Friday, June 2, 2017


Innovation is a part of the libraries, always looking for ways to serve our patrons, meeting their needs, and sometimes before they even know they have a need. Our new Makerspace is just that: innovation and experimentation in....we don't know quite "what" because that is up to the user. As part of the equipment we have obtained a 3D printer, photography equipment, a green screen, and a sewing machine. It seems there was an old rarely used Singer 237 in the Art Department hidden in a corner of the sculpture studio. Our digital librarian, Kent, and I went down to look at it and found it just covered in dust even though it was down inside the table. Kent asked if it was going to be of any use to us and I figured I could get it up and running. Over the next few months it appeared in the Makerspace so I spent some time cleaning, oiling, and adjusting it and think it is going to work nicely for their purposes. And what would it be used for? Well, we didn't know just yet but we were getting ready.
Singer 237 set up for free motion embroidery
In anticipation of students who never used a sewing machine we figured they needed some guidance so I printed out the Singer 237 manual. No one reads manuals! Instead, I wrote up some basic instruction on how to thread the sewing machine and get started sewing along with illustrations from the manual. It was only four pages long and that seemed about right so they can be printed, laminated, and posted on the wall behind the sewing machine. Then we got the set of 32 presser feet and our minds started to churn out ideas on how to use this collection. A fringe foot? Where would we put fringe we could make? The free motion foot had intrigued me and I think this is where some really creative sewing could take place. But first we needed to get them sewing and Kent said he needed to learn so he could help anyone who needed help since he was in charge of the Makerspace. So let's get Kent sewing!

I proposed making pillowcases since this was an easy project that could be expanded upon and Kent agreed. Bringing in a stack of precut fabric in the size of pillowcases and a set of instructions, Kent picked one out and tried to remember his only sewing lesson back in 8th grade. He was going to need a refresher so we sat down and went over the basics. As a digital librarian, technology doesn't slow Kent down but a sewing machine? He was more than a little hesitant but was willing. Here's the progress he made:
Sewing in wide hem of the casing
Closer look at the start of the hem
Pinning the seam
Final result: a pillowcase!
We were both happy with this first project and now Kent wanted to try free-motion stitching on the hem to see how creative he could be.  I'm very new to free-motion embroidery but we all agreed this was a skill that was going to be used in this space, but that Singer 237 was not making this easy. The speed of the foot control seemed to lack the fine control that I thought was holding me back. Was it the machine or was it me? I went home and practiced on several sewing machines that could drop their feed dogs with varying results. The Viking #1, model 1200, was okay but maybe an electronic sewing machine was not the best way to go. I went back to the Singer 237 after a practice session at home and found it was better. Now, was the machine better or was I?  Yeah, you are thinking along the same lines as I am when we consider the machine had not changed but I was learning how to move the fabric, how to learn to keep a steady pace, and what designs I could actually produce. Here's a sample of the work I did:
Hooped, swirls, and words
As you can see, this takes practice! I'm sure some sewing machines are better than others for free motion but don't let the machine hold you back: just get in there and do it!

1 comment:

BarbaraShowell said...

A good solid machine that may well be the start of new passion for some lucky students.