Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How do I love thee... Let me count the stitches

Okay, so I’ve always been “crafty” but the only sewing I’d ever done was on an ancient machine that seemed to be intentionally working against me in my attempts to actually sew anything. It required the ability to solve a rubics cube in 6 seconds flat in order to change the bobbin, and creating a quality stitch consisted of infinitesimal adjustments of at least 3 wheels and knobs. Once the moons of bobbin and tension were in alignment, I would hold my breath for fear that a change in the air flow of the room would set me off course again. I came to the conclusion that sewing must be reserved for saintly engineers.

After my daughter was born, I figured that sewing machines must have evolved past the machine described above and the vast array of baby accoutrement just waiting to be made was worth giving it another try. I found a little sewing shop in town called Keep Me in Stitches (A link to their shop is always at the bottom of this blog) and stopped by to check out the machines. “Evolved” doesn’t even seem… well evolved… enough to describe the difference in the sewing machine I used and the machines I saw that day. Gone are the days of foot pedals that creak when they’re depressed and knobs that click when you turn them. The sleek machines the salesman showed me not only didn't even require the use of a foot pedal at all, they also mechanically sense the thickness of your fabric and set the tension accordingly, automatically thread the needle with a touch of a button, cut threads for you when you finish stitching, have 531 individual stitches to choose from, and video tutorials built into the machine that play on their LCD screens to help you along if you get stuck. Nearly 2 hours later I walked out of the store thinking “my life is about to change”.

I spent a good month pondering which machine was right for me, all the ways I would use it, what opportunities it would bring my way, and how much fun I would have working with it. My wonderfully supportive husband and witness to my past creative endeavors in action came into the store with me to learn about the machine. He helped me pack the huge boxes containing my new sewing and embroidery machine, the Baby Lock Ellegante, into my trunk. It was the nicest machine in the store. It had all the bells and whistles and the biggest price tag… I think I made it out of the parking lot before the buyers remorse kicked in. I hadn’t sewn a stitch on a machine that was less than 15 years old ever, I didn’t know the first thing about embroidery, I had no idea why this machine came with approximately 7 discs for my computer, I was totally in over my head!

In the interest of getting to the “good stuff” I’ll skip my experience with what I like to refer to as “extreme” embroidery in which a week after I got it, I took the machine to a craft show I was doing and tried to embroider baby bibs while the wind was blowing my supplies and everything else everywhere. I’ll also skip the 3 times in a two week span that I lugged the machine back into Keep Me in Stitches because I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong (email me if you need more reason than that to buy your machine from a local shop instead of a big box store.) the last of which ended with me crying in the parking lot about how I made the wrong decision and my husband consoling me with “give it time Babe, you’ll learn to love it”.

I spent the first weeks just learning about all the things the machine could do, what stabilizer worked with what fabric, thread, and design, and how my skill/ability fit in… or didn’t… with all of that. After one particularly taxing afternoon of sewing I found myself in “conversation” with my machine. It went a little something like “Machine, I’ll make you a deal. I won’t stress over every single stitch, hovering over your embroidery arm watching each thread being placed, holding my breath as a decorative stitch sews at your automatically set speed if you’ll just not cause any major complications. Please don’t jam the thread up into a wadded mess under the metal plate, please don’t tell me the embroidery file is unrecognizable when I transfer it from my computer, and please don’t ever make that horrible grinding sound when the needle hits the bobbin case ever again”. IT WORKED! Okay, maybe not the “conversation” part but definitely the “me not stressing out anymore” part. I learned that it’s a learning process. I figured out how to prevent those major complications and best of all deciding not to stress about it made it fun.

I have bonded with my machine and no I’m not crazy! I even Googled it… there are lots of people talking about how they bond with their sewing machines. It makes perfect sense, you’ve taken the time to learn the nuances of the machine, you spend time with it doing something you enjoy, and together you’re able to create things that are valuable for lots of reasons in addition to monetary ones. My machine has been a catalyst for lots of new experiences in my life. It’s not only a tool that’s helped me expand my creative boundaries, the patience and determination I’ve learned along the way has helped me expand my mind. I was totally right, it did change my life.

5 comments:

Karie said...

LOL Well, ANYONE would fall in love with your machine! I've been drooling over it since you got it! LOL I'm hoping to fall in love with my new machine :) I haven't even opened it yet! Can you believe it?!! Talk to you soon!
~Karie

Homespun Mama said...

SOOOOO jealous of your sewing machine!! If it ever needs a new home, look me up :)

jenc said...

Great blog! I can certainly empathize with your early struggles. I experienced similar failures myself. :o) I also completely identify with the joy (& sometimes fear!) you come to feel when you sit down at your machine and create something new. I am my own toughest critic...I pore over the stitches, scrutinizing every detail.

It was love at first stitch between myself and my new Janome. After counting my losses and ditching my first (cheap) machine, I was immediately dazzled by the smooth & quality mechanics of my second purchase. Brand new to sewing, I relied on the computerized speed settings (oh so slow, at first!)to work on getting my stitches straight. I still sometimes try to fight my machine, but I am getting better at listening to what it is trying to tell me. :o) Since it has much more experience than I do, I have placed my trust in its capable "hands!"

luvinthemommyhood said...

Awwww, I love this...thanks so much for sharing!!!

Courtney Soleil said...

I am so there with you! I just got my beautiful machine at Christmas, helps to have a very supportive hubby for sure! I got mine from the states becaus ethe one i wanted was not available in canada - mine is brother se400, not as fancy as your babylock but babylock/brother are an excellent brand and durable I would never buy another brand. I too had the experience with the more than 15yr old machine... mine was a janome and sounded lieka train... it never did what I thought it was supposed to... THANK YOU BROTHER! ha ha.

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