A couple of weeks ago my son came to me with a rip in his pants. The pants weren’t expensive, but they were a decent pair, and it would have been a shame to throw them out. I can sew by hand, but hand-stitching wouldn’t have been sufficient for a tear by the knee. I went to the tailor and dropped it off, shrugging off the $10 bill as the price of raising active children. The very next day, the same son came to me with a different, more expensive pair of pants, ripped in the exact same place. This time, I dropped off the pants less enthusiastically. As I was leaving, I thought, “If only I knew how to use a sewing machine, I would save so much money.”
The thought started percolating in my head. Perhaps I could learn how to use one. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the idea, but maybe if I put some effort into it, I could manage. Rav Noach Weinberg said that if a person is scared to try a new endeavor, such as a starting a new business, he should compare himself to others who have done it successfully. If they could do it, why can’t I? Reassured by that thought, I got to work researching different models.
As a passing thought, I asked the parents in my children’s class for advice, thinking that on the off chance that one of them knew how to use a sewing machine, it would be helpful to get personal recommendations. Lo and behold, five people responded with their thoughts on the matter. Honestly, I was shocked. I had no idea that anyone knew how to use a sewing machine these days, much less five!
A couple of days later, I was at my friend’s house, and I brought up my new obsession. She offered to lend me her daughter’s brand new, unused sewing machine. “We haven’t figured it out yet,” she said. “Figure out how to use it, and then you can teach my daughter.”
That sounded good to me. What better way to see if this sewing machine idea could work without needing to invest in one? The sewing machine was smaller than expected, about the size of a small toaster machine and thus much easier to store than I thought. One of my sisters was at my house as I set up the machine. “Promise you’ll teach me how to use it after you figure it out,” she said. “Sure,” I said, assuming it would take a good few weeks of effort.
Well, things went swimmingly. I followed the helpful instructions in the booklet, along with some additional information I found online, and in just two days, I was (messily, but definitely) hemming a pair of pants.
My niece, Eliana, came over one night after college, and I showed her my new toy, expecting her to be very impressed. Instead, she shrugged. “Yeah, I know how to use a sewing machine. I sew all the costumes for my school’s productions,” she said.
Apparently using a sewing machine really wasn’t a big deal at all. Why had I waited all these years to get started?
Then I hit a snag. Literally. For some unknown reason, the sewing machine threads were getting tangled. I searched online for different solutions and tried again and again. I changed the bobbin, I took out the pins holding the hem, I changed the needle. I just couldn’t figure it out. I wanted to give up, but I had the memory of those first few days of happy sewing. Besides, if all those other women could do it, there had to be a solution.
Luckily, Eliana stopped by my house again. I was at work, but I called her and asked her to take a look and see what invisible disturbance was causing the snagging. Eliana said she didn’t see anything wrong; it seemed to be working fine when she sewed a rip in my husband’s shirt. “Are you holding the thread out of the way,” Eliana asked. Yes, I was.
Lucky for me, Eliana sleeps over on a weekly basis after her late night at college, so we agreed to work on it together in a few days’ time if I still couldn’t figure it out.
When I came home, I sat down in front of the machine, determined to try one more time. My daughter watched me entreat the machine to please work this time before placing the fabric in the machine. Then, Shayna piped up, “Eliana held the thread the other way.”
“Is that so?” I moved the thread over to the other side and it worked! It worked! I sent out a mass text offering to sew anyone’s hems. A sister sent over a skirt that needed a slit closed. My nieces and nephews gathered around to watch the magic. And there it went, not bad at all.
I am so excited about my newfound skill, something that took just a couple of hours to figure out. I can’t wait until I can try out the many easy patterns found online. I’m sure I will hit a bump or a snag, but I now know that there are people who can help! Sewing is not an archaic skill regulated to grandmothers after all.
I strongly encourage all of you who are thinking of sewing, or wished they could make skirts and dresses themselves instead of spending hundreds of dollars, to try to learn. It might be easier than you think.
See you in the fabric store!