The sewing machines were still in boxes when Jon and I got to Bishop Maginn today. I unpacked them and figured out how to thread the machines and wind the bobbins before the three students who wanted to learn to sew showed up.
By the time Paris, Hser Nay (pronounced Sur Nay), and Jayla showed up I had two machines set up and used the last one to demonstrate on. They knew little about using a sewing machine but were very interested in learning.
After a few tries, they were all able to sew a pretty straight line.
I kept reminding them that we were just practicing, but they all wanted to make something so there was a lot of experimenting going on. That gave me the opportunity to teach them some of the basics.
As they sewed they also learned about using the machines. How sometimes they need to be rethreaded or what to do when the bobbin jams.
Hser Nay sewed the two ends of a piece of fabric together. When she showed it to me, as if she made a mistake, I turned it inside out and she slipped it on her wrist. “Look, she said, “a bracelet.”
Paris taught herself top stitching as a way to make a checkerboard square. I explained to her the difference between top stitching and just sewing two pieces of fabric together. But I thought it pretty creative of her to figure out her own way to make what she wanted to.
That’s when I knew that next week I’d be showing the basics of sewing the fabric together.
Sewing the right sides of the fabric face to face took some getting used to. “I still do that sometimes,” I told Jayla, when she handed me the two pieces of fabric she’d sewn together backward. Then I got to show her how I rip the two pieces of fabric apart to fix the mistake. (And I mentally added seam rippers to my list of things we’d need for the next class.)
Teaching three people how to sew, who really wanted to learn, was a delight. I’m looking forward to the next class when I can explain and demonstrate how to create a simple square of fabric.
I think the most satisfying part for me was as Jon and I were leaving. Two boys came into the classroom curious about sewing and Paris, Hser Nay and Jayla began teaching them what they had learned.
(Photos by Jon Katz)