Training sewing machine operators pt 2

Continuing from yesterday, training a sewing operator should be done methodically. This section detailed step by step instructions for how to convey information, correct mistakes and have the learner teach you. This approach was immediately reminiscent of the job training program set up by the war department in WW2, better known as TWI (Training Within Industry). I wrote about this before and included links to the public domain training manuals. As a refresher, TWI was the most efficient and wildly successful job training program the world has ever known and later, it was inarguably responsible for the “Japanese miracle” (Toyota still uses the system today). Through TWI, women who’d never held so much as a wrench, were trained to operate the industrial factories of America, replacing all the men who’d been shipped off to fight the war. I don’t intend to derail this topic but other than the inclusion of some industry specific terminology, the instruction methodology section on training sewing operators could have been pulled verbatim from the TWI manuals.

There are some step by step instructions on how to teach the operators about the machines, the parts and how to operate them. Again, I have no experience training new operators, only people who already sew well so it wouldn’t have occurred to me to go into this much detail. Much of the material looked ready made, something you could print off and give to people, allowing them to read it or look at the pictures while you went over it.

Then comes the fun part, the actual sewing skills training. You’ve probably seen sewing exercises like this before. You mark off sewing lines and have the operator trace them with the sewing machines. These don’t have to be done on fabric at the outset, paper is a better medium so you could enlarge and photocopy these sheets. You can also transfer these onto fabric by ironing the paper sheets if your output is toner based (laser or photocopy). The funniest thing about these are the footers which read “Sewing is Easy-Sewing is Profitable-Sewing is Fun” but then, I am ever easily amused.

These practice sheets are designed for different functions. Some are designed specifically to teach positioning tempo, rhythm, and fluidity. Detailed instructions on how to lead operators in the exercises are included. Once you’ve run through these exercises (eventually timing them so they can gauge their own improvement), you can have them repeat the exercises on fabrics. Once the operator has had a measure of success with these exercises, then training to specific jobs on fabric starts.

Exercise 1 (below), helps with:

  • Accuracy in sewing straight lines
  • Treadle (foot pedal) and braking control
  • To overcome fear of the machine

Exercise 2 (below), reinforces the skills above and helps with:

  • Coming to an accurate stop
  • Manipulating the hand wheel
  • Pivoting needle down (droping the needle at corners)

Exercise 3 (below), teaches:

  • How to control the work and the machine when sewing curved turns such as scallops, round pockets, yokes and collar edges.

Exercise 4 (below), develops:

  • Positioning skills
  • Building speed

Exercise 5 (below), provides:

  • More practice with positioning
  • Practice sewing gentle curves
  • Building speed

Exercise 6 is a doozy, reinforcing all of the above skills. I wonder what the timing of this piece would be with a good operator? We should have a contest.

In the next entry of this series, the training progresses to working with actual fabric samples, performing specific jobs like hemming and the like.

Full size scans of these sheets are in the forum.

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. J C Sprowls says:

    I wonder why these skill exercises were not part of the HomeEc classes we (my sister and I) took in high school? The benefits of such would extend far beyond just sewing machine operations. I think I’m going to have to run through these just for grins… I could surely use a skill booster. #6 is intimidating, though…

  2. Andrew Jones says:

    This kind of thing is exactly how I started learning at 19 on my first fashion course. We had 3 hours of this every Monday morning and were taught by two ex sample machinists. There were a lot of swearwords, lots of laughter and lots of sheets of paper flying out of the back of out of control machines! After all of this, sewing actual fabric was easy…

  3. Heather says:

    Those look very cool. I too am easily amused, the footers are hilarious.

    I’m missing something though, what are the hashmarks in 4, 5 and 6 for?

    I’m all up for a contest. Although I think I would just be happy to finish LOL.

  4. Andrea says:

    I think we should all time test ourselves and (honestly) post the results. Does it matter if you do it on a home machine or an industrial?

  5. Kathleen says:

    I’m missing something though, what are the hashmarks in 4, 5 and 6 for?

    First, I should mention that the time alloted for each exercise is 45 minutes because the trainee is supposed to do each one over and over. Considering that, the instructions say:

    When you’ve repeated this exercise sufficiently to become proficient, continue by adding the following variations: Make a quick positive stop in every line when you come to the small cross-line. On one half of the sheet the lengths are uniform with regard to mid-stop location, whereas on the other half, the mid-stop locations are at varying points.

    I think we should all time test ourselves and (honestly) post the results.

    Andrea is evil.
    I don’t think it matters time-wise which machine type you use but it is easier to control an industrial. You don’t have the pressure with home machines so you can’t manipulate the goods as well.

  6. Trish says:

    We use these exercises here at El Paso Community College in our garment construction class. They really help new sewers relax since they are only paper.

    I think a contest would be fun… even if there is no prize… just a way to compare our speeds… don’t forget to time yourself. Of course, we all have to make them the same size!!

  7. Kathleen says:

    Hi Jason, I’ve been tagged several times :). I couldn’t come up with much that you all don’t already know about me. I’ll try working on it again some more.

  8. Valerie says:

    I find this fascinating. I think I will print them out and try them. We never had anything like this in home-ec class when I was learning to sew. Now, for a contest? Yikes! Well, ok. Let’s do it.

  9. Gwendolyn Hodge says:

    I have searched for these lessons since I had them in school. Where my I find the actually series for a teaching tool.

  10. Kiki says:

    I am so excited I found these exercises! Just what I need to practice dexterity with the speed of my new industrial. Fabulous!

  11. Louanne says:

    Fantastic!!! we have been using some basic ones for our years 8s for textiles for some years, but was looking for some harder ones to start the year 9 Textiles class off this year!

  12. Marcus says:

    Looks nice!

    Where on the forum can I find the scans? I would like to print them for my doughter to practise with!

    Best regards from Switzerland!

  13. Sapna says:

    Hi .i m a Training instructor , in a big Factory.i tried many methods to teach people .and thees are one of from them.But its not enough for a person to work in industries .

  14. Kristina says:

    I just printed all of these off for my youngest to use in getting comfortable with the sewing machine. She’s been working with them for 2 days now. It works! She is now comfortable regulating speed with the presser foot.

    Thank You!

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