Adventures in Sewing

Sewing. Sitting down to put pieces of cloth together to create something new. Great-grandmothers did it, darning socks by the fire, the old-school Singer used to make every family member’s clothing. Without this skill one would be unclothed. What an important thing to know how to do. Sounds like such a wonderful and worthy endeavor. Little did I know, all the things I would learn from sewing!

After a nice lunch and an afternoon free of appointments, I sit down in front of my sewing machine (Kenmore) my dear seamstress of a mother gave me. It appears very well-designed for the task at hand. Oh, it’s a modern marvel-electric pedal, a nice little light by the needle and things work automatically. A feed dog! A reverse feature! A manual to teach me how to use it, various sized needles provided (here is where the problems begin), bobbins, thread, extra presser foot and various other pieces I have no idea what they are for (another possible problem). Who needs them?! I only need a needle and thread to create magic!

After heaving the case up a flight of stairs (surprisingly heavy for it’s size), I figure out how to get the machine out of the convenient carrying case. Thankfully, I don’t have a cabinet to install it into, that involves washers and screws. No power tools called for, yet. So I removed the base, plugged in the necessary wires to the machine and the wall and I am ready to go. Page 4 of the manual completed. I am ready to sew!

Ha! Silly newbie.

Skipped page 5 of the manual-I don’t even know what a free-arm is so I don’t think I will be doing it with/without it. Look ma no hands?!

Page 6-Winding the Bobbin. I struggled for a half an hour in an attempt to figure out how to wind the bobbin. I had to keep returning to the beginning two pages of the manual-“knowing your machine.” Clutch? Bobbing winder tension disc? Bobbin winder latch? Grrrr. Sound of pages flipping and sighing. Spool of thread in right place and facing correct direction? Check. Bobbin in it’s proper place? Check. I think I have it figured out. Finally, I get to start the machine. My foot presses gently on the pedal and the thing comes alive. Whirring sounds fill the air and the thread is wrapping around the bobbin. Success? Not quite. The thread around the bobbin is fat in the middle and thin on the top and bottom. What happened? After three attempts (and many water, pacing and deep breathing breaks) the bobbins start to look the way my mother’s did. Even and tight. Nicely done. I am getting this sewing business down. Think of the clothes I will alter to fit me! I can make my pants and skirts the length I want them to be! No more cold ankles and wrists! I will be the next fashion designer. Stars in my eyes and a wound bobbin in hand I set to work on page 7 of the manual.

Threading the bobbin case. Release button for base front cover? Shuttle cover? Hand wheel? Pages forcefully grabbed and turned back to the beginning pages of the manual. Why couldn’t the manufacturer’s put that information in the back of the book? At least then I would feel like I was moving forward in a positive direction. Instead I have to keep going backwards. More sighing. I am pulling on my hair, just a little bit, to relieve some of the tension I am beginning to feel. Deep forcefully expelled breath. I can do this. Here we go. After much twisting and turning of the bobbin case, the manual and my head I get the thing (bobbin case) into the thing (beast of a machine) and all seems well. Front cover placed back in place with a pleasant click. My hands are itching to get some fabric in them and start putting things together. I flip the little switch for the light above the needle-one must see the magic they are creating. I am giddy with anticipation.

Wait oh just-hatched sewer.

I flip to the next page of the manual.

AARGH! I have to thread the top thread! Spool pin? Spring wire loop? Hook? Flip Flip Flip. Sigh Sigh Sigh. Pull Pull Yank. (if these sounds where coming from a bedroom they might be seen as excitement, however, in this case it’s nothing but frustration).

How much threading is really necessary here?! This is borderline insanity.

I take another break-this is hard work. Don’t little kids in foreign countries do this for obscene hours a day? I thought I was smarter than a small child. Apparently not. My shoulders slump. Pull it together! Think of the dogs’ beds, eye pillows and scarves I will be making. I will be famous and fashionable. This beast is not going to win! I WILL sew today!

I thread the spool without too much trouble (too much trouble is relative at this point of course-I take another half hour to get it right). I manage to get a needle into the thing too. Don’t even get me started the on the various sizes and types of needles one can use. I chose brown to match my eyes which are practically crossed at this point after numerous attempts, and finally success, to get the thread through the needle. Can sewing cause blindness?! I bring the bobbin thread up. I am ready. Fabric in hand I place it under the needle. Presser foot is dropped down. I compress the foot pedal gently and it whirs to life. The needle bobs up and down. The thread is spinning from the spool. I push the reverse button down to trace back. All is going great! Hurray! No more Christmas shopping for me, I will be making lovelies for all of my friends and family! They will oooh and aaah over my creations and sewing prowess! I start laughing crazily at the beast before me. Wagging my index finger at the machine and muttering happily-“you thought you had me beat didn’t you? Well look who is in charge now? How do you like me now?!” Then it just stops. No forward. No backward. I frown, lift the presser foot and needle and pull the fabric out. The needle breaks. My forehead hits the table, luckily it is cushioned by scraps of fabric sort of sewn together. I lift my head, eyes squinting maniacally at the piece of *** in front of me. I want to shake it. I do. I flip back to page 6 of the manual and begin again. I will not be defeated by a machine! (my mind flips briefly to a scene in the Matrix and one from iRobot-not the inspiration I need right now). The hunk of metal before me seems to filled with a sinister air. You want a piece of me?!

It does. It wants blood. From my sensitive finger tips. The demon.

What I learned from my sewing experience:
Looks are deceiving. A sewing machine doesn’t APPEAR to be a monster that eats needles, my fingers and fabric. Oh but it does.

I sympathize with diabetics. Needles in fingertips hurt. A lot.

I think I would rather go naked.

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3 thoughts on “Adventures in Sewing

  1. Jan Gasper Jarnagin March 12 at 9:41am ReportI just read your hilarious account of the attempt to sew!!!! The machine gotcha!!! I know how you feel. First of all – my machine is a distant cousin, very old. My mom bought it for me in 1971, kind of a graduation from high school present. It's a Singer, the very heavy, metal kind. But thank goodness, I do know the basics (had to get a reprint of the manual, just in case). It is kind of hard to sew using it, since I don't really know how to adjust the tension, etc. and the machine has a tendency to "jump" and rev up to a million rpms as soon as my foot touches the petal!!! Again, I can relate to the fustration! I did make my doggie bed though…. It turned out really cute! My design was a little harder than I would have liked (self-inflicted torture), but I made it thru…. The bed is brown corderoy on top with brown fleece material on the bottom. I cut and sewed a 5 inch border of a cute cotton print (hearts and dog bones), so hopefully Mikey won't scratch too hard and unravel the fabric!!! If I didn't have my quilting cutting board and ruler, it would have been alot harder to measure everything before starting… So much for the old fashioned way of cutting things out w/a scissors. So, good luck and hope you defeat the demon, THE SEWING MACHINE 🙂

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