I can count the number of times I’ve sat at a sewing machine on one hand. Everytime, it’s ended in near disaster. I blame my high school textiles teacher. On the outside, she was one of those home-spun, Good Life types – a little bit waif-like, always preserving jam and a fully-fledged member of the WI. The meekest woman you can possibly imagine. But underneath, she was a seething battleaxe ready to pounce on the nearest wayward pupil.
I wasn’t that wayward. In fact, I wasn’t wayward at all. I was a bit of a nerd and desperate to please, actually. But I just couldn’t sew. And that was my downfall. After a five minute lesson on how to thread a sewing machine, we were set on our way, making purses. Sounds simple enough but what happens when your thread snaps, your machine gets in a jam and you’re too scared to ask the monster hiding behind her glasses and a pile of marking how to fix it? Well, I’ll fill you in. What happens is this: you get a detention. And you’re made to sit behind your broken machine until you finish your purse. Which is never going to happen. So, you sit staring at your machine, hoping it’ll somehow fix itself whilst your blissfully unaware teacher sits eating her lunch at her desk. One cursory glance…and an ounce of teaching skill…could’ve saved me from a lifetime of sewing fear.
You see, I was always good with a needle in my hand so finding out I was a tragedy with a machine was devastating. As a youngster, I’d spend hours drawing dresses (of course it was always dresses!) and hankered after the clack of a sewing machine as if it was therapy. But, because of this one experience, sewing just seemed like such an impossible mystery and I was terrified to give it another go.
Then I found The Sewing Sessions in Leeds (they also have a branch in Ipswich). And, in one day, Jessica taught me more than my textiles teacher in my whole school career…French seams, bias-binding, lined pockets – all in one miraculous little bag!
After doing the Beginner’s Session with Jessica, my fear has totally dissolved away…to be replaced by mad passion and a palpitating heart everytime I see my shiny new Janome. And, of course, a beginner’s enthusiasm. I dream of making dresses, adapting vintage patterns, reigning supreme on The Great British Sewing Bee(!)
But, for now, I’m satisfied with making this little pouch to put all my little bobbins and gubbins in. It took me far longer than it ever should have and my brain was in an almighty tangle just thinking about the upside down, inside out, pull-it-through of it all…but I did it. Without a pattern. With my own fair hands. And, I reckon, if I can do that with proper seams and top-stitching, I can do just about anything.
So, this year, I’ll be learning how to sew…because, inside, I am still that perpetual pupil, eager to please and desperate for knowledge. And, sporadically, I’ll let you know how I get on. My first dressmaking project is going to be Tilly Walnes’ picnic-blanket skirt and, do you know what, I’ll sit at my machine until it’s jolly-well finished this time!