Comments from the sewing trainee

Here are Eric’s comments on the sewing training session we did last week end. His comments on the welt pocket making are hysterical.

These are just random thoughts on the experience, in no particular order.

Sewing: Mom sewed quite a lot when we were kids. Clothing, curtains, and probably plenty of stuff I can’t remember. I had only passing interest in it, but now that I’m married to You-Know-Who, it’s more or less a central theme in our lives. It’s actually quite fun. And at the end of the day, you have a sense of accomplishment.

I hear that there’s a certain amount of gender role stereotyping at play here, but I don’t have a sense of it. Kathleen says the all-feminine cast of Project Runway is the exception rather than the rule. No matter, my concept of men who sew is more of Motel proudly showing off his new machine for the people of Anatevya (the tailor in Fiddler on the Roof). Though he didn’t specifically say, “sew a decent seam,” Robert Heinlein summarizes well:

A man should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. – Lazarus Long

Industrial Machines: Yawn. I guess people are intimidated, but my only concern was how much fabric I would destroy in the process. I accidentally put my foot down hard one time as I was getting prepared and laid about 6″ of stitching in a random direction, but that just meant I got to practice tearing the seam back out.

The Adler automatically secures the seam at the beginning and end of the line. I’m not sure how helpful that is; once I figured out how to defeat it, I found myself doing without it more often than not just to avoid unnecessary stitching. But the automatic thread cut is obviously helpful.

Materials: The red duck was a lot stiffer than the blue, and both were a lot heavier than the lining. The red kept trying to come out from under the lining, so Kathleen suggested “If it wants to be the boss, let it. Put the red on top.” Worked like a charm. It’s tempting to blame some of my problems on the lightness of the lining, but I don’t think I have enough experience to say it was the material and not the operator.

Also, fusible is good. Fusible is very good.

As we were working with the cut pieces, we noted the fraying on the edges, and I accidentally pulled a few strands loose, but the significance of this really didn’t dawn on me until I went to start sewing seams together. Oops, only a few strands left to make the allowance! Valuable lesson learned: take care from early on in the process not to handle all of your allowance away one thread at a time.

Welt pockets: That’s it?! I thought these would require extra special care, but they were surprisingly simple. I especially don’t understand why an experienced stitcher or home-sewer would be intimidated by the process once I had seen how the template thing works. The drafting is simple, sewing parallel lines is simple, so where is the hard part? I kept expecting some big step and then, all of a sudden, you flip it over and it’s done. That’s it?! Simple doesn’t really describe it. It’s almost stupid. It was a big let-down compared to the build-up, like the end of a Steven King story.

Curves: I can’t cut them or sew them, but drafting them isn’t too bad. Putting a light-weight, curved liner onto a heavy duck straight piece while managing the butterfly seam in the middle and making notches hit their marks all at the same time is not at all simple.

Frankly, though, I would have been bored stiff with a pillow or apron. Maybe this is just me, but for future reference I would guess that 30 minutes of straight and parallel lines and trying to figure out 1/4″ and 3/8″ seams is plenty. Maybe I should have spent some time on the lining material, or two different weights of material, or putting curved sections onto straight. At some point, you have to move the student from exercises to something useful; better to do that earlier rather than later. Maybe if my piano teacher had emphasized more Jon Lord and fewer finger exercises, I might still be doing that.

The table: Okay, okay, let’s raise and level the table already! It is just slightly but not entirely out of reach when standing up, making me bend a couple of inches down. Doing a couple of lining pieces, okay, but doing more than that several days a week and my back would be killing me. [I’ve been nagging Eric to help me raise and level the tables]

Bagging: Again, … Really? That’s all there is to it?

Actually, I think I’m being a little cavalier here. If Kathleen were not present, I doubt I would have figured out how all the pieces go together and in which order, so it was probably only that simple because I was just following orders.

Training sewing machine operators pt 1
Training sewing machine operators pt 2
Training sewing machine operators pt 3
Training the green sewing operator
Comments from the sewing trainee
Training new sewing operator pt.3

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  1. Carmel Dolcine says:

    This is great! Eric is a great student and I’m sure Kathleen gave great instructions. I think the real key in teaching hands-on is understanding the students temperament, then letting the session evolve organically. If Kathleen wasn’t flexible and if the student wasn’t openly willing to try something new, make mistakes, and follow both the stated and understated or subliminal instructions of the teacher, then this could have been troublesome.

  2. Gini says:

    This experiment was a perfect glimpse into a true “beginner’s mind”. No doubt you each brought something to the party, but the fact that Eric entered into the experience without expectation or apprehension made for a fabulous outcome. I find myself constantly arguing with my own already-made-up mind or the preconceived notions of others no matter which role I play in a learner/instructor dynamic. As always, you have provided some thought provoking information here. Thanks to you both for sharing it!

  3. Connie says:

    No doubt about it. Kathleen is a great teacher, who has great methods and simple, clear instructions to follow them.

    Re:welt pockets; we, who sew at home, never had the “process” or the “template thing” shown to us…. ever. I have to go out of town for a few weeks, so I don’t have time now, but I will scan and email Kathleen some welt pocket instructions from some older sewing books I have.
    Good luck with those, Eric.

  4. Nicole Marie says:

    I love that Eric is actually trying. My bf just sits there and watches me. Once I was in a hurry to get a top done, so I layed out all the pieces how I wanted them, weighted them down and asked him to cut around the pieces. When I turned around he had moved all the pieces into different positions!! When I asked him why, he told me that he was trying to save me fabric( and while it was very practical we all know how much grain line affects the garment) . So he’s not allowed to “help” me anymore.

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