Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sewing Machine, Explained. Part 1 of .. Infinity

Friend of TC, PB (Hi PB! Your baby is ADORABLE! Both!) helped me crack the sewing machine code. I'm only at step 1. I imagine it will get worse. But, for now, I feel as though I should share what I learned from her yesterday, while covered in drapery fabric. And from CB, the person most likely to create a TC! Thanks CB!

For some reason, no one ever explained me the workings of a sewing machine like this. It was just a jumble of strange connection points and threading junctions - and don't get me started on the workings of the bobbin feeder underneath. That darned thing is SO weirdy-designed. And you know that you've taken that mechanism apart at least once every 30 minutes when you sew. What the heck?

So here is the start of my enlightenment.

The sewing machine operates on tension. It takes tension to ensure the top thread follows the needle into the fabric. It takes tension to ensure the top thread follows the needle out of the fabric. Similarly, it takes tension to make sure the bottom thread goes in and out of the fabric. Tension is created through that ridiculous contraption of threading on top - SO esoteric. And, tension is held in the screw of the bobbin. 

Tension also increases if you have a short stitch length. Tension is caused by pushing the fabric, rather than letting it feed. There's a number of sources for tension. Too much tension? Your needle breaks. 10 times. Or the thread breaks. Too much tension is sort of easy to spot.

Too little tension? Well, that's harder. Piles of mysterious thread appearing under your fabric as you're sewing, so 3 stitches later you have 10 threads coming out the bottom? Well, that's too little tension. Not in the bobbin underneath, but on top - the thread isn't following the needle up!  

Piles of thread on TOP of the fabric? That's too little tension in the bobbin. 

Fascinating, right? So, your job is to match the fabric weight, stitch length, and various tension settings to ensure the sewing happens properly. Your job is to calibrate the machine to the job.

Here's the secret: This isn't user error! Isn't that great news? It isn't your fault! This is what I was told by a professional designer... 

Everyone has to do this. No one knows it innately, and sets tension to the right thing automagically all the time. Good seamstresses just adjust faster. 

Isn't that liberating? There's no failure! You didn't mess it up! The machine isn't broken!

Now, let's hope when I go back for the second drape, it all works out for me again... Thanks Friends of TC!

1 comment:

Pauline said...

This is why it boggles my mind that even excellent seamstresses are still paid minimally above minimum wage.