For my 30th birthday, my husband Loren gave me a Singer Curvy Sewing machine. At 5’3” with my mother’s build, I find myself having to hem nearly every pair of pants I purchase, and after hearing me complain about this while pining after a sewing machine for months, he surprised me for my birthday. (Although I may or may not have guessed that I’d be getting one.) Being the considerate and forward thinking man that he is, he also gave me 4 hours of private lessons with Better Living Through Sewing. Unfortunately for my sewing endeavors (but fortunate for every other reason), the year of my 30th birthday was also the year we got married, so the sewing machine sat in the garage unopened for a year as I planned for the big day.
The week before my 31st birthday, I booked my first lesson — STOKED to get started. 3 lessons in, I broke the machine. 🙁 I had apparently messed up the timing, and it was a $100 fix. Considering the machine itself was only $179, they offered to give me a $100 credit toward a better, more durable machine.
After weeks of deliberation and consultation from the ladies at a local sewing machine shop, I decided to trade in my Singer for a Viking Emerald 116. It subsequently sat in the garage for another three months, but last week, I pulled it out for the first time, ready to hem some clothes!
I pulled out the video that Diana from Better Living let me shoot — instructions for a how to do a roll hem — and got to it. I started with an old pair of climbing shorts that I’d been rolling up 80’s style for over a year. I figured that if I messed those up, I wouldn’t be heart-broken. I successfully hemmed one side, and then suddenly, things went awry. I got these crazy loops on the underside of the fabric, and the machine was making these loud banging sounds. I panicked. If I just broke my second sewing machine the FIRST time I pulled it out of the box, maybe sewing just wasn’t for me. I was nearly in tears.
For those of you who don’t know me, the words “patient,” “careful,” “gentle,” and “precise” are not in the top 100 words to describe me. And unfortunately, all of these things are required to be good at sewing. I’m pretty sure that I can pinpoint the moment when I disturbed the timing on my Singer. My guess is that it happened when I tried to rip out some denim that was stuck in it during a lesson when Diana wasn’t watching. I think I yanked the needle. No, I know I did. I yanked the needle.
Loren tells me that when he was little, his dad used to say “don’t force it” when they were building something or putting something together from a box. I never received such wise instructions as a child. Instead, I learned to push hard, to pull harder, to force large objects to fit into small places, to glue them if they broke, or turn them into an art project. And if all else failed, to buy another one.
Not “forcing it” hasn’t really been in my vernacular until sewing entered my life.
I read the owner’s manual (not something I do often), tried adjusting the top tension, the bottom tension, made sure there was no thread stuck inside any of the parts near the bobbin, and there was no change. (Mind you, while I was doing this, I was learning what these things were and where they are on my machine, because I’m still a total novice) Nearly resigned to failure and dreading having to tell Loren that I’d messed up a second sewing machine, I came across this Youtube video. I could kiss this woman! She saved my evening! And my shorts (which I’m wearing to the gym today)! I was back in business, and the problem was a super simple fix!
On fire with my newfound confidence, I pulled out a pair of red jeans that I’d been stuffing into my boots, also for over a year. I watched the video again, measured everything out, and got to sewing. When I put them on, I saw that I’d made one side an inch longer than the other… ahh, precision … and patience.
There’s more work to be done for me on these fronts, but I think sewing can get me there. I think Diana might be onto something with this whole better living through sewing thing.