When I was in middle school, actually, at the time, we referred to it as “junior high”, girls took home ec and boys took shop… end of story. Must admit, I was flippin’ excited! I did a lot of hand sewing, but I had never used a sewing machine. My mom had one, but I guess she was waiting for an “expert” to show me the ropes… much the way that my dad felt about his car and driver’s ed. The first time I ever got behind the wheel of a car was on my first day in class, but THAT, is another story entirely.
Okay, where was I? Oh, yes. I’m in my first day of home ec. I am so ready to start sewing… ANYTHING. Mrs. Milliche spent the first week… talking about safety in the home ec room. Seriously? I WANT TO SEW… let’s get to it. Finally, the big day came. We sat down at the machine. Mrs. Milliche walked around and handed everyone a piece of loose leaf paper.
“When you can follow the lines on a piece of paper, you can start your first sewing project,” she informed us.
I was disappointed… I was angry… nah, I was appalled that I had to spend time sewing on paper! I wanted to make something REAL, but if I had to prove myself, fine. Slowly, tentatively, I stepped on the pressure foot. Holy Mother of Pearl! That baby took off running, and, it seemed, it had a mind of its own! Not only had I gone off the line, I was halfway down the page before I remembered to take my foot off the pressure foot.
Mrs. Milliche placed a hand on my shoulder and smiled. “Lighter touch. Try again.”
I did try again, recalibrating the pressure I applied with my foot. The machine took off slowly this time. I soon learned I could actually make it go slow enough to make only 1 stitch at a time. By the next day I had mastered the monkey. I could follow the lines, and eventually started picking up speed.
While I was starting on my first project, a draw string bag, most of the class was still trying to stay on the line, but one-by-one they got the hang of the machine, and soon, even Darcy Picolle, known for her clumsiness AND very intimated by the whole experience, was able to move on!
On that first day, I thought Mrs. Milliche was a loon making us sew on paper, BUT as it turned out, it was a very non-threatening way to get us familiar with the machine. When I taught Michelle how to sew, I took great pride in pulling out of piece of loose leaf paper and handing it to her.
“Just stay on the lines,” I told her. And, the torch was passed!
I was delighted this morning to happen upon Skip To My Lou’s series on Teaching Children to Sew. http://www.skiptomylou.org/get-kids-sewing-series/ It is wonderful! And guess what? She starts children off sewing on paper! Not loose leaf paper, mind you, but cute paper patterns that you can download, to help children (or ANY beginner) make those first fewer tentative stitches on the machine.
So, if you’re trying to decide what to do with the wee ones this summer, or you’ve always wanted to sew but never learned, visit Skip to My Lou and get stitchin’!
Reprinted on Facebook 6-14-2013