brained. I too had trouble with maths. Although I loved Algebra and maths in upper grades with formulas, I think my brain saw the pictures. Generally, even now, doing quick problems in my head doesn't happen. There is no craft without maths. I have a degree in textile design, I specialised in weaving, you can't make cloth without maths. I knit,crochet and machine knit, you can do none of these without math. And of course I sew. My brain happily does the math for all of these. I once read that people can learn math skills and apply them to a specific task without having a greater understanding of math. We may not love it but no craft can work without maths.

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  64. You know, it seems rather narrow-minded to define left and right brained people (whether that's a real thing or not, which I doubt) as "creative" and "analytical". If you do any research into the history of physics or chemistry or math, you'll find that there is a shocking amount of creativity that goes into solving the world's problems, big and small. I'd bet almost everyone reading this site would agree that Elias Howe was a pretty darn creative guy, but I've never read anything about him painting a landscape or writing a poem.

    There's more than one kind of creativity out there. I think it's important to value both. As someone who often finds herself stuck in the middle of the art vs. science debate. I wish we could all just have a little more respect for each other.

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  65. Wow, I had no idea so many would take offense at the labeling of left-brainers as analytical rather than creative. Especially since analytical types seem more valued in American culture at least. And I'm not the one who came up with it anyway!

    But . . . this is a great opportunity for an op-ed if any of your creative science/math types would like to contribute one! It could be really cool!

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  66. people keep giving me tape measures [maybe as a hint, who knows]
    but i just use pieces of string to measure...

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  67. Right brained, most definitely. How's this for weird--I've done trig with few problems, but calculus baffled me. And they're related! It was just that unlike calculus, trig had *pictures*.

    I've always been able to see how things fit together and most of my sewing is self-taught. Funny thing is, I've found techniques listed in places as sewing 'secrets' that I figured out by looking at the pieces. Drives my instruction-prone mom insane how I work, because my first action is almost always to toss the pattern instructions over one shoulder and ignore them!

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  68. I think I must be right brained. Not only am I left handed, and this apparently goes hand in hand, but numbers? No way. Geometry (aka drawing pictures and pretending it's maths)? Big yes! Algebra (letters pretending to be numbers)? Yes. Simple arithmetic? absolutely no way!

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  69. My career requires both left and right brain functions, often simultaneously. I'm a music editor for tv/film, which is a creative job - playing with music, emotion - but it's all done on computer, which requires logic and technical knowledge and sometimes confusing, complicated, math. I love using both sides, especially when creative thinking solves a problem that logic cannot. (and in my spare time, I quilt; math and creative design go hand in hand there too!)

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  70. My father was an artist and a hairdresser, my mother was a chemistry, math and physics teacher. I seem to have inherited both sides. When trying to decide on a University degree it was a toss up between science and design. Design won but I work in a science driven field as an educator. I am drawn to design and the arts but am very analytical and methodical in my approach. With my sewing I would agree that I'm drawn to the beauty of it but relish the science behind it. I still don't like math though *cringe* haha.

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  71. thevintageseamstressMarch 14, 2011 at 8:50 PM

    Im very creative and learn by visual means best but I must confess that I love algebra. I love the idea of making sums out of letters and symbols it speaks to me and I just 'get it'. Weird. Other maths I find challenging

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  72. I'm definitely more like you. I never really liked math, being the girl who always had my nose stuck in a book and later became as stereotypical a band/art geek as my not-so-artsy private school would allow. (Like the Cupcake Goddess, I went on to major in music. Though rhythm does generally make sense to me.) I was actually ok at math until about 6th grade, and then I hit a wall. The only test I ever failed (or even got below a C)in my life was an algebra one, and not for lack of studying. But like you, geometry made a lot more sense.

    I'm pretty sure that math is the reason that I've never truly had a success in drafting my own patterns, actually. Stupid numbers.

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  73. I don't think you can draw such a sharp distinction between left and right braininess - many people have aptitudes for both. Just the other day my friend - who I had met in a technical, science-y graduate program - was telling me that she thinks of me as more creative than scientific ... "Not that I don't think of you as scientific. But even the way you do science is creative. You find answers or methods that aren't in books."

    The world doesn't have to be an either/or place! It can be a both/and place too!

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  74. Right brained for sure - I remember my mum trying to teach me fractions and getting teary because I just didn't get it!

    I hate math, but interestingly really enjoy it when it comes to sewing. Probably because I can actually see my math-in-action.

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  75. My strengh turned out to be thinking in 3 dimensional forms, creative math for sewing and package design!

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  76. Funny, but I've always thought of math - even the theoretical stuff - in very visual terms. I "see" the numbers, much the same way I "see" patterns and practical math as I'm manipulating my sewing projects. It's the detail in both math and sewing that attracts me. Small steps that come together to make a whole.

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  77. I am good at math, and have a Mechanical Engineering degree. I can accurately judge volume visually. I am very creative too (design and make doll clothes now) so I guess I am right brained. Pattern drafting is something I enjoy tremendously. Drafting poofy sleeves and fitted corsets are some of my faves to think about! Pattern making is almost more fun than sewing. I do the sewing mostly to see if my pattern fits and then I am wanting to draft something else!

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  78. I loved math while I was in school. It was my favorite subject. But, I have been out of school now for 12 years and it is much harder. I realized this just a few days ago when my third grader came home with improper fractions for homework. I sat there for an hour trying to remember what an improper fraction was. lol. But I think I am a mix of analytical and creativity.

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  79. How inappropriate to have a circle-skirts-hurt-my-head post on pi day, I am offended.

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  80. This is such an appropriate post for international Pi day (3/14)!!!

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  81. haha - just spent the morning doing tests for a recruitment agency. don't think the numbers ones went so well. but can manage to adjust a pattern without breaking into a sweat!

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  82. I don't know that I have the greatest pure aptitude in math, but I do have a lot of math phobia, which does not help. I regret it, because math is important.

    As applied to garment construction, in a pattern making class I tried to measure things that weren't practical to measure. I was trying to measure to the 16th of an inch. The teacher said it didn't matter.

    Or there was one occasion, I don't recall the details, when it was easier to take the tape, walk it into position, make the mark, and then copy it to the other side by tracing.

    Measuring a mannequin reminded me of Carl Sandburg's famous poem, "Arithmetic."

    Arithmetic is where the answer is right and everything is nice and you can look out of
    the window and see the blue sky-or the answer is wrong and you have to start all
    over and try again and see how it comes out this time.


    http://katherinestange.com/mathweb/p_a.html

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  83. Mega right brained, left handed here...

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  84. I'm not sure about this RB/LB thing. The original idea seems to come from clinical neurologists Fink and Marshall's (1996) work at the London's Institute of Neurology which showed differences in the activity of right and left hemispheres according to the type of task - creative or logical. The idea was so neat it passed rapidly into print and became an accepted theory. However, later work by psychologist Joseph Hellige at University of Southern California suggests that both hemispheres are active when processing all tasks: its the speed of processing and the type of brain activity that differs in each hemisphere.
    Anyway, whether you favour creative or logical processes, it makes sense to try and develop the ability to cope with both. As sewing involves elements of creativity and logicality perhaps it should be promoted/marketed as a brain development tool! But those of us who sew probably knew that already, didn't we?

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  85. I would say I'm a bit more left-brained. I have a degree in mathematics, and am very much an analytical/logical thinker.

    However, I started sewing less than a year ago and absolutely love it. I've not progress much beyond skirts, but I'm exploring ways to alter patterns to fit me better and am very excited to learn more techniques and advance to tops and dresses.

    Would the book you are working on be helpful to someone of my abilities, as well as, my desire to alter patterns to fit me perfectly?

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  86. I'm actually 50/50. I started college with 1 year in electrical engineering and graduate with a bachelors in computer information systems, which is comp sci + business. However when I ended up working it was discovered that I could design, so now I design and code iPhone apps and websites.

    I love sewing because it lets me use both parts of my brain on one project!

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  87. Thank you SO much for FINALLY explaining me to myself! I am EXACTLY what you have described here. I was so bad in Math that to get me to graduate they put me in special ed math courses!
    My mother had little tricks in sewing to avoid the math involved, folding things a certain way to cut them right etc.
    As always you amaze me!

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  88. When I read this it made me smile because as a weird coincidence I recently posted on my blog about my algebra/knitting headache!
    I would say that im 50/50 in the left/right brain thing, perhaps slightly more creative with old age (and out of practise with mathematics!)

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  89. Well, actually I think part of the problem is considering adding 2" to a skirt to be MATH. Really basic arithmetic, perhaps, (a flea on math's back) but I can hardly believe y'all don't have either calculators or yardsticks to take care of these details.

    I'm afraid your right and left brain thing is way too simplistic, neurologically speaking. There is no actual center for creativity. The right brain is more a center of spatial ability, something which is at least a useful in geometry as in crafts. If anything's getting clear from all the research done on it, it's that truly creative people have more connections between sides of the brain, and thus are better able to attack a problem from different angles and synthetize different points of view. But assuming that math takes less creativity than sewing is just so off the wall, so utterly blind, I'm speechless.

    Of course I'm an engineer, who was a mathematician at first. I enjoy sewing, but if you think that's advanced math it's a sad commentary on the sorry state of US education. You know, during those retro times that you admire so much sartorially, girls were not so scientifically challenged. Many fine female scientists did great work at that time (Rosalind Russel and the structure of DNA, Barbara McClintock and transposable genetic elements, Julia Robinson and decision problems..) you could look them up yourself if you weren't so dead set against the whole field.

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  90. This is interesting. I taught my self to sew less than a year ago it is the first time I have ever been good at something crafty. It is such a cool thing to flex this creative side of my brain while still using technical knowledge as well.!

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  91. RIGHT-BRAINED! RIGHT-BRAINED!! RIGHT-BRAINED!!!

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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