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Monday, December 8, 2008

Straight Stitching

A couple of years ago, while at my guild meeting, I chanced to hear a tale of a quilter who is well-known in our area and her new machine. The machine was one of those high-end models, lots of bells & whistles, as they say, a top-of-the-line machine. The story involved our Famous Quilter sending it back to the store several times, and finally cancelling the order altogether...

Because the machine didn't sew straight.

The machine....

I laughed, at the time. I thought, boy has she ever got an ego! Everybody knows you have to make adjustments while the machine is sewing!

But this past week, I began to wonder - is that true?

See, I'm a bit of a I naturally assume when a line has become a tangent, that it's my fault. That it's me that's "off", not the machine!

My recent foray into making thread scarves has caused me to be sewing a LOT of "straight" lines. The scarves are made entirely of thread, so there's a lot of straight lines to be sewn onto water-soluble stabilizer. That stitching forms a grid, and then you embellish the grid and end up with an astonishing work of wearable art.

But my point is, my lines aren't REALLY straight.

At first I was rushing - going at the machine's top speed. Going that fast, I had to quickly adjust the fabric as it was being pulled under the needle, left-right-more right- left left left... And after a while I could see clearly that the machine had a preference. I have to hold my fabric at a ten degree angle to the right in order to sew a straight line.

Maybe I'm pulling too hard, I thought. I dropped the speed right down, and quickly learned that no, speed wasn't doing it - the machine sews straight at a ten degree angle.

I began to re-think my opinion of Famous Quilter.

I had always assumed that if I put my 1/4-inch foot on and crawled carefully along at a snail's pace, that my seams would all end up straight and 1/4-inch wide. I'd often wondered, when looking at my seams later, how in the world they could be so inaccurate, swerving off to one side all the time.

Now, I believe firmly the adage that "It's a poor workman who blames the tools!" And I also remembered reading something out of my grandmother's antique Singer sewing book about "practicing" getting the seams straight. So I'd taken it for granted that some skill was in fact involved in getting a straight line produced. I've been making adjustments all my sewing life.

I wonder if this is why many people give up on trying to sew!

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