The stars sing, I’ve got their song in my head


Pattern: Sewing Machine Cover by Jacqueline Smerek
Fabric: Cotton from Hancock Fabrics
Machine: Janome Magnolia 7330

In his “A Very Special Episode” column, Noel recently wrote about a Christmas-themed episode of Dragnet that was filmed three times with almost identical scripts. In all versions, the police partners banter in the opening act about the gifts they have gotten for their wives or girlfriends, as the case may be. One scoffs at the other’s stationary set, only to reveal that he got his wife a sewing machine. “It’s different with her!” he defends himself against his partner’s reciprocal scorn.

A sewing machine is a stereotypical bad birthday or Christmas gift for a woman in the middle of the twentieth century. It’s utilitarian, not romantic. It’s a dishwasher, a crock pot, a vacuum cleaner. It says, “Here, honey, you’ve got work to do.”


How times change. Now a sewing machine is my Christmas dream. This sewing machine, to be exact.

Not that I don’t love — and will always love — my Singer Featherweight, with its durable elegance and single-minded focus on the straight stitch.


For it and on it I made my first version of this pattern, which I now realize I somehow never blogged (perhaps because I made it over Thanksgiving weekend at a time when I had a lot of blog fodder stacked up on the runway, some of which is still waiting patiently).


But there’s something in this pattern that the Featherweight can’t do. It can’t zigzag stitch. Or do anything other than straight sewing. And as I browsed through patterns that assumed the sewist’s possession of a modern machine — one with a free arm, zigzag or overcasting capacity, an automatic buttonhole maker — I realized I’d be severely limited if I never left the fifties behind.


Almost as soon as I got my new machine unpacked and set up on the opposite corner of my sewing table, I realized that a cover of its own was the perfect first project. I went to the fabric store the day after Christmas, despite a pounding cold rain. The next day, I sewed — zigzag stitch and all. The new machine didn’t solve all my problems — I still struggled sewing on the side panels, around awkward curves — but it gave me a lot more options. And it allowed me to finished my inside seams professionally.


You would hope that the second time around on a pattern, it would go a little easier. And it did. I wasn’t terrified of making it too small, which led me to fudge my measurements toward the generous side the first time, and left me with a fairly slouchy cover. I cut the fabric correctly the first time. I was more precise with my seam allowances. My hemming is about a million times better.


I still have so much experience to gain. But I love my tools. They reward my efforts and are forgiving of my ignorance. Using them takes some courage; they are daunting to the uninitiated. I like that. It means what I do is worthy of pride. It isn’t something that anyone could do, but neither is it out of reach for someone who makes the attempt with care and determination.


Now that my machines are covered, now that I’ve explored a few of the features of my new Janome, I’m ready to step up beyond the absolute beginner stage — beyond the bags and cozies. There is home decor in my future. A garment before too long, I promise.


Sewing is a new craft for me this year. Every time I sew, I have the voice of The Sensible Seamstress in my head, my dear friend who taught me the basics. A new craft is a new ability. And a new ability is growth. That’s the most important motivation for me — not what is made, but what the making does for the maker. 2012 will bring more expansion, more development, more confidence, more pride, and more possibilities. I can’t wait.

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