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Learning to Sew. Or, the Virtues of Unemployment.

September 30, 2010

This post is calorie-free, since we have no money to fund baking adventures at the moment.

I'm learning to sew, y'all!

So a few months ago, I decided that Melissa and I were going to sew me some napkins. I’ve always (well, not always, but ever since I went to France, of course) wanted to have my own cloth napkins, to be used on a daily basis. They add an air of “je ne sais quoi” to every meal (even the ones that go directly from freezer to microwave), and they have the added benefit of helping you avoid the redneck hankie (i.e. snatching a paper towel from the roll by the sink).

However. Melissa’s sewing machine revolted against us, so we were unable to pursue our sewing passions. Well, luckily for YOU people, I recently moved home and have oodles of time on my hands for things like, oh, sewing a few napkins…making dinner for my parents…and oh yeah – FINDING A JOB. Anyways.

Before I became utterly penniless, I bought some cotton fabric from Hobby Lobby (ahhh, crafts!) to take to Grandma for assistance. I picked two colors of fabric, both of which I love for their vintage feel and both of which my father refuses to use. Something about being a “Manly man.” I tried to convince him that any napkin was better than paper, but then got too distracted by the half-price thread display to argue. (I bought brown).

I have no clue how to sew, and still don’t, honestly, but I enlisted the help of my grandma in setting up the machine and threading the bobbin (WTHeck is a bobbin?!). First we folded the edges of the napkins over twice, to give a nice, clean edge. Then we ironed the edges, to make sure the edges were ABSOLUTELY flat. We pinned these every 3 inches or so, and I made some pretty big napkins, so that’s a lot of pins.

These hands have made a pie or two in their time.

Next up: situating the fabric between the needle (top part) and the bobbin (the bottom part you can’t really see), taking care to raise the foot so I can get the corner under it.

Those pins are SHARP.

Get the needle positioned where you want it, then press the lever to start the sewing machine. This one was operated by a thigh-high lever, which was goofy to operate (I had to keep pressing to the right with my knee).

Locking into position...DON'T FORGET TO LOWER THE FOOT!!!

Then you let ‘er rip!

Look at that pretty, straight (alright, semi-straight) hem!

Beautiful, effortless perfection. And now I’m ready for Project Runway!

Wait, you don’t believe me that I went from being a complete sewing novice to being Coco Chanel (in flip flops…)?

OK, FINE, you win. (I TOLD you to put the foot back down!)

Yes, yes, I made lots of mistakes. And we even managed to break Grandma’s sewing machine (hoping that was an equipment malfunction, and not user error…she had to take it to the Singer doctor…). But, in the end, I have four (fairly) finished (well, three finished and one pinned), hemmed napkins!

Close enough for cowboy work...*

Next up? Making my own clothes, butchering my own pig, and growing a field of wheat.

No, wait…that’s Laura Ingalls’ life…Right. Back to job applications!

*Actually, they’re not finished – you see the two sides with no stitching? I have to go back and stitch to the edges to make sure they don’t unravel, forming a square hem in each corner. Why haven’t I done that yet? Well, mostly because I’m lazy, but partly because, as mentioned, I broke Grandma’s sewing machine, and I haven’t had the guts to open my mother’s (and risk destroying it as well). Sigh, I guess I’m no Martha Stewart…at least…not YET…

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2010 11:02 am

    Oooh! Nice. Can you show us the finshed product – you know, with a place setting or something?


    • October 8, 2010 3:24 pm

      Hehe, all in good time, Victoria. All in good time. (Translation: I haven’t been able to get the nerve to set up my mother’s machine, in fear that I will destroy it like I destroyed my grandma’s.) When they’re COMPLETELY finished, with all four edges completely hemmed, I’ll post them!

  2. Heather Thomson permalink
    October 1, 2010 12:21 pm

    Cool, now I know how to make napkins. I just inherited my mom’s old sewing machine, so I’m also trying to learn all the fun things it does. So far I’ve mostly just hemmed pants, but sewing my own clothes is on the list of things to try. If I make them myself they might actually fit.

    • October 8, 2010 3:25 pm

      Oh man, Heather, I’m so with you on this! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, having a body shape that doesn’t fit the “average” very well. If I find some good patterns or anything, I’ll be sure to pass them along.

      And yeah – I was shocked at how easy it was to actually hem the napkins! You should go for it, and take pictures!!

  3. December 1, 2010 12:33 pm

    Yay! I’m so glad you got a chance to tackle these after my sewing machine went to Singer heaven. 😦

    I can’t wait to see the finished product. Did you know you can also use the reverse feature on the machine to go over the edges of your squares so they don’t unravel?

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