January 24, 2010

Sewing 101 Update

I just know that all of you--all three of my official readers--are just dying to know about the crash course sewing lesson that I took last week. I've been delaying this post for the past week; not because the class was disastrous (although it did have its moments), but rather because I am lazy and felt like cooking, relaxing, and gorging myself on reality shows and otherwise frivolous television programs. But I think I am ready now. Here it goes...

The class went quite well. Including myself, there were about 10 pupils and the instructor, Nicole, did a pretty good job of introducing us to our sewing machines and fielding any questions or concerns that we had. We were instructed to pick out a sewing machine and a station at the work table. Rather than mull about and contemplate which machine I wanted (much like nearly everyone else did) I just grabbed the one that was closest to me. As I set it up at my station I found myself becoming sentimentally attached to this hunk of metal and plastic that was so lovingly named Bernina #8. More than anything else that a sewing machine represents or can offer to a (hopeful) budding seamstress, I think I was more enamored by its name; as someone who names nearly all of her inanimate objects, I was understandably excited to be taking a sewing course at a fabric store that did the same to their machines. This feeling last only a few seconds and quickly dissipated when I connected "Bernina" with "#8" and realized Bernina was the brand of sewing machine that I was using. Nevertheless I continued to adore my Bernina #8 because I found her name to be quaint and pretty, and because for the next two hours she would be mine.

We all sat down, plugged in our machines, and after the obligatory lets-introduce-ourselves portion of class, Nicole got down to business. She had us stand behind her while she showed us how to thread three different sewing machines--a instructional tool that in theory may have been a good idea, but in practice faltered. Personally, I would have preferred to have been sitting in front of my machine and doing the steps while she gave us verbal and visual instructions. I am a tactile learner; I learn best by doing a task in real time. Although I can see how demonstrating how to thread a sewing machine on three different models helps to demonstrate that they are all basically the same, I found this technique to be a waste of time and confusing. And despite the fact that her voice rose a couple of octaves when she was in front-of-the-class teacher mode, which made me feel like I was back in kindergarten, and she kept comparing sewing machines and sewing to cars and driving (I don't drive), her instructions were clear and she did a good job at explaining how to work a sewing machine.

When she finally released us to thread our own machines, I was excited and a little apprehensive. Nevertheless I grabbed by spool of pink thread and got to work. I felt really clumsy--much like how I felt when I was learning how to knit--but was able to put the thread where it was supposed to go. Then a mini disaster struck: I was fiddling with the machine and accidentally dismembered the presser foot. I wasn't quite sure how to put it back in place and I was convinced that I would somehow stab myself with the needle in the process. So I made sure that my foot has no where near the foot pedal and proceeded to reassemble my machine. I reattached the presser foot and was quite proud of myself for figuring it out all on my own.

Next, Nicole showed us how to insert a bobbin and guide fabric through the machine. She then released us to do the same with our machines. I picked out a bobbin with black thread (a good contrast to the pink, I thought) and a piece of hideous scarp blue cotton fabric. I re-threaded the needle and inserted the bobbin, but forgot a couple of steps. I tried to sew, but ended up creating a rats nest or snapping the thread. I wound up re-threaded the machine about four or five times, each time either forgetting to hold my pink thread taught while bringing up my bobbin thread, pull the threads behind the presser foot or lift he presser foot altogether when I tried to pull the fabric away from the machine.

I was getting a little frustrated, but in the end these mistakes were blessings in disguise: I got tons of practice on threading the needle and inserting the bobbin and learned that even with the most rudimentary of instruction that I could troubleshoot on a sewing machine. Once I recognized the mistakes that I was making and had finally gotten everything in its proper place, I grabbed a new, prettier piece of fabric to practice on. Albeit small, this change was refreshing, almost like turning a new leaf, and I was able to produce a couple of seams that I was proud of:

my stitches (!)

I left the fabric store feeling energized and confident in my newly learned abilities. The next day I set out to take my aunt's 1960s era Singer machine for a test drive. Running on the optimism from the day before, I set up the machine and got to work. Or at least I tried to. This machine is a lot different than my Bernina #8 and I was instantly dumbfounded. I tried to figure out the machine myself, but soon recognized that my 2 hour crash course did not prepare me for troubleshooting this machine.

The Bernina #8 (top) and the Singer 223 (bottom).
Not exactly similar.

So naturally I turned to the Internet and found a free instruction manual for the Singer W223 on the Singer website. I figured that this model would be close enough to the Singer 223 that I was using and downloaded the manual. I sat down and tried to familiarize myself with my machine. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that the W223 and 223 models were not as similar as I had thought and that the the quality of the photocopy was extremely poor: the first two and a half words of each paragraph were cut off, the drawings of the machine were big black blobs and that the terminology was so inconsistent. Working off my crash course knowledge and that god awful manual, I tried to thread the machine as best I could but still couldn't get it to work right. I was able to get the threads in order, more or less, but the tension of the top thread was completely thrown off because I hadn't thread it correctly and I ended up stalling the machine every time.

I kid you not, the drawing for threading a machine from the pdf for the 223W:

Recognizing that I needed help, I went in search of a manual for the model I was actually using. I was hoping for a free copy but ended up buying a pdf version from MasterSewUSA for $5. I figured that $5 and (near) instant gratification was a pretty good deal; way better in fact than paying $12-17 for a hard copy that would need to be shipped. Although I got the pdf manual on Monday night, I have yet to try out the machine again. My plan is to do that a little later today. I can't wait to get started; but first I need to get my effects in order. More to come regarding my (mis)adventures in sewing for sure.

1 comment:

  1. Your stitches are so straight & beautiful! Good job. Don't forget to give your aunt's machine a name.