Monday, May 25, 2009

Stitch by stitch

One craft often leads to another. Falling in love with knitting means that increasingly I find myself wanting to learn to crochet; I see beautiful crochet bags, cute amigurumi, and attractive crochet edgings on knit garments. All right, I think; I'll jump in and learn, even though I never intended to.

It's a bigger leap to sewing. And yet, I find myself wanting to learn that, too. Not much of it, mind. There's enough crafty craziness in my life without starting to accumulate a stash of fabric on top of my exploding boxes of yarn. But enough to sew a little skirt onto a knitted bodice for a girl's dress. Enough to create a lining for a knitted (or crocheted) bag.

Last year I cajoled my mother into hauling her beautiful antique Singer machine up to my house. This is the machine at which I sat as a girl, fearfully trying to sew a straight seam. I loved the foot pedal and the big round wheel that it made spin as the needle went up and down. But I hated the pressure. It felt like something I was bound to do wrong. My Nana was so accomplished at sewing; she made almost all my clothes through elementary school. And when I visited her, I would gamely do my best at cutting out pattern pieces and stitching up hems. But the high-stakes nature of the game defeated me. I couldn't handle the stress of potentially messing up.

Now here I am, four decades later, wanting to pull out that machine and learn. And it's the machine itself that's exerting the pressure. So many ways I could break it. So many things to go wrong. Especially starting from absolute zero, as I am. I confess that since my mother brought it to me, I'd never even opened its big heavy black box before taking these pictures an hour ago.

So I'm begging for help. There must be a complete idiot's guide to sewing with a machine out there. A hold-my-hand, make-me-feel-smart, hey-look-I'm-doing-it book or website or video series or whatever. How can I take this heirloom and put it to work making beautiful things -- and render myself more accomplished, at this late date?


stevie said...

I bought myself a sewing machine on eBay a few years ago with similar small-scale sewing dreams. They haven't quite come true, but I've made most of a skirt and can hem my jeans with ease. I used a book (Sewing 101: A Beginners Guide to Sewing) and took a class at a local fabric store for $100 (plus material, which worked out to about $50). I highly recommend taking a class, as that's where I learned the most.

Stephanie said...

That machine is beautiful. While it is not comprehensive, I really like It's a store and a blog. I frequent the blog. They have lots of tutorials, some in video form. has some great videos, too, though only a few. She has a very easy and laid back sewing style. Lots of simple but fun projects. She also hosts "Tie One On," which feeds my apron obsession!