LEARNING TO SEW - ON A SEWING MACHINE!

Although I learned to use a sewing machine when I was young and took sewing in grade 7, the results and the projects I made didn't exactly encourage me to keep trying. 

And although I've had a love of fabrics and a desire to create using fabric and textiles, I rarely used a sewing machine again until a few years ago. Oh, from time to time I'd decide to try and make something simple, but it was usually an exercise in frustration. I didn't take the time to measure properly, the tension always seemed to be off, a needle would break. I had (sort of) learned to sew, but I never learned how to use the sewing machine properly. And so I would put the sewing machine away again until I drummed up the courage to try again. I knew I should be able to do this, I have cousins who are beautiful sewers.  But instead of taking the time to learn the machine, I let a combination of mindset, lack of patience and lack of confidence deter me.

Then about 3 years ago I signed up for a 2-day workshop through my fibre arts group, one where we were learning techniques using a sewing machine. What's that saying?
"when the student is ready....". It was time for me to learn.

Before the workshop, I did familiarize myself with my sewing machine so I could quickly change threads, bobbin, even change a needle if needed. And I had the previous year tried sewing on cardboard and doing other fibre techniques on my machine. The results were okay, but enough that I was interested in learning more.

Through this workshop I learned the limitations of my basic sewing machine, but also discovered it was a workhorse. And, more importantly, I gained confidence in my sewing ability, and learned that it didn't matter if I could sew a straight line, it was the techniques, and the possibilities arising from these techniques, that caught my attention, from couching on ribbons to layering materials, to encasing sequins, all using this machine that had eluded me for years. 


Since then I've used this workhorse more and more, but its limitations prevented me from more experimentation. It was time to trade it in the old model for a new one. I wanted one that would do free motion embroidery, would be able to handle thick materials including cardboard, have an extra wide extension table and, most important, have an embroidery foot, walking foot, cording foot and other useful feet to expand my world even further. 

After researching brands and models, and reading many reviews, I found the one I was looking for. And I realized just how much knowledge I had already gained about tension, needle sizes, thread types and so on.

So now I am playing with the new sewing machine, experimenting, without the frustration I used to get. Well, most of the time - I still need to remember to lower the embroidery foot before I lower the needle so it doesn't jam. And it seems each day I learn something new, like using the walking foot for a piece that is 10 layers of fabric. I can change the presser feet quickly, filling the bobbin is a piece of cake.  I'm playing with the pre-programmed stitches, experimenting with materials, and have actually started to make some of the projects that have been on my list, and which would have taken so much longer had I had to hand-stitch. Now I love hand-stitching, find it calming and meditative, and so will not give that up, but some projects will be faster and I can combine the two.

The piece below is on a blue velvet-like material, onto which I added 3 colours of foil. I then stitched a layer of tulle over top of Angelina fibres, and couched on a blue metallic ribbon. 

This sample is a material slashing technique, made with 5 layers of fabrics stitched together then cut, or slashed, through varying layers. 

This last piece is a variety of fabrics - upholstery, drapery, organza, and old lace, stitched together with free motion straight stitches.


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