Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fresh magic

I love my sewing machine.  It is a beautiful object.  It has history.  It is elegantly functional.  It connects me to my mother, whose tool it was, and to my grandmother, who spent years sewing my clothes.

But I have spent almost two years now fearing my sewing machine.  It is old.  It is complicated.  Its manual is full of grainy photographs with letters and lines superimposed.  I am afraid I'm going to break it, clog it, ruin it.

Enter a friend who knows sewing.  Who is patient enough to figure out my unfamiliar antique and explain to me not only how to make it sew, but how its functions fit with the basics of sewing itself.  Who has one night to do it.

With each step, I'm more confident.  Thread the needle.  Wind and install the bobbin.  Engage the mechanism.  Presser foot down.  Stitch forward, stitch back.  Beautiful stitches -- small, straight, strong.

Now all the details of making something -- pattern, piecing, instructions, pressing, wrong side, right side.  The more steps I follow, the more I see it's like knitting.  You have to trust the pattern even when you can't quite tell how what it's asking you to do relates to what you're trying to accomplish overall.  You put it together in ways that leave you blind to whether it's all going to work out.  And then you turn it right side out and -- magic.

Sewing isn't likely to become my new full-time obsession.  Takes more equipment than knitting, less portable, a lot more setting up and breaking down (since there's no room in our house that could be designated for sewing -- well, right now, anyway).  But the gap between my trepidation before tonight, when the machine was an object of mystery and fear, and my confidence after -- it's now a well-designed tool that gives pleasure in the using, and whose use I can visualize -- is tremendous.

After an intense three hours of work, my first simple project, a needle and hook case for Cady Gray, is partially assembled.  It will be a long way to the end without my patient teacher, but she has given me an enormous gift by leading me over that gap.  I'm elated.  I feel I could sew all night, just to watch the needle dart, the fabric glide, and the magic happen.

No comments: