Monday, April 24, 2006

Contrary to what people might tell you... is possible to wind a sewing machine bobbin by hand and get away with it.

This I know because the other day, still digging out from our recent move, I came across a box with yards and yards of fabric I bought years ago for quilt blocks and quilt backs. Well, I don't need any more quilts, thanks, but I have been wanting workaday, everyday skirts. And I needed some curtains for various windows around here, which are still covered in various jerry-rigged bits of one thing and another.

I haven't machine-sewed anything in a few years. My husband and I put our heads together, and neither of us can recall me getting the sewing machine set up in the apartment we just left. There just wasn't a good place for it. At any rate, I'm almost certain I haven't machine-sewn since we got cats, which would have been early 2001, if I remember right. Bottom line: I'm rusty when it comes to sewing. Very rusty.

But here I was, fabric in front of me, yards and yards of it; ironing board and iron in known locations and easy to get to, the sewing machine in easy reach (in the bottom of the closet in my office), and with an office with a work table large enough for both the computer and a sewing machine. And I've been reading blog after blog where ladies have successfully been making things...

So, Thursday night, armed with a very nice tutorial, I decided to have a go at it.

I started getting everything together, and realized that the sewing machine was easy to get to, but the power cord and foot pedal were not with it. Of course not. Life shouldn't be too easy. But I found the cord/foot pedal in the second unpacked box I got into. (Miracles happen.)

The instruction book I couldn't find. Nor extra bobbins. Nor the various extra presser feet or plates. Oh, well. All I wanted was the ability to do a straight seam. I didn't need the fancy stuff. And I only use one bobbin at a time, right? I figured that if I kept it wound with a neutral color I should be all right, right? At any rate, that I was reduced to something akin to bare bones didn't make the project seem impossible.

I live about a block from a drug store which I presumed carried thread and sewing notions (it did, including bobbins, to my surprise), and so soon enough I was in business. And right after that I remembered why I'd put the sewing machine into storage in the first place. It's broken. I'd meant to get it fixed, but never got around to it. The presser foot won't stay up by itself, for one thing. And the bobbin winder is broken, for another. The presser foot problem was immediately apparent, but could be dealt with by manually holding up the presser foot when moving fabric in or out. The bobbin winder difficulty I didn't discover until the bobbin already in the machine ran out of thread -- halfway through my first skirt.

But I was inspired by this time, and not inclined to stop for minor things like that. And so I set up the thread through the tension spring for the bobbin winder, put the bobbin between the thumb and forefinger of one hand, and centimeter by centimeter, keeping the tension steady, wound the bobbin about a quarter full and tried that. It worked. I've done this a couple times since then, the last time going whole hog and winding the bobbin full. Hah. The pioneer spirit lives!

I was sitting around feeling ingenious and resourceful, when my husband stuck his head into my office to say hi, and saw me winding a bobbin by hand. He was distressed. He muttered something to the effect that sewing machines are cheap on eBay, before running off to download the instruction manual to this machine to tide us over...

The first skirt I made using more or less the pattern in the tutorial (I rarely follow recipes or patterns exactly - I like to tinker with them). But it seemed a bit full for me, and with lots of fabric at the waist. I mean, it looks good, but I thought I could improve on it.

So the second skirt I made A-line, sans pattern, just cutting the panels at an angle that felt right (leaving the waist big enough to go over my hips, of course -- it's no good making a pull-on skirt that's too narrow to pull on). I got a wild hair and made it a lined skirt. That turned out all right, too. But I thought I could improve on it.

So here I sit, in skirt number three, made with half as much fabric as the first, straight and longish, with walking slit. And I'm plotting making a dress. And maybe some shirts. I feel ready for buttons and zippers, if it comes to that. And did I mention I finished the curtains for the back bathroom? And that I'm designing curtains for the rest of the house?

I figure that if anything turns out a total flop, I can always cut it into quilt pieces after all. (Just because I don't need any more quilts doesn't mean I won't make any more. Quilting is one of those hobbies that can get into a person's blood.)

The cats have been helpful, but not as bad as I feared. George does tend to see fabric laying around as prey which must be pounced on and dragged triumphantly off -- if not snatched boldly from someone's hands -- but now that I know that I can outwit her (most of the time). For that matter, playing at bullfights and teasing her might be fun, now that I think about it... Gracie ran for cover when she first heard the machine, but then contented herself with coming in from time to time and complaining of neglect and loneliness. That I can solve by playing with her during my work breaks, which I like to do anyway.

Life is good.

Yes, yes, I know. I'm easily amused. But life is good.

I've worn two of my three new skirts in public so far. Nobody asked me where the party was, no one pointed or stared, I didn't hear any snickers, and children didn't dive behind their mommas, so I'm calling the experiment a success so far. I wanted everyday skirts that looked good without being dressy, that were one-of-kind skirts without being in the least weird. So far, so good...

I've put future projects on hold until we can get the sewing machine fixed or replaced, but then, watch out. I've got several yards of fabric left, just laying around begging to be made into something. :-).


RANDI said...

Awesome Kathryn! You really dove right in and got creative! I crafted and sewed for many years and then quit. About a year ago I discovered "craft blogs" and I have been at it ever since! I love having a creative outlet. Can you post pictures on your blog? I would love to see your skirts!

Kathryn Judson said...

Randi, I don't know the first thing about taking digital pictures and putting them in the computer, or posting them. But it's on my "gee, I'd like to learn to do that someday" list, so we'll see. My husband has offered to take the pictures, so that part's lined up, anyway...

Michelle said...

Good job sewing!

So now, find a friend with a machine, buy about 10 bobbins (they're cheap) and fill them with 10 different colors. Then you're all set for quite a while.

Bobbins are cheaper than a sewing machine. But that presser foot is a problem...