Stitching time

Along with growing our own vegetable (we had a sprout last year) and fruit (a handful of blueberries),  I'm taking the whole self-sufficiency thing a step further and starting to make my own clothes.

It's many years since I had my hands and feet on a sewing machine, my first was my grandma's treadle, an object of beauty in black and gold, in those days the Hobson's Choice colour of all sewing machines, weighing a ton and quite incapable of stopping for at least a minute after it reached full stitching speed. The big flat iron footplate had a life all of its own, my little legs barely reached the base, I attribute my strong ankles to all that treadle work,  It had one mode, which was stitch, and it did that very well, whether it was long, short, fast or slow. Nothing fancy, buttonholes were done by hand, or, in my case, avoided altogether.

So for Christmas, Noel surprised me with a new-fangled electronic machine in modern pink and white. What a surprise it was, it can do every stitch in the world and probably the Universe, if it could get the interface. Gone is the treadle, it's operated with a switch. Instead of chugging and clanking, it humms and beeps, with straight stitch, zig-zag, hemming, stretch stitch, buttonholes, overlooping, whatever that is, double needles, tea and coffee-making and a toaster with crumb catcher and it can do it all backwards, starting and stopping instantly.  I can hear the radio even when the speed setting is at 11.

For my first garment I decided I'd make a coat. In hindsight, a handkerchief or scarf might have been a better way to ease myself back into sewing, but I do like a challenge – besides, I'd made coats before, even if they didn't have buttonholes. Of course, it couldn't be a straightforward coat, I'd seen someone wearing a garment with contrasting panels, so I thought I'd have a go at that too, I mean, just HOW difficult could it be?

I'll skip all the faffing, it was only witnessed by the cat anyway and his interest extended to sitting on the tissue paper and spitting at me when I tried to move it, served him right when he sat on a pin. Noel quite wisely stayed out of the country.

Progress was slow but sure, I was treating it as an experiment with the new machine rather than a work of art. But then The Mistake happened, not a mistake, there were plenty of those, this was a biggy. I was slashing the top layer of fabric to make the pockets and – agh, I still shudder to remember it – I felt a snagging against the scissors. I stopped, I could definitely have heard a pin drop. In slow motion I lifted the fabric, undernearth was not the sheeting used to protect the table, it was the front of the coat. I HAD CUT THE COAT. AGHHHHH!!!! After dancing around, treading on the pin I'd heard drop, dancing around in agony and crying out in anguish, I examined my mistake. A 5cm gash. Bugger bugger, buggery bugger, more bugger.


As luck would have it – though if I' had any luck at all, I wouldn't have done it in the first place, but as NHS managers are fond of saying, we are where we are  – the gash was where the buttonhole should be, though much bigger. I would have to make yet another adaptation to the pattern, covering the evidence of my mistake, then crafting a fastening mechanism that would not look like an add-on. Thanks to inspiration at Hobby Craft, I put together a chain-type fastening.What a faff, I stabbed myself so many times with the needle I have become my own pincushion. Still, I think it's worked.And I didn't have to do buttonholes.

I think I'll make curtains next, what could possibly go wrong?

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