Monday, 5 December 2011

What's yellow and black and can't reach the pedal?*

I'm on the right. With the machine that is apparently glowing like it came out of the TARDIS
As should be fairly obvious by now, I enjoy sewing. It is among my top five favourite activities. The others shift according to mood, but currently include eating cheese, drinking Manhattans, and watching the Argos Christmas advert with the blue aliens. However there is no getting away from the fact that machine sewing (much like watching the Argos advert), is generally a solitary activity. The common sewist (I know the word is 'sewer', but I can't get past the effluent connotations), is typically to be found alone, hunched over in the glow of their machine, swearing quietly.

The crafts of knitting, crocheting and even embroidery are enjoying somewhat of a renaissance currently, due partly to their portability to and from clubs and knitting circles and the crucial realisation that these get-togethers can take place in pubs. Wine plus handcrafting may result in the odd dropped stitch, but driving your Bernina when under the influence can be a great deal more painful.

So imagine my joy when, this weekend, I found myself part of a rather lovely sociable get together of machine sewists. It can be done!

My local theatre group, the South London Theatre, is about to put on its annual pantomime. As usual, the pantomime involves an inordinate amount of small children (a concept I find almost as horrid as the idea of pantomime itself). And, as society dictates, small children have to be dressed when on stage - in this case in a variety of medieval peasant garb. Tunics a'plenty.

After years of solitary and frantic sewing every winter, someone had the bright idea this year to gather together all the people who could drive a machine in one place for an afternoon and wrestle with mounds of Lincoln Green material whilst enjoying tea, chat, and swapping gossip.

Granted, the hum of the sewing machines can reach a rather deafening level when you get all four of them going at once, and the vibration is enough to require all pincushions to be sturdily anchored to the centre of the table, but on the whole we were the happiest little pantomime-costume sweatshop you ever did see.

Everyone was fairly experienced, but we also all went away having learned at least one or two tips and tricks from our fellow machinists. I learned that you can sew over pins, if you do it carefully enough, which will save me, I have calculated, 21.2567675 days per year unpinning as I go along. Caroline learned how to mitre ribbon (but only in one direction - we'll have you an ambi-mitreer before long, Caroline), and in turn taught us all that it is possible to use one's knee to press the pedal if there is not enough room on the table for your machine and you have to put it on a chair. We all learned that we have even larger capacities for tea-drinking and mince-pie-eating than we thought possible.

We have all agreed that we had such a lovely time we will regroup in the new year, each choosing one pattern to work on and taking advantage of the moral support, tea and companionship to move on to even greater crafting heights. I might even work out how to get a hem straight.

How about you, fellow crafters? Have you got involved in any 'Crafting Bees' yet? If not, what are you waiting for? You just need some like-minded friends, and in the case of machine-sewing, someone with a sturdy table and understanding neighbours. Oh, and of course your group needs a name. You can't have 'Make It Sew', though. That's taken.

*A sewing bee! I'll get my coat.


  1. Sounds like a fab day! I learned to sew over pins in the seniors' sewing club at school. The teacher who "ran" the club used to make her own stuff in lunch breaks, so she was sewing with us. We saw her sew over pins... so of course we copied - and broke needles - so she showed us the "proper way" to do it! When I taught my niece to sew recently, I showed her the lazy pins method too...
    Looks / sounds like you all had a great time. Much more fun than grouching through all the costumes at home on your own. And mince pies def. help the job along a bit.
    We just had a Bloggers' Crafting Weekend - at Coalport, Shropshire. Ten women, one large craft room, not enough tables, two sewing machines, piles of paper, glue, ribbons, buttons... oh lots of stuff... No alchohol (not in the craft room anyway, but maybe a glass with dinner), but plenty of tea and cake. It was ace!
    We're planning another in March, if you'd care to join us? Prob. further south this time...

  2. The Crafting Weekend sounds smashing! Would have to be a great deal further south for me, sadly. Maybe I should start a Southern chapter?