Purfylle: Why Take The Time?

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Monday, 21 September 2015

Why Take The Time?

Sometimes you come across someone who wants to learn and has an aptitude for what they want to learn.


When someone like that asks for help and it's a subject I know a bit about, it's nearly impossible for me not to jump in and do my best to share what I know.

White Stretch Stitcher w940 sewing machine

Sharing knowledge is one of life's great pleasures. Sharing that knowledge with someone who is hungry to learn is like ambrosia - it's exciting and fun and gives you warm fuzzies. Well it does for me anyway, maybe I'm just weird.


Add to that equation the subject at hand being sewing related and that's it, I'm compelled to help!


This person in a sewing forum asked for help, and if someone had already responded with some assistance I might have kept on scrolling, but I didn't. I asked for more information.

This person had been loaned an old sewing machine to get her costumes stitched up by an end of month deadline. The problem was that she had never used a sewing machine before, she didn't know a thread guide from an uptake lever or even if she needed special thread to use in the machine.

She had a manual downloaded off the internet that was so poor quality it was unreadable. She shared a picture of the machine and it was similar enough to one of my old sewing machines - which I haven't used for about a decade - that I was sure I could help her.

upper thread tension

She told me the machine had just been serviced before it was dropped off to her. If you sew you will already know that there are a whole lot assumptions I made at this point. Assumptions about tension being set correctly and the such.

incorrect threading of the upper thread in a sewing machine

We managed to get the the upper thread through the various thread guides, tension disks, the up-take lever and the needle.

correct threading of the upper thread in a sewing machine

I was really impressed with how she had managed to get this far when all she really had to go on was a few instructions and images I'd shared with her via chat.

it's important to pass the thread through every thread guide in a sewing machine

We moved onto the bobbin. I talked her through how to access the bobbin area, which she didn't even know the machine had.
'There's a lot of talk about a bobbin case (on the forum), and putting it inside under where the needle is? I don't think I have that.'
She went in to remove the bobbin case and the whole bobbin race (shuttle/hook), bobbin case and the cover for the bobbin housing all fell out in her hand.

sewing machine shuttle race, shuttle gate, bobbin case, bobbin

Sometimes reassembling the bobbin housing with the race and cover can be really tricky, it was also really slippery with fresh oil after it's service.

I've met sewers who have sewn their whole life and they have never had to reassemble the bobbin housing area. To have to do this the very first time you touch a sewing machine would have most people throwing their hands up in the air in despair, but not this amazing woman. She kept at it and she nailed it!

We went through how to insert the bobbin into the bobbin case. I totally forgot to tell her which direction the bobbin is supposed to turn inside the case and luckily someone in the forum had mentioned that part. With the bobbin in the case we then had to get the thread engaged with the bobbin tension spring. I talked her through checking the bobbin tension, it wasn't sounding right but we pressed on.

With the bobbin it's case it was ready to seat into the housing. Only one more step before stitching can commence. It was getting really exciting!

reassembled bobbin housing

A little bit of back of forth discussion later the bobbin thread had been picked up and the upper thread was placed under the presser foot and we were good to go.

correct placement of the upper and bobbin threads


Let the stitching commence!
'The fabric isn't moving? Is it supposed to?'
Well actually what she said was:
'Okay the footy... It goes back down to stitch? Because the scrap doesn't fit underneath that way. Well it does but doesn't move'
But I knew what she meant.

We quickly established the feed dogs weren't engaged.
Me: 'Do the feed dogs lift up when you turn the balance wheel?
They are those wibbly bits under the presser foot and stitch plate.'
Wibbly bits is a technical term you know!
It was at this point that my surprise at how this machine came back from a service in such a state of unreadiness for stitching - not threaded, bobbin casing incorrectly secured, feed dogs not engaged - brought to light that the service had been done by the owner, not by a sewing machine specialist. That explained a lot!

Moving on. We finally found the little feed dog adjustment lever. There was much rejoicing and virtual high five-ing!
feed dog adjustment

We talked tension. I wasn't thinking straight, it was late, I hadn't slept well the night before I replied with a stitch length setting 2.5 - 3, a pretty good option for a tension setting too, I didn't bother to correct myself. She replied with:
'I have 0, loose, normal, and tight.
Normal?'
My response?
'Bahahaha! No, go for wierdo ;p
Yeah, try normal.'
I'm so helpful ;0)

settings for stitch length, reverse etc.

This woman is amazing to have made it this far. I held my breathe and hoped the tension wasn't going to cause major issues while she tried out her first few stitches.

It all came to a grinding halt when using reverse. I explained the needle should be in the up position to ensure the upper thread wouldn't snarl in the bobbin area.

successful hem stitched when tension is corrected

She went on to fix both the upper and lower thread tension all on her own and she had her first hem sample stitched.

I was so impressed, she was a natural. Had I known before we started that the feed dogs weren't engaged that the upper and lower thread tension would need adjusting, that bobbin housing gate was not properly secured I would have thought it impossible to talk a complete novice through all that troubleshooting.
'Guys I just spent the past like four hours on fb chat with the nicest lady, Stella Lee who has never met me and has no idea who I am.
I have never touched a sewing machine before and I was at a loss and in a bind to get these costumes done. She took the time to teach me the step by step process of getting the machine ready and getting started, and now I know what all the doo-hickeys on this machine do.
It's so rare to meet someone so willing to share their tricks of the trade, let alone someone they don't know from Atom. Thanks to her, it looks like I will be getting these babies done in time for the ball!
Thanks Stella! You are completely AWESOME.'
Gypsy Jane
 (It was more like 3 hours)

sewing machine balance wheelWhat Gypsy Jane didn't understand was why. Why would I take that much time out of my day to help a complete stranger? Other then meeting new people, warm  fuzzies and good karma, what do I get out of it? I'm going to do my best to try and explain here.

I get to learn. 

I learn about the gaps in my own knowledge, things like what the correct term for that doovalcky whats-it really is. 

I learn what I've forgotten I know, because I've done it for so long it's just automatic to me now. 

I learn what questions a novice will ask and how to answer them in a way that will make sense to them.

I learn how to write better tutorials and be a better teacher. 


That kind of learning is gold and can only be learnt by teaching. I know that sounds strange but it's true. Teaching is as much of a learning experience for the teacher as it is for the student. I love to learn new stuff and that is why I will willingly take the time to help someone else learn. I just wish I had more time to help more often.

Turns out I got a great blog post too :o) Bonus!

So I guess I just want to say:


'Thank you Gypsy Jane for letting me learn with you.'



7 comments:

  1. Yay Stella and Gypsy Jane!! Y'all made an excellent team!

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    1. We did Melinda! We had loads of fun too =)

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  2. I totally get what you mean- it feels really good to share your knowledge with someone who wants to learn. I've also helped a few newbies figure out their machines (or mine) in my day :) You're awesome for giving hours of detailed help and your pupil rocks for figuring it out remotely!!

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    1. I hope to pass on everything I know at least once to another person. I love that you understand just what I was trying to say.

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  3. Well, it is no surprise to me that you took the time to help her! You did the same thing for me. :) You are awesome!! By the way, the machine you were trying to help me with way back when....I took it in last week finally to get checked out. He told me that I needed a new plate and a new bobbin case b/c I had broken both of them from using to thick of fabric and too much force pushing the thick fabric through. Not surprising since I had the same thing happen to my new machine. I've already replaced one plate on this one, and I can tell I'm going to need another one soon. They told me that I need a better machine..."ya think?". Guess how much this "better machine" is going to cost me? It's $1850. That's about how much the dentist billed me today for an implant, so I guess I'll have to wait a few years on that one and just keep replacing plates. And yes, I do have a walking foot, but it's crap and still not good enough for my thick purse fabric. I feel like I'm being cranky. I'd better go. This was not supposed to be about me...I LOVED your post! :)

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    1. I love your long comment giving me the update on everything! I recommend you go and find an OLD all metal singer sewing machine. I have punished mine over and over with stuff that you have to force to fit under the presser foot. They just keep going. These modern machines are a bit too sensitive and complicated for that kind of work. It should cost you more to get an old singer serviced then it does to buy it. You want Bakerlite or earlier :o) What brand has quoted you that?

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  4. :) you are so wonderful and we can all learn from you if we just open our hearts and minds.

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