Friday, April 10, 2020

I is for I Hate To Sew



I learned how to sew on a treadle machine that my great aunt was given during World War I to sew bandages for the wounded. My great aunt was a wonderful seamstress. She even made my mom's wedding dress from a picture my mom drew of what she would like. She taught me the basics of sewing, which means I could go forwards and backwards, because that's all you can do on a treadle machine.




My mom did not get the sewing gene. She sewed when she had to, and she occasionally sewed simple tops and pants for herself (it was the 1960s and double knit was a big thing). She had a simple machine that was electric but only went forwards and backwards, and she sewed in the living room, sitting on the floor, so she could watch tv at the same time. She said most of the bad words I ever heard her say while doing this (the other bad words were said when she tried to start our station wagon, which had a notoriously cold engine, even in the summer). 

When I was in junior high, I learned how to use her machine, and I started cranking out clothes for myself. I made simple skirts with elastic waists, peasant tops (using Holly Hobby and Betsy Clark prints), halters, and sundresses. I could even put in a zipper, and when I took Home Ec class, I aced the sewing unit.

If I'd only known that I had already peaked.

I tried to sew for myself occasionally after college. I bought a machine that had a button holer and zigzag features, but I could still only go forwards and backwards. I knew how to use a pattern, but for the life of me, I couldn't get anything to fit together anymore, and I swear I wasn't choosing overly ambitious projects. I only picked patterns that said "simple" or "easy," and I STILL couldn't do it. I would end up getting frustrated, throwing the project across the room, stomping my feet and crying, and never touching it again. I finally gave up on sewing for myself.

Fast forward to present day. My husband, who decided sewing couldn't be THAT hard and bought a machine a couple of years ago that does scads of functions but has yet to produce ONE SINGLE SEWING PROJECT, thought we (meaning me) should make face masks, as recommended by the CDC for protection against the coronavirus. He researched the hell out of it and found what he thought to be the best pattern for the most efficient mask. I ordered fabric (from JoAnn Fabrics, where you can order stuff from their app and pick it up curbside and if you know the manager of your local store, you might find a surprise gift of Little Peeps in your bag). 

After several false starts, I got to work. Making a mask only requires going forwards and backwards, and other than an argument with my husband about the "right" way to sew it and the "right" video tutorial to watch, at which point I yelled "HOW MANY SEWING PATTERNS HAVE YOU ACTUALLY FOLLOWED IN YOUR LIFE?!" I was able to crank out an honest-to-God face mask WITH a pocket for a filter. That first one took me nearly two hours, but all in all, I decided sewing wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered (even when my husband helpfully told me the tutorial said it only took 15-20 minutes to make a mask).




That was the first day.

The second day, today, actually, I remembered one of the WORST parts about sewing is that you have to be a sewing machine mechanic as well. I had gotten my time-per-mask down to 40 minutes and was feeling like all that when trouble started. At first, it was just the needle coming unthreaded every two seconds. Then it progressed to the machine actually eating the fabric until it finally choked. I had to get out the instruction book and dissect the machine, taking off parts, putting parts back, finding out I put the parts back incorrectly, taking them off again, unchoking the machine, and getting it all put back together. 

Satisfied that I had done all I could, I put my foot on the pedal to try again to sew a mask, and the needle shook and the machine cried out and made a clicking sound. After searching the instruction book and consulting the interweb, all roads led to a bent needle. I could see NO WAY that the needle could have bent, but I changed it anyway.

My time is down to 30 minutes.

I want to throw the machine and the fabric across the room and stomp my feet and cry, not only because sewing frustrates me, but because I'm scared that there's a need for me to make these masks in the first place. I miss normal life. I'm worried for my family and friends.I want to take this new life apart and put it back together again the right way.

Until then, I can make a mask in 25 minutes now.




13 comments:

  1. I get it. Sewing machines are terrifying. What they do is clearly not possible without some kind of black magic!

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  2. I have the same love hate relationship with sewing. My grandmother taught me to sew and I inherited my mom's machine as she did not like to sew. I made a few things in High School my favorite being a satin jacket and matching pair of shorts meant to emulate the one worn by Shaun Cassidy. I thought it was quite cool. It was not. When I bought my first home, I did a little bit of basic sewing for curtains and things like that but otherwise my only sewing in recent years was for Halloween. I would go all out for my girl's costumes and generally they came out well but the process definitely involved a great deal of swearing. I probably will attempt some masks too but I'm just not looking forward to it from both a sewing perspective as well as the reality of needing a mask at all perspective. Your mask did come out great!Weekends In Maine

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    1. If it involves more than forwards and backwards, I'm out! I did make costumes for my kids, but I would repurpose things I got from a thrift store or just eyeball it and sew. Would have made a real seamstress have a stroke, but their costumes always turned out well! I sure wish I could see you in the satin jacket and shorts! And if you want the mask pattern and the video, I put a link in the comments of my facebook post.

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  3. Sorry to read you had such troubles with your sewing machine. I used to make clothes when I was young, but now I'm just a quilter. Quilting is much easier than sewing garments, and it's very relaxing. All the contrary to your adventure! Maybe give it a try?
    J is for Jewelry

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    1. I have been tempted to try quilting, but I have a feeling I would never finish the project! I do have some old family quilts that I cherish, though!

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  4. love the post AND that vintage sewing machine!!! Heck, I can't even figure out the tension on my sewing machine - drives me bonkers. I totally get the tearing the machine apart and putting it back together - that's me every time I use it to craft. I waste so much time for a stitch that isn't even correct! LOL

    I've thought about trying to make a quilt - -but until I can get the stitching right, that will have to wait for another day.

    Nancy

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    1. Thanks! I can't figure out the tension, either. So far, whatever it is set on is working. I really don't ever see myself making a quilt. Maybe, MAYBE a baby one but that would be it, and that's doubtful.

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  5. Your mask looks like it fits great! I keep wondering if I should dust off my sewing machine and start making some. But I still can't wrap my head around this craziness. I've used my machine to make maternity clothes, a few Halloween costumes, some curtains, and crafts... but I mainly use it for mending. It has a fantastic mending stitch.

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    1. There's a mending stitch? I always mend by hand, because it's faster than getting the machine out! The masks are pretty easy to make and really do fit well without gaps. Let me know if you would like the pattern and tutorial links.

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    2. Yes, I would definitely like the links for the pattern and tutorial.

      About the mending stitch... I use it when two edges need sewn together, like when something rips in a straight line. The mending stitch puts it together flat, without a bulge. It's kind of like darning, I think.

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