Saturday, December 14, 2013

Adventures in crafting

I haven't touched a sewing machine in over 20 years, but back in my young womanhood, I used to be pretty competent, if not expert at simple sewing projects. I made a duvet cover for my bed; curtains for my apartment windows, and one summer in the late '70s I made a little money fashioning a collection of hippie-ish skirts and drawstring pants for my friends.

I had a little Singer Featherlight machine - this was a small, portable machine that did only one thing - straight stitch. But it was a nice, solid, workhorse of a machine, easy for someone with a peripatetic life like mine to move around with, and I made good use of it.  I gave it to my mother when she got into quilting, and I guess it ended up being sold with the rest of the contents of her house.

But this summer I was shopping for outdoor furniture at a big discount store, Big Lots. They had on sale something called a "Crafting and Mending" machine, and on a whim, I bought it. It cost $40.00.

Today, I was going through my closet and found a pair of black ponte-knit jeans I'd bought that I'd never gotten around to having hemmed up. I'm just a little too short for standard length pants, and just a little too tall for petite sizes, so I usually take my pants to Daniel, a former Russian Army veteran who now runs a dry-cleaner in Pacific Palisades. He charges $10 for hems.

Why not, I asked myself, save the $10 and hem the jeans myself? After all, I certainly know how to hem a pair of jeans!

So I took the little machine from its styrofoam packing, and set it up. Because I don't sew anymore, I don't have notions organized. Instead spools of thread, buttons and needle cases are tossed in various junk drawers, and it took me a while to find a spool of black thread.

It's harder for me to thread a needle these days, unless I have reading glasses and a strong light, but I managed to do it, and to thread the bobbin besides. The trick of drawing the bobbin thread up through the plate came right back to me.

Before I could start, I had to figure out where the hem should be, and that meant finding a pair of scissors and some straight pins. Scissors I had - in my kitchen drawers. I washed the blades, since they'd last been used to snip herbs. Straight pins? Another search through the junk drawers.

No chalk or white pencil to mark the hems, but I rolled each leg where it looked right, and used the steam iron I never otherwise touch - [The Man I Love] irons his dress slacks, but I don't iron anything - to press the crease. Making the first cut in the fabric was a little scary, but I did it.

Then, the skills coming back to me, I folded a rolled hem, and pinned it, pressed it, and sat down in front of the machine.

I practiced first on the fabric scraps I'd cut off, and I was glad, because the foot pedal switch is not subtle, but rather clunky. The machine, truth be told, is lightweight and cheap, and the way the thread feeds from the spool through the take-up lever is a potential snag and snarl problem, but it worked.

Satisfied, I slipped the first carefully rolled, pressed and pinned hem beneath the presser foot, clamped it down, and, feeding the fabric through the machine, I sewed my first hem in over 20 years.

 At the end, I proudly cut the threads, shook out the leg and looked at my work. Pretty competent-looking rolled jeans hem!

Then I realized. I had done it Wrong. I had rolled the hem in the wrong direction. You're supposed to roll it inside, not outside.

I looked at my work and part of my mind started to rationalize. Well, I told myself, what does it matter? It can be a kind of narrow cuff at the bottom. It's black, anyway, who'll notice?

Of course I was only halfway through. I had another leg to do. Was I really willing to sew the second leg wrong? Crap.

I got up to take the jeans back to the ironing board, and tripped over the power cord, pulling the lightweight plastic machine off the table onto the floor, startling the dog.  The plastic plate and the bobbin flew across the room. The fall somehow pressed its on-button, so it whirred away until I pulled the plug out of the wall.

"Shit!" I yelled, which alarmed [The Man I Love], bringing him into the kitchen to see what had crashed.

"I'm okay, I just pulled this damn thing off the table."

He helped me look for the bobbin.

Naturally, given the disorganization of my sewing supplies, I don't have a seam ripper. I had to pick out the stitches with a straight pin and the scissors, which took a while. Then I unpinned the other hem, pressed both hems and re-rolled them, re-pinning them, and pressing them again.

Back to the machine, where both the bobbin and the needle needed to be re-threaded. Thankfully, the plastic foot plate wasn't broken in the fall.

Eventually, I managed to sew both hems without any further errors. The whole operation took about two hours.

I need to go back to Daniel. At $10, I think he's a bargain!


smalltownme said...

But the NEXT time you will be prepared!

cactus petunia said...

That sounds so familiar! Even though I have a dedicated place to sew in my studio, drawers to hold the needles, threads, pins and bobbins, (and I even have a seam ripper!) I never seem to be organized enough to have everything where it's supposed to be when I need it, so it takes me three times longer to do a simple thing. You're right…Daniel is a bargain!