Oct 01 2014

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville- Teaching My Boy To Sew

I’m pretty sure I’ve said so elsewhere, but I’m happy to say again, that back when we used to make things in this country, I was a sewing machine operator. My first real job was at a shoe factory, and I loved that job. I’ve also worked at a cashmere sweater factory, making ladies suits and a drapery shop. After the actual factories closed, I got a heavy duty sewing machine and over the years I’ve made everything from costumes to crafts with it, but in the past few years I haven’t pulled it out much, mostly to hem.

That was the case last week, as my boy’s jeans were all two inches too long and I don’t do jeans by hand. So, out comes the beast and I get ready to wind a bobbin, when I notice I have an audience. I tell the kid I don’t need him yet, in fact, if he just gets me the pants he has that are the right length, I can measure by that. He gets me the pants, but he doesn’t go anywhere, I figure of course he’s curious, I never pull the machine out anymore. But it’s more than that, he wants to know if can help, he wants to know if he can run the machine.

I smile. I tell him no, no, not on jeans, kid, especially not a hem, maybe after I’m done. I figure he’ll get bored and that will be the end of it. I only have two pairs to do, but what should take a half hour winds up taking twice as long because of course I break a needle, and I only have one left. It’s size 14, not ideal, so I have to walk it by hand over the seams and take it slow all the way around for fear of breaking it, but I finish and the kid is still there. Now? Now can he try?

Well, why the hell not? I remember being taught on a paper to follow printed lines, but I find that idea silly, so I get a couple of paper napkins, adjust the tensions and sit the boy down. I tell him that you learn best by doing, direct his attention to the lines on the plate, show him how to raise and lower the presser foot, and tell him to sew a straight line almost to the bottom of the napkin–and don’t floor that peddle. When he gets to the bottom I explain that he’s going to see whether the needle is down, if it is-good, if not, hand turn the wheel to put it down because we’ll be turning a corner.

In short order he had a sewn a neat outline all around the napkin, he even reversed and locked his stitches at the end. Then I had him make parallel lines inside that square, boring, yes? And you would think that would have cured him, but no. The next night after supper he asks to practice some more. Really? Well, okay. That night we hung a napkin with some perfectly sewn lines on the fridge.

Next up? We’re going to be making him a messenger bag out of a pair of old jeans. There’s really nothing like the feeling you get from completing your first project, and I now hold in my hot little hands an entire pack of size 18 needles~

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