Thursday, January 02, 2014

Fun with Mending and Muscle Memory

To show that I am a well-balanced person, more or less, I'll recount my domesticity for the day.

When I left the Phoenix metro area for my present locality several years ago, I thought I would never sew again, and gave my beloved Kenmore sewing machine to a charity. I bought it when I was in high school, and a great deal of fabric passed under the presser foot, including that for my wedding dress and multitudinous pieces of clothing for a growing family.

Silly me! One never gets away from the need to do the occasional job of mending. Some tasks are too large for hand sewing. Thus it is that I bought a portable sewing machine.

Today's mending task involves sewing two layers of fabric together around the edge to make a patch, reinforcing it by stitching across the body of the patch, then sewing it onto the piece I am patching.

I am sewing two layers of flannel that are cut in an irregular shape. In order to sew the edges together, I change direction slightly as I follow the curve of the fabric. When working on a nappy fabric like flannel, however, the "feed dogs" underneath the needle assembly tend to keep the fabric going in a straight line, not allowing me to easily guide the fabric into the curve the way I would do with a smoother material.

I know I'm writing in a language--sewing machine--that is foreign to many of my readers. Feed dogs move up, back, and down to advance the material or fabric from underneath so that the threads from above and below can interlock to make the sewing stitch.

In order to change directions around the curves, I frequently must stop the machine while the needle is down in the fabric, lift the "presser foot" that keeps the fabric tight against the feed dogs, then turn the fabric. Then I lower the presser foot and continue sewing. The presser foot is lifted and lowered by means of a lever.

The project is going pretty well. However, this machine is set up a tiny bit differently than my Kenmore. Instead of the presser foot lever being located behind the needle assembly shaft, it is to the right side.

Presser foot lever (gray plastic) on right of mechanism.

It's odd how muscle memory kicks in after so many years, guiding my hand to one place instead of another. I keep wanting to go to the back of the needle assembly shaft to raise and lower the presser foot (object below that looks like parallel skiis). That's where the lever was located on the Kenmore. The only problem with that is the presence of another lever in that location. This one releases the presser foot from the shaft entirely, so that one can replace it with another type of foot, like for sewing button holes, or putting in a zipper.

Lever to left releases the presser foot (ski-like object) for replacement with another type of foot.

Since I only want to move the fabric, hitting the metal lever shown above to the left would cause a significant delay to my mending project.

I will press on, trying to curb my muscle memory, until I have finished my task. Wish me luck!

Do you find yourself relying upon muscle memory in your daily or occasional pursuits? Has it ever led you astray?


Marsha Ward is the award-winning author of the acclaimed novel series featuring the Owen family. Her latest book, Spinster's Folly, won the 2013 USA Best Book Award for Western Fiction. A former journalist, Ward has published over 900 articles, columns, poems and short stories. She is the founder of American Night Writers Association aka ANWA.

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