About 3 1/2 years ago, shortly after we’d moved into our current flat I came into some money, I think my gran gave me some and unbelievably (well it’s unbelievable now considering there’s always things on the never ending shopping list of things we need to buy if we have the money) I had some money spare so I brought a sewing machine. I only had one child then, Girl Lacer, still just a baby really but I foresaw the day where “a sewing machine might be useful”, thinking about fancy dress costumes, school plays and the like. It got delivered, I got it out of the box, went “yikes” and left it in storage in my bedroom for the next 3 1/2 years.
Now that sewing machine has been nagging away at the corner of my mind all that time, it wasn’t exactly cheap and I always figured I should learn to use it. I had used a sewing machine before but that was when I was about 11 and it was one of those old fashioned Singer machines with a turn handle at school and I don’t recall being particularly good at it. Recently though I have become increasingly interested and concerned about ‘lost skills’, I am sure that if you traced down my family line from female to female everyone knew how to sew, at least the basic stuff, passed from mother to daughter but that got lost thanks to the 60s and increased commercialisation. I’m pretty sure, no actually I know my mum knew how to sew, actually she could weave to, I remember ‘playing’ with her loom when I was small (she was an artist and did some textile work) but I don’t know, I lost interest / my mum didn’t have time /I don’t know basically, interestingly whereas I remember playing with the loom, her trying to teach me to knit, my younger sister doesn’t, so it may have been the demands of a growing family. So although I do have the seeds of crafty stuff in my early childhood I’m pretty much having to teach myself.
I am also, like a lot of people, increasingly concerned about where the ‘cheap’ products we buy come from. When we went from two incomes to one income we had to do the whole Primark thing and although at first sight £2 kids pjs are great you have to wonder exactly who is being ripped off, also Primark clothes never last very long before falling to pieces so adding to the whole landfill problem.
So although I am under no illusions I could make all mine and the kids’ wardrobes, I would like to contribute to it, I would like to be able to show my kids that it is possible to mend things without throwing them away and about how much effort has gone in to making that cheap, so on trend you’ll have to throw it away when the trend fades top and that it’s not that difficult to run up, say a cushion.
I’ve always had the attitude of why pay someone to do something when you can do it yourself, even when we had more money we’d paint our own walls thank you instead of getting someone else to do it (which shocked my friends), me and Mr. Lacer are perfectly capable of tiling a bathroom and Mr. Lacer (despite being happier with a keyboard than a saw) is now capable of designing and building a shelving unit from raw materials (and it looks pretty professional). So with my addiction to tote bags I thought I’d better at least dust off that sewing machine and start learning how sew those.
And as you can see from the photo (of the sewing machine in it’s case) I literally had to scrape the dust off. One of the reasons which had stopped me using it all these years was that I was worried that a) bits were missing b) it had gone rusty (and I had good reason to worry about that part as when we were having our ceilings sound proofed the bathroom was one of the few rooms we didn’t do, so Mr. Lacer stored everything in the (still used) bathroom, including the sewing machine, I found it in their slightly damp and gave Mr. Lacer an earful). I was also worried that being in a small flat, would it be too noisy.
Well yesterday I got the sewing machine off the shelf, uncovered it, wiped off all the thick dust and then thought, “argh where’s the power cable?”, remembered that I’d seen a box with the sewing machine’s brand name (Janome) on somewhere, turfed everything out of our storage cupboard and found the box at the very bottom, complete with power cable, pedal and very importantly the instruction manual. Looked at the instruction manual, noticed it came with not one but two screwdrivers, thought twice about using anything that came with it’s own screwdrivers and then carried on. I got it on the table, plugged it in, the light (which I didn’t know it even had – I’m a complete novice here) came on, it was like the moment where Will Smith’s character in The Pursuit of Happyness has finally fixed the little light on his portable X-ray machine. So it wasn’t that corroded then. I had a go (as recommended) at threadless sewing on a piece of paper, no problem. But then it came to threading it, that bit took two hours and several interventions of help from Mr. Lacer, put it this way, now I know what the kids song “Wind the bobbin up” (link takes a while to fully load) is going on about. Everything was finally threaded, I wasn’t totally convinced correctly but I got a scrap piece of fabric, stuck it in and hey presto a line of stitches! I then folded the fabric in two and sewed two of it’s free sides up, turned it the otherside out and hey presto I had a seam. By then it was nearly midnight (I had been going since 9.30pm, thankfully the machine turned out to be fairly quiet) and I had to go to bed so the intricacies of the zig zag foot will have to be learnt another time, but put it this way, I’m hooked!
So, first step I think is going to be cushions, I’m going to combine this with another interest, embroidery and embroider something then turn it into a cushion. Then I’d like to move onto tote bags but ultimately I’d like to maybe make a few simple skirts for Girl Lacer and move my very slow soft toy making from hand to machine sewing and if I get really adventurous I’d love to learn how to make cotton summer hats, my head is larger than what the average fashion chain seems to think it should be, so I can never get summer cotton hats to fit (a woolly hat has some stretch) but I can imagine that’s quite difficult.