Conquer your sewing machine

To me, sewing machines are like wasps. Whenever I hear the zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzhhhhh of either, I experience a slight frisson of fear rippling down my spine, memories of being stung rushing back all too clearly for my liking. Back when I was five (and stupid) I had my first encounter with a sewing machine. I saw this shiny thing going up and down very quickly and thought it would be a good idea to stick my finger underneath it. Cue pierced fingernail. Needles to say, ever since that fated day my relationship with Singers has been a bit contentious, so imagine my trepidation when the mater emailed to say she’d bought me a Ministry of Craft back-to-basics sewing machine class for my birthday.

Panic, to say the very, very least. Luckily, I was in the very capable hands of Sam Moylan, who has been stitching in time and saving nine for 20 years or so. The class began with us running through the very basic basics, beginning with plugging the machine and the pedal in. We were using a digital Janome machine, which seemed pretty simple to use – I’ll definitely be buying a digital machine with all the trimmings if I ever do decide to become an expert seamstress, just to make my life as easy as possible.

Once we’d had a bit of fun pressing all the different buttons, Sam moved us on to winding the bobbin and inserting it into the machine, which I immediately did upside down and had to start again. We then threaded the machine and were ready to go through a few simple stitches, covering the straight stitch, zigzags, overcasting and decorative stitches (overjoyed I was to see one that resembled a snowflake and I spent a good five minutes doing these over and over again).

Even better, we also had the opportunity to find out what to do when your machine starts shaking and making awful noises, all thanks to me! Despite warnings about fastening the needle too tight when putting it in the machine I, of course, managed to do just that and my needle buckled, but not before my Janome started freaking out uncontrollably. Answer to this problem: Turn it off ASAP and do a bit of investigating as to the cause. Just don’t panic.

The three-hour class was very informative and I would definitely recommend it for a complete sewing novice, being one myself. We were given a variety of different materials so we could find out what stitches work best on what, and also had the opportunity to do a bit of free machine embroidery which I’ve always wanted to try. Turns out I’m rubbish at it, probably because the chances of sewing your finger again when the foot’s not there are much, much higher and I was a bit skittish around that speedy little needle. I would also have preferred to have had the chance to make something during the class, instead of just practising stitches but I can be relatively impatient and sometimes just want to make pretty stuff immediately, without putting in any of the groundwork.

Verdict: This class is a great jumping off point for learning to sew, but don’t wait too long before you book another session to cement what you’ve learnt and make the move from stitch-practising to clothes-making.

Here’s what the main woman herself, Sam, had to say: “Once you’ve learnt how to sew, the world opens up for you. There are so many things you can do, from changing garments to making bags.”

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3 Responses to “Conquer your sewing machine”
  1. Andrew B. Watt says:

    Well done!

    I had only minimal experience with sewing or machines, but I got a sewing machine for my middle school classroom where I teach design. I figured, sewing and making things from textiles is part of human history — who am I to block people from learning about it?

    It’s been wonderful learning how to sew with a machine!

    • Sarah Adie says:

      It was a great class! I’m still not sure about the whole sewing thing, I think I need my own machine so I can really get to grips with it all and actually make some stuff. Once I have a finished piece I think I’ll really catch the sewing bug! What have you made? Are the kids into sewing? I wish I’d learnt it at school – textiles wasn’t an option – but it’s a skill everyone should have, I think!

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