Last week I taught a class entitled, "Get To Know Your Sewing Machine," at Sew Easy in Wellesley. Sew Easy has never had adult classes before, so this was an exciting first.
The class was fully enrolled with eight women eager to learn to use their machines. One woman brought a Singer that has been passed down through her family. It is built into a table and is a gorgeous machine still in perfect working order. She had to bring it up a big flight of stairs to get to the classroom and I give her so much credit!
Others brought new machines they had gotten for Christmas and had yet to take out of the box and older machines that had been sitting in their closets collecting dust. Many of the women's children had taken classes at Sew Easy, but they themselves don't know how to sew.
I started the class by explaining how a sewing machine makes stitches by intertwining the upper and lower threads. Then I gave a little lesson on the anatomy of sewing machine and showed how to wind a bobbin on my own machine. Then everyone when back to their machines to figure out how to wind a bobbin. The owner, Lauren, worked with me to get everyone's machine's up and running.
The thing I was most nervous about was figuring out how to use all these different machines. I've only really sewn on my old Bernette (the one that died a few months ago) and my new Janome. I wondered if I would be sweating away trying to get all these machines working.
It's funny, though. Each machine is different, but really they are all the same. Old or new they all have the same basic parts and they all work the same way.
I showed how to thread my machine, and "go fishing" for the bobbin thread and then sent them off to thread their machines and bring up the bobbin thread. I showed how to adjust the stitch length and the width of the stitches, how to adjust the tension and how to backstitch. I wanted them to not be afraid to turn the dials and experiment. Then I gave everyone a piece of muslin folded in half to experiment with and sent them back to their machines.
Before they began stitching, though, Lauren had them unthread and rethread the machine twice more and go fishing for the bobbin thread twice more. Such a good idea. It seems harsh, but after so much practice they felt like masters.
Everyone made little stitch samplers. I handed out markers so they could write on their samplers, marking which stitches were made on which settings.
Then I did a brief lesson on fabric. I explained how fabric is woven with warp thread and weft threads and showed what a selvadge looks like. I passed out some fabric samples so everyone could stretch them parallel and perpindicular to the selvadge to feel the relative degree of stretch. We talked about how to place pattern pieces and how to buy fabric.
Before everyone unplugged their machine and packed up I gave out a handout with the directions for the pouch so that they could make more at home, and a handout with contact information for local, independently owned fabric shops, online fabric stores, and websites with good sewing tutorials.
Everyone left with a completed project, and (hopefully) feeling like they knew how to thread their machine, wind a bobbin, and start sewing.
It was a jam packed 2.5 hours, but it was totally fun. Showing people how to operate a machine that has opened up amazing avenues of creativity for me, and hopefully will for them, too, is tremendously satisfying.