(I think this is disjointed, but I'm so tired that I'm not even sure of that. I'm not even checking for spelling. Read at your own risk.)
Today, I got to help a budding young sewist. One of Punkin's friends (let's call her, um. . .SF [that's actually for Starfire, but it could also stand for Sewing Fan]) got a sewing machine for Christmas. It's a Brother machine that her mom got at Walmart, but it sewed reasonably well. She brought it in the box. The box was still taped. I think that both she and her mom were completely intimidated by it, and just hadn't gotten up the nerve to open it and start. I chose a simple tote bag pattern, and off we went!
First, I made her identify the parts of the machine by looking them up in the book. Then we worked on winding a bobbin and then threading the machine. There are so many parts of sewing that are automatic after you do them for years. She was so tentative threading the machine. I had to point out that it would go much more quickly with two hands, and that most of the time the concept was the same as flossing your teeth--taut thread makes it go fast.
We went into the sewing room (look out!) and picked some fabric. I chose some denim with a design weave--it has a name, but I can't think of it now--and the girls chose some cotton quilt weight fabric to go with it. I wanted the one layer of denim for durability and versatility: denim goes with everything! I wanted the other layer to be lighter. No one wants to carry around a tote bag that weighs 5 pounds empty! But I wanted the project to be lined so we didn't have to worry about finishing the edges of stuff. When I learned to sew, I just didn't finish edges because no one told me to. Then I got a serger, and that's what I use for finished edges now. But I wanted SF to be able to use only her own machine for this project. SF chose a maroon gingham, and Punkin chose a WSU Cougars print.
Speaking of learning to sew, I got the tote bag pattern from the only sewing class I ever took. It was an evening class at the local Community College (Olympic College) and it was the late 80's. That teacher was the one who got me started on the Singer Sewing Reference Library. I ordered it and got one book every month or so until I had all of them. They are hardback books, and I have used them countless times over the years. Eventually, I got an index for them, and that has been useful, too. The tote bag pattern is typed on a typewriter (pre-word processing, and pre-page layout programs), 6 pages worth, with illustrations added in. I like the bag as sewn, and there are lots of little tips in the pattern. The two girls seemed to be able to follow the instructions AS LONG AS THEY READ THEM!!!
Me: Where do you place the straps?
Punkin: It doesn't say where to put them.
Me: Are you sure it doesn't say anywhere? SF, how did you decide to put your straps there?
SF: I'm doing what Punkin is doing.
Me: But your straps look really far apart. Where are your directions?
SF:. . .
Me: . . .
SF: . . .um. . .
Punkin: <pointing> Those are mine.
SF: . . .
Me: <Don't say anything. Don't say anything. Don't say anything!!!>
SF: Over there on the floor? By the table across the room?
Me: Well, let's check out what they say. Oh! Here it says, "place the straps the width of the pocket."
Punkin and SF, in chorus: Ohhhhh. . .
And so on. At one point, I had to go into the other room and let them make their own mistakes. Punkin's straps are backwards: the seam faces the outside. She is willing to live with it rather than spend 2 minutes to fix it. It's her bag. SF had to completely re-do her straps. I did the stitch removal, because it's a pain, and because I wanted to make sure there were no holes in the fabric. I had her pick the threads out after I cut them, though. I'm pretty sure she will remember to check twice the next time. Then I had her pin the straps on and show me before sewing. We had to compare with the picture. She wanted the straps to look like straps that you would hold the bag with, and not be right sides together, with the straps down against the bag. She compared hers with the picture, and we got that part straightened out.
The next part is the side seams, then the lining, then tacking down the straps. They are mostly done with the visualizing part. I think they are both excited to have a tote bag they have made themselves. They worked on it for 3-4 hours straight, even though they had a "sleep"over Monday night and hardly got any sleep at all.
It was fun working through the project with them. It was remarkable how different their styles were, both their learning styles and their approaches to problem solving. It was also interesting that they are both allergic to reading directions --g-- We find this with the Girl Scout troop as well. They are likely to forge ahead without any research and then be really frustrated when they have to do something over. I figure they learn by having to fix it themselves.
I meant to take pictures. They both had their machines set up on the kitchen table. I will get pictures of them the next time, and definitely pictures of the finished tote bags.