I hate being ignorant of anything.
Which is probably why I spent so much of my life in academia, becoming an expert on something that I am hesitant to discuss because I don't feel like an expert (plus I've been out of the discipline for five years, which is a lifetime in research). I taught myself almost everything I know about knitting from books, and I don't admit that I do yoga often because I'm still so inexperienced. Which is why it took me so long to finally start sewing.
I knew how to sew, once upon a time. My aunt is a talented seamstress and my mom was always very handy with a machine when I was a kid. Once a neighbor brought me over to her craft room and we made doll clothes, but in the intervening years I forgot pretty much everything I knew. Over the past few years I've started fantasizing about hand sewn garments to match my knits (you can probably blame some of this on Andi Satterlund's Outfit-A-Longs), so for Christmas Chris gave me a brand new machine to start fulfilling this dream. I took it out, admired it, read the manual, and then left it sitting on the table because I was just too nervous to start using it.
Then came the snow days. By day five I had knit all the things and was starting to feel the strain on my hands. Was this a sign? Probably. I spent the morning sending up cries for help and scouring the internet for beginner-friendly tutorials and courses. The lovely Allyson Dykhuizen recommended that I start with a project-based tutorial, so I found these adorable and deceptively simple burp cloths. A quick trip to Jo-Ann's and I had everything I needed to sew three sets of two. We had plans to meet our friends' new baby over the weekend, so the timing could not be better.
Oh I was so wrong. The first burp cloth actually went well, I think because I was concentrating so hard on following the directions. That one was obviously going to be ours, so then I switched fabric to start on the other. And disaster struck. Something went terribly wrong in the final seaming. You know, the one that's actually visible? Yeah. That one. It was choppy and gapey and very very bad. I gave up and put it away for a few days. Then I tried again. And again. Until finally the fabric was so beat up I googled the dimensions of baby washcloths and hacked away until I had a section that was usable.
I started on the second of the set, now a burp cloth and washcloth set, and managed to make the seams look ok. I was not pleased, but our friends are very good handmade recipients, so I figured these would do for now. As I started my final pass with the machine the dog ran over and started getting underfoot around my pedal. After correcting him I put the fabric, now a little bulky under the presser foot and locked it in place. I sewed the seam before I realized what I had done. The presser foot locks? All this time I had been contending with the small motion it made while the fabric passed underneath and I didn't have to? (I'm not sure locking is the correct term, but that's what it looked like)
If you're accustomed to sewing machines this is one of those beginning mistakes that probably makes you shake your head, but I was astounded. My seam looked so much better. A million times better. I can only imagine that the next dozen of these I make will find a new way to go wrong on me. But for now? I will lock the presser foot. Maybe one day I'll master cutting in a straight line.