Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes. Oscar Wilde (1892)
Last year, my mother gave Shannon a sewing machine for her birthday. Or rather she told Shannon she’d pay for one, so ever since then, Shannon’s been researching and shopping (on line, of course). The new Singer machine arrived earlier this month, and Shannon asked me if I’d teach her to sew on it when I came up for my annual spring visit.
Back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I took a Home Economics course. I was in the 8th grade. Looking back, I’m glad I did, because I really learned how to do things right when it came to preparing fabric, measuring, cutting, and assembling the pieces to create a finished product. It’s really kind of fun, and over the years, I’ve made all sorts of things for the houses we’ve lived in (curtains, dust ruffles, shower curtains, tablecloths, pillow shams, etc.), numerous Halloween costumes as well as special outfits for school presentations (for instance, on Pioneer Day I made Shannon’s cute little gingham dress, complete with a red poke bonnet!).
But it’s been awhile since I’ve opened up my 30 year-old machine, and I was a little leery of teaching Shannon how to sew on an unfamiliar one. Oh well. I decided that we could both learn together and teach one another how it worked. In a way, it might actually be a better learning experience for her, as she would have to figure some things out for herself (without my hovering).
The pattern was simple enough. PJ pants. Flannel. No zippers, few steps (12 in all). She brought the pattern and the prepared fabric to my hotel room on Friday night, where we planned to begin our adventure in sewing. After a good dinner, we settled in by the fire and got to work. (did I mention that there was snow outside?)
It all came back to me… how to line up the fabric to insure straightness, measure the pieces, cut them out, etc. I then read the pattern instructions to get ready for our Saturday tasks, and saw that the very first step involved making two buttonholes (for the drawstring).
Buttonholes! On my ancient machine, that was quite a complicated process, and I wondered if this were the best way to begin learning. I know I didn’t start with buttonholes! But we had reached the point of no return, so I just resolved to face the consequences.
The next day, we went back to Shannon’s house to do the actual sewing on her dining room table. Her little Singer machine is compact and MUCH less complicated than mine is. We got out the buttonhole foot, and figured it out almost by feel. We were encouraged by how easy it was. First we made one, then the other.
At this point, we were supposed to sew the two pants legs together, and following the instructions as written, I discovered that there was something wrong. The notches didn’t match (the marks you make along the seams to match the pieces together). We studied this problem, but decided that there was no other option but to sew with the mismatched notches, which we did. And then when we turned the pants right-side out, we discovered that we had one buttonhole on the front and one on the back! Oops!
After much laughter, we discovered the cause of our error, which was that we didn’t reverse the pattern piece when we cut out the second leg. But no real harm was done, since they were both basically identical, so all that we needed to do was create a third buttonhole in the front! Shannon expertly made one (and really nailed it this time), and the pants were complete. Once the drawstring was inserted and the hem sewn, they were just right! We both celebrated our success despite the fact that instead of an extra buttonhole, her pants have a unique “hole on butt”!
Sometimes when we make mistakes, it’s a good thing, because it teaches us to do it right the next time. It may not feel that way at first, but when you look back on it, you will understand this concept. I pointed out to Shannon what I had overlooked in the pattern cutting-out stage, and believe me, she will not make that error again!
On to the next sewing project!