Sew Fine apprenticeship, lesson 1

Quarter-inch seam: once,
twice, ready. Align fabric—
burrito method.

Through the years I’ve taught numerous friends to knit or crochet, but although I’ve received many requests for sewing lessons, I’ve tended to demur. Knitting basics you can teach in one session and the tools are so few. With sewing there’s the machine, thread, pins, needles, bobbins, fabric, pattern, fabric cutters (shears or otherwise), seam ripper, fabric marking implements, iron, good lighting … And then there’s just so much to teach. Prepping the fabric and setting up the machine can take more than half of the first lesson, depending on what you’re doing. The effort-to-reward ratio is way off in the beginning, and I suppose I worry about patience wearing thin, people growing bored.

One of my friends, though, has brought up the topic casually in conversation for about two years now. And at some point she was asking for an apprenticeship, and then at some point we were looking at machines together and then she was paying for one and, well, there we were. So last night she came over, we shut the blinds and windows and blasted the fans (another 96* day), and started.

It turns out the online sewing community has crowdsourced a decent sewing curriculum for absolute beginners; so many of us are self-taught or mostly self-taught, and so many have come to this in adulthood, which means they know how to stack projects so that you’re learning new skills with every new finished object, which also means that you can start making things from day one, even while you’re mastering the basics. Making things. The reason people come to sewing in the first place.

For my part, I came to machine sewing via handsewing doll quilts and doll clothing, learning the basics in a high school Fiber Arts class (the sewing half of home ec; my brother was the one who took Foods). So last night was a nice reminder that you can only have one skill under your belt and still take home a customized pillow case using high-end sewing techniques.

She’ll be practicing on her second pillowcase at home, and we haven’t scheduled our next session yet, but it was a good reminder that I (unwittingly) tend to approach everything in my life with an “I’ll make this as complex as possible” attitude, a tendency I should keep working to notice, even if I can’t curb it entirely. We’re not trying to change ourselves overnight, my old therapist once told me. Just give ourselves enough of a mental pause that we have the option of choosing differently from our habitual responses. That’s all we want. To create a pause to give ourselves that choice.


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