Justin and I are both creative people, but we have very different hobbies. Whereas I gravitate toward pursuits that produce tangible results like sewing, knitting, writing, painting, and building, he prefers activities that are more experiential. He especially loves games. He plays board, card, and video games with equal fervor. He’ll play solo, one-on-one, or in big groups; he’s equally comfortable playing with close friends and total strangers. He collects games, curates them, and shares them. He’s nostalgic for the games of his childhood, but also loves to keep up with what’s new. He has a soft spot for games that are historically or culturally significant, even if they’re bad.
I also enjoy games, but to a different degree than he does. He likes to help me with my DIY projects, but he doesn’t have the same dogged determination about them that I do. As you can imagine, we each sometimes struggle to appreciate what is so compelling about the other’s hobbies, since we’re attracted to such different kinds of experiences.
Nevertheless, he’s incredibly supportive of my crafts, even if he’s not particularly interested in doing them himself. So on Thursday when I told him that I got an email saying that Hancock was having a sale on McCall’s patterns for $1.49 each (seriously, go check it out—it’s almost as good at the 5-for-$5 Simplicity patterns they sometimes offer), he had his shoes on and his car keys in hand before I could look up from my phone to see if he’d go with me.
To make things fun, we decided to look through the patterns separately and then compare notes on which ones we liked. I was pretty sure that we’d pick at least a couple of the same patterns, but there was no overlap at all, despite the fact that I had pulled out about 20 and he’d grabbed 7.
With nearly 30 patterns on the table, I had to do some serious culling to stay within the 10-patterns-per-customer limit. Justin very helpfully offered to buy 10 as well, but once I started cutting contenders it got easier. First, I set aside anything that didn’t excite me or that felt aspirational: styles that I want to like because they’re popular or easy to wear, but don’t fit my lifestyle or my dressing habits. Next, I looked for duplicates: any patterns that were similar to others on the table or others I knew I had in my stash did not survive the chopping block. Finally, with a few patterns left to eliminate to get within the limit, I considered which patterns were the most efficient (for lack of a better word): ones that I would make or wear over and over again, ones that fill holes in my current wardrobe, ones with multiple styles options or the potential for pattern hacking. The inefficient patterns went back in the drawer to be found and loved by someone else.
As is usually the case when I’m working on a project and Justin is nearby, I narrated throughout the process, occasionally soliciting his opinion or advice. When I got to step two, where I was concentrating on weeding out duplicates, he said, “This is just like deck-building.”
In competitive card games like Pokémon or Magic: The Gathering, at least 50% of the game consists of assembling one’s deck of cards before playing. Players select an assortment of character, resource, or event cards that they can then play, individually or in combination, against their opponent in order to achieve the game’s objectives (which, in Pokémon and MTG, consists of “attacking” one’s opponent until their health counter reaches zero and they’re knocked out). Much of the discussion for these games revolves around different strategies to win and which cards work well together or can be played in more than one way. Once a player puts together a deck, they’re often encouraged to consider what the weakest or least effective card in the deck is, and how they might replace it with a more effective card or eliminate it entirely.
Watching me weigh various options, Justin saw someone who was building a “deck” of patterns, where the goal was to create a wardrobe of outfits that suit the kind of activities I do while looking and feeling good to wear. (Bonus if they’re also fun to sew.) Just like in deck-building, options that didn’t really fit in with the others I was looking at were bypassed in favor of ones that created a more cohesive set, and options with more than one use were preferred to ones that were more limited.
I had never thought of pattern shopping in this way, had never considered that our two apparently disparate hobbies could share a common language. It’s fascinating to think that a system so specifically crafted in one context could be so readily applicable to another context that it does not overlap in any way.
Of course, there are certainly elements of each context that have no analog. For instance, while many decks are built to win, there are also decks that exist simply because they’re fun to play, with little to no chance of success; in sewing, even just-for-fun pieces, like costumes, or impractical pieces, like a dress made entirely of fringe, would need to fit well enough for someone to wear.
But by finding this common language, I was able to communicate my goals more clearly, and Justin was able to offer more constructive advice. I have a new way of thinking about my own purchasing process—and who knows? Maybe next time it will make things even faster and easier. If nothing else, we both walked away with a better understanding of why the other is so intrigued by the complexities of our respective hobbies.
Have you ever experienced a moment of cross-pollination like this? Do you have two unrelated hobbies that share an unexpected connection? Does your passion for something help you to better understand someone else’s passion when you otherwise just wouldn’t get it?