Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Learning to Sew, Part One: Getting to Know Your Sewing Machine

Fabric in hand, I approached the machine. It sat in a cabinet, nestled in a cocoon of pattern bits and fabric scraps. I carefully reached out and picked it up by the handle, gingerly moving it to my table. I plugged in its foot. I clicked on its power switch.

Its light flashed on, illuminating the surface of the antique Singer sewing table. It seemed to stare at me, and I stared back.

I had a small drawstring bag. I had begun sewing the bag by hand. I thought I would finish the French seams on the machine, because the hand-sewing needle had stabbed me in the finger that morning. I had not forgiven the needle. I still have not forgiven the needle.

It was threaded already, with the wrong color. I needed to wind the bobbin. First, the bobbin would not turn. Then I convinced it to wind, but it began winding madly and unevenly. This happened two more times, before Mum came around the corner, explained that the bobbin did not go up and down, and showed me how to guide the thread myself.

That worked.

It had been 45 minutes at the machine before I succeeded in winding the bobbin and Mum threaded the machine. Don't you judge me. She took pity on me and knew that I would never accomplish anything without her help. She put the bobbin in the bottom drawer-ish place. I advanced the needle and it picked up the thread from the bobbin. I advanced the needle WRONG, but it still caught the thread. This was victory.

I put fabric under the foot and lowered the needle (correctly). I then stitched a nice straight line right down the side of the bag, exactly where I wanted it to go.

This was some crazy kind of victory. 

I lifted the foot, pulled the fabric out a bit and cut the thread. Then I flipped over the bag. And it looked like an explosion had happened, an explosion of thread. It looked like this:

photo Stacy at Fresh Stitches
That wasn't what it was supposed to look like. I showed Mum. She said it was bobbin tension. I watched many bobbin-tension YouTube videos. Many. They mostly said what Mum said: to slightly change the tension, sew, and see what happened.

The same thing happened. Twice.

That was when I decided to take out my thread and leave. I opened the drawer-ish place to retrieve the bobbin. I wanted my thread back. When I opened the door, a piece fell out. It was a ring-ish piece.

And then I took out the bobbin, and another piece came out, too.

I examined both parts. They are not broken. Neither is the area they came from. It is possible that the pieces were never in their respective places properly, causing the problem above. What this meant to me was that my night of sewing was over. Nothing was accomplished, unless dis-assembly counts as an accomplishment. (It doesn't.)

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